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Back in 1837, when Chicago officially incorporated, “Urbs in Horto(or “City in a Garden”) was the phrase selected for the city’s budding future. Urban designers and landscape architects like Frederick Law Olmsted, Daniel Burnham, and Jens Jensen transformed the city into an urban oasis and advocated for its preservation for future generations. Now that spring has sprung, enjoy the balmy temperatures by taking the CTA, Metra, or Pace to catch a glimpse of Chicagoland’s rich tradition of landscape architecture via one of the many gardens, arboretums, or conservatories listed below. 

Citywide Parks and Gardens 

Garden of the Phoenix within Jackson Park 
Located along the lakefront in the Woodlawn community, Jackson Park is truly an urban and cultural oasis. It was home to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which paid homage to natural beauty and left behind lagoons and gardens fitted with more than 160 cherry blossom trees, a gift from Japan at the turn of the century. Often referred to as the Japanese Garden, the Garden of the Phoenix, nestled between two lagoons on Wooded Island, is the perfect spot for a picnic or a spring stroll.  

Where: 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. Chicago, IL 60637 

How to get there:

  • Metra Electric (Univ. Of Chicago/59th St.) and walk 10 minutes (0.5 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #2, #6, #15, and #28 (Stony Island & 59th Street) and walk 8 minutes (.4 miles)  
  • CTA Bus #63 (63rd Street & Stony Island) and walk for 16 minutes (0.8 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #J14 (Jeffery & 67th Street) and connect to CTA Bus #15 or #6 (Stony Island & 60th Street) walk for 8 minutes (0.4 miles) 

Columbus Park 
Designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, Columbus Park is a 140-acre historic park located in the Austin community. The park is one of the few in the nation to be designated a National Historic Landmark and is a testament to the revitalization of native plant species and the natural history and topography of the land. The park also hosts an array of programming from dance, sports, and crafts year-round.  

Where: 500 S. Central Ave. Chicago, IL 60644 

How to get there:

  • CTA Blue Line (Austin) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #126 (Jackson & Central), CTA Bus #91 (Austin and Jackson), CTA Bus #12 (Central & Harrison Terminal) and walk for 1 minute 
  • Pace Bus #315 (Austin/Harrison) and walk for 1 minute or Pace Bus #314 (Ridgeland Ave & Harrison St) and walk for 10 minutes (0.5 miles) 

Ping Tom Memorial Park 
Originally a Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard, Ping Tom Memorial Park has been transformed into a 12-acre park located in the easily accessible Chinatown neighborhood. If you can’t get enough of cherry blossoms, Ping Tom has them along with ample green space, walking paths by the river, and kayak rentals once temperatures rise. Community gathering areas are decorated with Chinese landscape design elements, honoring the Chinese people that have prospered in this area for decades.  

Where: 1700 S. Wentworth Ave. Chicago, IL 60616 

How to get there:

  • CTA Red Line (Cermak-Chinatown) and walk for 6 minutes (0.3 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #21 (Cermak and Archer) and walk for 7 minutes (0.4 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #24 (Clark and 18th) and walk for 5 minutes (0.2 miles)  

Garfield Park Conservatory 
One of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States and home to Guien, the agave skyscraper turned local celebrity, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a must-see—especially if winter temperatures are still lingering. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Conservatory has begun its Spring Flower Show until May 8 but showcases thousands of plant species all year.  

Where: Located in Garfield Park, 300 N Central Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60624 

How to get there:

  • CTA Green Line (Conservatory-Central Park Drive) and walk for 1 minute  
  • CTA Bus #82 (Homan and Fulton) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles) or CTA Bus #53 (Pulaski and Lake) and walk for 10 minutes (0.5 miles) 
  •  Metra UP-W (Kedzie) and connect to CTA Green Line (Conservatory-Central Park Drive) 

Lincoln Park Conservatory 
Situated in a Victorian-era glass house, the Lincoln Park Conservatory provides a glimpse into one of the oldest public gardens in Chicago, taking root in the late 1870s. No matter the time of year, the Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush, but the Spring Flower Show, “Pillars of Spring,” invites visitors to imagine gardens in a different way. The Spring Flower exposition runs until May 8. 

