Visiting Washington Park Botanical Garden Springfield IL

Washington Park Gardens Springfield IL by

The Flower Beds Are A Riot Of Color At Washington Park Gardens

Generations of Illinoisans have long considered Springfield a preferred family travel destination. Located three hours southwest of Chicago and 1.5 hours northeast of St. Louis, the city is conveniently located at the intersections of Interstates 55 and 72 …

Lincoln Tomb Springfield IL by

Lincoln’s Tomb – Oak Ridge Cemetery

For school age young people, Springfield field trips typically focus on visits to the Illinois State Capitol Building and various Abraham Lincoln related sites. We won’t get into all the history, but Lincoln’s last home before becoming President still stands here. Visitors also flock to the spectacular Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum and nearby Lincoln Tomb …

Like most cities, the more you visit Springfield the more its personality shines through. Probably like some of you reading this feature, we’ve been visiting here for decades. In the past few years, our list of Springfield favorites and destinations continues to expand …

Now, as part of our “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series, we’re pleased to spotlight one of Springfield’s notable attractions. It’s the Washington Park Botanical Garden, located on the city’s west side. Open year around, our most recent visit took place in the late fall season. It’s quite a treat to discover a botanical garden in late autumn! You won’t see outdoor plants blooming, but you’ll discover horticulture in a peacefully dormant state, the complex ‘bones’ of tree structures, and crisp fall temperatures just perfect for an invigorating stroll …

Washington Park Botanical Gardens Springfield IL

Lovely Early Autumn Views At Washington Park Botanical Gardens

10 Reasons To Visit Washington Park Botanical Garden

While walking around Washington Park Botanical Garden, we busily snapped photos and jotted notes in preparation for this feature. As luck would have it, ten different subject topics related to the garden came to the forefront. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are all ten, each covering a reason to visit this central Illinois horticultural gem.

So, in no particular order, here they are:

Reason #1 – Experience Over 1800 Plant Varieties

Enjoy displays of rare and unusual plants as well as tried and true old favorites at the Washington Park Botanical Garden.  Peonies, lilies, iris, Black-eyed susans, coneflowers, Russian sage, zinnias and an interesting mix of ornamental grasses are among the flora displayed in the well-tended perennial garden areas.

Perennial Border at Washington Park Botanical Garden Springfield IL by

           A Beautiful Mix of Perennials Line the Curved Pathways

The shade garden draws you in with striking ferns, hostas, begonias, impatiens, and heucheras … a perfect place to take pleasure in gentle breezes and a brief respite from the sun.

Click to See The Definitive Guide to Illinois Wildflowers … #ad

Reason #2 – See The Largest Rose Garden In Downstate Illinois

The Formal Rose Garden contains over 3500 plants! Many of my favorites are planted here including ‘Peace’, ‘Julia Child’, ‘Paint the Town’ and several hardy roses in the ‘Knock Out’ family.

Rose Garden at Washington Park Botanical Garden by

The Glorious Formal Rose Garden at Washington Park Botanical Garden

This rosarian gem was established in 1962 in cooperation with the Central Illinois Rose Society.  Take your time, revel in the beauty of the queen of flowers, read the identification labels, and make a list of varieties you would like to plant in your home garden.

See Over 50 Varieties Of Roses That Do Well in Zone 6 … Click Here to View

Reason #3 – Get Some Exercise

One of our favorite ways to exercise is to take a long walk in nature.  Washington Park’s many paved, tree-lined paths perfectly fits the bill! Put on some comfortable shoes and get moving …

The annual loss of leafy canopies can bring on a bit of melancholy, but take a walk and you’ll quickly see the opportunity to make new observations. From now until spring leaf-out is the time to see and appreciate the “bones” of deciduous trees, from trunk base to the tiniest twig tip.

Tree 'Bones' - Autumn in Washington Park Botanical Garden by

         Appreciate the Intricate ‘Bones’ of Trees in the Winter Months

Walking can help both your physical and mental health.  Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood. Breath in the fresh air, reap the benefits of moving, and take your dog friend with you!  We spotted many happy, leashed pups with their owners in the park on our recent visit.

