How do you know spring has arrived in Chicago? A good place to start looking for signs is on Michigan Avenue, where thousands of tulips make their annual appearance each April in a dazzling array of color. The iconic springtime flower blooms from around mid-April to mid-May—just as Chicago shakes off the last vestiges of winter—and offers one of the year’s first opportunities to see picture-perfect flora throughout the city’s gardens and conservatories.
Want to get in on the early springtime action? Start from the sidewalks of the Magnificent Mile and go from there—you’ll find plenty of other local spots with tulip-filled flower beds, whether you’re looking to stay in the city or make a quick day trip from Chicago. From gorgeous urban gardens to a five-acre field in the suburbs, here are the best places to go tulip peeping in and around Chicago.
Every year since the mid-90s, the city has imported more than 100,000 tulip bulbs straight from the Netherlands to be planted along a two-mile stretch of Michigan Avenue spanning from Oak Street to Roosevelt Road. The result is a gorgeous rainbow of flowers set against the backdrop of some of the city’s most iconic downtown sights: don’t be surprised if you run into passersby jockeying for a photo. If you want to make the entire walk, we recommend beginning up north and heading south to Roosevelt, where you can round off the experience with a nice stroll through Grant Park.
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden
With more than 750,000 bulbs scattered throughout its Glencoe campus, the Chicago Botanic Garden showcases some of the area’s most stunning and diverse tulip varieties. Head to the Graham Bulb Garden and keep an eye out for the lesser-known “species” tulips (also known as wild or botanical tulips), which come in eye-catching striped colors and spiky-petaled blooms. Don’t forget to see the rest of the springtime flowers displayed in the Garden’s “It’s Showtime: Spring 2021” show, either.
Garfield Park Conservatory
You’ll spot tulips and other seasonal blooms at Garfield Park Conservatory’s vibrant spring show, titled “Saturated,” through May 9—just be sure to make a free timed reservation before visiting.
Richardson Adventure Farm
Want to pick your own tulips to bring home? Take a trip out to Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, located about an hour and 15 minutes away from downtown via car, for the farm’s Tulip Festival celebration. There you’ll find 300,000 bulbs—70,000 of which are reserved in a pick-your-own area—spread across a five-acre field, plus a selection of games and other activities set up for families. After you’ve snapped a few photos and picked your bouquets, hang out along lakeside picnic tables while enjoying snacks and drinks from food trucks; visit on the weekend to see live music performances.
Photograph: Jeff Reiter
Located on the former estate of the publishers of the Chicago Tribune in Wheaton, Cantigny Park offers 29 acres of sprawling gardens designed by landscape architect Franz Lipp. For prime tulip viewing, visit the lower display garden located near the Visitors Center, then continue on to see hundreds of other native plants as they begin to bud and bloom.