Chicago Garden Destinations for the Traveling Gardener

Garden Travel Itinerary for the Chicago Area

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr


Mark and I love to travel and we love gardening. We often combine these two passions into one awesomely fun package whenever we travel (with a little beer and bikes mixed in, too). When we set out on a trip somewhere the first thing we do is look up garden related sites and activities: garden stores, botanical gardens, arboretums, farmers markets, art exhibits and neighborhood walks. We’re all over anything with the word “garden” in it! I often wish there was a garden themed travel site that spoke to my tastes. I have a few sites I check in with to help craft our visit, but there’s nothing comprehensive that I’ve found. So, in an effort to make garden travel easier for the rest of you, here’s the first in a new series.

This past weekend we took our yearly trip to Chicago. We’ve visited about once a year for the last 10 years and have managed to find some favorite garden spots. Here are my suggestions for a garden-themed trip to Chicago.


Japanese Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago area garden travel

The Japanese Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden

 Photo by Jonathan Kriz via Flickr


Chicago Botanic Garden Will Amaze You

Despite the name, the Chicago Botanic Garden is actually 20 miles north of the city in Glencoe, IL. It’s right on a Metra line, so if you’re staying downtown it’s about a 45-minute train ride, then a mile walk from the station. This garden is definitely one of the highlights of my garden travels; and it’s huge: 385 acres, 26 gardens and nine islands. The designs are exceptional and the gardens are immaculately kept. The highlights are diverse and many: a brick greenhouse resembling a Chicago fire escape in the 4-acre fruit and vegetable garden, the Island of Everlasting Happiness in the Japanese garden (inaccessible by mortals), five themed English walled gardens, a Heritage Garden patterned after the oldest botanic garden in Italy and displaying plants by family and geographic origin. The Chicago Botanic Garden, and the visual pleasures, go on and on. In fact, it’s difficult to take it all in during one visit. Consider staying overnight nearby and dividing your visit between two days. There are lots of bike trails in the area so this could be a fun weekend trip by itself. Admission is free, but parking is $25. If you’re a member of your local botanic garden you might be able to get in free like we did.


Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago Area Garden Travel

Fountain at Garfield Park Conservatory

.Photo by Seth Anderson via Flickr


Garfield Park Conservatory – A Historic and Convenient Treat

Just 10 minutes west of downtown Chicago on the Green Line, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a great garden destination if you are staying downtown. Just 14 acres total, it used to be the largest conservatory in the country. The glass houses were designed by Jens Jensen and feature a lush fern room, an educational children’s garden, a desert house, and a Dale Chihuly glass piece. Parking and admission are free.

Bonus tip: While looking through Air BnB I found this Urban Farm listing in the neighborhood. I haven’t stayed there, but why not take the garden theme to the nth degree?


Downtown Chicago is Filled with Pocket Gardens of Many Kinds

Just walking around downtown Chicago during summer is a gardener’s delight. The pots, hanging containers, sidewalk planters and raised beds are overflowing with an explosion of annual flowers. If you’ve never been to the Millenium Park area you can fold in a few garden visits by exploring Lurie Gardens, the Art Institute of Chicago South Garden, Grant Park, and the Edible Treasures Workplace Garden at the Field Museum of Natural History.

If you want to travel north of downtown Lincoln Park features a conservatory, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, and Farm-in-the-Zoo. The Green City Market is held at the south end of the park on Wednesdays and Saturdays.


Sprout Home Garden Store Chicago, Chicago Area Garden Travel

Sprout Home Garden Store

Photo by Apartment Therapy via Flickr


More Ideas for Garden Lovers in Greater Chicago

The above should be more than enough garden sites to keep you busy for the weekend. If you want more ideas, here they are:

• The Peterson Garden Project creates community victory gardens all around the city.

• Growing Power Chicago has urban farm sites in the city.

• Take a tour of The Plant.

• You can visit the fun neighborhood of West Chicago and check out Sprout Home garden store as well as the other cool stores and galleries in the neighborhood. Have dinner at The Homestead roof top garden.

• Bike or take the “L” to Andersonville. Visit the Gethsemane Garden Center, have a beer at Hopleaf and spend the afternoon checking out all of the cool galleries and shops.

• Bike to most of the sites in this post with Chicago’s bike sharing system.


Have a favorite garden site in Chicago? Leave your tip for us in the comments below this post.










  • Wow! These garden park/destinations are perfect for me. I love the Japanese garden here. It’s very relaxing and stress relieving.

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