Chicago Flower & Garden Show perfect for winter-weary families

In my years living in Chicago, I’ve never seen people so eager for the arrival of spring as we are in 2014. Perhaps that’s why, this year more than ever, the Chicago Flower& Garden Show feels – quite literally – like a breath of fresh air. One deep inhale of the scent of hyacinths and tulips (even the fertilizer!), and it seems like spring might actually make its welcome return.

But beyond filling our winter-weary souls with a smidgen of hope, the Flower& Garden Show is also a great destination for families who have been trapped inside for the past four months. Kids will certainly take advantage of the wide open spaces, plus playgrounds that include swings, cargo nets to climb and some surprisingly fast slides. The Aquascape Designs garden is also a kid favorite, thanks to Japanese Koi ponds stocked with fish to spot.

Although the show opens at 10 a.m., kid-friendly activities don’t kick off until noon, so you’d be wise to time your visit to that schedule. Flowers and plants can only hold little ones’ attention for so long, but they’ll love the hands-on opportunities in the Kids’ Activity Garden. Home Depot brings a craft project each day, reminiscent of their in-store Saturday projects and complete with an apron for each mini-participant. There’s also a fun daily potting party that let us take home a hearty-looking yellow pepper plant to nurture through the spring.

To my squeamish dismay, the highpoint for my kid companions was the University of Illinois Master Gardeners, who brought a virtual menagerie of bugs. We saw worms wriggling in a compost bin, a tarantula, various ants, and even some Madagascar hissing cockroaches going head-to-head in a race. More adventuresome souls opted to touch some of the bugs at the Insect Petting Zoo (my fingers stayed far, far away).

So if spring just doesn’t seem to be coming fast enough, the Chicago Flower& Garden Show is a great indoor destination and a foretaste of what it will be like when the earth finally, finally comes alive again.

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