Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make hay while the sun shines. This is the unofficial motto of Chicago families. From the first warm day of spring to the last glorious day of Indian summer, we practically live at our outdoor institutions. It is as if we are trying to pack a whole year's worth of visits into four months. But is that really necessary?
Why can't you take your kids to the zoo or the Botanic Garden or Millennium Park during winter? In fact, you can.
There is a particular charm to visiting a beloved outdoor spot in the cold weather months. Without the crowds and in the thin, gray February light, familiar outdoor landmarks-many of which have at least some indoor component-reveal a new side.
Emily Paster is an attorney and freelance writer who blogs at westoftheloop.com. She lives with her husband and two kids in River Forest.
The Chicago Botanic Garden in north suburban Glencoe is one of the most picturesque spots in the area. Its wide open spaces and elaborate Model Railroad Garden make it a family favorite from spring through Halloween. But not content to be a three-season destination, the Botanic Garden offers special classes and family events to attract visitors in the quiet winter months.
From January through April, it offers weekly Little Diggers classes on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for preschool-aged kids. All classes include digging in the dirt and walking either outdoors or through the greenhouse if the weather is prohibitive. ($64 for a four-class series.) For older kids, there are family classes on Saturdays. Each hands-on class exposes kids to important ideas about science and how plants connect to art, history and culture. ($22 per child.) Lastly, the Botanic Garden offers free drop-in nature-themed story times at 10 a.m. Mondays. Afterward, kids can pick up a Bingo Card and take a walk through the garden or greenhouse to find the plants featured on their card.
Even if your family just needs some warmth and greenery during the long cold winter, the Botanic Garden's three display greenhouses are just what the doctor ordered. The Desert, Tropical and Semi-Tropical Greenhouses display unusual and fragrant plants from around the world in a temperate atmosphere. And when you smell the flowers and see the sun shining through the greenhouse glass panes, you almost believe that it's summer again.
Until you walk outside into a foot of snow, that is.