Outdoor Play, Play, Water Play

Morton Arboretum (Lisle)

Morton Arboretum with Toddlers

We have had lots of best. days. ever. at The Morton Arboretum.  We were lucky enough to be gifted a membership from my mom for Emmit’s 1st birthday. What a fantastic gift it has turned out to be! When it is nice out in Chicago, we all know, that we have to take advantage because there are so many chilly months around here! That being said, we’ve enjoyed visiting the arboretum in the Spring, Summer, Fall and even Winter! We just love it and can’t recommend it enough! It’s easy to get around with a toddler and a newborn in a carrier, I felt completely comfortable coming here often when my daughter was very young and my son was running around like a crazy person.

There is so much to explore here, and we have barely even touched a small part of the land here because we generally head straight to the Children’s Garden and stay there!

Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden is a magical place for your little ones! They can run, play with water and completely engage themselves with nature. For older children, be sure to check out a backpack of activities to accompany you and your littles on your adventure. You can get a backpack at the entrance to the Children’s Garden, there is usually a volunteer happily handing them out.

Little ones can explore the Backyard Discovery Gardens and Adventure Woods.

Backyard Discovery Gardens

“Backyard Discovery Gardens present familiar things that children might recognize in their own backyard, in a way that encourages deeper exploration.” Morton Arboretum

  • Curiosity Garden
  • Bloom, Zoom and Sprout
  • Every Which Way
  • Windmill Garden

Curiosity Garden is such a fun spot for a first spot, it is particularly wonderful on a hot summer day when the frogs are spitting water in the fountain.  We usually spend a good half hour here enjoying the stones in the ponds, climbing through tunnels and getting wet!  

There is even a place to play music on flowers and climb upon giant acorns! A water pump, just in case they didn’t get wet enough at the pond and the most adorable little dog house that is a great spot for pretend play!

Adventure Woods

“Adventure Woods present the world beyond the backyard and show how the trees and plants in the Children’s Garden reflect those of the Arboretum at large and the rest of the natural world.”-Morton Arboretum

  • Wonder Pond
  • Under the Trees
  • Grotto and Secret Stream
  • Grassy Meadow
  • Evergreen Walk and Lookout

It’s really a toss-up but this might be my absolute favorite part of the Children’s Garden.  I grew up going to Colorado and playing in rocky streams, trying to keep up with my sister boulder hopping so I just love taking my kids to the secret stream to replicate my days in the Rocky Mountains. Really, it’s just practice for when we get back out there! I think they adore it as much as me!

We also love the Wonder Pond area, where kids can toddle along the stones and search for tadpoles in the spring! We came back quite often last year to watch their growth. What a fun learning experience! The tadpoles are there every year, depending on the weather, of course. But, last year, it was especially fun because they had a frog theme throughout the arboretum. We got lucky when we visited on Mother’s Day and Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad were there for storytime (which they have periodically). Emmit just got into Frog and Toad. To say he was starstruck would simply be an understatement!

For more Information on the Children’s Garden visit The Morton Arboreteum’s website.

I could literally go on all day about how much I love this place. You’ve just got to check it out for yourself! If you have a chance, also check out their most beautiful winter lights display Illuminations, which I will be covering in a later post. It is spectacular!

Important Details


$14 Adults ages 18–64 ($9 Wednesdays*)
$12 Seniors ages 65+  ($8 Wednesdays*)
$9 Youth ages 2–17   ($6 Wednesdays*)

*Wednesdays are discount admission!

Children 1 and younger are free

Admission includes FREE parking. Members always enter for free with valid membership credentials.

The Morton Arboretum offers free general daily admission year-round to active-duty service men or women with a valid ID.

No Pets Allowed.

*If you have a Chicago Botanic Garden Membership, you will receive two free admissions per visit.


The Arboretum is open 365 days a year!
The grounds open at 7:00 a.m. year-round and close at sunset.

Children’s Garden Hours

March through October: Daily, 9:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. on Thursdays)
Member-only access, Fridays and Saturdays, 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.

November through February: Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

June through August: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Severe weather may close the Children’s Garden temporarily.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day; closed at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.


Tried and True Tips

  • Bring one (maybe even 2!) change of clothes. This is not a clean place; your kids and you will probably leave dirty!
  • Pack a lunch, or not. They have a great cafeteria. It is a little pricey and hard to navigate with a stroller and a tray (you know the balancing act I’m talking about) but it is yummy and they offer many healthy options.
  • Bring your good camera. There are lots of amazing photo ops.
  • Buy the membership. It’s well worth it! $145/year for 4 people!
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!


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