Beautiful Gardens in Chicagoland (And Beyond!)

Appreciate the beauty of the season by bringing your family to these gorgeous gardens.

Chicagoland blooms with beauty in the spring. Appreciate the beauty of the season by taking a trip to a hidden rose garden, picking blooms at a flower farm or practicing the art of hanami — the Japanese tradition of enjoying the beauty of flowers — at a peaceful Japanese garden. 

Take an afternoon stroll through one of these local gardens, or plan a day trip to a scenic flower field that’s worth the drive. 

For more family activities this season, check out our guide to Things to Do with Kids this Spring in Chicagoland

Around Chicagoland

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Photo credit: Chicago Park District

If the most well-known Lincoln Park Conservancy project is the Lincoln Park Conservatory, then the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is its hidden gem. Tucked behind the Lincoln Park Zoo, the lily pond seamlessly blends classic Midwestern Prairie School architecture with the serene beauty of nature. This quiet hidden garden will make you forget you’re in a busy Chicago neighborhood! 

Photo credit: Chicago Park District

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the gardens on the lawn of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. If time allows, take a stroll through the Conservatory; admission is free! 

Chicago Botanic Garden

Photo credit: Chicago Botanic Garden

Exploring all the beauty that Chicago Botanic Garden has to offer by foot may be a bit too intense for young kids. Luckily, you can take a tram tour of the most popular areas. Make sure to stop at the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, a garden for family exploration and learning about where common household plants and vegetables come from. Your child’s favorite area will likely be the Nature Play Garden, a natural play space with rolling hills, tunnels and logs for hiding and climbing, and a natural amphitheater. 

Fabyan Japanese Garden

Photo credit: Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley

More than 100 years old, the Fabyan Japanese Garden originally belonged to property owners George and Nelle Fabyan. After attending the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the couple fell in love with Japanese culture and commissioned a landscape designer to create their very own serene garden. 

Today, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County maintains this beautiful park so visitors can enjoy the quiet landscape and beautiful flowers, and grow an appreciation for Japanese architecture, art and culture. 

Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park

Photo credit: Chicago Park District

The next garden on our list happens to be the very one that inspired the Fabyans to create their own Japanese garden. Also referred to as the Osaka Garden, this Japanese garden in Jackson Park is one of Chicago’s hidden gems. 

More than 130 years ago, the Japanese Government built the Phoenix Temple for the World’s Columbian Exposition and left it as a gift to Chicago once the fair ended. In 1930, the Chicago Park District restored the pavilion and added an extensive garden. 

Today, the garden celebrates its partnership with its Japanese sister city, Osaka, with gorgeous flowers and stunning cherry blossom trees. The sight of the cherry blossoms is so beautiful that the city tracks their progress beginning in mid-March — check to see if the cherry blossoms are in full bloom before you head to Jackson Park. 

Garfield Park Conservatory

The greenhouses at Garfield Conservatory are a go-to place for Chicagoans who need a bit of greenery and fresh air during the cold winter months, but did you know they have large outdoor gardens, too? 

Visit the City Garden, check out the rotating exhibits at the outdoor Artist Garden or explore at the Sensory Garden. Kids will love the Plant & Grow Garden, which includes a tree stump obstacle course and wooden musical instruments. 

Grant Park Rose Gardens

Photo credit: Chicago Park District

Located to the north and south of the iconic Buckingham Fountain are two stunning rose gardens where gorgeous blooms meet stunning cityscape views. Take a stroll around the fountain to see what other hidden gardens you might find in Grant Park. 

The Morton Arboretum

With gardens designed to captivate the senses, kids will love exploring the grounds of The Morton Arboretum. There’s plenty of fun interactive spaces — like The Maze Garden and the 4-acre Children’s Garden — and no shortage of natural beauty. Visit the Ground Cover Garden and take in a living carpet made of flowers and foliage, or walk through the Four Seasons Garden to spot seasonal blooms. 

Oak Park Conservatory

In addition to its three indoor greenhouses, the Oak Park Conservatory has urban outdoor gardens that offer a brief respite from city dwelling. Native Illinois ecosystems can be found in the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery & Rubinstein Gardens.

Sunflower City

Photo Credit: Rob McHugh

Thought you had to leave the city limits to find a field of sunflowers? Think again! Tucked under the Garfield green line tracks, this acre of sunflowers known as Sunflower City began as a research project; could a plant that removes toxins and heavy metals from soil have the potential to restore the soil on a vacant city lot? 

Neighborhood residents loved the beauty this project brought to their community, and Sunflower City has brought beauty and joy to an urban landscape. Visit the sunflower field from mid-late summer to see the flowers in full bloom. 

Worth the drive

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Hanami is the Japanese term for appreciating the beauty of flowers — something that comes naturally when visiting Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford. Twelve acres of landscaped waterfalls, streams, winding paths and koi ponds are surrounded by elegant grasses, flowers and shrubs. 

There are yoga and sound bath classes offered at the garden, as well as many other family-friendly seasonal events. 

Matthiessen State Park

You won’t find this expansive sunflower field on the map, but that doesn’t stop hikers, photographers and tourists from flocking to it every summer. At Matthiessen State Park, over 60 acres of bright, towering sunflowers bloom from mid-July to the first week of August. 

The sunflower field is located at the southwest edge of the state park near the model airplane field. During the summer, there may be some helpful signs to guide you from the highway, but just in case, here’s how to get there: enter the park at the Matthiessen Vermillion Area and park at the very end of the loop. Walk past the shelter, and you’ll see a short trail. Follow it to the sunflower field!

Proclamation Flowers Flower Farm 

This family-run flower farm grows hundreds of varieties of seasonal flowers. Take in the gorgeous views and pick fresh flowers by either reserving a private flower-picking session or attending a public session on every other Sunday. 

The Wildflower Farm

Create your very own fresh-cut floral arrangement at The Wildflower Farm. Less than an hour drive from Chicago, families can cut and create their own floral arrangements in decorative containers. There’s also plenty of events and attractions for kids, like a jumping pillow, a crank tractor and live music on the weekends.

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