Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago Part 3: Garfield Park Conservatory

hat palm. really.

Garfield Park Conservatory, located in Chicago's Westside, has an incredible history. The park itself was influenced by French design and is the largest among three great original Westside parks (Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas), each of which had a small conservatory built in the late 19th century. The park and its lagoons were originally used for boating, strolling, and ice skating. In the early 1900s, the current conservatory (4.5 acres inside and out) was built and intended to house a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass (apparently a unique concept for that time). The neighborhood and park have changed considerably since that time (if you're interested in the history of the park and neighborhood, check out Inspired by Nature -- a great book we picked up for grandpa for his birthday during our visit), but the Conservatory remains a real gem of the neighborhood (and the 'hood itself is also in the midst of revitalization). So we met up with our cousins there early one morning.

i helped baby G get in on the scavenger hunt.

Happy to hear that entry was free, we each picked up a nice scavenger hunt sheet that was sorted by  location of each plant and included a handy-dandy picture to identify the item and a sticker to place over the plant once we found it. We love ourselves a good scavenger hunt and we were off. Cousin Jackie wasn't so sure at first, but then both he and Graham were running around with us like maniacs looking for various palms.

We stopped mid-scavenger hunt to play in the Conservatory's wonderful indoor Children's Garden, which boasts a two-level twisty tunnel slide built into a tree fort. And LOTS of little paths, nooks and crannies among the plants to play and hide. But OOOOWEE it was HOT in there and we decided to resume our scavenger hunt. All that intense searching left us hungry for an early lunch and we sat at the little tables and chairs set up in Horticultural Hall for our picnic (the gift shop there sells drinks, snacks, and a few pre-packaged lunch items as well).

After lunch, the sun was calling our names and we ran outside (with no coats needed!) for another hour or so. We chased, dug, played hide and seek, and generally rejoiced to be outside. We miss our cousins and had a BLAST just kickin' around. The inevitable meltdowns began and we decided to leave while things were still going relatively well. We can't wait to go back in the summer and explore the Conservatory's outdoor exhibits and perhaps some more of Garfield Park itself.

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