Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In praise of the Chicago Botanic Garden

A riot of tulips and willows this morning at the Botanic Garden.

One of the few gifts of aging is learning to make the most of one's remaining years. Some people, generally well-heeled, build a vast bucket list and check off expensive experiences one by one. Others just discover small glories they never thought much about during their decades of striving.

For me a huge (and inexpensive) blessing has been the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, fifteen minutes up the road from Evanston, where I live.

It has led me to a keen interest in the details of botany as well as wildlife photography (many examples of which can be found on my other blog). After a couple of hours' visit to the Garden, I spend another hour or so looking up what I've seen on Wikipedia or the Cornell Bird Lab website. This is like taking a self-guided online college course with frequent field trips to primary sources. The whole thing whets the intellect and exercises the old bod. There's no downside.

Besides the ponds and gardens and special exhibits, the place has a lovely cafe. Often in the morning I'll have a cup of coffee amid seniors with walkers and mothers with strollers who have dropped by, often for breakfast or lunch. The menu is both reasonable and tasty.

Grandchildren love the extensive garden railway, outdoors in the summer and indoors during the winter holidays. They even stop to smell the flowers.

A year's membership is $100, which might sound expensive but considering that it includes free parking ($20 a crack for nonmembers, but $7 for senior citizens on Tuesdays), it's a bargain when you visit the place two or three times a month, as I do.

Join. Go.


  1. And it's free if you ride your bike in from the Forest Preserve District bike trails in the Skokie Lagoons.