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.)