One of the North Shore’s most-visited attractions has planted the seeds for a big change next year.
For the first time, the Chicago Botanic Garden will begin charging an admission fee starting in “early 2022,” according to a press release from the Glencoe museum and plant conservatory.
Garden officials said the admission fee is necessary to “keep up with growing public demand and expectations; maintain and sustain the exceptional gardens, visitor experience, and science and learning programs; and meet increasing operational expenses, including ongoing maintenance.”
Jean M. Franczyk, the Botanic Garden’s president and CEO, noted that updating the garden’s admission structure will help maintain it and meet growing demand, “while providing significant accessibility to the Garden.”
According to the press release, ticket prices will range from $9.95 to $25.95 per person. The structure will encourage “people to make advanced plans and purchases,” officials said.
Julie McCaffrey, a spokesperson for the garden, told The Record that plan-ahead pricing will be introduced in January of 2022.
“We are joining other leading cultural institutions to implement this pricing structure, which gives people the opportunity to get the best ticket price when purchasing in advance,” she said. “With plan-ahead pricing, visitors can choose a day that best accommodates their budget and schedule. The farther in advance tickets are purchased, the more a visitor is likely to save.”
Prices for a given day will be based on several factors that include weather, seasonality and consumer demand, McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey told The Record that officials are expecting nearly 33 percent of days will be priced at $9.95 or below. She noted that busier periods with higher estimated attendance will have higher admission prices, adding that only on the “highest demand days will prices reach the $20 threshold.”
An estimated 15 percent of days will have an admission price above $20, according to McCaffrey.
“Admission fees will always be discounted when purchased in advance of a visit and will not exceed $23.95 for a Cook County resident adult ticket in 2022, or $25.95 for a non-Cook County resident,” McCaffrey added.
Garden officials say that the conservatory’s shift to charging admission was not a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Forest Preserves of Cook County Board approved authorization for the Chicago Botanic Garden to begin charging an admission fee in one of its public meetings in June 2020,” McCaffrey said. “The approval was not related to the pandemic, but instead was supported by research and data collected during the last three years.
“The Garden has carefully studied the need for implementing an admission fee to help ensure a strong financial future for the institution for generations to come.”
Fifty-two free admission days per year, which will likely align with Chicagoland museums and Brookfield Zoo, are planned, according to the press release.
Fourteen of those free days will be offered during the garden’s peak season, which is generally April through October. Some will also come on national holidays, officials said.
The admission structure will also help reduce the garden reduce its parking fee. Guest parking fees will be lowered in early 2022 from the previous $20-$30 range to a year-round charge of $8, according to the release.
Additionally, officials say opportunities for free and reduced admission tickets and parking will be available for the following:
• Active-duty U.S. military personnel and/or their families, reservists, and former prisoners of war (POW). Veterans of the armed forces on select days.
• Illinois teachers and self-guided school groups.
• Illinois LINK card holders.
• Chicago Museum Library Pass Holders. In addition, additional admission passes are being shared with 198 Chicago and suburban libraries.
The Botanic Garden, which opened in 1972, features 27 gardens and four natural areas across 385 acres.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.