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Much ado this summer at Botanic Garden

The new Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden opening June 2 will be site drop-activities weekends throughout summer Chicago Botanic Garden.

The new Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden opening June 2 will be the site of drop-in activities weekends throughout the summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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‘Butterflies & Blooms’

♦ June 2-Sept. 3

♦ Admission: $5 adults, $3 kids 3-12

Model Railroad Garden

♦ Through Oct. 28

♦ Admission: $5 adults, $3 kids 3-12

♦ ‘Butterflies’/Railroad combo admission: $8 adults, $5 kids 3-12

Growing Garden

♦ Permanent; free with garden admission of $20 per car

Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Call (847) 835-5440;

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Updated: May 30, 2012 4:54PM

Summer may officially start June 20 with the summer solstice, but at the Chicago Botanic Garden summer starts June 2. That’s when the Glencoe garden opens two new family-friendly areas and a host of seasonal family programming.

“It’s going to be very busy here June 2,” said Harriet Resnick, vice president of visitor experience and business development for the Botanic Garden.

On tap: the opening of the new, permanent, 10,000-square-foot Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and the new seasonal 2,800-square-foot “Butterflies & Blooms” exhibit showcasing more than 30 species of the delicate winged creatures in a mesh enclosure. It’s also the day of the garden’s annual World Environment Day, and the weekend marks the kickoff of the Malott Japanese Garden Family Sundays highlighting Japanese culture (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3, 17; July 1, 15; Aug. 5; and Sept. 2, 16). On top of that, the garden’s longer summer hours — 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily — go into effect June 2 through Sept. 3, and the Dancing Sprouts concerts begin the first week of June as well. And then there’s the rejuvenated Model Railroad Garden, which runs through Oct. 28.

“It’s been about six years since we’ve done any new family-friendly exhibits,” Resnick said, so staff is excited about the dual opening of the Grunsfeld Garden and butterfly exhibit, which are adjacent to each other on the garden’s learning campus.

Grunsfeld is “dedicated to active, hands-on planting for children. It’s a permanent garden, which is wonderful, so it will take us from 24 to 25 gardens,” Resnick said. “This summer we will have the family drop-in program [11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends]. There’s two outdoor garden classrooms. Children are going to grow food, plants, learn about native species of our region and again, it’s really to instill a love of gardening in children and in the next generation of gardeners.”

More than 500 butterflies will flutter each day in “Butterflies & Blooms,” where visitors will learn about these pollinators’ life cycle and purpose. It features a pupa emergence room with a window through which visitors can watch as butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.

Both “Butterflies” and the Model Railroad Garden have additional admission fees, so the garden is offering a discount for visitors who want to see both. New this year to the Railroad Garden: Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, a Cape Cod lighthouse and a completely renovated New Orleans section.

“We wanted to package [them] because those are really our two most family-friendly things to do on-site here, and we wanted to encourage people to go to both and enjoy the garden,” Resnick said. “They’re in such different locations, physically, it allows people to see most of the entire garden.”

During the third annual World Environment Day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 2), which Resnick described as a big open house, the garden will “unlock the keys to our conservation kingdom and really show people the conservation work that we do,” she said.

Other family programming this summer includes Nature Nights during which families explore different areas of the garden and bring a picnic dinner ($25 per child, 5-7:30 p.m. first and third Saturday each month, June 2-Sept. 15) and Dancing Sprouts, which showcases children’s entertainers (free with entrance fee, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays June 6-Aug. 29).


♦ The Field Museum’s newest exhibit, Extreme Mammals, featuring extinct and living animals, runs through Jan. 6 at 1400 S. Lake Shore. Admission is in included in Discovery and All-Access passes, $22-$29 for adults, $15-$20 for kids 4 to 11. Call (312) 922-9410;

♦ The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted, will offer two weekly programs for kids this summer. Little Homers: Stories & Songs, for kids 3 to 5, runs from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Saturdays, June 9-Aug. 25. Young Muses: Arts & Crafts, for kids 5 to 10, runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays, June 7-Aug. 30. The programs are free with general admission of $10 for adults and $7 for kids 3 to 12. Call (312) 655-1234 ;

♦ The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra will offer a peek at the pieces it will play on its upcoming Spain tour at 6:30 p.m. June 3 in Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph. The free concert includes Barber’s “Second Essay,” op. 17 and Strauss’ “Don Juan,” op. 20 among other pieces. Call (312) 939-2207;

♦ Legoland Discovery Center, 601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg, will open its new Kingdom Quest laser ride June 3. Riders use laser guns to zap trolls and skeletons, earning points to see who is the noblest in the land. Admission is $19 for adults, $15 for kids 3 and older. Call (847) 592-9700;

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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