Fall Family Events at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Fall at the Chicago Botanic Garden is brimming with activities the whole family can enjoy. I can’t wait to take my family for a visit with the passes the Garden sent me. Here are some of the fun things your family can do there this Fall:

Discovery Backpacks – Available Year-Round

Families visiting the Garden can borrow Discovery Backpacks from the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. Backpacks include two magnifiers, two binoculars, and field guides. Discovery Backpacks offer a highly interactive experience for individual families. They are available year-round and will be loaned out on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information please visit, www.chicagobotanic.org/familyprograms/dropin or call (847) 835-5440.

Discovery Programs: Buehler Enabling, Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese and English Walled Gardens – Wednesdays through Sundays, continuing through October 6

Volunteers stationed at discovery carts and throughout the gardens offer information and hands-on experiences on a variety of topics through Discovery Programs. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday on Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, topics include: bees, tools, herbs and composting. Volunteers at the dry garden and Shoin House in the Malott Japanese Garden provide cross-cultural insights and an introduction to Eastern garden design. In the Enabling Garden, volunteers demonstrate the advantages of a universal design garden while performing maintenance tasks. The Tool Shed, a resource center staffed by volunteers who answer questions and demonstrate tools that make gardening easier for people of all abilities, is also open. Volunteers in the English Walled Garden share seasonal highlights with visitors and identify the variety of plants growing in the garden. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/volunteer or call (847) 835-8392 for information on volunteer opportunities in the Discovery Programs.

Family Drop-in Activities in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden – Saturdays and Sundays, September 7 to 29, 2013

Free harvest-themed family drop-in activities will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September weekends at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Programming includes a fall fragrance challenge, pumpkin prints to take home, and chef and root vegetable activities.

Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America – through Sunday, October 27

The Model Railroad Garden features the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a refurbished White House this year. Eighteen model G-scale trains run on 17 tracks, winding over bridges and trestles, and around nearly 50 models of American landmarks. The 7,500-square-foot exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (weather permitting). Special evening hours keep the event open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays from June 5 to August 28. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; and $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates. Admission is free on Wednesdays for Garden Plus members. The Model Railroad Garden is generously sponsored by Bank of America. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/railroad for more information.

Nature Nights: Prairie Prowl – Saturdays, September 7 or 21

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. Explore the Dixon Prairie to learn about how prairies grow, find the plants and animals that call it home, and pot up a prairie plant to take home. Each Nature Night also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Class is from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Registration costs $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/naturenights for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Family Sundays – Sunday, September 1 and 15

Drop by the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden for hands-on activities related to Japanese arts and culture. Practice using chopsticks, rake miniature dry gardens, make Japanese kites, and more. The free activities vary each time, and are subject to change.

Little Diggers – Select Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, starting September 12, 13, and 14

Learn about flowers, discover animals, experience the changing seasons, and more! These four-class series for children ages 2-4 and caregivers meet mornings, once a month. Each program includes group activities, time for free play, and a planting project. Programs run 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. from September through December. The fee is $75 per child for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Registration is required in advance. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/littlediggers or call (847) 835-6801 for more information.

Model Sailboat Sunday – Sunday, September 15

Bring your child (and childlike wonder) and watch model sailboats race across the North Lake! Demonstrations are organized by the Chicago R/C Model Yacht Club and held at the Waterside Terrace on the Esplanade. Admire spectacular views of the North Lake and Smith Fountain as you watch the race, and learn about building and operating model sailboats. Club members will be on site to answer questions about sailboats, races, and regattas. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (weather permitting). Visit https://www.chicagobotanic.org/calendar/event/model_sailboat_sunday for more information.

Sukkot Family Activities – Sunday, September 22

Families can celebrate the Jewish harvest holiday, Sukkot, and help decorate the sukkah with handmade decorations. The sukkah, a branch- covered booth, also features fall fruits and vegetables, including dried corn, squash, and gourds. Activities are sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Chicago North Shore Section. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/calendar/event/sukkot_family_activities or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

Fall Bulb Festival – Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6

Celebrate the season with the Fall Bulb Festival, an event that includes an outdoor market on the Esplanade and a bulb sale inside the Regenstein Center. Families can enjoy shopping among local vendors selling seasonal produce, roasted nuts, pottery, kettle corn and much more. Children can participate in Family Drop-in Activities (Saturday and Sunday only), navigate a straw-bale maze and dance to live music. Shop for bulbs that you can take home and plant as a family that will bring delight the following spring. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/bulb for more information.

