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. More than one million people visit the Garden annually; it is the second most visited botanic garden of its size in the country.
There are 27 gardens and four natural areas uniquely situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline. The gardens include an aquatic garden, bonsai garden, English walled garden, Japanese garden, sensory garden, native plant garden, fruit and vegetable garden, and prairie.
You will have 5 1/2 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, given every half hour, are an excellent way to get an overview of the gardens.
The Chicago Botanic Garden has an app called Garden Guide available through Google Play or iTunes. It is very informative and includes audio tours for some of the gardens, highlights what's in bloom, features a plant search and much, much more.
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 are featured, along with wines and tasty appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. There is a picnic area in the parking lot for sack lunch from home. No food is allowed in the gardens.
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 $8 or $7 for seniors and is not included in your registration fee.
Grand 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.
Bright Encounters Tram Tour
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.
Model Railroad Garden
The Model Railroad Garden requires an entrance fee - $8 adults or $7 seniors (not included in your registration fee):
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 requires an entrance fee - $8 adults or $7 seniors (not included in your registration fee).
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.
Garden Chef's Series
Learn to cook with garden-fresh ingredients at the Garden Chef's Series. Noted chefs prepare recipes in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden’s open-air amphitheater. Seating is first-come, first-served for these free demonstrations.
For June 2 the chef will be Heather Terhune from the Tre Rivali restaurant in Milwaukee. Demonstrations will be held at 1:30 and 2:30.
Accessibility at the Garden
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.
The Buehler Enabling Garden is a teaching garden for people of all abilities. Raised beds and container gardens highlight gardening techniques for those who use wheelchairs.
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.
Note: This trip is a joint venture. Half of the seats are reserved for the Writers Theatre participants and half are reserved for the Chicago Botanic Garden participants.
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.
7:50 AM Begin boarding Oakwood
8:00 AM Depart Oakwood
8:20 AM Arrive Capitol Lakes
8:35 AM Arrive East Towne Sears
8:45 AM Depart for Chicago Botanic Garden (or sooner if every is aboard)
Chicago Botanic Garden
11:15 AM Arrive at Chicago Botanic Garden
4:45 PM Depart Chicago Botanic Garden
Return to Madison (Estimate)
7:30 PM Arrive at East Towne Sears
7:50 PM Arrive at Capitol Lakes
8:10 PM Arrive at Oakwood Village West
Accessibility Policy: On the Badger 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 $10.00 registration fee.
PLATO Membership: PLATO membership is $60.00/year and all memberships renew on July 1. If you join between April 1 and November 30 you will pay the full membership fee of $60. If you join between December 1 and March 31 you pay half the membership fee - $30.
Mail-In Registration Form: Chicago Botanic Garden Trip Mail-In Registration Form.pdf