Spring comes early to Chicago on Wednesday when the annual Chicago Flower and Garden Show opens its 22 gardens at Navy Pier. And this year’s show, dubbed Flowertales, Every Garden Has a Story To Tell, should be the most family-friendly ever.
The entire show is themed around popular stories from The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and The Secret Garden.
So we checked in with Tony Abruscato, the guru behind the show, for his picks for kids. “We’ve got a lot going on for kids,” he says.
The University of Illinois Master Gardeners will be bringing bugs for kids to hold, touch and even eat, while sharing info about the good and bad bugs in the garden.
Butterfly feeding exhibit
Kids will be able to feed butterflies while learning about their importance in the ecosystem and how to protect them. Several speakers throughout the show’s run will share tips on building a butterfly garden once they get home.
Digging and planting
Bonnie Plants has donated a range of veggie plants to give kids hands-on planting experience. They even get to take home their plant. While in the Kids Activity Area, kids can dig in a garden and win a prize from Nicor Gas if they avoid hitting pipes.
One of Chicago’s favorite toy stores will be on hand this year offering fun for all ages, including a putting green and board games.
Dino the K-9 officer
Dino and his partner, Anita, work for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service at O’Hare International Airport. At the show, they will be putting on demos showing how Dino sniffs out pests and disease coming into the airport on agriculture goods arriving from other countries.
The Racine Zoo will be on hand with animal ambassadors.
Water features, koi ponds and big open spaces filled with green
In the 170,000-square-feet dedicated to the Flower Show, there are plenty of places for kids to stretch their legs, while interacting with the water features and feeding fish. Plus, there will be some specially created fairy gardens that are always a hit with kids.
If you go:
Chicago Flower & Garden Show
$19, $17 adults weekdays, $10 adults 4-8 p.m., $5 kids 4-12
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago