This suburban oasis, located in Lisle, about 27 miles west of the Loop, covers almost 2,000 acres and is dedicated to preserving an amazing variety of trees and shrubs. You can follow walking trails through solemn forests, explore a re-creation of an original Illinois prairie, or wander the twisting pathways of the Maze Garden. (If you’d rather watch others wander, climb up to the viewing platform built around the trunk of a 60-ft.-tall sycamore tree.) Covering the arboretum’s vast acreage requires some driving—and you’ll need a car to get here, since it’s not accessible by public transportation.
The arboretum’s modestly named Children’s Garden is more like a family wonderland, with dozens of nature-friendly attractions (and secret gnomes). Highlights include streams built for splashing, hidden grottoes, and a wooden walkway suspended between evergreen trees. The Visitor Center has an attractive gift shop and restaurant. Hint: Schedule your visit on a Wednesday, if you can, when admission is discounted $3 to $4 per person.