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Reason #4 – Washington Park Botanical Garden Is Free!

Flower Chick isn’t a big fan of four letter words, but there’s one four letter word I love … F-R-E-E !!

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Entrance Sign to Washington Park Botanical Garden

There’s no admission charge to the Washington Park Botanical Garden. Donations are graciously accepted at the front entrance counter which help keep the Garden thriving and growing …

Administered by the Springfield Park District, the Garden underscores the District’s ongoing commitment to education and excellence. Over 80,000 visitors yearly make it one of Springfield’s most culturally important attractions …

Would you like to show your support? Join the Garden’s Membership Program, where proceeds help create new gardens, educational programs, and workshops. Benefits include a quarterly newsletter, advance notice of classes and events, invitations to members-only giveaways, use of the Garden’s library collection, and more. Click on the link for additional information …

Reason #5 – The Conservatory

Transport yourself to the tropics in this 50 foot diameter dome which houses a wide variety of exotic plants. Arranged by their native region, the plants are from tropical Africa, the jungles of Asia, and the rainforests of South America.

The Conservatory at Washington Park Botanical Garden Springfield IL by

          Take a Trip to Exotic Lands Without Leaving Springfield …

On our recent visit … Birds of Paradise and orchids were blooming, while calamondin oranges filled a tree, among a sea of vibrant foliage in the Conservatory.  Seasonal flowers are changed throughout the year to complement the permanent collection.

Click Here To Discover How To Grow Tasty Tropical Plants At Home #ad

Reason #6 – See (and hear!) the Carillon

The Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon stands just a stone’s throw away from the Garden’s front entrance. This 12 story carillon is one of the world’s largest and is the site of many Springfield public events …

The Carillon in Washington Park Springfield IL by

Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon is a bell tower consisting of 67 bells

The Park District employs a carillonist (a person who plays the carillon) and free weekly concerts are given throughout the year. 30 minute tours of the carillon are given during the warmer months where visitors can ascend to the top for an unparalleled view of the surrounding area …

Check the Washington Park website, linked above, for the complete schedule of concerts and tours …

Reason #7 – Experience The History: Washington Park

The Garden is located in Springfield’s historic Washington Park, one of the city’s first parks. The park dates back to 1901 and is named in honor of President George Washington. As you drive around the outskirts, you’ll see a well established historic neighborhood with large stately homes on expansive lots …

Washington Park covers over 150 acres and contains natural landscape features including large wooded areas, ravines, and rolling terrain. It’s a wonderful place to visit in all four seasons …

Washington Park Botanical Garden Springfield IL by

          A Lovely Place to Walk and Enjoy Nature in All Seasons

The Garden itself has evolved over the past 100+ years. In the beginning, a greenhouse in the western edge of the park served as an incubator for bedding plants and outdoor floral displays. Subsequent decades saw permanent plant collections established, and in 1972, the Conservatory and Horticultural Center were opened to the public …

Discover Hardy, Easy Care Perennials For Your Garden – View Them Here!

The Springfield Park District saw the need for a grand public horticultural space for all to enjoy. Thus, in 1985, the Board of Trustees established this area of Washington Park as the Washington Park Botanical Garden …

The ensuing years have brought continued growth in the Garden’s plant collections, educational offerings, and the opportunity to experience living plants. The Springfield Park District continues to diligently and lovingly manage the site and partners with the public to provide a place of scenic beauty and peacefulness …

Reason #8 – Gardening Education For All Ages

We’re very impressed with the Garden’s educational programs offered throughout the year. Adults and children alike benefit from many of the programs and there’s something on the calendar for everyone no matter their expertise …

Washington Park Botanical Garden by

Photo Worthy Vistas Everywhere You Look At Washington Park

Area adults can take advantage of workshops like Fresh Evergreen Wreath Making and an introduction to orchids called Orchid Basics. More adult focused programs are being added moving forward …

How To Make Your Own Wreaths … For Any Special Occasion! #ad

We particularly love one of the many programs for youngsters. It’s the Flower Power workshop, aimed at students Grades 1 – 5. This workshop examines each part of a flower and explains its function. Participants get to pot up a flower to take home at the event’s conclusion. Leaf identification and collection hikes are also offered and guided tours can be customized according to interest …

