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Botanic Garden Attendance Hits the One Million Mark

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Special to
by Adriana Reyneri

For the first time in its 41-year history, the Chicago Botanic Garden has attracted more than one million visitors in a calendar year. Today’s milestone represents a five percent increase over 2012, the second highest attendance year on record, and is the fourth annual attendance record in the past five years.

“Our steadily increasing attendance tells us that public gardens are becoming increasingly relevant to people’s lives,” said Sophia Shaw Siskel, president and CEO. “The Chicago Botanic Garden is a place of respite, research, and lifelong learning and, as such, provides answers to many of the problems society is facing.”

Throughout the peak summer months of 2013, the Garden received record numbers of visitors, experiencing its highest-ever monthly attendance in August, when 170,150 people came to the Garden. July had the second highest monthly attendance, a count of 159,361. The previous monthly record was sent in August 2011, when 150,219 people visited. Attendance is based on a count of visitors who come to the Garden by car, bike, foot, trolley, and bus.

“Weather is a factor influencing attendance, but our expanding offerings of classes, festivals and exhibitions, and beautiful gardens also play a significant role in attracting visitors,” said Harriet Resnick, vice president for visitor experience and development.

In response to an increase in demand, the Garden has expanded its offering of wellness programs, adding more advanced yoga and tai chi classes, and increasing the number of meditative classes, said Beth Pinargote, manager of symposia and special programs. “We are also working on increasing alternative wellness offerings.”

The Garden will continue to improve the visitor experience in 2014, beginning with a complete renovation of the Garden Café and new programming for the middle of winter. In February, the Garden will premiere the Orchid Show, its first monthlong exhibition of orchids, one of the largest and most diverse flowering plant families.

“We’re grateful for the one-million-plus visitors who made Garden such a vibrant place this year, and to those who continue to support our mission of conservation, education, and personal enrichment,” Siskel said. The Garden will celebrate the milestone on the weekend of January 11 and 12, offering $10 parking to all visitors and a 20 percent discount at the Garden Café for Garden Plus members.

The 385-acre Garden features 26 distinct gardens and four natural areas, including the 100-acre McDonald Woods, the 15-acre Dixon Prairie, the Skokie River Corridor, and Garden Lakes. It is home to the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, a remarkable research facility that houses master’s and doctoral programs offered in conjunction with Northwestern University. The Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden provides a wide array of continuing education classes for adults.

The Garden is one of 17 public gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums, in recognition of its living collection of 2.7 million plants. The Garden ranks as the 12th most visited tourist destination in Chicago and is the region’s sixth-largest cultural institution. Membership is 50,000-strong, among one of the largest of any public garden in the world. A corps of 1,300 volunteers supports the Garden in a myriad of ways, from planting bulbs to guiding school field trips.

The Garden is open every day of the year and offers a year-round educational and cultural programming. Admission is free, though a $25 parking fee applies to nonmembers ($20 for Cook County residents).

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