Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Share the Love: Chicago Botanic Garden

A normal winter in Chicago leaves me desperate for reprieve from the cold, snow and wicked winds that sweep across the plains.

This year, thus far, we've been blessed to have many mild days to get outside, run around and expend some energy.

Of course, this still is Chicago, so it's not been perfect, and I wouldn't be surprised if we have an entire month's worth of snowstorms before spring actually arrives. At any rate, normally, I am desperate to find fun indoor activities our entire family can enjoy {and we can only spend so many days watching the boys bouncing their crazies out at the local bounce house}.

During one of the colder stretches in December when we couldn't pay the boys to go outside and run around, we found a place that fit the bill: the Chicago Botanic Garden. Yes, we've frequented the garden as a couple, but we rarely gave thought to taking two rambunctious little hooligans to its indoor space where there are, um, things that can be broken or dug up.

But we were really glad we made the 30 minute trek to Chicago Botanic Garden and spent the entire morning enjoying the great indoors infused with the great outdoors.

The Botanic Garden welcomed us to begin our tour by participating in a hands-on project with the children who were attending the Camp Chicago Botanic Garden.

G was sold on the activity -- planting a bulb during the winter -- when they handed him a {plastic} knife and told him to cut apart the bulb to see what was inside. It was, like, his dream come true.

I was sold on it when Amy, our guide and one of Camp CBG's directors, actually began engaging the kiddos in a discussion about the parts of the bulb and then step by step led all of the little ones at our table {ages 2-6} in planting the bulbs in their very own jars.

After we planted our bulbs and learned how to care for them, we went off to one of the tropical indoor gardens. E enjoyed running around, while G actually liked looking at the plants and the lady bugs we found.  {And no one dug up any rare plants, squashed any exotic bugs or ate any dirt! Success!}

{Also, success: tropical with greenery and blooming flowers in Chicago during the winter.}

We bookended our tour by exploring the Wonderland Express, the holiday themed train exibit, in the other indoor atriums.

E was absolutely enamored by the trains chugging around the tracks of the mini Windy City and spent most of our time there chasing the trains around.

John and I couldn't get over the absolute intricacy of the Chicago landmark replicas, and G thought it was really fun identify some of the major Chicago landmarks as we made our way through the display. {Because I'm a eco-dork, I marveled at how all of the buildings were constructed out of natural materials like bark, leaves and moss. Stunning, really.}

A morning at the indoor exhibits and gardens at the CBG was an absolutely fabulous way to spend time together as a family while enjoying the beauty of the flora as the kids took in the sights and sounds and ran excitedly around the exhibits {which no one even batted an eye about -- other guests and staff alike. It was totally kid-friendly}.

We'll definitely be heading back for another trip to enjoy the indoor gardens {and temperatures of those tropical gardens -- woo!} before winter's end; and G has been trying to talk us into enrolling him in an entire week of day camp {so long as he gets another {plastic!} knife!}, during one of the gardens other day camps. {They host camps during spring, summer and winter school breaks.}

Generously, the Chicago Botanic Garden offered my friends here a $10 off coupon for any of the day camps offered this year. Simply use MBF12 to redeem the coupon at registration. Summer camp registration is live now. 

Disclosure: The Chicago Botanic Garden invited my family to experience the garden and Camp Chicago Botanic Garden. I was gifted with a gift certificate good toward Camp CBG and with lunch the day of our tour. All opinions expressed are my own. Simply, the garden is a Chicago area gem, and I wanted to share our awesome experience with my friends here. All pictures are compliments of the Chicago Botanic Garden.