Reason #9 – Flower Shows & Events

The Garden reaches out to the community through a variety of Flower Shows and annual events. Some of these include separate orchid, iris, and daylily shows. The Annual Art Spectacular takes place each September – this event is a juried art show with local artists displaying their creations …

Beautiful Orchids at Washington Park Conservatory Springfield IL by

  A Picturesque Variety of Orchids on Display at The Conservatory

Holiday themed events also dot the Garden’s special events calendar, including the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular and Winter Holiday Floral Show which spotlights the Garden’s poinsettia collection …

New events are being added in the near future. For more information on upcoming shows and events, contact the Garden directly …

Reason #10 – Springfield, IL Favorites Are Nearby …

Throughout the academic year, hundreds of Illinois grade schools conduct day long field trips to Springfield. These educational outings offer students a chance to see the inner workings of government and experience important historical sites. Plus, it’s a day outside of the classroom!

A junior high field trip was our first exposure to Springfield. Over the ensuing decades, we’ve discovered more of the city’s personality and cultural attractions. Each time you visit Springfield, you’ll find appealing new destinations along side tried and true favorites …

In addition to the Washington Park Botanical Garden, our list of area favorites continues to grow. Springfield is very proud of their local independent businesses, many of which have operated for decades. We’re pleased to introduce you to a handful and encourage you to visit. Chain stores are everywhere … branch out and experience the “local”. We’re betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Springfield, IL Favorites

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The Iconic and Comfortable Curve Inn

The Curve Inn: Business Route 55 on Springfield’s east side roughly traces the original path of Route 66 as it passes through town. If you’re at all nostalgic about Route 66, drive along this road and keep an eye out for a few enduring Springfield businesses …

Just off Business 55 on South 6th Street, you’ll see an iconic restaurant/bar just south of Adlai Stevenson Drive. It’s The Curve Inn, known as Springfield’s original roadhouse …

Dating back to 1932, this is one of the city’s oldest bars. Comfortable and welcoming, The Curve Inn keeps up with current tastes while maintaining a healthy respect for it’s past. Here you’ll find a menu with daily comfort food specials like a great Friday Fish Fry, pork tenderloin sandwiches, home made soups, chili, and more.

Curve Inn by

Enjoying A Few Reisch Gold Top Beers At The Curve Inn

The Curve Inn is one of several places in town to enjoy a cold draft of Reisch’s Gold Top Lager, an historic beer brand from the city’s past. Recently reintroduced, Reisch’s was a long running independent brewery which stood just north of downtown. The brand, which went by the wayside when the brewery shuttered in 1966, is still remembered and revered by long time Springfield residents …

Current members of the Reisch family spearheaded an effort to locate the beer’s original recipe and produce it for the Springfield market. A smooth easy drinking lager, it pairs perfectly with the approachable menu at The Curve Inn …

At night, the bar becomes one of the area’s best known live music spots. The schedule includes local bands and small touring acts representing all musical genres. The Curve Inn is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cocktail or two along with some live music. A guaranteed good time on your visit to Springfield!

Speaking of old bars …

If you enjoy stopping in at a comfortable old tavern (like my husband does), Springfield is right up your alley. The Springfield community has great respect for family taverns that have been around for generations. There are quite a few to visit here! The city is easy to navigate, so they’re only a few minutes apart from one another.

Here are a few Springfield historic taverns we like (or have on our radar):

Horsehoe Springfield IL

The Horseshoe – a Springfield Classic

Sportsman’s Lounge: Located just a few blocks north of downtown Springfield, this place has been in existence in one form or another since 1885. Popular with the downtown working crowd, there’s plenty of room and absolutely no pretense. Come as you are and enjoy some of the best pork tenderloins and horseshoe / ponyshoe plates in the city …

Fun Fact: While it might not be world famous, the horseshoe sandwich is well known throughout the region. Springfielders are proud of this simple dish that can be found on menus throughout the city.

