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The Chicago Botanic Garden
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The 12 most beautiful gardens in Chicago

Pillowy roses, prairie grasses and wildflowers—you'll find blooms of all shapes and sizes in these gorgeous gardens.

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Written by
Emma Krupp
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Back in the 19th century, Chicago's government picked the phrase "urbs in horto"—Latin for "City in a Garden"—as its motto, employing landscape architects like Daniel H. Burnham, Jens Jensen and Frederick Law Olmsted to beautify the budding city over the course of several decades. Today, partially thanks to that rich tradition of landscape architecture, Chicago is home to more than 8,800 acres of green space. Want to take advantage of summer weather and explore the best of the city's greenery? From nature preserves tucked into the Chicago parks to the city's massive conservatories, you don't have to go far to find gardens teeming with flowers and plant life native to Chicago and (far) beyond. Whether you're an amateur naturalist or you're just looking to explore some new Chicago attractions, take a minute to unwind in these beautiful gardens throughout the city. 

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best things to do in Chicago

The most beautiful gardens in Chicago

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Hyde Park

Tucked away between two lagoons on Jackson Park's Wooded Island, the Garden of the Phoenix—oftentimes referred to as the Japanese Garden or Osaka Garden—is a traditional garden space dedicated to the U.S. and Japanese relationship, complete with a century-old pavilion gifted to Chicago by the Japanese government for the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. For best results, visit in the spring, when the garden's 160 cherry trees bathe the premises with blush-colored blooms.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Lincoln Park

If you're reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright wandering through this quiet garden and lily pond, know that the effect is intentional—landscape architect Alfred Caldwell designed its limestone-studded features in the 1930s in the Prairie School style pioneered by Wright. The garden boasts an abundance of prairie wildflowers and other native plants beloved by local wildlife, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers and other amateur naturalists.

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  • Things to do
  • Millennium Park

Located at the south end of Millennium Park, the Lurie Garden was designed to evoke nature's beauty during all four seasons. Come by in the spring for a mind-bending array of tulips and delicate anemones; in the summer and fall for butterflies drifting among bee balm and calamint; and in winter to watch snow and ice interact with the dormant plants. Chicago literature enthusiasts will also appreciate the 15-foot hedges ringing the garden's perimeters, a shoulder-like allusion to Carl Sandburg's poem "Chicago."

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Grant Park

Step away from the bustle of Michigan Avenue and into this peaceful garden on the side of the Art Institute, which the museum commissioned in the 1960s from landscape architect Dan Kiley. Honey locust trees drape overhead to create an intimate, canopied effect; in the center of the garden, a rectangular pool leads up to the towering and sculpture-bedecked Fountain of the Great Lakes, originally built in 1913.

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  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • South Shore

There's no shortage of gorgeous plant life among the 65-acre expanses of the the South Shore Cultural Center, which was originally constructed as a country club during the early 20th century and later purchased by the Chicago Park District during the 1970s. The premises are now home to a butterfly garden, nature sanctuary and tons of other greenery—for best results, plan a whole afternoon to visit and start with the formal gardens near the Center's historic Mediterranean-style clubhouse.

  • Attractions
  • Millennium Park

Venture into Maggie Daley Park and head east to discover the Cancer Survivors' Garden, a lovely 2.25-acre green space that serves as a celebration of life and tribute to those who have battled cancer. You'll find plenty of flowers within its quiet confines, but the real star of the garden is an open metal pavilion flanked by two 40-foot granite columns, which were salvaged from Chicago's 1905 Federal Building. Amble in and grab a seat at a park bench for incredible views of Lake Michigan and the Field Museum.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • East Garfield Park

It goes without saying that the indoor greenhouse rooms at Garfield Park Conservatory are pretty spectacular. Come summer, though, you can't beat its 10 acres of outdoor garden area, which features a kid-friendly sensory garden, onyx-colored lily pools and an artist's garden replete with the favorite flowers of famous painters. Plan to come for an entire afternoon to make sure you see all the highlights.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Near South Side

This South Loop park and community garden pays homage to women's history with a fountain and a statue honoring the Chicago activist and social worker Jane Addams. In addition to housing the Clarke House Museum, which showcases Chicago's oldest home, the garden's 3.2 acres of green space is home to tons of city programming, like Night Out in the Parks event and day camps for kids.

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  • Things to do
  • East Garfield Park

An ever-popular destination for wedding photos, this picturesque garden is lined with rows of pillowy roses and hedges backgrounded by the skyline, like a mini English estate transported right into downtown Chicago. (Its proximity to the stately Buckingham Fountain only strengthens the comparison.)

  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Suburbs
  • price 2 of 4

Take a trip out to Glencoe to wander (or take a tram) through dozens of sub-gardens housed on the sprawling grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is visited by more than one million people each year. Here, you can experience greenery from across the world (there's a Japanese Garden, an English Walled Garden and a Bonsai collection, just to name a few options) as well as take a deep dive into our own backyard with several gardens dedicated to plants hailing from Illinois and the Midwest. Real plant enthusiasts can also check out the Lenhardt Library, home to one of the country's largest collections of rare botanical books.

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  • Things to do
  • Washington Park

For a few weeks a year—when the crop is successful, that is—an acre of land near the El tracks in Washington Park erupts into a field of sunflowers. Originally conceived as a research experiment to test how the flowers absorbed lead from the soil in a Kenwood lot, the project eventually moved neighborhoods and morphed into an urban agriculture venture to help beautify the surrounding cityscape. Keep up with the organization’s social pages to plan the best time for a visit, which is usually in late summer and early fall.

  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Oak Park
  • price 1 of 4

Hop on the Blue Line to check out this verdant conservatory in near-suburban Oak Park, where you can ogle everything from the sun-loving plants of the Mediterranean (lavender, rosemary, common sage) to the lush flora of the tropics (banana and papaya trees, white bird of paradise and much more). The conservatory's three indoor rooms offer a year-round dose of greenery; in the warmer months, relax among perennials and a tinkling water feature at the outdoor Herbert M. Rubinstein Memorial Garden or take the little ones to the interactive Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden, where visitors are invited to play among and touch the plants.

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