Nestled right outside metro Chicago, this stop boasts breathtaking scenery and an unbelievable array of unique and exquisite flowers. With over 24 gardens and 385 acres, you are bound to discover something new each time you visit. Adding to the charm of this Real Chicago scenic sanctuary is the fact that it can be visited year-round. For with every season you’re offered a new bloom of extraordinarily distinctive sights, sounds, and smells. This Real Chicago experience was submitted by Caroline, a Chicago native and busy professional. She has found this oasis to be the perfect escape from her hectic life and loves spending afternoons taking in the sunshine and natural beauty. Caroline states, “The Chicago Botanical Gardens are truly a Real Chicago experience. The peaceful environment will captivate you for hours at a time and your farewell will leave you anticipating your next visit.” The Chicago Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1971 with a mission to promote enjoyment, understanding and conservation of plants and the natural world. It is one of the most visited public gardens in the United States with approximately 760,000 visitors each year. With so much to see and smell, it is no wonder that so many people visit each year. The gardens encompass 9,000 different varieties of plants, ponds and waterfalls, you are sure to find a spot that will become your new retreat. The official start of summer is less than a week away and this plant museum is the perfect place to spend a warm, sunny afternoon. Be sure to check out the Heritage Garden, the Sensory Garden and the Waterfall Garden as those are some of Caroline’s must see gardens. Visit The Chicago Botanical Gardens at: 100 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL 60022. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily from June 5 through September 5. Admission is free but parking varies between $7 to $60 depending on the day and size of vehicle. Be sure to read our blog for other great Real Chicago ideas from the Drake Hotel. Ready to come? Book your hotel room in Chicago at the Drake Hotel.
2011 has brought Chicago its fair share of unpredictable weather. From the February blizzard to June’s record breaking heat, one wonders, is there anything you can count on to always hit the spot…..? Answer: Yes, Chicago, yes there is. Snow, meet heat… Today we bring you a Real Chicago experience submitted by Maura, a Chicago native, who’s seen her fair share of unpredictability related to this great city, but can always count on her favorite summer hotspot to open its windows every May, just in time for the summer heat. Nothing says real authentic Italian ice quite like Mario’s Italian Ice on Taylor Street. The ingredients are simple but deliver some of the best taking Italian ices- fresh fruit, ice, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and bits of real fruit. Known for its old-school charm, Mario’s opened its doors (well, technically its widows) in 1954. It is wedged between two buildings and is easily missed if you aren’t familiar with the stand. However, once you have gone to Mario’s once you will be a lifelong customer. From the first visit, you can feel the history that surrounds this stand. When Mario’s first opened, there were many other stands just like it throughout the neighborhood. This gem has had a successful run and is one of the only remaining stands left. The exterior is painted green, white and red and although not fancy, its simplicity is what’s made the place a charmer for over fifty years. Mario’s offers authentic, inexpensive and refreshing treats. They have vast array of flavor offerings, including the traditional lemon, cantaloupe, cherry and my personal favorite, watermelon. If Italian ice isn’t your favorite, Mario’s also offers snow cones, fresh lemonade, lupini beans, seeds and nuts. People from all over the Chicago area come out daily to experience Mario’s Italian ice. The lines tend to be long at certain times of the day but don’t let that discourage you from experiencing one of Chicago’s most authentic Italian ice stands. Mario’s traditional and homemade flavors make this a Chicago favorite. Whether you choose to order one of their famous Italian ices or a simple snow cone, you won’t be sorry. The eye-catching stand, unique and delicious flavors and warm staff remind you of all that represents “Real Chicago”. While serving hundreds of customers daily, Mario’s still makes everyone feel like they are family. Visit Mario’s at: 1068 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607. Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight from early May to September 15th.