Technically, spring arrived this week, but sub-freezing temps and Tom Skilling‘s snow warnings continue. If you feel like cheating nature and warming up somewhere full of sunlight and foliage, check out these four indoor paradises right here in the city. The best part? They’re all free.
Built over 100 years ago, this Victorian architectural gem is a winter haven for floraphiles. Step inside at any time of year and wander through the otherworldly ferns, palms, and orchids. The air is always balmy, and unless you visit during summer’s tourist-filled weekends, you can expect peace, quiet, and plenty of places to sit and read.
It’s a little further from downtown, but this sprawling indoor forest is one of the largest and most celebrated in the United States, and makes the Lincoln Park Conservatory look petty in comparison. Designed by the “father” of prairie-style landscape architecture, Jens Jensen, near the turn of the century, the gigantic conservatory holds seven distinct ecosystems under its acres of glass, replete with pools, waterfalls, and flowers.
Most of us have been to the “big five” museums (Adler, Art, Field, Shedd, MSI), but a lot of Chicagoans don’t even know that we have a nature museum hidden in Lincoln Park. Well, surprise: it’s an amazing way to explore Chicago’s natural history. Especially the 2,700-square-foot greenhouse filled with over 1000 butterflies. You can also look in on an animal research lab and walk through several recreated Midwestern environments.
4. The Winter Garden in the Harold Washington Library
Hours: 9am-9pm on Mon-Thur, 9am-5pm on Fri-Sat, 1pm-5pm on Sun
One of Chicago’s best-kept secrets sits on top of the gargantuan Harold Washington Library in the Loop. Take the escalators all the way up to the ninth floor and you’ll find a bright, marble-floored sitting area beneath a vaulted glass dome. The decorative trees and the abundant natural light is a welcome escape in the dark days of winter.