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How to use transit to enjoy spring in the Chicago region

April 12, 2024

22 RTA1135

Back in 1837 when Chicago officially incorporated, “Urbs in Horto” (or “City in a Garden”) was the phrase selected for the city’s budding future. Urban designers and landscape architects like Frederick Law Olmsted, Daniel Burnham, and Jens Jensen transformed the city into an urban oasis and advocated for its preservation for future generations. Now that spring has sprung, enjoy the balmy temperatures by taking the CTA, Metra, or Pace to catch a glimpse of Chicagoland’s rich tradition of landscape architecture via one of the many gardens, arboretums, or conservatories listed below.

Citywide Parks and Gardens 

Garden of the Phoenix within Jackson Park

Located along the lakefront in the Woodlawn community, Jackson Park is truly an urban and cultural oasis. It was home to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which paid homage to natural beauty and left behind lagoons and gardens fitted with more than 160 cherry blossom trees, a gift from Japan at the turn of the century. Often referred to as the Japanese Garden, the Garden of the Phoenix, nestled between two lagoons on Wooded Island, is the perfect spot for a picnic or a spring stroll.

Where: 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. Chicago, IL 60637

How to get there:

  • Metra Electric (Univ. Of Chicago/59th St.) and walk 10 minutes (0.5 miles)
  • CTA Bus #2, #6, #15, and #28 (Stony Island & 59th Street) and walk 8 minutes (.4 miles)

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Columbus Park

Designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, Columbus Park is a 140-acre historic park located in the Austin community. The park is one of the few in the nation to be designated a National Historic Landmark and is a testament to the revitalization of native plant species and the natural history and topography of the land. The park also hosts an array of programming from dance, sports, and crafts year-round.

Where: 500 S. Central Ave. Chicago, IL 60644

How to get there:

  • CTA Blue Line (Austin) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles)
  • CTA Bus #126 (Jackson & Central), CTA Bus #91 (Austin and Jackson), CTA Bus #12 (Central & Harrison Terminal) and walk for 1 minute
  • Pace Bus #315 (Austin/Harrison) and walk for 1 minute or Pace Bus #314 (Ridgeland Ave & Harrison St) and walk for 10 minutes (0.5 miles)

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Tom (Ping) Memorial Park

Originally a Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard, Ping Tom Memorial Park has been transformed into a 12-acre park located in the easily accessible Chinatown neighborhood. If you can’t get enough of cherry blossoms, Ping Tom has them along with ample green space, walking paths by the river, and kayak rentals once temperatures rise. Community gathering areas are decorated with Chinese landscape design elements, honoring the Chinese people that have prospered in this area for decades.

Where: 1700 S. Wentworth Ave. Chicago, IL 60616

How to get there:

  • CTA bus route #62 (Archer & Wentworth), then walk 4 minutes (0.2 miles).
  • CTA Red Line (Cermak-Chinatown stop), then walk 6 minutes (0.3 miles).

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Garfield Park Conservatory

One of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a must-see—especially if winter temperatures are still lingering. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species all year. Free reservations are required to enter the conservatory.

Where: Located in Garfield Park, 300 N Central Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60624

How to get there:

  • CTA Green Line (Conservatory-Central Park Drive) and walk for 1 minute.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

Situated in a Victorian-era glass house, the Lincoln Park Conservatory provides a glimpse into one of the oldest public gardens in Chicago, taking root in the late 1870s. No matter the time of year, the Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush, but the Spring Flower Show, “Sweet Gnome Chicago,” invites visitors to imagine gardens in a different way. The Spring Flower exposition runs until May 12. Entry is free with a recommended donation, and an advanced time-slot registration is required.

