Visit Chicago Botanic Garden on the cheap.
The Chicago Botanical Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022, (847) 835-5440) offers activities and programs year round. Walk through the beautiful scenery throughout the 385 acres, including 26 gardens, four natural areas, including prairie and woods, and 81 acres of water. Garden Guides and maps to the plants in each garden (Please note: not all locations have maps/guides).
2022 admission fees
The Chicago Botanical Garden has resumed admission fees. Tickets prices range from $9.95 to $25.95 per person. Admission is discounted if you purchase in advance. The maximum admission for Cook County residents is $23.95. The Grand Tram Tour, Butterflies and Blooms and the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America will still be free. Parking, which was $20-$30, has been reduced to $8.
And for individuals who take public transit or ride their bike to the garden or some combination admission is free (plus cost of transit).
Free days in 2022
Because the Chicago Botanic Garden is located on Cook County Forest Preserve land they are required by Illinois law to offer 52 free days per year.
**Preregistration for nonmembers is required and will extend until the garden is at capacity; parking fees apply.**
Free days are offered throughout the year, with 14 during the peak season (think summer), from April through October and on several national holidays. The Chicago Public Library currently offers a pass for free parking. I would imagine that they’ll still offer one covering at least the admission fees.
Remaining free days in 2022:
September 13 and 15, 2022
October 10, 11 and 13, 2022
November 7 to 13, 2022
December 12 to 18, 2022
Please note: Free admissions are not applicable during ticketed events (e.g., Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns, Lightscape, the Orchid Show, Orchids After Hours).
So go now! In 2022 Chicago residents with children can use a library pass or be prepared to go on free days which will be mobbed (except when the weather is bad).
If you pack a lunch you are not allowed to eat it within the garden. You must eat it in the picnic area adjacent to Parking Lot #2. You can bring in your own water and there are refilling stations within the garden.
A couple years ago a reader emailed me and said that they park for free at Turnbull Woods and then walk the 1.1 miles to the garden. See map below. Turnbull Woods is part of the Cook County Forest Preserves. If you have a rack on your car you could also bring your bikes. Bring a lock to secure your bike at the garden. I have never tried this. YMMV.
Save by buying your ticket in advance
“With plan-ahead pricing now in place, we encourage nonmembers to make advance plans,” said Harriet Resnick, the garden’s vice president of visitor experience and business development said in February. “The farther in advance they purchase their admission ticket, the more likely they are to save.”
Call first schedules change
Before you head out on a long and arduous running, hiking, biking, Metra, CTA, RTA, Pace trip call the garden first to make sure everything is running, trails aren’t washed out, streets aren’t closed etc. Also check Metra and Pace to make sure they are running.
Here’s how to get to the Chicago Botanic Garden for $10 to $14 $10 All-day Metra Pass available thru Sept Metrarail
Metra and Pace may be running on different schedules due to Covid. Check all schedules online and for any Service Changes before heading out.
- Take the Metra Union Pacific North line with a $10 weekend pass (good for unlimited Metra rides on Saturday and Sunday) or $7 one day weekend pass and get off at Braeside. Walk 1.1 mile from the station, down Lake Cook Road to the garden entrance where you will get in for free.
- At the Braeside station you can walk .8-mile walk to the Garden on the North Branch Trail, which also links bike riders to trails south of the Garden. Portions of the North Branch Trail (East Road) are closed until fall 2021. Learn more about reroutes for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- If that’s too far to walk take your bike on the Metra. On weekends UP North lines may allow bikes on the train. Check Metrarail to confirm
Or take the Metra to the Glencoe stop (Sunday only) and for an additional $2 roundtrip take the Garden Trolley. Trolley service is provided to and from the Glencoe Metra Station on Sundays, May 12 – September 1, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Garden members and children 5 and under ride free.The Garden Trolley is not running until further notice.
- Take Metra to the Pace Bus. Bus connections are available at Davis Street in Evanston, and the Glencoe and Highland Park train stations. Take the 213 Pace bus marked “Northbrook Court.” Buses run north and south on Green Bay Road and then west on Lake Cook Road to the Garden. Buses do not run on Sundays or holidays. RTAPace Bus information Pace Bus Fare is $2.00 with Ventra and $2.25 cash. There is no change available. COTC note: If you want to print the Pace bus schedule you need to blow it up and print it in sections. The pdf is not readable otherwise. Also as of June 29, 2021 Metra is still running on Alternate Schedules here.
- You can also bike, run or walk to the Botanic Garden. The one-mile link between the Green Bay Trail and the North Branch Trail. passes through the Garden’s McDonald Woods and through Turnbull Woods, which is part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. View/download a map of the bike route on Garden grounds. Download a PDF of the map below. Portions of the North Branch Trail (East Road) are closed until fall 2021. Learn more about reroutes for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Pack a lunch, buy a Metra Pass (use the Ventra app), and take a trip out to the Botanic Garden on the cheap
About the Chicago Botanic Garden
- Chicago Botanic Garden traces its origins back to the Chicago Horticultural Society, founded in 1890. The Society hosted flower and horticultural shows. Its third was the World’s Columbian Exposition Chrysanthemum Show in October 1893.
- 1943 The Chicago Horticultural Society was restarted.
- 1962 the Society agreed to help create and manage a new public garden.
- 1965 the Forest Preserves of Cook County signed over 300 wet acres of lowland marsh at the north end of the Skokie Lagoons to the Chicago Horticultural Society.
- 1965 Groundbreaking for the Chicago Botanic Garden
- 1972 Garden opens. Master plan created by John O. Simonds and Geoffrey Rausch.
- 1976 Education Center known today as the Regenstein Center opens. Designed by Edward Larabee Barnes.
- 1975 The Japanese Garden, known today as the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden breaks ground. Designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana.
- 1982 Japanese Garden dedicated.
- 1991 English Walled Garden is dedicated. Designed by British landscape designer John Brookes.
- 2009 Plant Science Center opens. Designed by Booth Hansen.
- 2014 more than one million people visited the Garden’s.
- The Garden has 50,000 members—one of the largest memberships of any U.S. botanic garden.
- The Chicago Botanic Garden is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and operated by the Chicago Horticultural Society.
- Forest Preserve District provides about $9 million dollars annually or one third to the Garden’s annual operating budget.
- The Botanic Garden had total operating revenue of $33.1 million in 2014.
- The Botanic Garden endowment was $85.5 million in 2014.
- Membership, earned revenues, grants, and private donations provide two-thirds of the annual operating budget.
- The majority of capital investment comes from private donors and has been used to build new gardens and facilities.
- In recent years, state and federal grants have provided important funds for infrastructure projects, such as shoreline restoration and the garden wall.