Wonderland Express Pulls Into the Garden for a Sixth Season, November 25, 2011 - January 1, 2012

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Wonderland Express returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden this holiday season and transforms the 385-acre oasis into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, garden-scale trains, miniature Chicago landmarks, holiday horticulture displays and indoor snowfall.

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Wonderland Express features Chicago's top landmarks in miniature form made from all natural materials.

Held in the Regenstein Center, Wonderland Express features garden-scale trains winding their way over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls and detailed landscapes with more than 80 miniature versions of Chicago’s favorite landmarks. Returning favorites include President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home, Michelle Obama’s childhood home, Soldier Field, Millennium Park, Navy Pier and much more. Interpretive signs sprinkled throughout the exhibition give fun facts about Chicago's history and architecture. Realistic snow falls throughout the exhibition.

The experience starts outdoors, where the Garden grounds have been transformed into a grand winter wonderland of trees and shrubs, dramatically-lit with over 750,000 energy-efficient LED lights.

Indoors, the Regenstein Center is a magical wonderland of trains, plants and architecture. The Greenhouses are specially lit, including the palm tree trunks in the South Greenhouse, and decorated with beautiful holiday plants. The walls of the Greenhouse Galleries are filled with wreaths designed by area florists, shops and the Garden's own talented staff. The Joutras Gallery features holiday trees decorated by local designers and a gingerbread train depot.

Special Wonderland Express events include Christmas Breakfast, Christmas Supper with Santa, Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus and a Hanukkah Dinner. Christmas Breakfast with Santa is at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, and includes a buffet breakfast; visit with Santa and exhibition viewing before public hours. Christmas Supper with Santa is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 and 19, and includes a buffet dinner; visit with Santa and exhibition viewing after public hours. Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus is at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 19. A Hanukkah Dinner will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a special concert at 7 p.m.

These special events are generously supported by NorthShore University HealthSystem. Tickets are available online at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/wonderland and onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center.

Family Drop-In Activities that are free for ticket holders will be held in Burnstein Hall during Wonderland Express exhibition hours on Friday, Nov. 25, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 26 through Dec. 18, and on Monday, Dec. 19 through Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, and all day Dec. 25). Hands-on activities include exploring snowflakes, conifer branches and cones, making bird feeders with natural materials and more.

Families can explore all the different plants and plant parts needed to make gingerbread people during the Weekend Family Class, "Joyful Gingerbread," on Saturdays, Dec. 3 and 17. Children can take home a ginger plant, decorate cookies, and mix up a batch of gingerbread to bake at home. Classes are from 9:30 to 11 a.m. or from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Classroom. Programs are designed for families with children ages 4-10. Fees per class are $20 for children; Chicago Botanic Garden Plus members receive a 20% discount. Accompanying adults are free and required; limit of three children per adult. The parking fee is waived for program participants. Registration is required at least one week in advance and is available online or via mail. For more information, visit http://www.chicagobotanic.org/familyprograms.

Wonderland Express hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Nov. 25 through Jan. 1, 2012 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 24, and all day Dec. 25). Exhibition tickets are available online at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/wonderland and onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+). Members pay $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+). Admission to Wonderland Express on Tuesdays throughout the exhibition is free (limit 4 tickets per transaction). All ticket purchases are timed for entry. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members.

Wonderland Express is made possible with the generous support of ComEd and NorthShore University HealthSystem. Free Tuesdays is generously supported by Grainger. Additional support has been provided by Discover and Drinker Biddle. The Chicago Botanic Garden is particularly proud to be partnering with ComEd in the use of all energy-efficient LED lighting for Wonderland Express. For more information on Wonderland Express, call (847) 835-5440, or visit the Garden’s Web site at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/wonderland.

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Melissa Schuler
Chicago Botanic Garden
(847) 835-6829
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Julie McCaffrey
Chicago Botanic Garden
(847) 835-8213
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