Where: 2391 N. Stockton Dr. Chicago, IL 60614

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #156 or #151 (Stockton & Webster) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles)
  • CTA Bus #22 or #36 (Clark & Belden) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles)
  • CTA Red, Purple, Brown Lines (Fullerton) and connect to CTA Bus #74 (Lincoln & Webster) and walk 10 minutes (0.5 miles)

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Lurie Garden and North Rose Garden

Adjacent to one other, Lurie Garden at the south end of Millennium Park and the North Rose Garden next to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park are two iconic gardens situated next to killer skyline and lakefront views. Both parks are bustling with life and teeming with tulips, roses, and butterflies in anticipation for spring. As well, Lurie Garden hosts monthly garden walks for those who want to learn more about horticulture.

Where: Located in Millennium Park (220 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60601) and Grant Park, respectively

Transit nearby:

  • Metra Electric to Millennium Station
  • Michigan and Monroe CTA bus station
  • Michigan and Washington CTA bus station
  • Washington and Wabash CTA train station

Learn More

South Shore Cultural Center

Located along the lakefront in a 65-acre park, the South Shore Cultural Center is home to a butterfly garden, manicured gardens, a nature sanctuary, and tons of other amenities like a solarium, golf course, tennis courts, and a bathing beach. Designated as a Chicago landmark in 2004 and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, this cultural and recreational amenity is only a bus or train ride away.

Where: 7059 S South Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60649

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #6 (S. Shore Drive & 71st Street) and walk 1 minute.
  • Metra Electric Line (South Shore station), then walk 1 minute.

Learn More

University of Chicago’s Botanic Garden initiative

The University of Chicago has spearheaded ongoing funding for the Botanic Garden initiative, which has secured its place as one of the few universities where the entire campus itself is considered a botanic garden or arboretum. With over 15 botanic gardens placed around the campus, one can be enveloped in flora. As well, there are two campus vegetable gardens that promote urban sustainability and provide urban farming engagement.

Where: University of Chicago, 5801 S Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

How to get there:

  • CTA bus route #4 (Cottage Grove & 60th Street stop), then walk 1 minute.
  • CTA Green Line (Cottage Grove stop), then walk 8 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • Metra Electric Line (University of Chicago/59th St station), then walk 1 minute.

Learn More

Suburban Parks and Gardens

Lilacia Park

The Lombard Park District’s Lilacia Park is an 8.5-acre horticultural showcase featuring 700 lilacs and 25,000 tulips. Designated on the National Register of Historic Places, the park is celebrating the floral tradition from May 4– May 19 with events such as wine tastings, plant markets, historic tours, and other festivities.

Where: 150 S. Park Avenue, Lombard, IL 60148

How to get there:

  • Metra UP-W Line (Lombard station), then walk 1 minute.

Learn More

Oak Park Conservatory

Visit the Oak Park Conservatory to explore three indoor Conservatory showrooms as well as blooming outdoor gardens, including some Illinois native species. Catch the annual spring plant and seed sales and partake in virtual Learn & Grow lectures to learn about the plants that are available at the sale and how to successfully grow them.

Where: 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, IL 60304

How to get there:

  • CTA Blue Line (Oak Park stop), then walk 1 minute.
  • CTA Green Line (Oak Park stop), transfer to Pace bus route #311 (Oak Park & Garfield St stop), then walk 4 minutes (0.2 miles).
  • Metra UP-W Line (Oak Park station), walk 6 minutes (0.3 miles) to Pace bus #311 (Oak Park Ave & Garfield St stop) then walk 4 minutes (0.2 miles).

Learn More

Chicago Botanic Garden

Home to 385 acres of 27 unique gardens and the Lenhardt Library, one of the country's largest collections of rare botanical books, the Chicago Botanic Garden is emblematic of a “City in the Garden.” With spring being the season of renewal, the garden is ringing in a new year with millions of blooms.

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022

How to get there:

  • CTA Red Line (Howard stop), then walk 3 minutes, Pace bus route #213 (Lake-Cook Rd & Turnbull Woods Ct stop), then walk 8 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • Metra UP-N Line (Braeside station), walk 10 minutes (0.4 miles) to reach Pace bus route #213 (Lake-Cook Rd & Turnbull Woods Ct stop), then walk 8 minutes (0.4 miles).

Learn More

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