Wander endlessly in the green spaces at the Chicago Botanic Garden
The extensive gardens and exhibits at the Chicago Botanic Gardens are a bit out of the way for visitors staying downtown in the Windy City, but it's worth the trip.
The water garden will make you long for a lake(however small) to plant lily-pads in at home and the waterfall garden will make you feel like you were airlifted out of Illinois to Hawaii. The Japanese Garden and Walled English Gardens are soothing and stunning simultaneously and the Botanic's bonsai collection is impressive, even if the display space (bricked in courtyards) is not. Birds and chipmunks frolic throughout, despite the Botanic's no feeding policy.
While I didn't try the museum's restaurant, it did have a lovely terrace overlooking its lake.
Parking is pricey--$25 for non-residents, but entry is free. Looking for an unusual souvenir? The museum's gift shop sells a Chicago-themed perfume made from flowers from urban gardens.
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Commune with Nature
Once a year -- preferably in the fall -- I try to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, an upscale suburb approximately 30 minutes north of downtown Chicago (the drive up Sheridan Road, along Lake Michigan is especially scenic).
The space encompasses 385 acres of land, nine islands, 26 gardens, 4 natural areas and an internationally renowned bonsai collection. In addition to horticultural displays, a wide variety of exhibitions, including fine photography and an array of artwork, rotate through. An indoor/outdoor cafe is available.
I love to grab the iPod, listen to my favorite podcasts, and get a couple of hours of good walking in here.
Why You Should Visit Chicago in the Fall: http://bit.ly/1cWSM2D