Spooky Pooch Parade – Saturday, October 19

The Chicago Botanic Garden is going to the dogs! For two hours only, cleverly costumed canines are invited to the Garden to celebrate Halloween. Activities include several categories for judging, a parade through the Garden, and an awards ceremony. Nonprofit animal advocacy groups and local vendors will share information and sell dog-related products. Registration forms, complete with the dog-gone rules, will be available in the Visitor Center, or on the web at www.chicagobotanic.org/dog. Parade spectators are welcome—no ticket needed. Regular parking fees apply.

Trains, Tricks & Treats – Saturday, October 19, and Sunday, October 20 (weather permitting)

Celebrate Halloween at the Model Railroad Garden, specially decorated with spider webs, spiders, ghosts, goblins, and pumpkins, as well as seasonal plant materials. Visitors are encouraged to come in costume. An array of treats to take home can be found throughout the Model Railroad Garden. Kids can take part in a planting activity. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free. Members save $1 off each ticket. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/calendar/event/trains_tricks_treats for more information.

HallowFest – Saturday, October 26, and Sunday, October 27

Celebrate Halloween if you dare at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s HallowFest: A Garden of Good…and Evil. Take either the “friendly” or “spooky” path to activities in the Regenstein Center and McGinley Pavilion. Experience family-friendly thrills and chills, including two stages of entertainment and face painting. As night falls, walk through the Model Railroad Garden, decorated in ghastly lights and running special ghost trains. Hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/hallowfest or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

(Disclosure: I received passes to the garden.)

Family Friendly Events at Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s July and the time of the year that many parents start to hear “I’m bored”. With over a month still left of summer and plenty of nice weather days left it’s the perfect time to go visit the Chicago Botanic Garden.

This summer, the Garden has a variety of activities for families to enjoy together. From the new Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and Kleinman Family Cove to the Model Railroad Garden and Butterflies & Blooms exhibitions, there are many engaging destinations to discover. A full calendar of events is designed specifically for families throughout the summer.

Image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America – runs through Sunday, October 27

The Model Railroad Garden returns for a 14th season with new features such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a refurbished White House. Eighteen model G-scale trains will run on 17 tracks, winding over bridges and trestles, and around nearly 50 models of American landmarks. The 7,500-square-foot exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (weather permitting). Special evening hours on Wednesdays, June 5 – August 28, until 8 p.m. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates; Garden Plus members are free on Wednesdays. The Model Railroad Garden is generously sponsored by Bank Of America. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/railroad for more information.

Plant Giveaways – Wednesdays through October 6

Visitors are invited to stop by the Fruit & Vegetable Garden between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to pick up a free seedling. Plant giveaways vary by month and include a care sheet and recipe to help you enjoy your new plant.

Butterflies & Blooms Exhibition – runs through Monday, September 2

The popular Butterflies & Blooms exhibition returns for its second season. Visitors are immersed in a tropical habitat full of hundreds of colorful butterflies interacting with plant life. Butterflies & Blooms features butterflies from around the world, including South America, Asia, North America, and Africa, as well as those native to Illinois. Volunteers are also on hand to answer questions. The 2,800-square-foot white mesh enclosure is located on the lawn of the Learning Campus. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates; Garden Plus members are free on Wednesdays. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/butterflies for more information.

Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden Family Drop-in Activities – Daily, through September 2

Get close to nature and discover where food comes from and how plants grow. Pollinate flowers, dissect seeds, see roots growing, compost with worms, create a rainbow for healthy eating, and more. Activities vary from week to week and all feature books and puzzles. Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekday hours are noon to 4 p.m. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/forfamilies for more information.

Kleinman Family Cove Family Drop-in Activities – Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, through September 1

Explore the plants and animals in aquatic habitats. Use scientific tools to look at tiny critters living under water, find out what makes water plants different from land plants, and more. Activities may vary from week to week. Program hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/forfamilies for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Family Sundays – Sundays, July 7 and 21, August 6 and September 1 and 15

Drop by the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden for hands-on activities related to Japanese arts and culture. Practice using chopsticks, rake miniature dry gardens, make Japanese kites, and more. The free activities vary each time, and are subject to change. 

