The Best Way to Escape the Chicago Winter

It’s hard not to daydream of escaping to the Caribbean or South Pacific when surviving the Chicago winter. But Chicagoans don’t need to look very far to get a taste of the tropics.

Orchids, parasols, and silk lanterns—yes, we’re talking about Chicago in the middle of winter.

For the Windy City, a 35-degree day is seen as a relief in its long winter. It’s not hard to imagine that on one of those many bitterly cold days that would break most of us, Chicagoans must be dreaming of the Caribbean or South Pacific.

But those who cannot flee to warmer climes should not despair. Just in time for Chicago’s slower start to spring, its iconic Botanic Garden is putting on its annual extravagant orchid show with more than 10,000 flowers.

The show is full of can’t-miss centerpieces, most notably the archways made up of hundreds of electric blue and purple vanda orchids in the tropical house.

Other spaces have their own twist: Nichols Hall is filled with hundreds of silk and paper lanterns as well as moth orchids, the semi-tropical house has a checkerboard garden with 10 hand-painted parasols from Myanmar, and the Bridge Gallery features a modern Japanese tea house with a rock garden filled with orchids.

While they have been flown in from all over the world, bulk of the orchids were grown in Hawaii and Florida. They are all either native to Asia or are hybrids of orchids native to Asia, the Botanic Garden’s horticulturist Tom Weaver, told The Daily Beast.

The orchids first starting arriving in the third week of January because the plants are so fragile.

But Weaver also says that visitors to the exhibition should take the time to venture beyond the tropical escape. The gardens grounds are especially beautiful, he says, when covered in snow. And toward the end of the show’s run, early spring blooms like witch hazel and snowdrops will start to break through, perhaps giving hope that the worst is over.