I want to share one of my favorite places to visit. Whenever my friends from out-of-town, out-of-state, or out-of-country come and visit me in Chicago, I like to take them to the Chicago Botanic Garden. They have 385 acres of nature and you can literally spend the whole day here. Best of all, admission is free! The only catch is that you need to pay for parking and that can get expensive (up to $30 per car).
If you live nearby and plan to go often, I highly recommend paying for a membership. I paid $180 for two years, and having gone more than six times in those two years, was completely worth it.
Benefits of Membership
- Free parking for one car (you receive a sticker adhesive for your windshield and it holds a little chip that will communicate with the gatekeeper when you drive through the members only lane)
- The members only car lane allows for much faster entrance into the parking lot, especially on the weekends
- Free admission to 300 other U.S. botanic gardens (I am most interested in visiting the The Morton Arboretum as I’ve heard it’s got a great section for kids)
- 10% discount at the gift shop, discount coupons for the café, and member discounts on the butterfly exhibit, model railroad garden, and tram tours
You get even more benefits if you pay for higher levels of membership, but it’s not worth it in my opinion. I paid for membership because this was a place I could enjoy with a newborn. Tackling this garden alone with a baby was rejuvenating, but also exhausting. This place is huge. You’re going to need that stroller. I tried walking through once with a baby carrier and that trip just turned out to be a workout.
My Hit List
My favorite areas of the garden are the Enabling Garden, English Walled Garden, Fruit & Vegetable Garden, Heritage Garden, and The Crescent. Also, look for the waterfalls on your way to the Japanese Garden. If none of that matters, I say your visit should start clockwise from the entrance. What is your favorite nature spot?
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd.
Glencoe, IL 60022