Chicago has a long history of conservation and intertwining the urban habitat with the indigenous. In 1890, the Chicago Horticultural Society was founded with the motto Urbs in Horto, “city in a garden.” Today, we’re never far from a nature preserve, managed gardens or natural conservatories. Find your center and learn something new, plan a trip to one of these botanical gems.
Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden is the one-stop for observing nature, learning conservation sciences and experiencing a living museum. The 385-acre garden has been in operation for 40 years. They offer camps, classes for all ages and are open throughout the year. The botanic garden features world class architecture, has nine islands, four natural areas, 26 gardens and a library containing 110,000 volumes. Chicago Botanic Gardens is a destination worthy of many trips.
In 1955, Robert McCormick willed his estate as a public space for education and recreation. Today, 300,000 visitors enjoy the Cantigny Gardens, First Division Military, Robert R. McCormick Museum, special events, lectures, workshops, concerts and 27 holes of award winning golf. The property spans an entirety of 500 acres and the gardens cover 30 acres. Visit the garden guide for a full list of collections and specimens available. There are also programs and classes available, including bird walks, tours and photography tips.
Lake Katherine Botanic Gardens
The city of Palos Heights, 20 miles southwest of Chicago, established the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanical Gardens in 1985, as a place for regional residents to escape the daily demands of life. Today, the 85-acre nature center is managed by a 501(c)(3). The gardens educate 5,000 grade school students every year, host programs to enable close encounters with live animals and educate the public about the variety of natural habitats in the area.