“Nature Trails” is newest addition to Chicago’s urban landscape

Butterflies, flowers and skyscrapers?

One of these things may not seem like it belongs, but at the Peggy Notebeart Nature Museum’s new permanent exhibit, “Nature Trails,” families can enjoy the great outdoors without leaving Chicago.”Nature Trails” is the latest addition to Chicago’s urban garden, where a third of a mile of trail winds through the interactive experience just outside the museum’s doors.

“We’re proud and excited to bring”Nature Trails” to Chicagoans and provide a rich way for our guests to connect with the nature that surrounds them right here in the heart of our city,” says Deborah Lahey, the museum’s president and CEO.

Chicago wasn’t always beachfront and blacktop, and “Nature Trails” gives visitors a sense – sights, sounds and smells – of the region’s native flora and fauna. At Burr Oak Savannah and Black Oak Savannah, families can visit prairies, savannas, wetlands and woodlands. For animal lovers, it’s a short walk over to Pickerelweed Pond to see dragonfly larvae, diving beetles and tadpoles, or to the museum’s existing outdoor butterfly and bird gardens, which were both revamped for the exhibit.

“Nature Trails” is free to the public – you don’t have to go through the museum to get there – and joins the Lincoln Park Zoo’s “Nature Boardwalk” in carving out a broad, kid- and stroller-friendly nature area inside the park.

The original intent of the Nature Museum was to have educational and interactive areas insidethe building and outside, Lahey says.As time went on, the museum became more focused on its indoor exhibits, but this new exhibit fully embraces the museum’s backyard.

“We are excited to connect people to urban nature inside the Nature Museum and outside on our grounds,” Lahey says.”It’s important for us to have connection inside and out.”

Lahey encourages families to take the information found throughout the garden and use it as they journey inside the museum’s exhibits, like the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven,Wilderness Walk andMysteries of the Marsh. The museum’s newest indoor exhibit is “Nature’s Architects,” which teaches kids about animal builders from termites to beavers and the structures they create (take a video tour of “Nature’s Architects”)

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be outside and pick up little things about the world around you,” Lahey says.

“Nature Trails” is free and open year-round. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is located at 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago,(773) 755-5100, naturemuseum.org

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