Spring blooms and great city equal a vacation destination

Second in series on Spring vacation destinations is Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Warm weather welcomed visitors to Chicago even though the calendar said it was only the second weekend in April.

Couples were downing salads and sandwiches on the Park Grill patio at the edge of Millennium Park.

Visitors head up the paths in Millennium Park to see its Frank Gehry sculptured roof of the Pritztker Pavilion and Cloud Gate. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Visitors head up the paths in Millennium Park to see its Frank Gehry sculptured roof of the Pritztker Pavilion and Cloud Gate. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Youngsters were dashing up the park’s steps for a closer look at Cloud Gate, known as The Bean and the wild Frank Gehry sculptural roof of the Pritzker Pavilion

About 20 miles north, visitors kept pouring into the Chicago Botanic Garden by bike, SUV and on foot.

Spring had finally come to Chicago.

April and May are fine times to make Chicago a vacation destination. Paths along Lake

Michigan are not yet crammed with beach-goers. The Magnificent Mile of North Michigan Avenue isn’t jammed with shoppers and lookers. The theater and symphony seasons are still in full swing. Museums don’t have lines out the door.

Spring has come to Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring has come to Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

And about a half hour drive north, colorful blossoms line the Chicago Botanic Garden entrance, paths and surprise visitors around every corner.

Where to stay:

As a convention city, Chicago is blessed with more than 100,000 hotel rooms so finding one that meets budget, style and location specifications is usually easy.

Hotels with special stay and play packages usually list their current deals at

Parking in Chicago is pricy so look for a package that includes parking.

A recent check of hotel deals listed W Chicago Lakeshore which is convenient to Navy Pier, the Amalfi Hotel which is convenient to North Michigan Avenue shopping and the Hyatt Regency which is near Millennium Park.

What to do:

Check the Chicago Symphony Orchestra schedule. Symphony Center is across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.

There is always something special to see at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

There is always something special to see at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

See “Kings, Queens and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France” at the Art Institute of Chicago through May 30, 2011.

The exhibit ends with a work by Leonardo da Vinci and his studio.

While there, be sure to explore the galleries either side of the special exhibit’s Regenstein hallways to see fine Whistlers and works of other famed artists.

Also take the elevator from the modern wing upstairs to the rooftop patio. Visitors can snap a great view of Millennium Park and the skyhline even if they aren’t eating in the adjacent restaurant.

The Art Institute's rooftop patio is a great place to look down onto Millennium Park and take in the skyline. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Art Institute's rooftop patio is a great place to look down onto Millennium Park and take in the skyline. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Go over to the Merchandise Mart on the Chicago River, a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue. The main floor has showrooms open to the public with great home decorating ideas. If at the Mart April 29 through May 2 see Art Chicago, an international fair that showcases contemporary and modern works.

Take a Chicago River Architectural Tour. Spring is the start of the boat tour season and Chicago is known as an architectural destination. Several organizations and companies offer good tours.

Drive north to Glencoe on I94 to Lake Cook Road and turn east for half a mile to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Spring blooms such as Dutch Crocus, surprise walkers around every curve and path at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring blooms such as Dutch Crocus, surprise walkers around every curve and path at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring is a fun time to explore its paths. Just about every turn uncovers another bulb opening or another plot of color. Take paths through the Japanese Islands and other islands to watch birds returning north and see trees beginning to bloom.

Stop in the Circle Garden to see colorful foxglove set against artistic fountain sprays and see what’s blooming in the English Garden and in the vegetable gardens.

Even though the weather is fine for walking outdoors, save time to visit the greenhouses to see cute topiaries and find out what is blooming indoors.

Add the Garden to a Chicago vacation.

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