Family Campout – July 27 (rain date August 2)

Families can come pitch a tent in our Outdoor Classroom for a low-stress camping experience with flushing toilets and running water! We’ll go for a scavenger hunt and evening hike through the prairie and cook s’mores around a campfire. Please plan to spend the night, as the Garden is unable to accommodate “under-night” or evening-only participants. Activities are geared for participants ages 5 and 6, but younger campers are welcome. Please note the rain date when registering for the campout. Campout fees will only be refunded if both the original date and the rain date are cancelled by the Garden. Program runs 5 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $50 per child; $20 per adult. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Adult must accompany children. Limit of three children per adult. Campers should bring a sack lunch for dinner. S’mores and breakfast is provided. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/afterschool/campouts or call (847) 835-8239 for more information.

Herb Garden Weekend – Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28

Learn about a variety of kitchen garden herbs in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden at Herb Garden Weekend. Staff, volunteers and outside experts will talk about their top ten herbs, how to grow herbs in containers, herbs in the kitchen and more. Herb Discovery Carts will introduce visitors to the herbs and edible flowers they can grow in their own gardens. Marcia Carmichael, herbal expert and historical gardener at Old World Wisconsin, will answer herb gardening questions throughout the weekend. Select vendors will offer plants and herbal products for sale. Visitors can take part in a number of family-friendly activities, including a sniff guess game, planting an herb seed and making a dried herb mix for herb butter. As part of the Plant Giveaway Program, visitors can take a marjoram seedling home (while supplies last). Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Nature Nights: NEW! Abounding Butterflies – Saturdays, July 6 or 20

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. You’ll learn how butterflies sense the world around them, find out about the butterfly life cycle, and discover how to attract butterflies to your garden. Each Nature Nights also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/naturenights/ for more information.

Nature Nights: Aquatic Adventure – Saturday, August 3 or 17

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. You’ll gather your own water sample and look at plants, insects, and animals that live in the water at the Kleinman Family Cove using scientific tools. Each Nature Nights also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/naturenights for more information.

Kite Festival – Saturday, August 10, and Sunday, August 11

Enjoy a day at the Garden as colorful kites decorate the sky above the meadow west of Evening Island. Members of the award-winning Chicago Fire Kite Team perform sport kite ballet and precision flying demonstrations, and experts will offer kite-flying tips. Kids are encouraged to join in the fun by making their own kite during the kite-making workshops between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There’ll also be a ‘Kids Mad Dash’ in which participants will compete to see who can get their kite built and soaring the fastest. Registration is free and available at the Gift of Wings tent between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The first 30 children to register will receive a free kite to build and fly in the competition. Participants may bring and fly their own kites in the designated “Kite Festival” area between performances. Kites will also be available for purchase through Gift of Wings, a Milwaukee, WI-based retailer which will set up shop during the festival. Gift of Wings along with the Kite Society of Wisconsin and Illinois make this festival possible.

Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/specialevent/kite or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Summer Festival – Saturday, August 17, and Sunday, August 18

Learn about the summer festivals (matsura) celebrated in Japan during this special weekend of activities. Listen to taiko drum and koto harp music, enjoy traditional folktales, and watch a tea ceremony. Kids of all ages can make projects to celebrate summer—fold origami, create a paper fan, make a kite, and more at family-friendly, hands-on stations. Program hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Malott Japanese Garden will be staffed with volunteers in the Shoin House and around the Garden from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also stop by the Mid-America Bonsai Society Show & Sale. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/familyprograms/dropin for more information.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend – Saturday, August 24, and Sunday, August 25

Get new ideas about everyone’s garden-favorite, tomatoes, with programs focused on growing and using heirloom varieties. Volunteers and staff will provide tips on growing and using tomatoes. “Tomato Discovery Carts” will explore many types of tomatoes you can grow at home and trace the history of tomatoes as they’ve traveled the world. Visitors can ask experts tomato questions and shop for tomato-related items in the Wheelbarrow Shop and from select vendors. Family activities include a creating an herb mix for pasta sauce, a tomato toss, a tomato test, “sorting supper,” “rainbows of tomatoes,” and “indicator art.” As part of the Plant Giveaway Program, visitors can take a Crimson King basil seedling home (while supplies last). Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to tour the tomatoes growing in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden with the horticulturist at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Seed saving demonstrations will be offered on the half hour throughout the weekend.

Find out more at www.chicagobotanic.org

(Disclosure: This post is not sponsored.)