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Christmas at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Submitted by on November 30, 2011 – 12:33 amNo Comment

Wonderland Express returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden this holiday season and transforms the 385-acre oasis into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, garden-scale trains, miniature Chicago landmarks, horticulture displays and indoor “snowfall”.

It runs through January 1, 2012, at the garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.

Held in the Regenstein Center, Wonderland Express features garden-scale trains winding their way over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls and detailed landscapes with more than 80 miniature versions of Chicago’s favorite landmarks. Returning favorites include President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home, Michelle Obama’s childhood home, Soldier Field, Millennium Park, Navy Pier and much more. Interpretive signs sprinkled throughout the exhibition give fun facts about Chicago’s history and architecture. Realistic snow falls throughout the exhibition.

The experience starts outdoors, where the Garden grounds have been transformed with more than 750,000 LED lights. The Esplanade features a 40-foot evergreen tree, lit with multi-colored lights, surrounded by large lit spheres that appear to be ornaments fallen from the tree.

The Greenhouses are specially lit, including the palm tree trunks in the South Greenhouse, and decorated with holiday plants. Gracing the walls of the Greenhouse Galleries are wreaths designed by area florists, shops and the Garden’s staff. These wreaths will be available to purchase, and can be picked up at the end of the exhibition.

Decking the Joutras Gallery are holiday trees embellished by local designers and a gingerbread train depot. The Bridge Gallery features behind-the-scenes photographs of the exhibition designers, Paul Busse and Applied Imagination.

The Krehbiel Gallery features an English country train platform with an old-world feel, including more trains and landmarks found on Chicago’s North Shore. A slide show chronicling the construction of the exhibition is shown in the Alsdorf Auditorium.

Families can explore all the different plants and plant parts needed to make gingerbread people during the Weekend Family Class, “Joyful Gingerbread,” on December 3 and 17, 2011. Children can take home a ginger plant, decorate cookies, and mix up a batch of gingerbread to bake at home. Classes are from 9:30 to 11 a.m. or from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Classroom. Programs are designed for families with children ages 4-10. Fees per class are $20 for children; accompanying adults are free and required; limit of three children per adult. The parking fee is waived for program participants. Registration is required at least one week in advance and is available online.

Wonderland Express hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. now through Jan. 1, 2012 (closed at 3 p.m. on December 1 and 24, and all day December 25). Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+).

The Chicago Botanic Garden, part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, is a 385-acre living plant museum featuring 24 distinct display gardens and four natural areas. The Garden is open every day of the year. The garden, managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society, opened to the public in 1972. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the American Public Gardens Association.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden)

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