Another reason to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden

Drive into the Chicago botanic Garden on Lake Cook Road in Glencoe but instead of trying to park in the lot closest to the Information entrance, turn left into Lot 6. That’s because the Garden, a 385-acre fun destination any time of year, has a new attraction worth exploring as of Sept. 10, 2016.

Youngsters climb, roll and explore a new nature play area at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo: Jodie Jacobs

Youngsters climb, roll and explore a new nature play area at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo: Jodie Jacobs

Its  new, three-plus acre area bears the lofty title of Regenstein Learning Campus, however, the grounds are a place to play and explore.

Youngsters roll down grassy mounds, wriggle through tree trunk tunnels and splash along a  shallow, winding rivulet in the Nature Play Garden reminiscent of  TV’s “Teletubby” landscape.

Other connected outside areas can be visited but are used for pre-school and older activities and for aquatic learning. Inside the Learning Campus building are preschool spaces, a room outfitted with microscopes and a kitchen for food demonstrations.

This is where some of the family drop-in activities will happen Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 17 through Oct. 23, 2016 and probably the family weekend classes that  make gingerbread and coca in December.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL 60022. For parking and other information call (847) 835-5440 and visit CBG.


Drive into the countryside to find Starship Enterprise

Star Trek celebrated in huge Spring Grove maze

Star Trek celebrated in huge Spring Grove maze

Star Trek fans and crew members of the Starship Enterprise might not want to ask engineer “Scotty” to beam them back home until after they negotiate Richardson Farm’s new giant maze in Spring Grove, IL.

About 21 football fields in size, the maze’s trails cut out images of Captain Kirk, Spock, the Starship, planets, stars and a Star Trek 50 logo. They celebrate the popular series’ 50th anniversary.

“We key in on anniversaries,” said George Richardson. Add celebrations. Last year, the family paid tribute to the Chicago Blackhawk’s  2014-15 Stanley Cup win.

Begun in 2001, the maze has celebrated a wide range of subjects from its first feel-good family farm scene to military veterans and the Beatles.

With 11 miles of trails crisscrossing a 33-acre cornfield, the Richardson Maze is considered the largest in the world. Doing parts of it can take 10 minutes to about an 1½ hours depending on trail choice. It can be a good half-day of fall family fun.

Of course doing the maze during a full moon, maybe with help from flashlights is also fun or spooky. The maze stays open until midnight during full-moon nights Sept. 16-17 and Oct. 14-15 and stays up through October.

As if the maze weren’t enough of a draw for a fall day in the country, the farm also has a ton of family-friendly activities such as a 50 foot slide, train rides and a vintage carousel.

Formerly a pig farmer, Richardson explains the family’s maze craze as “much more fun than raising pigs.”  He said, “I love having people come to see us and enjoy themselves here. This is so much better than pigs.”

The Richardson Farm is at 909 English Prairie Rd., Spring Grove, IL 60081 on US Highway 12, six miles west of Fox Lake and five miles east of Richmond. For other information visit Richmond Farm and Adventure Farm or call 815-675-9729.

Meteorites put on a show

NASA captures meteor shower

NASA captures meteor shower

Look up. If your sky is clear tonight and before dawn the next few nights you might see a shooting star. Except it won’t be a star it will be a meteorite. Now is when two meteor showers are putting on a show.

Delta Aquarid is going on now. It is not a major meteorite display but it overlaps the beginning of the Perseid shower.

The Perseids peak mid-August with about 100 meteorites per hour seen about Aug. 11-12 in 2016. Delta peaks this weekend with about 20 meteorites per hour.

Perseids seem to come from the Perseus constellation, thus their name. Actually they are debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. Look for them in the northeastern sky of the northern hemisphere.

A good site to hear about Perseus is at NASA Science News even though the broadcast is from 2014 and includes that year’s august Super Moon, it is fun to watch and hear. also has more meteorite showers and info.

Tips: The best way to watch for meteorites is to find a spot away from city lights such as the banks of a lake or in a field or park. Early morning before dawn is usually just as good as late night. Be patient and bring a chair or blanket.

Yummy snack travels well

There are lots of travel items out there now that make life easier, safer, more fun or are just useful to have so I’m going to start including them in Travel Smart With Jodie if it passes the Try Test.

First up that just got high grades on my taste to go Try Test are freeze dried fruits from Fairfield, NJ’s Crispy Green.

Found a fruit snack to go at the grocery store

Found a fruit snack to go at the grocery store

I’m not always into healthy snacks but I like chips. So when passing bags of fruit chips at my grocery store ( I shop at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest), I picked up a bag of Crispy Green freeze dried banana chips. I found out that I could also have gotten them at The Fresh Market, Heinens or on Amazon.

Well, I like fruit but I don’t take a banana with me in the car or my tote bag.

Then I checked the calorie count. It was so low I picked up a few of the brand’s other fruits. For example I’m not a cantaloupe or tangerine eater and can’t do acidic fruits but I like banana, mango , apple and pear.

I loved that I could take them with me whether on a train downtown Chicago to cover a museum or theater opening or on the road or plane for a travel writing trip. Also I liked that there are different fruits so it doesn’t get boring.

Just put banana in my Le Sac travel bag, cause heading down to Chicago to cover to art exhibits.

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