Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicago - Garfield Park Conservatory

 Last November, we had the opportunity to spend nearly a week in Chicago. My husband had to work Tuesday - Friday, which left my then 21 month old and I to amuse ourselves all week (my mom arrived Wednesday morning to play too). I originally planned to blog about my trip shortly after getting back, but never got around to it. So in the true spirit of this blog, I'm going to blog about it this week. (I previously posted about the trip here.)

 The first day in Chicago, I woke up to find it drizzling and trying to snow. I had ideas of things I wanted to do, but I didn't really want to spend any time outside. It was a little colder in Chicago than it was in Louisville (where we live) and I just didn't want to deal with the rain and the cold with a toddler.

 I'm not sure what led me to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Maybe I googled indoor things to do with a toddler. Maybe I looked through my GPS until something struck my fancy. Whatever it was, we hit the road and found a treasure.

 One tip: if you plan to go, bring food with you or don't expect much. When I'm in Chicago, I only want Italian beef sandwiches and thought I'd be able to find one nearby. It's possible that I could have, but I was a little afraid to wander too far once I got there and all they had to eat were pre-wrapped sandwiches. I ate nuts and my baby ate puffs and we hit happy hour when we got back to the hotel.
 I was blown away by the Conservatory. It's absolutely perfect for a dreary day. I wish we had one in Louisville. It was so perfect for this nature girl. The rooms are huge, each one is themed, and my favorite was a forest with streams, large trees and waterfalls. We would walk around corners and not know what was coming next. What a perfect solution to winter doldrums!

 It's pretty old, and there are leaks in the ceiling and the walls and ceiling are essentially windows. You'll probably need a jacket just in case.

 There were several koi ponds that made peaceful spots to sit and eat our snacks.
 Who am I kidding? The baby ate snacks through the whole place.

 The children's garden was a favorite. There were plants around the sides, and a little pond, but there were also these giant leaves and a giant bumblebee. There's a crawling area for the little-littles and there's even a slide. We spent a long time in this room. There was hardly anyone there the day we went, so even though she was little she could play to her heart's content. (She gets shoved aside a lot when bigger kids don't see her, and she gets a little anxious in crowds.)

 So if you're ever in Chicago and looking for a fun day enjoying nature but the weather is bad, visit the Garfield Park Conservatory. Or don't wait for a dreary day. There's also an outdoor garden that I didn't bother to see. And if you're a city planner in Louisville (or Atlanta, for that matter), please look into setting up a conservatory. We could really use something like this during the winter.

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