CITY IN A GARDEN
Chicago may be known for its towering skyscrapers and bustling downtown, but amid this urban vista lie lush acres that blend bright blooms, thriving vegetation and sparkling step pools for your groups to explore year-round.
Whether or not the weather outside is frightful, Chicago's gorgeous gardens are a delight to visitors year-round — even in the middle of December. As pretty as they are popular, each enchanting environment seems to transport visitors to different (often exotic!) areas of the world. The best part? Your groups don't have to have a green thumb to appreciate all these attractions have to offer.
Here are three Chicago gardens every travel planner should have in their sightlines.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road (Glencoe, Illinois)
Nine islands, four natural habitats, 24 gorgeous gardens and 384 acres filled with scenic waterfalls, rose gardens, native prairies and warm greenhouses. That's the Chicago Botanic Garden. Just 25 miles from the city, this plant paradise offers tours (beginning at $14/person) that are completely customizable to your group's interests and physical abilities.
Bright Encounters Tour: A 35-minute tram tour that allows up to 18 people to get up close and personal with the Heritage Garden, Rose Garden, English Walled Garden and the Gardens of the Great Basin
Grand Tour: A tram tour that provides up to 76 people with an overview of the gardens and includes views of the Japanese Garden and a 100-acre oak woodland
Walking tour: A relaxing 35- to 45-minute narrated tour led by a guide through select gardens
Pick the best tour for your group, combine two tours into one package, add a boxed lunch … it's up to you. Special seasonal packages include Wonderland Express (November – January), Behind-the-Scenes (May – September) and Twilight Tour (June – August).
Lincoln Park Conservatory
2391 N. Stockton Dr.
Looking to "wow" your groups with exotic plants, plenty of palms and flourishing ferns? Look no further than the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Within this stunning, three-acre Victorian glass haven, you'll find four distinct display houses, each one blooming with beautiful greenery.
Palm House: Palms and tropical plants such as the banana, sour sop and cacao
Fern Room: Variety of ferns (such as maiden hair and Australian tree fern) and cycads, one of the most ancient species of plants on Earth
Orchid House: Large collection of orchids and other epiphytic plants such as Spanish moss
Show House: Four seasonal shows and exhibits on display every year; currently featuring the Winter Flower and Train Show through January 8, 2012, followed by the Spring Flower Show (January – May)
To arrange a tour with a docent, call the Lincoln Park Conservatory office at (773) 883-7275.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave.
At the Garfield Park Conservatory, your groups can stroll through prehistoric ferns, step across trickling waterfalls and experience a botanic haven that encourages play, laughter and learning.
Guided Tours ($12/person; 15 people max.)
General Conservatory Tour: An in-depth look at the history, plant life and stories of each public display house
Tropical Treats Tour: A tour through the collection with a specific focus on plants that produce tasty treats, such as the Chocolate Tree, which visitors may taste while they roam
Behind-the-Scenes Tour: A tour to the non-public areas where plants are grown, stored and groomed
Other tours at the Garfield Park Conservatory are self-guided, so your groups (of any size) can embark on a personal journey just perfect for their interests. Groups can also opt to enhance their experience by renting an Exploration Kit (a backpack with a guidebook, maps and touchable objects) or by choosing from a variety of themed Scavenger Hunts.
Groups of 10 or more require registration with the Garfield Park Conservatory and should be booked three weeks in advance, ideally.
For more information, contact Group Program Coordinator Yadira Correa at (773) 638-1766, ext. 25