Road Trips: Public gardens worth your time and attention

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Children run amidst the crocus on Evening Island at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe (CBG photo)

Enjoy the beauty of flowers, shrubs, and trees without ever getting your hands dirty by visiting a public garden in Illinois.

Using information from local tourism boards and public gardens, Chronicle Media has compiled a list of potential Illinois road trips to get you back in touch with nature.

The Chronicle will offer potential Illinois road trips, with the help of local tourism boards and other entities, weekly throughout the summer, highlighting go-to locations.

So, when you are ready to stop and smell (as well as admire) the roses and other flora, consider these garden destinations:

Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road

Chicago Botanic Garden has 27 gardens and four natural areas on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The garden also has a renowned Bonsai collection.

The garden plans to open more broadly Wednesday (June 24). It had been limiting patrons to perimeter walks. Narrated tram tours are offered. CBG has 81 acres of water on site. It offers a Miniature Railroad Garden and Butterfly Garden. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, but each vehicle must be pre-registered. Parking fee is $25 per car weekdays and $30 per car weekends. Seniors age 62 and older can park for $10 on Tuesdays. Members always park for free.

Morton Arboretum

4100 Illinois Route 53


Morton Arboretum’s 1,700 acres holds more than 222,000 plants, representing nearly 4,300 taxa from around the world. Situated on the rolling Valparaiso moraine and bisected by the East Branch of the DuPage River, the arboretum is planned and planted to nurture and display trees and shrubs in environments conducive to their growth. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (members only from 7-9 a.m.). Timed-entry requirements for all visitors. Admission is $15 for adults ages 18-64; $13 for seniors 65 and older; and $10 for children ages 2-17. Fees are discounted on Wednesdays. Children 1 and under are admitted free of charge.

Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford has been recognized as one of the premier Japanese gardens in North America. (AJG photo)

Anderson Japanese Gardens

318 Spring Creek Road


Anderson Japanese Gardens is a 12-acre site that has been recognized as one of the premier Japanese gardens in North America. It offers cultural programming and special events. It has been labeled “a beautiful, outdoor setting that inspires the mind and energizes the soul.” The site is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Timed-entry requirements for all visitors. Admission is $11 for adults; $10 for seniors 62 and older; and $9 for students. Children under age 5 are admitted free of charge.

Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden

2715 S. Main St.


Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a 155-acre living museum filled with gardens and trees. A 1.8-mile, handicapped-accessible paved path winds through the arboretum in addition to 3 miles of chipped trails. Kids can explore a children’s garden and splash pad. Dogs are allowed. Grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults; and $3 for seniors age 62 and older, students age 18 and over with a school identification card, and children. Youth age 2 and under are admitted free of charge. The first Tuesday of each is month is Donation Day, with free admission.

Luthy Botanical Garden

2520 N. Prospect Road


Luthy Botanical Garden covers 5 acres in Glen Oak Park. It is home to a tropical conservatory, theme garden and seasonal shows. The sprawling garden is a frequent background for weddings, baby showers, and corporate events. The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory

225 N. Gougar Road


Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory sits on 3 acres of land within a 660-acre site comprised of Pilcher Park and Higginbotham Woods. The Joliet Park District greenhouse and conservatory was constructed at its current site in the early 1900s. The Italian Renaissance-style facility, designed by Lord and Burnham Co., features floral shows with seasonal motifs. Year-round attractions include a tropical house, cacti room and show house. Grounds are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

A bride and groom share a kiss inside the Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory in Joliet. (Joliet Park District photo)

Monticello Sculpture Garden

Lewis & Clark Community College

5800 Godfrey Road


The Monticello Sculpture Garden offer free half-mile guided group tour from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. Email to request a tour. The tour provides the history of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and the Monticello Women’s Seminary. The garden has a lily pad and fountains. Bronze sculptures by artist Richard Hunt are featured. Admission is free.

NENA Butterfly Garden

303 Brook St.


The NorthEast Neighborhood Association Butterfly Garden was formerly a vacant lot. Volunteers and residents worked with the city of Elgin to create a butterfly-friendly space for the neighborhood. The project was created in 2008 and funded through a Neighborhood Improvement Grant and   donations from individuals, businesses, and service organizations.

The Art Garden of Palos Heights

123rd Street & Harlem Avenue

Palos Heights

The Art Garden of Palos Heights is located behind the fire station and is open from dawn to dusk. The garden is wheelchair accessible and features sculptures, eco-friendly gardens, and murals. Obtain a self-guided tour map at or by calling 708-361-1800.

Phillips Park

1000 Ray Moses Drive


The Sunken Gardens at Phillips Park feature annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs, topiaries, a multi-level walkway and a three-tiered lighted fountain. The garden was originally built in the 1930s and underwent a renovation in 2002. Labeled the “crown jewel” of Aurora parks, Phillips is a 325-acre park home to a zoo, golf course, and aquatic center. The park also features a dog park, 1-mile trail, boat dock, sand volleyball courts, waterfall, World War I canons, tennis courts, playgrounds, and picnic pavilions.

The Literary Garden

Illinois State University Horticulture Center

Raab Road near Birky Pond


The Literary Garden at the Illinois State University Horticulture Center connects Midwestern authors’ passages with the part of nature that inspired him or her. It includes a 3-acre prairie and authors’ selected passages audible from scanning QR codes with a smart phone. Authors include Wendell Berry, Gene Stratton-Porter Aldo Leopold, Eliza Farnham, Carl Sandburg, Willa Cather, Edgar Lee Masters, Shel Silverstein, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Other gardens are on the site as well.

Other options

Shakespeare Garden

Moraine Valley Community College

900 W. College Parkway

Palos Hills

Info at

Flossmoor Sculpture Gardens

2800 Flossmoor Road


Info at