Just North of Chicago, right on the line of where Cook and Lake Counties meet, lies the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. It’s often referred to as “A Treasure of the Cook County Forest Preserve,” and for good reason – it’s 385 of the most beautiful acres that you’ll find anywhere. Despite living near it, and driving by it countless times over the past few years, we recently made our first family trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden for a full day of adventure as guests of the Garden.
Open from 7am-9pm daily, entrance to the Garden is FREE, but parking will cost $25 per car (other rates may apply). While certain exhibits like the Butterflies & Blooms (open through Sept 2) and the Model Railroad Garden (open through October 27) carry a small fee to enter, the Chicago Botanic Garden boasts 26-themed gardens, and four natural areas including prairie, woods, and water… and they’re all free to explore.
Our first stop for the day was the much-touted Butterflies & Blooms Exhibition, a 2,800-square-foot mesh enclosure that features Butterflies and Moths that are Native to Illinois, plus those from elsewhere in North America, alongside beautiful creatures from South America, Asia, and Africa.
Butterflies behind us, we continued on through the Garden’s Learning Campus and onto the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, a place that hit close to home, given the amount of Gardening that the girls and I do here at Rock Father HQ. Filled with activities and a chance to help water the plants, Addie took to the area immediately. Of particular interest are the banana plants (pictured left), which are sort of an experiment here in Illinois, despite them being grown year-round in the greenhouses. Whether or not they bear fruit is to be seen, but for now, the little ones love ’em.
Over at the Kleinman Family Cove, a few guided activities were taking place. As Addie made a rubber-stamp fish, I took little Finley up top to a little grassy area for some crawling time on the lush, full grass.
The Model Railroad Garden was a highlight for me, and it’s “Landmark’s of America” theme makes for good educational conversation with the little ones. Lots to see, and we even ran into Thomas the Tank Engine. Unfortunately, that bum, Sir Topham Hatt was lurking nearby.
Throughout our adventure, we paid a visit to The English Walled Garden and The Japanese Garden, both of which were huge hits – as was the Waterfall Garden. We took in lunch at the Cafe – a bonus as the Grill was open, and I was able to snag a burger for myself (the rest of the family goes meat-free) and we ate outside on the patio. One of the highlights of the day came when we encountered a couple of young boys from Crystal Lake, who were visiting the Garden with their Grandparents. From the moment we met them in The Japanese Garden, Addie and the older boy were inseparable. She tends to make friends wherever we go, but this was a particularly cute situation. We even experienced some drama as the two went off running hand-in-hand, and Addie managed to take a fall and get a skinned knee. Good thing I had a medical kit in my Diaper Bag (a rockin’ Camo version from Diaper Dude). Now, I tend to be terrible about explaining to people what exactly I do when we first meet, and this was no exception. We never exchanged contact info, so I have no idea how to reach the folks we met out there… yet we spent the rest of the evening with them, including a concert. Yes, a concert.
Highly appropriate, given the amount of Kids and Family Music that I cover here on The Rock Father, it happened to be “Dancin’ Sprouts” night at the Garden. Rockin’ out that night was Karen Banks-Lubicz, known for her work at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago (check out the SONGS FOR WIGGLEWORMS album on iTunes). While Finley spent some time playing in the grass with Mommy, Daddy and Addie went straight for the front, where things looked like a Kindie Rock version of the Georges Seurat painting, A SUNDAY ON LA GRANDE JATTE.
By the end of the night, we’d said our goodbyes to our friends for the day and made one last stop… to The Garden Shop. There, we picked up a new gardening hat, and some Renee’s Garden Seed packets, which we’ve since started here at HQ… to bring a little bit of the Chicago Botanic Garden home.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022. Check out http://www.chicagobotanic.org/ to plan your own visit.
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