Nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to historical and cultural attractions, including museums, and the Old Town. Visitors looking to forget their daily stresses of life can simply take a leisurely stroll in the beautiful botanic garden of Chicago.

Tucked 20 miles north of Chicago, the 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden is a popular attraction to enjoy a diverse range of plant and flower species. But the garden is also more than the gorgeous flowers. There is a myriad of interesting shows and events that take place all year round. This family-friendly attraction is bestowed with 27 stunning gardens in four natural habitats namely McDonald Woods, Skokie River Corridor, Dixon Prairie, and Lakes and Shores.

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The attraction has permanent plant collections with more than 2.6 million living plants of both native and non-native origin. These huge plant collections consist of vines, shrubs, trees, tropical plants, and hardy perennials - all of which form part of more than 11,000 taxa (types of plants). Planning to explore these beautiful treasures? Then read on to find more.

A Guide To Stroll The Chicago Botanic Garden

Whether one is looking to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Chicago Botanic Garden or take an interesting tram tour, the attraction offers different options for different preferences.

Those who wish to stroll the garden can choose an hour of time slot. Thankfully, this does not necessarily limit one’s visit, since visitors can stay until the garden closes.

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Though, it is important to print out the pre-registration form or show the digital version of the form on the phone when arriving at the botanic garden. If visitors are opting to walk or bike in through the North Branch Trail, then there is no need to pre-register since this is free of charge.

How Long Does It Take To Walk The Chicago Botanical Garden?

Visitors can also download the free mobile app to navigate and locate different plant species. Obviously, it takes more than an hour to explore most of the different sections of the botanical garden.

However, a walking tour time slot is one hour, meaning it's possible to see almost everything in that time.

Find out what's in bloom before visiting to find your favorites.

The best way to explore the garden is by soaking up the beautiful views at one’s own pace. And those looking to mingle with others can choose a group tour or a tram tour.

Availability is based on a first come first serve basis.

The tram tour is another way to consider if walking is not really one’s thing. The tour consists of enjoying the panoramic view of the popular gardens. Visitors will be able to listen to the informative narration by the guide when touring the garden.

  • Walking Tour: Can book for 1-hour walking tour, but can stay until the garden closes.
  • Tram Tour Duration: 35 minutes (Kindly present a membership card or an admission ticket to board the tram).
  • Length: 2.3 miles of tour
  • Note: Trams are wheelchair accessible.
  • Tip: The Japanese Garden and the English Walled Garden are extremely popular. For Instagrammable pictures, check out the Waterfall Garden.
  • Cost: Admission starts at $16.95 for adults and $11.95 for kids (non Cook County residents). Residents receive a $2 discount, and kids under 3 are free.
  • Daily Parking Rates: Car costs $8; Van costs $30, and bus/RV costs $65

Birdwatching At Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is undoubtedly known for its wide range of plant and tree collections, but visitors will also have plenty of opportunities to encounter different species of birds depending on the season.

The garden is ideal to visit at any time of the year since visitors will always encounter different birds in different seasons. Though, the best time to watch the birds is during the morning, when these birds are generally the most active.

The most important thing is to have a good pair of binoculars, comfy clothes and walking shoes and of course a field guide.

  • Facilities: Garden View Café, Discovery Backpack at the garden (include two binoculars and a field guide).
  • Recommended Spots: McDonald Woods and the Dixon Prairie.
  • Bird species in spring: Red-winged blackbird, killdeer, Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak.
  • Bird species in summer: Purple martin, great blue heron, indigo bunting, orchard oriole.
  • Bird species in fall: American robin, cedar waxwing, golden-crowned kinglet, white-throated sparrow.
  • Bird species in winter: Pine siskin, dark-eyed junco, American tree sparrow, Cooper's hawk.
  • Bird species year-round: Northern cardinal, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, blue jay.
  • Note: Kindly note that some gardens can be closed due to special events, and hours change seasonally.

Other Events And Activities At Chicago Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden hosts various events year-round, including:

  • Flower arranging
  • Herbal remedies workshops
  • Baking classes
  • A "bird sit"
  • Art projects like watercolor techniques and mosaics
  • Stone carving workshops
  • Meditation
  • Seasonal birdwatching (fall migration)

One of the most anticipated fall events is hands down the Night of 1,000 Jack-o'-Lanterns, whereby many will see more than 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins light up the Halloween night.

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But Chicago Botanic Garden offers so many things to do year-round, so it's always a great time to visit — and linger.