A traditional horseshoe uses two slices of white toast, thick slices of ham, French fries and cheese sauce. It’s served open-faced and if you don’t want the whole thing, you can ask for a half order … that’s the ponyshoe.

Nowadays, you can find this regional staple served with ham, ground beef, turkey, chicken, pulled pork and other options.

Discover Springfield’s Legendary Horseshoe Plates – Click Here #ad

Lake Springfield Tavern: This locally renowned tavern / grill is located on Adlai Stevenson Drive just a 60 second drive east of The Curve Inn. This place also dates back decades and was so named because it was the only business between Lake Springfield and 11th Street …

Stop in on a Friday for their walleye fish fry or any day for their daily specials …

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Three others for your old-tavern-bar-hopping agenda are The Track Shack, The Penny Bar, and Endres Tavern. The Track Shack is located on Laurel Street adjacent to the train tracks, hence the name. It’s well known in the area for cold beer and excellent fried chicken …

Track Shack Sign by FlowerChick.comThis Cool Pabst Neon Sign Caught Our Eye At The Track Shack!

This Cool Pabst Neon Sign Caught Our Eye At The Track Shack!

Right across the street from Gabatoni’s (see below), The Track Shack has been around since the 1950’s. A local favorite, it’s not a fancy place but the food is great and the beer cold. Native Springfield residents love this place – it draws a crowd for lunch and dinner but it’s never too crowded to cramp your style. We love stopping in here for happy hour and then heading across the street for Italian specialties at Gabatoni’s …

Tavern Talk: Old Taverns in Springfield, IL … Click To Join the Conversation! #ad

The Endres Tavern is tucked away at the northwest corner of Stanford Avenue and 11th Street, less than a mile east of Business 55 / 6th Street (near Bunn Park). This family owned and operated tavern is the oldest bar in town per the folks at the Springfield Tavern Talk Facebook group

We stopped in for a Friday happy hour and mingled with the affable owner and a few long time regulars. The conversation flowed freely and we learned the bar has roots dating back to 1907. In fact, Endres Tavern is the proud owner of Springfield Liquor License #1, meaning it was the first officially licensed bar upon the repeal of Prohibition in late 1933 …

Endres Bar in Springfield by

The Historic Endres Tavern … Check Out The Really Neat Back Bar

Insider Tip: Sidle up to the tavern’s historic oak bar and order a cold bottle of Stag beer. Stag is an easy drinking central and southern Illinois favorite which at one time was brewed in Belleville, IL. The label is now owned by Pabst and it’s brewed at Miller-Coors in Milwaukee …

Formerly a popular stop for nearby factory workers, Endres Tavern has successfully evolved into a friendly locals place that’s equally popular with a long list of regulars and occasional visitors like us. Stop in for happy hour (or a little day drinking) and say hello!

The Penny Bar is another long standing Springfield local tavern – you’ll find it a few blocks east of MacArthur Boulevard on the south side. A true neighborhood bar with daily lunch and dinner specials, it dates back to the 1930’s and is best known for thousands of shiny pennies encased on the bar top …

The Penny Bar Springfield by

Outside The Penny Bar in Springfield

We wanted to get a picture to show you the bar top, but didn’t want to disturb the friendly rollicking group of regulars enjoying a bit of Saturday afternoon day drinking. We learned the bar had over 10,000 U.S. pennies shipped directly from the U.S. Mint and placed them on the bar top. The entire bar surface was then coated with a clear hard durable surface to encase and protect the pennies. And hence the name The Penny Bar!

Finally, if you’re looking for an easy on the wallet Italian mainstay for dinner, look no further than Gabatoni’s, located on Laurel Street just west of 6th (and across from The Track Shack). Famous for their pizza, Italian specialties and sandwiches, Gabatoni’s has been a go to spot since 1951 …

The setting here is relaxed and comfortable and the crowd typically consists of in the know couples and families from the area. On this visit, we opted for pizza and sandwiches to go, including this outstanding home made meatball sandwich you see here …Gabatonis Meatball Sandwich Springfield IL

This area of Springfield is pretty easy to get around … Peases Candy, The Track Shack, and Gabatoni’s are all within five minutes from historic Washington Park. They’re also just a few minutes from our next can’t miss Springfield destination …

Humphrey’s Market: Wow, this place is a Springfield gem!

