Far from the madding crowd, Japan has quietly nestled in Illinois. There are other Japanese gardens in the U.S., but here—this is another kind of serenity. There is a zigzag bridge, and small huts with notes that explain how bonsai works. The lake and the array of plants at Chicago Botanic Garden is exquisite. I was too early to see the trees in full bloom when I visited, but there were promises of green, and geese and bees flew by. The very picture of stillness and idyll.
The enormous gardens are free to enter, aside from a fee for parking. It's very easy to take a bus into Cook County and get dropped off right in front of the garden.