Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden

December 16, 2011 6:18:14 AM PST
A holiday tradition returns to Chicago Botanic Garden.

Wonderland Express Pulls Into the Garden for A Sixth Season
Holiday Exhibition Features Trains, Chicago Landmarks
November 25, 2011 - January 1, 2012

GLENCOE, Ill. - Wonderland Express returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden this holiday season and transforms the 385-acre oasis into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, garden-scale trains, miniature Chicago landmarks, exquisite horticulture displays and indoor snowfall. This popular holiday exhibition runs from Nov. 25, 2011 through Jan. 1, 2012 and has proven to be a wonderful family tradition.

Held in the Regenstein Center, Wonderland Express features garden-scale trains winding their way over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls and detailed landscapes with more than 80 miniature versions of Chicago's favorite landmarks. Returning favorites include President Barack Obama's Kenwood home, Michelle Obama's childhood home, Soldier Field, Millennium Park, Navy Pier and much more. Interpretive signs sprinkled throughout the exhibition give fun facts about Chicago's history and architecture. Realistic snow falls throughout the exhibition.

The experience starts outdoors, where the Garden grounds have been transformed into a grand winter wonderland of trees and shrubs, dramatically-lit with over 750,000 energy-efficient LED lights. This year, the Garden is reusing over fifty-percent of the outdoor LED lights from last year, which cuts down on cost and refuse. The esplanade features a 40-foot evergreen tree, lit with multi-colored lights, surrounded by large lit spheres that appear to be ornaments fallen from the tree.

Indoors, the Regenstein Center is a magical wonderland of trains, plants and architecture. The Greenhouses are specially lit, including the palm tree trunks in the South Greenhouse, and decorated with beautiful holiday plants. Gracing the walls of the Greenhouse Galleries are wreaths designed by area florists, shops and the Garden's own talented staff. These wreaths will be available to purchase, and can be picked up at the end of the exhibition. Decking the Joutras Gallery are holiday trees decorated by local designers and a gingerbread train depot. The Bridge Gallery features behind-the-scenes photographs of the exhibition designers, Paul Busse and Applied Imagination, Alexandria, Ky., creating the landmarks in their workshop.

The Krehbiel Gallery features an English country train platform with an old-world feel, including more trains and landmarks found on Chicago's North Shore. A slide show chronicling the construction of the exhibition is shown in the Alsdorf Auditorium for those who don't want to end the journey just yet. Visitors can enjoy a light lunch, snack or dinner at the Caboose Cafe in Burnstein Hall or in the Garden Café. The Garden Shop features an array of extraordinary gifts, including a book on Wonderland Express, amidst the exquisite holiday décor during exhibition hours.

Special Events
Special Wonderland Express events include Christmas Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Supper with Santa, Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus, and a Hanukkah Dinner. Christmas Breakfast with Santa is at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, and includes a buffet breakfast; visit with Santa and exhibition viewing before public hours. Christmas Supper with Santa is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 and 19, and includes a buffet dinner; visit with Santa and exhibition viewing after public hours. Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus is at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 19. A Hanukkah Dinner will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a special concert at 7 p.m.

These special events are made possible with the generous support of NorthShore University HealthSystem. Tickets are available online at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/wonderland/specialand onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center.

Family Programs
Family Drop-In Activities that are free for ticket holders will be held in Burnstein Hall during Wonderland Express exhibition hours on Friday, Nov. 25, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 26 through Dec. 18, and on Monday, Dec. 19 through Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, and all day Dec. 25). Hands-on activities include exploring snowflakes, conifer branches and cones, making bird feeders with natural materials and more. Families can explore all the different plants and plant parts needed to make gingerbread people during the Weekend Family Class, "Joyful Gingerbread," on Saturdays, Dec. 3 and 17. Children can take home a ginger plant, decorate cookies, and mix up a batch of gingerbread to bake at home. Classes are from 9:30 to 11 a.m. or from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Classroom. Programs are designed for families with children ages 4-10. Fees per class are $20 for children; Chicago Botanic Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Accompanying adults are free and required; limit of three children per adult. The parking fee is waived for program participants. Registration is required at least one week in advance and is available online or via mail. For more information, visit www.chicagobotanic.org/familyprograms

Wonderland Express hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Nov. 25 through Jan. 1, 2012 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 24, and all day Dec. 25). Exhibition tickets are available online at www.chicagobotanic.org/wonderland and onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+). Members pay $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+). Admission to Wonderland Express on Tuesdays throughout the exhibition is free (limit 4 tickets per transaction). All ticket purchases are timed for entry. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members.

Wonderland Express is made possible with the generous support of ComEd and NorthShore University HealthSystem. Free Tuesdays is generously supported by Grainger. Additional support has been provided by Discover and Drinker Biddle. The Chicago Botanic Garden is particularly proud to be partnering with ComEd in the use of all energy-efficient LED lighting for Wonderland Express. For more information on Wonderland Express, call (847) 835-5440, or visit the Garden's Web site at www.chicagobotanic.org

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