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Wonderland Express: A Beloved Chicago Holiday Tradition Returns November 28, 2014, to January 4, 2015

Festive lights, wreaths, topiary holiday trees, model trains and a miniature landscape of Chicago landmarks evoke the magic of the season.

Adriana Reyneri
(847) 835-6829, direct

Event Date: 
Friday, November 28, 2014 to Sunday, January 4, 2015
Release Date: 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GLENCOE, IL (July 30, 2014)Wonderland Express brings its seasonal charm and holiday magic back to the Chicago Botanic Garden from November 28, 2014, through January 4, 2015. Sparkling outdoor lights, evergreens and blooms, an indoor model train exhibition and special events make Wonderland Express a beloved Chicago holiday tradition for visitors of all ages and interests.  

Tickets can be purchased online or at the Visitor Center beginning October 14, 2014, and are sold on a timed basis. Admission is $12 for adults, and $10 for children ages 3 to 12 and seniors ages 62 and older. Children 2 and younger are admitted free. Members receive $2 off each ticket. Access to the outdoor lighting displays, Greenhouses and Greenhouse Gallery is free.

Wonderland Express is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the following exceptions: It will close at 3 p.m. on December 4 and 24, and at 1 p.m. on December 12. The exhibition is closed all day December 25, though the Garden grounds will remain open to visitors.

A twinkling display of 750,000 LED lights greets visitors at the Lake Cook Road entrance and continues to the Visitor Center and along the Esplanade, Heritage Garden, and Regenstein Center courtyards. Trees wrapped in white lights flank the Esplanade, anchored at the west end by a large evergreen tree decorated with multicolored lights. Looking across the North Lake to the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, visitors will see lighted spheres in holiday colors. Holiday lighting will also be found inside the Greenhouses, specially decorated with colorful plants. The Greenhouse Gallery walls will display wreaths crafted by Garden employees and offered for purchase.

Ticketed visitors can continue through Joutras Gallery, staged with an enchanting exhibition of topiary holiday trees and eye-catching arrangements of bromeliads known as air plants (Tillandsia), succulents such as Echeveria, frosty fern (Selaginella kraussiana 'Frosty Fern') and more. Simply enjoy the artistry or pick up a few ideas for your home holiday décor.

An atmospheric, wood-lined Bridge Gallery takes visitors to Nichols Hall, which will be transformed into a storybook model train landscape. The exhibition contains more than 80 miniature replicas of Chicago-area landmarks crafted of all-natural materials by Paul Busse of Applied Imagination. Such favorites as the Willis Tower, Chicago Stadium, Navy Pier, and the Field Museum will be set in a breathtaking horticultural display including poinsettias, small fir trees, amaryllis, boxwoods and many other plants. Garden-scale trains add to the magical atmosphere as they wind through the exhibition, chugging along tracks, trellises and bridges.

A full schedule of events includes a seasonal wine, spirits and brews tasting; Hanukkah and Christmas concerts; breakfast with Santa; hot chocolate with Mrs. Claus; and Family Drop-in Activities. Details follow:

  •  Holiday Cheers!: Seasonal Tasting – 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 10, in Burnstein Hall. Visitors 21 years and older can drink in the best of the season as they sample local spirits, wine and winter brews, and enjoy the surroundings of Wonderland Express. Guests receive a wristband, tasting glass, tasting sheet and access to the exhibition. Light fare and drinks will be available for purchase. Go to for the latest ticket information.
  • Christmas Breakfast with Santa – 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, in Burnstein Hall and Alsdorf Auditorium. Enjoy a buffet breakfast, visit with Santa and view the exhibition. Go to for the latest ticket information.
  • Christmas Concert – 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 20, in Alsdorf Auditorium. Get into the holiday spirit with traditional holiday musical favorites. Go to for the latest ticket information.
  • Hanukkah Concert – 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 21, in Alsdorf Auditorium.  Enjoy a lively performance from The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. Go to for the latest ticket information.
  • Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus – 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, December 22, in Burnstein Hall. Enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and a visit with Mrs. Claus. Go to for the latest ticket information.
  • Family Drop-In Activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 28 though 30, December 6 and 7, December 13 and 14, and December 20 though January 4; from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. December 2, 9 and 16; and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on December 24.

See our website for more information:


Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Julie McCaffrey at (847) 835-8213 or at

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