Where: 2391 N. Stockton Dr. Chicago, IL 60614 

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #156 or #151 (Stockton & Webster) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #22 or #36 (Clark & Belden) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles) 
  • CTA Red, Purple, Brown Lines (Fullerton) and connect to CTA Bus #74 (Lincoln & Webster) and walk 10 minutes (0.5 miles) 

Lurie Garden and North Rose Garden 
Adjacent to one other, Lurie Garden at the south end of Millennium Park and the North Rose Garden next to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park are two iconic gardens situated next to killer skyline and lakefront views. Both parks are bustling with life and teeming with tulips, roses, and butterflies in anticipation for spring. As well, Lurie Garden hosts monthly garden walks for those who want to learn more about horticulture.  

Where: Located in Millennium Park (220 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60601) and Grant Park, respectively  

How to get there:

  • CTA Orange, Brown, Pink, Purple, and Green Lines (Washington/ Wabash) and walk for 5 minutes (0.3 miles) or CTA Blue Line (Monroe) and walk for 8 minutes (0.4 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #60 (Randolph & Columbus) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #126 (Jackson and Wabash) and walk for 6 minutes (0.3 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #20 (Washington & Wabash) and walk for 6 minutes (0.3 miles) 
  • Metra Electric Line (Van Buren Street) and walk for 7 minutes (0.4 miles) 

South Shore Cultural Center  
Located along the lakefront in a 65-acre park, the South Shore Cultural Center is home to a butterfly garden, manicured gardens, a nature sanctuary, and tons of other amenities like a solarium, golf course, tennis courts, and a bathing beach. Designated as a Chicago landmark in 2004 and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, this cultural and recreational amenity is only a bus or train ride away.  

Where: 7059 S South Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60649 

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #J14 (Jeffery & 71st Street) and connect to the CTA Bus #71 (71st St/ Yates) and walk 1 minute 
  • CTA Bus #J14 (Jeffery & 71st Street) and walk 11 minutes (0.5 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #J14 (Jeffery & 67th Street) and connect to the CTA Bus #6 (S. Shore Drive & 71st Street) and walk 1 minute 
  • CTA Red Line (69th) and connect to CTA Bus #71 (71st St/ Yates) and walk 1 minute 

University of Chicago’s Botanic Garden initiative  
The University of Chicago has spearheaded ongoing funding for the Botanic Garden initiative, which has secured its place as one of the few universities where the entire campus itself is considered a botanic garden or arboretum. With over 15 botanic gardens placed around the campus, one can be enveloped in flora. As well, there are two campus vegetable gardens that promote urban sustainability and provide urban farming engagement.  

Where: University of Chicago, 5801 S Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60637 

How to get there:

  • CTA Green Line (Garfield) and connect to CTA Bus #55 (55th Street & Ellis) and walk 10 minutes (0.5 miles) 
  • CTA Bus #2 (Stony Island and 59th St) and walk 1 minute, CTA Bus #59 (61st Street & Ellis) and walk 1 minute, CTA Bus #63 (63rd Street & Ellis) and walk 5 minutes (0.3 miles) 
  • Metra Electric Line (Univ. of Chicago/59th St) and walk for 15 minutes (.7 miles)

Suburban Parks and Gardens 

Lilacia Park 
The Lombard Park District’s Lilacia Park is an 8.5-acre horticultural showcase featuring 700 lilacs and 25,000 tulips. Designated on the National Register of Historic Places, the park is celebrating the floral tradition from April 29 to May 15 with events such as wine tastings, plant markets, historic tours, and other festivities.  

Where: 150 S. Park Avenue, Lombard, IL 60148 

How to get there: Metra UP-W Line (Lombard) and walk 1 minute    

Oak Park Conservatory 
Visit the Oak Park Conservatory to explore three indoor Conservatory showrooms as well as blooming outdoor gardens, including some Illinois native species. Catch the annual spring plant and seed sales and partake in Learn & Grow lectures by University of Illinois Master Gardeners to learn about the plants that are available at the sale and how to successfully grow them.  

Where: 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, IL 60304 

How to get there:

  • CTA Blue Line (Oak Park) and walk for 1 minute  
  • Metra BNSF Line (Berwyn) and connect to Pace Bus #311 to Oak Park Ave & Garfield St / CTA and walk for 1 minute  
  • Pace Bus #311 to Oak Park Ave & Garfield St / CTA and walk for 1 minute  

Chicago Botanic Garden 
Home to 385 acres of 27 unique gardens and the Lenhardt Library, one of the country’s largest collections of rare botanical books, the Chicago Botanic Garden is emblematic of a “City in the Garden.” With spring being the season of renewal, the garden is ringing in a new year with millions of blooms.   

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022 

How to get there: CTA Purple Line (Davis) or Metra UP-N Line (Davis St/ Evanston) and connect to Pace Bus #213 and walk for 8 minutes (0.4 miles)   

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