BEST BRUSH WITH NATURE Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
A serene paradise, the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven became an instant hit among Chicagoans when the Notebaert opened back in 1999—and for good reason. More than 75 colorful species of butterflies (both foreign and domestic) flutter with dizzying delight in the 2,700-square-foot greenhouse, often making graceful landings on unsuspecting shoulders. What seems simple at first is actually a wonder-filled introduction to one of nature’s most fascinating transformations, as kids get a chance to see the process of metamorphosis in the exhibit’s adjacent cultivation lab. Of course, little ones are free to wander back to the greenhouse for a Zen session, if they like. “It’s so calm and peaceful,” one frequent exhibit visitor told us. “It’s not something you get to experience in every museum.” 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100, chias.com).
Other nominees Children’s Garden at Morton Arboretum, Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory, Great Bear Wilderness Exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden at Chicago Botanic Garden, Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo