Chicago: the Green Side of the City

Panorama Chicago

Written by our special guest-writer Norma Ricaldone

The first thing someone could think of, when thinking about Chicago is the jungle of skyscrapers that magically covers the whole city.

It’s definitely a view that leaves you breathless; no matter how many times you have seen it.

However, Chicago is not just cement and buildings, but this city also presents a very blooming green side, which is composed of hectares of natural park, woods and fields of colourful flowers.

Chicago has, indeed, a lot of parks that make the whole city as interesting as beautiful. The most stunning one is the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is located 30 kilometres north from the city centre, right next to the Skokie Lagoons.

This park is divided into different areas: the Tropical Garden, the Rose Garden, the Water Garden, and many others…These numerous ‘sections’ are all connected to each other by small roads that you can walk or cycle on.

Right after the entrance, there is an area relax, followed by the water games’ section. Both these two areas are decorated with splendid flowers. In particular, the Chicago Botanic Garden, focuses a lot on local flowers, dedicating a whole section of the park to them: the Native Plant Garden.

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View of the park from the main entrance
View of the park from the main entrance

The Native Plant Garden is divided into other three ‘sub-areas’: the wood, the garden and the pasture.

In the wood-section, you can possible admire the American hop hornbeam, a type of plant that is also called ‘ironwood’, as well as the white-oak-swamp.

Among all the small bushes shown in the wood, raspberry and witch hazel are quite recurrent. When there, it is also possible to enjoy the sweet smell of the wild ginger and of the trillium.

The pasture, on the other hand, is composed by small plants, which are all positioned on the front part of the garden, and higher bushes on the backside. This way it’s much easier for the visitors to enjoy the view of the different shrubs.

Flowers are also integral part of the pasture-section, presenting prairie smoke, wild petunia, and finally the sweet gentian. All the plants that rise and live in this area, become food to the numerous birds that – especially in autumn – eat the seeds.

The last section of the Chicago Botanic Garden is the Habitat Garden, which is ‘decorated’ with small bird houses, to attract both birds and butterflies. Roses, thorn tree, bittersweet, winterberry and many other berries are food for the local fauna.

Native Plant Garden
Native Plant Garden

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Herbs Garden
Herbs Garden

However, the Botanic Garden doesn’t just display wild nature, but in the Herbs Garden  – another section – it is possible to admire aromatic herbs, which perfume will enchant and hypnotise all your senses.

In the Water Garden, on the other hand, it is possible to cherish the vibrant colours of the water lilies that float in the ponds. This section of the park is quite popular among artists, who usually paint and recreate the fresh colours of the water plants.

Water Garden
Water Garden

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The Japanese Garden is surely the biggest attraction of the Botanic Garden, as it presents very clean, neat and quite green space, where it’s possible to walk and let oneself go to the peace and tranquillity of the surroundings.

Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden

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If you want to go visit the Botanic Garden, you can walk around it, cycle, or even jump on the little train that takes you all around the different sections.

If you are seriously thinking of visiting Chicago, you definitely cannot miss this incredible experience. You should treat yourself with a day or two of full-relax totally immersed in nature.

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Along the walk-paths of the Botanic Garden
Along the walk-paths of the Botanic Garden

When organising the visit, you should check on the Botanic Garden’s website ( whether there are any contemporary exhibitions going on. For example, between May and September, you will be able to enter the fascinating world of butterflies: an indoor section where butterflies can freely fly around. The entrance is 6$, but believe me when I tell you that it’s definitely worth it.

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Additional Tips:

– The Chicago Botanic Garden is easily reachable by car from the city centre: follow the I-94 W and exit at Glencoe, Lake Cook Road. Once you have done that, the garden should be only 30 minutes away.

– The entrance to the Botanic Garden is free, however the parking is 25$

– Alternatively, you can take the train – Union Pacific / North line – from Ogilvie Transportation Center, right next to the Loop. Make sure you’re going towards Kenosha, and do not miss your stop, which would be Braeside. Once there, you can actually walk to the park, or if you’re being lazy, you can just take a taxi.

– The train ride is 50 minutes long, and the ticket is 5.25$ one-way.

– If you are not a fan of trains, you can also jump on the Peace Bus, direction Northbrook Court. You can take the bus from Evanston, in Devis street. The journey is more or less 35 minutes long, and the bus ticket is 1.75$ one-way. Be careful if you’re travelling during the weekend, because the shuttle service doesn’t run on Saturdays and Sundays.

(pictures by Norma Ricaldone)

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