The highlight of a recent weekend trip to Chicago was a day spent at Chicago Botanic Garden with my dear friend, Lois, from Kansas City. We’re both Master Gardeners and try to schedule “Golf and Gardens” travel experiences together with our husbands. This year we split the teams, and while Lois and I explored Chicago, the guys flew to Las Vegas to golf.

We set aside our first full Chicago day for our Garden excursion. We took an Uber from our hotel, Courtyard Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile, to the Botanic Garden – about a 35 minute drive north to Glencoe, Illinois. Garden admission is free, and since we had no parking fees, we were really happy about our hassle-free ride!

The Garden is comprised of 385 acres filled with diverse flowers, trees and shrubs. Even though paths are well marked, don’t skip picking up the official map at the Visitors Center before you begin your visit! A very nice brochure on summer walks was also available through a partnership with the Garden and NorthShore University HealthSystem. You may also want to download the GardenGuide app for an interactive map, tour guide, event calendar, What’s in Bloom, Garden plant finder, and general plant guide.

I must say, we enjoyed the entire property, but we did have some favorite spots. Lois and I both agreed that we found the waterlilies, lotus, and other tropical water plants in the Heritage Garden the most lovely. And we weren’t alone. Everyone was taking photos here!

A spectacular large sculpture looked out over the Heritage Garden. There was one potted tree in particular – the Glory Bush – that enticed everyone passing by to touch its large fuzzy leaves!

Our second favorite area was the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit featuring a habitat filled with live butterflies. Senior admission was $7/person, and we felt it was definitely worth a visit – especially if you are interested in the pollinator population!

A huge mesh enclosure houses butterflies (and moths) from around the world. You can even look into the “pupa room” and watch butterflies emerge. Fascinating!

The Botanic Garden is surrounded by meadows and prairies. The summer “Walks” brochure features a nice 1.25 miles Prairie Views walk to the Dixon Prairie. Of special interest to me was the Picturing the Prairie” exhibit of paintings by artist Philip Juras on display at the Regenstein Center through September 12th. The paintings are wonderful and show several Illinois sites at both sunrise and sunset, and several depict prairie fires during events of prescribed burning.

Another favorite area for me was the Krasberg Rose Garden. My husband and I love roses and each have our own rose gardens. Ken’s is all about hybrid tea roses, where mine focuses on shrub and climbing roses. This Rose Garden is large (over 5,000 plants!) with a beautiful fountain in the center of a manicured lawn surrounded by areas of colorful, fragrant roses. Inspirational!

There is a beautiful arbor of shade-loving plants at the rear of the garden.

We enjoyed lunch in the Visitors Center at the Garden View Cafe. I ordered the chef’s special, a margherita flatbread pizza, and Lois had a veggie burger. Earlier in the day we discussed dining on the beautiful deck overlooking the water, but as the temperatures rose and we began to wilt, we opted for the cool of the indoor seating area!

While at the Visitors Center, we spent some time in The Garden Shop. The merchandise was very nice and varied, and we each made purchases. I love the Nina J Design Studios scarf I bought. The artist seeks “to glorify nature by harvesting and transforming flowers, leaves and herbs into wearable and functional pieces of art.” What a perfect remembrance of my day at the Garden!

Lois and I had a great day visiting the gardens of the Chicago Botanic Garden and highly recommend that you plan to include it on a future trip to the Chicago area. I’ll leave you with a few additional photos from our visit. Happy gardenng!

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.