The Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Admission: $9, $7 seniors and students 13-22, $6 kids 3-12
605 N. Clark St.
You don’t have to feel stuck in the cold city this winter. Visit the tropics without having to catch a flight.
Begin your trip at the Garfield Park Conservatory—the perfect vacation spot within the city during the winter months. The conservatory boasts flowering cacti, bright yellow lily pads, a double coconut palm and a large plant dripping with bananas. The lush palms of the fern room take you back to the Illinois of millions of years ago and the vibrant flowers of the Show House wake up wintery minds to spring. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden features climbable leaves, a giant seed pod, a long, curvy slide and best of all, a chance to run around and breathe in oxygen—without coat, hat and gloves.
Take your eyes to the "sky" at the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The 2,700-square-foot greenhouse features 1,000 butterflies from 75 different species. Asian, South American and African butterflies glide through the air along with Midwestern varieties you might have seen in your own backyard on warmer days. If you’re there at the right time, watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis and fly for the first time.
End your tropical-themed outing by grabbing lunch or dinner at the Rainforest Café. Besides a menu that features warm-weather ingredients, kids love watching the automated jungle animals around the dining room. When the lights go down and water pours from the ceiling to a chorus of gorillas, elephants and parrots (along with lightning and thunder), winter will be the last thing on your mind.
It’s always a bummer to step back outside to the snowy reality of winter, but these Chicago spots are the perfect pick-me-ups: uninterrupted, stress-free family time with a side order of slides, palm trees, butterflies and tropical food.