Chicago is a city among gardens and greenery, so it is easy to escape from the urban excitement and get in touch with nature at these wonderful attractions and events.
Twenty-six spectacular gardens sprawled across 385 acres, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a true paradise located just a few miles north of downtown. You can take a warm walk, no matter the weather outside, through the Greenhouses, moving from tropical, semitropical and desert environments and seeing the gorgeous plants that thrive in these climates.
Head outside to the Circle Garden, where unusual combinations of annuals change seasonally. Or make your way to the Waterfall Garden to see the incredible 45-foot waterfall that cascades down the hillside into landscaped pools.
If you don't feel like walking, hop on a tram tour instead, and get a panoramic overview of the whole garden.
Dedicated to expanding knowledge of nature, the Peggy Notebaert Museum is a great place to explore the beauty of Mother Nature. This museum attracts student and youth groups because of its fun, interactive and educational exhibits and programs, such as the Mysteries of the Marsh, RiverWorks and Hands-on Habitat.
Be sure to make it to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, the internationally renowned 2,700-square-foot greenhouse. It is home to more than 1,000 butterflies, and is a wonderful tropical retreat.
A visit to this gem in Lincoln Park will transport you to a different place. Designed to showcase exotic plants, the Lincoln Park Conservatory features tropical palms, ancient ferns and beautiful orchids. Definitely stop by the Show Room, in case there is an annual flower shows going on. This historic facility provides you with a lush, green escape all year round. And bonus: It's free.
Journey west of the city to see what many call "landscape art under glass" at Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most brilliant conservatories in the country. If you would like to stay inside, explore the conservatory's eight different display houses. Ranging from horticulture hall and the fern room to the aroid house and the children's garden, there is something for every age and interest.
Outside, the City Garden stays open year-round, showcasing urban plants, garden communities and recycled parts of cityscapes. This garden is a representation of urban greening, an intricate map of streets, green space and gardens working together to create a more beautiful city landscape.
One of the best ways to experience this urban oasis is with a guided tour. The knowledgeable guides provide you with historical facts and insight into the plant and flower collections as you stroll from one house to the next. Themes tours are available for those interested in specific topics, such as tropical plants, plants and history, and much more. There are also free, guided tours every Sunday at 2pm, which are first come, first serve. Or you can explore the conservatory at your own leisure with the help of informative signs throughout the conservatory.
The thaw of winter is celebrated every March with the annual Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier (3/15-23). This show has roots that date back as far as the 1840s, so it truly is a Chicago tradition.
Gardening enthusiasts and newcomers alike will enjoy the sights and scents of the garden displays of perennials, annuals and trees, as well as water features and interactive exhibits. The designers and landscapers inspire with their feature gardens, showing guests the potential of their gardens at home. You can get involved with "how-to-garden" seminars, potting demonstrations and more. This show brings out the gardener in everyone.
Click here for more information on Chicago's parks, gardens and "tropical" escapes.