As the dark and cold winter days set in, it's easy to forget the beauty and spirit of nature. Just the smell of flowers or sight of greenery can transport you to a warmer place. Here are the best places to get a taste of the outdoors while still being inside this winter.
With more than two acres of indoor display houses, the Garfield Park Conservatory is the ideal place to spend a chilly winter day. From the moment you enter the display houses, you feel the warmth amid the exotic flowers, plants, ponds and lagoons. Don't miss the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children's Garden, where kids explore and learn about the plants and flowers with interactive displays. Each Monday morning, 10 a.m.-noon, the Morning Glories program lets kids get their hands dirty in the dig pit, water plants and even do a project.
To get a true taste of the outdoors, there is no better place than the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where natural landscapes and wildlife are brought indoors. You quickly can warm up in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven that houses more than 75 species of exotic butterflies and birds. With more than 1,000 butterflies and lots of tropical trees and flowers, it's a breath of fresh air on a dreary winter day. Also, the museum's newest exhibit, Animal Secrets, gives kids the chance to discover hidden habitats of forest animals from the animal's point of view. You can interact with animals such as the tiger salamander and spotted turtle, explore a dark woodland cave, or investigate how animals forage for food and build their homes.
If you are up for making a trip to Navy Pier, the stunning Crystal Gardens will transport you to a warmer climate. With its six-story glass atrium, the one-acre indoor palm court features towering palm trees and seasonal flowers and plants. Its dancing "leap-frog" fountains are sure to entertain and delight. Bring your lunch, because with tons of seating areas, it's a perfect place for a winter picnic with wonderful views of the city.