Take a break at Butterflies and Blooms

If you’ve watched this super-hot summer do a number on your flowers, there’s no better time to head up to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

I decided to visit with my sister and her family on one of those 100-plus degree days, and I’ll admit it: even in the morning hours, it was hot. But we came armed with bottles of water and sunscreen, and in the end, we enjoyed the chance to take in the beautiful new exhibit, “Butterflies and Blooms,” before it flutters away this fall.

This exhibition is filled with hundreds of live butterflies of various sizes and colorings and includes species native to North and South America, Asia and Africa. You might also spy a few more familiar types from right here in Illinois.

Parents of little ones should be aware that it’s a stroller-free zone, since the lovely insects tend to land on the ground. You also have to watch your feet so you don’t trample one. It’s also wise to have a talk with the youngest kids about not touching the butterflies and what to do if one lands on you (employees recommended blowing lightly until they took flight).

A highlight of the exhibit is the pupa emergence room, where you can see rows of cocoons, of all colors and varieties, and watch the butterflies in different stages of hatching. The helpful guide explained to my young nephew that the cocoon was like a “sleeping bag,” the perfect simplification for his age.

We also got to see a butterfly sitting on another guide’s hand, and she pointed out its remarkably long tongue, which was licking her sweat. A little gross, sure, but fascinating even for an adult.

We opted for a combined ticket that includes the CBG’s Model Railroad Garden, where 18 model trains run through a variety of American landmarks, all crafted from natural materials. We weren’t allowed to bring a stroller through, which cut our visit short a bit, but we did manage to spot Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends Percy and James before heading out.

In the end, even on a day that it seemed crazy to go outside, it was a great opportunity to see some un-wilted flowers and the beautiful bugs that live in their petals.

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