The Chicago Botanic Garden opened more than 40 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and it has matured into one of the world's great living museums and conservation science centers. In 2015, more than one million people visited the Garden's 27 gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline. The Garden also has a renowned Bonsai Collection.
You will have four hours to explore the gardens. There will be no formal docent-led tour for Plato members. You will be exploring the gardens on your own. However the tram tours (see below), given every half hour, are an excellent way to get an overview of the gardens.
Cost includes Van Galder Bus Travel w/Wi-Fi access. The Chicago Botanic Garden does not charge for admission but does charge bus parking and that charge is included in your registration fee.
Lunch is not included. Food is available at the Garden View Café. See menu. Another option is the Rose Terrace Beer Garden where craft beers from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois breweries will be featured, along with wines and tasty appetizers, sandwiches, and salads.
Tram tours and admission to the Model Railroad Garden or Butterflies & Blooms are not included in your registration fee (See below for the cost if you want to partake in those activities)
We will be outdoors, so please dress accordingly. Bring a hat and comfortable shoes. A day bag with water and snacks, as well as your camera, is advised. If rain is possible, bring an umbrella.
If you get tired or just want to take a break, there are many outdoor benches to sit and relax. If it is a hot day, both the Visitor Center (which contains the Garden View Cafe) and the Regenstein Center are air conditioned and have benches to sit on. The Lenhardt Library in the Regenstein Center (open 12-4) is a wonderful place to rest and read gardening magazines.
There are two tram tours which take about 35 minutes each. The cost of a tram ride is $6 or $5 for seniors and is not included in your registration fee.
Grand Tram TourBright Encounters Tram Tour
Get carried away on this 2.3-mile narrated tour! Learn the history and science of the Garden while viewing highlights including the McDonald Woods, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, the new Learning Campus, and others. Enjoy views alongside the Garden’s 81 acres of water! Optional stops allow passengers to step off the tram to tour sites including the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, Dixon Prairie, and the Regenstein Center.
Enjoy an intimate .8-mile tour of selected gardens from the comfort of a tram. Relax as you explore the Heritage Garden, Krasberg Rose Garden, Waterfall Garden, Buehler Enabling Garden, and many other gardens and special features. See changing displays of annual flowers in spectacular combinations. Learn remarkable facts about the Garden’s science and conservation projects. Uncover the mysteries of this living museum!
There are two other special exhibits (the Model Railroad Garden and Butterflies & Blooms) that each require an entrance fee - $6 adults or $5 seniors (not included in your registration fee):
Model Railroad Garden
The 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden features trains running on 1,600 feet of track. The garden-scale trains are 1/29th the size of life-size trains. Train and garden enthusiasts, young and old, return year after year for the delightful sights and sounds of the miniature trains traversing high and low through tunnels, across bridges, and around buildings.
All are intricately handcrafted with natural materials, including twigs, bark, leaves, acorns, and pebbles. More than 5,000 tiny trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowering plants of close to 300 varieties re-create the topographical landscape of America. Vignettes of tiny people and animals give the exhibit a storybook feel, while sound effects and a working geyser capture visitors’ imaginations.
Butterflies & Blooms
Butterflies & Blooms is a butterfly exhibition where visitors can immerse themselves in a habitat filled with hundreds of live butterflies. This exhibition is filled with species native to South America, Asia, North America, and Africa, as well as those native to Illinois.
The 2,800-square-foot white mesh enclosure is located on the Regenstein Learning Campus. Up to 500 butterflies can be seen at any one visit. Visitors can also observe butterflies hatching through a window into the pupa emergence room.
Learn to cook with garden-fresh ingredients at the Garden Chef Series. Noted chefs prepare recipes in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden’s open-air amphitheater.
For Sunday, June 18 the chefs will be Terry & Dirk Fucik from Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago. Seating is first-come, first-served for these free demonstrations. Visitors will need to use sun protection and wear caps in this sunny location. No umbrellas, please. Held at 1:30 and 2:30 on June 18.
Accessibility at the Garden
Wheelchairs Wheelchairs are available free at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. Nearly all areas of the Garden are accessible by wheelchair, as are the tram tours.
Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) Electric scooters are available for rent in the Visitor Center on an unreserved, first-come, first-served basis. The following fee applies: members: $15, nonmembers $20. Please note: quantities are limited. The ECV is a single-person chair only. Young children are not allowed to operate or ride on the chair.
Operators must be 16 years of age or older. All operators between the ages of 16 and 18 must have a valid driver's license and signature of a parent or guardian over the age of 21. Scooter training is provided and required, and restrictions do apply. A release form must be signed by the guest operating the scooter. At the discretion of the Chicago Botanic Garden, ECVs cannot be used under the following circumstances: inclement weather, on tram tours, in restrooms, on turf, in Greenhouses, on the Arched Bridge to the Malott Japanese Garden, on the path along the Linnaeus sculpture in the Heratage Garden, or at the Waterfall Garden, Spider Island, or the Farwell Landscape Garden. ECV users must remain on all designated pathways. The ECV must be returned before sundown.
Accessible restrooms are available in the Visitor Center, the Regenstein Center, and the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. For those dining at the Garden View Café, both outdoor decks are also wheelchair accessible.
Bear in mind that our boarding bus route is like Madison Metro or any other municipal bus service. Please arrive early at your boarding stop so you don’t miss the bus. When everyone is aboard and seated, we leave.
– Don’t be late. We can wait just 5 minutes at any one location.
– Pack water bottles and snacks for sustenance on the journey.
10:00 AM Begin boarding Oakwood
10:15 AM Depart for Capitol Lakes
10:25 AM Arrival at Capitol Lakes for boarding.
10:40 AM Arrival at East Towne Sears for boarding.
10:45 AM Depart for Glencoe
Arrive in Glencoe
1:00 PM Arrive at Writers Theatre (Estimated)
1:20 PM Arrive at Chicago Botanic Garden
5:30 PM Depart Chicago Botanic Garden
5:45 PM Arrive at Writers Theatre
Return to Madison (Estimate)
6:15 PM Arrive Lake Forest Oasis (30 Minute Dinner Break)
8:35 PM Arrive at East Towne Sears
8:50 PM Arrive at Capitol Lakes
9:05 PM Arrive at Oakwood Village West
Accessibility Policy: On the Van Galder Bus, you must be able to climb steps to board and exit the bus.
Non-Member Policy: Members must register their guests. Each PLATO member is entitled to bring one non-member guest per bus trip. (Members may bring more than one guest near the registration Deadline Date if seats are available. Check with trip organizer.) Non-member guests pay an additional $15.00 registration fee. PLATO Membership is $60.00/year.
Mail-In Registration Form (includes instructions):PLATO Members Form
For further information, Chicago Botanic Garden Organizer: Bob Shaw, email@example.com and 608-255-3486