The Run Down

This week's guide takes you to Garfield Park in search of a bit of inspiration. The first stop is to one of the oldest and largest conservatories in the country, where you'll wander through 4.5 acres of indoor gardens and let the vast rooms of tropical plants and small ponds help you de-stress. Afterward, you'll visit a restaurant with a socially conscious mission of supporting men and women to overcome poverty and homelessness. Here are the highlights. 

1. Visit @ Garfield Park Conservatory

2. Dine @ Inspiration Kitchens

1. Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory has been a Chicago institution for over 100 years. It should definitely be high on any list of places to visit if you and your kids are fighting off the winter blues or need a bit of greenery to rejuvenate yourselves.

One great thing about the place is that it’s very easy to get to. Just hop on the Green Line and get off at the ‘Conservatory’ stop just a few minutes West of the Loop.  From the train stop, you’re just a few steps away from Garfield Park Conservatory. Here are a few notes about the place.

– The Conservatory is made up of 6 greenhouses and 2 exhibition halls

– Free admission (and free parking if you’re driving)

–  Open 365 days a year

– They also have an active event programming schedule for adults and families. For families, they host interactive science programs designed for young kids each Saturday. For adults, you can find things like group yoga on select mornings or the occasional evening acoustic sessions.


The conservatory is divided into different rooms, each featuring a different habitat.

If your kids are like mine, be ready to spend an excessive amount of time at this indoor pond inside the Aroid House, teeming with koi fish and Persian Lilies.

Continue further along, and you’ll move from a humid and tropical climate to a desert habitat with a massive collection of cacti and succulents.

If you look closely, you’ll inevitably stumble upon something new or learn about strange alien-like plants like this pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant that collects water in its leaves, just like a pitcher. Insects drown in the pitcher, providing nutrients to the plant.

You’ll eventually hit exhibition halls which double as a good place to take a break, have some snacks, and let the kids run around a bit.



2. Inspiration Kitchens

After walking around for a few hours, head a few blocks away to dine at Inspirations Kitchen, which specializes in Southern-inspired comfort food.  We’re talking chicken and waffles, fried catfish and grits, and fried green tomatoes, to name just a few.

What’s wonderful about this place — besides the food — is the social mission that drives the restaurant.  The restaurant is staffed by folks from the community who’ve gone through the restaurant’s free 13 week culinary/hospitality training program.

Through their job training program and other housing and meal programs, Inspiration Kitchens has helped support over 2,500 individuals and families impacted by poverty and homelessness every year.