Over the past four years I’ve made many trips to Chicago because my oldest daughter goes to school at Loyola University there. (She is a very happy, soon-to-be alumna.) Whenever I can, I take a detour from our moving-in, moving-out trips to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, located outside of the city on the line between Lake and Cook counties. At 385-acres, the garden is impossible to see in one visit. It has 24 permanent gardens and constantly changing displays and special events. One year, I was fortunate to get a preview peek at the annual holiday train display at the garden. During another visit, I snapped photos of dozens of perennials at their peak bloom. A third visit prompted a slow walk among the many conifers in the garden.
It’s hard to pick a favorite spot. The Japanese garden, especially in fall or winter when its shape is so clear and striking, is lovely to walk through. But I’ve also enjoyed seeing displays of roses and new perennials (Chicago Botanic horticulturists have bred several impressive plants, including my favorite Baptisia, ‘Twilight Prairieblues’).
It helps to have a car (or fully loaded minivan!) when you visit Chicago Botanic. However, the garden is located not too far from the Braeside Metra Station, part of Chicago’s commuter rail system, and, of course, Chicago has a fabulous bus system, so it is possible to get to the garden on public transportation. The garden has a nice cafeteria—not fancy, but good. Naturally, there is also a gift shop and bookstore.