Despite its name, the world-class Chicago Botanic Garden is actually 25 miles north of the city, in the suburb of Glencoe. But if you’re looking for an afternoon of serenity, it makes for a tranquil day trip. Made up of islands, lagoons, prairie, and forest, this 385-acre living preserve is really a city of gardens, complete with bridges, greenhouses, bonsai, vertical gardens, children’s gardens, and more. Winding landscaped paths takes visitors around the world, through the English walled garden, the Japanese garden, the waterfall garden, and even a fruit and vegetable garden, where you’ll get tips on how to grow your own. Tram tours are available for those who don’t feel up to the hike. If you’re here in the summer, don’t miss the extensive rose gardens, with more than 7,750 plants. The Botanic Garden also has an exhibit hall, auditorium, museum, library, education greenhouses, outdoor pavilion, carillon, cafe, designated bike path, and garden shop. Carillon concerts take place at 7pm Monday evenings from June through August; tours of the carillon are offered beforehand. Allow 3 hours.
Starting in June, the gardens remain open until 9pm. The public is invited to remain for a beautiful nighttime stroll through Evening Island, where the paths glow upon the surrounding lagoon. The garden also recently began working with local farmers, chefs, brewers, and wine-makers to host monthly summer farm dinners. Check the website or call for event schedules.