Humphrey's Market Springfieled IL by

Humphrey’s Market Beckons

We love long established local markets with fresh meat and deli counters where personal service still reigns. These places are harder and harder to find it seems, but in Springfield, you’ll find one when you visit Humphrey’s Market …

In operation since 1932, this friendly spot is located just south of Laurel Street on 15th Street, meaning it’s just two minutes from Business 55 which cuts north & south through the city …

And we guarantee once you find Humphrey’s, you’ll stop in again and again.

Walk in and you’ll be drawn to all the fresh produce and the deli / meat counter just beyond. Humphrey’s partners with local area farms to ensure you’re getting the freshest produce from providers just a short distance away.

We love the deli and meat counter here, and when you stop in, you’ll understand why. A large variety of house made deli offerings are on hand, including some you won’t often see elsewhere, like bologna salad, fresh beets and onions, and more. Daily lunch specials are available and there’s a comfortable seating area adjacent to the deli where you can enjoy your choices …

Humphrey's Market Springfield IL by

 Loads of Yummy Choices at Humphrey’s Deli & Hot Foods Bar

Insider Tip: Try the ham salad from Humphrey’s deli and the house recipe chili from the hot food counter. They’re both as good as it gets!

Humphrey’s meat counter is a destination unto itself. House made specialty sausages sit side by side with stuffed pork roasts, steaks, chicken, and ground fresh daily ground chuck and round. We picked up a bag of ground round on sale to make an absolutely spectacular batch of Springfield style chili mac at home the next day …

One particularly interesting section in the store is the Local Products display. Here you’ll find items like Ray’s Chilli from nearby Decatur, locally made spices, hot sauce, and BBQ sauces as well as local honey. We love Humphrey’s emphasis on local providers and brought home quite a selection of hard to find items …

Discover Ray’s Chilli from Decatur, IL … #ad

Finally, if you’re looking for a Springfield landmark for dinner, visit the wonderful Old Luxemburg Inn just two blocks south of Humphrey’s Market.
Old Luxemburg Inn Springfield IL by

The Old Lux has been a preferred Springfield destination since 1938. The handsome brick building you see is home to one of the best spots in town for steaks, chops, and seafood. Start your meal with a stop at the welcoming bar just inside (the Old Fashioned’s are fantastic) and enjoy full dinner service at reasonable prices.

Pease’s Candy:

One thing for certain … anyone who grew up in Springfield knows Pease’s Candy. If you’re looking for a gift for someone from the area, this should be at the top of your list!

Pease's Candy in Springfield IL by

Pease’s – Delectable Chocolates and More!

Pease’s Candy is located off Laurel Street just east of MacArthur Boulevard, another of Springfield’s major north/south thoroughfares. Beloved for their chocolate specialties, try the Raggedy Anns. They’re a delightful mixture of crunchy pecans, caramel, and your choice of chocolate.

Holiday candies, caramels, nuts, mint melt-a-ways, snack mixes, and gift packages are all available here at Pease’s. They’re a Springfield tradition you won’t want to miss …

The Chili Parlor:

Did you know Springfield is known as “The Chili Capital of the World” in some culinary circles?

The Chili Parlor Springfield IL by

Inside The Chili Parlor

Well, with all due respect to Cincinnati, Texas, and other bastions of chili, Springfield, IL has a deep connection to the dish. Visit any local bar and grill and you’ll find it on the menu. Sometimes in Springfield the word “chili” is spelled “chilli” as a nod to the home state of Illinois. At The Chili Parlor, it’s the featured dish and has been since the place opened in the 1940’s …

Open for lunch only, The Chili Parlor is a local favorite. The menu is straightforward … a few items featuring chili and bowls of chili with toppings of your choice.

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You can specify the heat level you prefer, from Mild to “Firebrand”. We especially like the chili mac – it’s chili served with spaghetti noodles that makes for a very satisfying lunch!

Second Time Around:

Located on the northeast side of Springfield, this upscale consignment store never disappoints! They stock women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, purses and accessories, including many designer names.

