Family Guide to Chicago Botanic Garden

The state’s largest living museum offers hands-on gardening experiences and gorgeous natural scenery for the entire family.

It’s no secret that Illinois gets a bad rep when it comes to its natural scenery. The Land of Lincoln doesn’t have the drastic landscapes of the West or the tropical plants of the South. You won’t find majestic mountains in our state and, even though you’ll find plenty of farm fields, they aren’t the rolling, scenic hills that come to mind when you think of “amber waves of grain.” 

Show your family just how beautiful the Prairie State can be with a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Just north of Chicago, the living museum is home to 28 gardens and four natural areas, including a woodland path, a sunny prairie and a garden with native plants.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

In addition to native habitats, it also boasts an impressive collection of themed gardens, including a children’s play garden, the English Walled Garden, seasonal Bulb and Rose Gardens, a sensory garden, a tranquil Japanese garden and many others. 

Whether your family wants to discover the beauty of the Prairie State or you’re looking for a way to unwind and (literally) take some time to stop and smell the flowers together, a trip to Chicago Botanic Garden is a fun, customizable destination for every family. 

Get our best tips and suggestions for visiting Chicago Botanic Garden with kids, as well as ideas to transform your family outing into an all-day trip to the North Shore. 

Quick details about Chicago Botanic Garden

  • Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
  • Cost: $14.95+/adults, $9.95+/children ages 3-12, free for children under 3 years old
  • Parking: On-site parking is $8 per vehicle. 

What to do and see with kids 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

  • Take a free tram tour. The narrated tour covers just over 2 miles of Chicago Botanic Garden’s most popular areas, including McDonald Woods, a Japanese Garden and plenty of water views. 
  • Run, roll and splash around at the Nature Play Garden. The multisensory play space has hills, tunnels, boulders and more that transform nature into a playground. Pro tip: Climbing and running are not allowed in any other areas, so let your little ones get their wiggles out in the Play Garden. 
  • Get your hands dirty at the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden. Kids can learn to water, weed and harvest at a 10,000-square-foot garden that’s designed just for them.
  • Learn where your little one’s favorite produce comes from at the Fruit & Vegetable Garden. There’s even an enclosed beehive where kids can get up close and personal with the buzzing insects that make honey (don’t worry, the hive is enclosed in glass and is completely safe). 
  • Take a self-guided tour and show your big kids the best hidden spots around Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Relax at Spider Island, a tranquil nature retreat that can only be accessed by crossing a floating boardwalk. Visitors looking for a peaceful nature experience will also love the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden.
  • From June to October, visit the Butterflies & Blooms butterfly house and get up-close sightings of hundreds of butterflies.
  • The Model Railroad Garden showcases America with a 7,500-square-foot layout that lets you see trains travel through tunnels and past miniature landmarks.
  • Enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. It has a variety of food options for families:
    • Eat at the Garden View Cafe, a “quick casual” eatery offering fresh, seasonal meals made from locally sourced food and drinks. 
    • Find healthy bites, fresh smoothies and food picked right off the vine at The Garden Vine, a weekend-only restaurant.
    • Chow down on burgers, brats, chicken sandwiches and more at The Garden Grille

Tips for visiting Chicago Botanic Garden with kids 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

  • Buy tickets in advance online to get the best deal. Ticket prices vary depending on the day. 
  • Because the attractions at Chicago Botanic Garden are always changing with the seasons, check what’s in bloom before you go. It offers many recommendations for self-guided walks so that you can take in the most beautiful natural sights no matter what time of year you choose to visit.
  • Picking or collecting plants, flowers or other greenery is not allowed. If your kiddo loves to get up close with nature, keep an eye out to ensure they don’t get too rough with any plants. 
  • Bikes and strollers are allowed. Rollerblades, skateboards, scooters and other sporting equipment are not allowed. 
  • Free wheelchair rentals are available. Chicago Botanic Garden has accessible parking and restrooms

Other things to do nearby

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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.


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