Family fun in bloom at Chicago Flower & Garden Show

If the words “flower show” make you think of prim old ladies displaying their prized roses, it’s time to think again. After all, when it comes to the Chicago Flower& Garden show, “We’re not your grandmother’s flower show,” says director Tony Abruscato.

In fact, the Chicago show is a family-oriented destination, more focused on bugs and veggies than award-winning blooms.

Oh, and lots of fun.

The Kids’ Activity Garden is the prime spot for families, decked out with playground-like apparatus for kids to climb, crawl and generally blow off some steam. And those who like to dig will find a home in the oversized sandbox.

Plus, kids get the chance to get their hands dirty through planting projects, arts and crafts and a visit from a University of Illinois Master Gardener, who brings along creepy-crawlies like centipedes, slugs and Madagascar cockroaches for an example of the grosser side of gardening.

“The kids love the bugs,” Abruscato says. “There are some fun things to do and some educational … You can spend a lot of time here.”

For the educational component, parents can keep an eye on the website to see which parent/child workshops are scheduled. Abruscato hints that there may even be a chance to build a “fairy garden”-miniature displays that are especially popular with kids.

But the Activity Garden isn’t the only spot for those with little ones. The show itself offers many highlights, including koi ponds where kids can feed the fish and unusual vertical gardens that are sure to catch their attention.

This year’s theme, “The Art of Gardening,” lends itself to things like performance art and a photography display on floral graffiti.

“A part of our goal is to get kids and young people interested in gardening and greening,” Abruscato says. “We do that through ways that are fun and interesting.”

He also sees it as a way to bring families together, even for a day, and to encourage exercise. Plus, he says that kids who grow their own vegetables at an early age are more inclined to eat veggies for the rest of their lives. (Shh, it’s our little secret!)

So this year, forget about those grannies and follow Abruscato’s advice: bring the whole family for a day of flowery fun.

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