Second Time Around Women's Consignment Springfield IL by

A clean shop with a great selection!

A great selection awaits you in the well-organized and clean store.  I love that they have interesting items arranged by color … so you can zero in on what you may be looking for:  Purple blouse – check.  Black sweater – check.

If you are looking for good quality, gently used clothing at fair prices … Second Time Around is for you!  Everyone knows that Flower Chick enjoys a bargain and the “thrill of the hunt” at resale / consignment clothing stores.  This one is a must see if you’re in the Springfield area.

A Visit To Lincoln Memorial Garden

In addition to Washington Park Botanical Garden, Flower Chick highly recommends a visit to Springfield’s beautiful Lincoln Memorial Garden. You’ll find this expansive 63 acre site on the city’s far southeast side along the shores of Lake Springfield …

Lincoln Memorial Garden Springfield by

About Lake Springfield

Travel toward the outskirts of Springfield along Interstate 55 and you’ll drive right across parts of Lake Springfield. This man made lake was formed in the 1930’s to provide the main water source for area residents. Today, this almost 4000 acre reservoir serves as a major recreational outlet.

100 Things To Do In Springfield Before You Die … View Them Here

There are several access points to the lake with city parks and residential communities along the shore. The lake itself isn’t very deep (an average of 13 feet) but it’s a fisherman’s paradise. Lake Springfield also serves an important municipal purpose – it’s the source of cooling water for the city’s nearby power plant …

Lake Springfield by

A Placid Lake Springfield View From Lincoln Memorial Garden

Lincoln Memorial Garden: A Living Tribute

You’ll find Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden along East Lake Road, about two miles from Interstate 55’s exit of the same name. It was established in the 1930’s as a living tribute to Lincoln, our 16th President. The intent was to create a natural environment similar to one Lincoln himself would have experienced in the 1800’s …

Jens Jensen: Writings Inspired By Nature … Discover It Here #ad

The garden was designed by prominent landscape architect Jens Jensen and served as Jensen’s last major public commission. Interestingly, the grounds primarily contain plants native to Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky … the three states where Lincoln lived before ascending to the presidency.

Paths at Lincoln Memorial Garden by

Hike Among The Towering Trees And Savor Nature

Today, the garden is owned by the City of Springfield and overseen by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation, which draws from local support and volunteerism. The garden itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 …

Deer At Lincoln Memorial Garden Springfield IL by

One Of Several Deer We Spotted In The Garden

The Council Ring was the signature piece in many gardens designed by Jens Jensen. He saw these stone circles as emblematic of vernacular traditions evoking both the Viking past of his Danish ancestors and of Native American egalitarianism … the democratic equalization of responsibility and of honor. Because a group sitting on these stones would be gathered in a continuous circle, there would be no head of the table, no hierarchy, but a simple affirmation that all members of the community are important to it.

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A Jens Jensen Designed Council Ring At Lincoln Memorial Garden


Be sure to add Springfield’s Washington Park Botanical Garden to your must see list! The Garden is open all year around and it’s convenient to reach from anywhere in Springfield …

We’re so happy to discover this beautiful garden again and again, in all four seasons. It’s just minutes from many of our Springfield favorites which we hope will become your favorites too. The Garden’s setting in historic Washington Park provides a peaceful oasis for visitors of all ages. And without a doubt, Washington Park is one of the most impressive park settings in Illinois …

Angel of Hope Staue in Washington Park Botanical Gardne by Flower

        The Springfield Angel of Hope Statue and Memorial Wall

Definitely add Lincoln Memorial Garden to your list too! We took a tranquil early morning walk there and enjoyed the fresh air and natural scenery along the way. Have you visited Washington Park Botanical Garden and/or the Lincoln Memorial Garden? Have your own Springfield favorites? Let us know via our Contact Page … we love to hear from our readers!

Special thanks to Alexa Bryan Potts, General Manager of Washington Park Botanical Garden for her gracious help providing background information for this feature. Many thanks Alexa!

Gorgeous Bloom in the Washington Park Botanical Garden Conservatory by

A Stunning Coral Bloom Beckoned In The Conservatory