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Parents, kids going from hunkering to finding zen at Garfield Park Conservatory

Alyssa Burkhardt and son, Jedi, at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Board games, fort building, screen time and books were no longer cutting it.

By Thursday morning, thoughts of mutiny began to bubble in the minds of housebound children across Chicago.

To quell insurrection, parents aborted hunker mode — despite the subzero temperatures that remained — and began to venture.

One landing spot that provided a bit of zen: the Garfield Park Conservatory.

“I found Jedi dressed and in front of the front door this morning saying ‘Mom, I’m ready to go,'” Alyssa Burkhardt, 29, a marketing manager from Wicker Park, said of her 4-year-old son.

Jonathon Kirk, of Forest Park, saw his three children staring out the window and knew it was time to get out of the house.

“There’s a general dissatisfaction that comes with playing bingo and High Ho! Cherry-O (a children’s board game) five times in a row,” said Kirk, a music teacher at North Central College.

“This is the he best way to experience Miami without flying to Miami,” he said, motioning at the warm and fecund ferns inside the fern room.

Jonathon and Joann Kirk with their kids Matthias, Elaeth and Sara (left to right) at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Johnny Callaghan, of Oak Park, hoped the salubrious surroundings would vanquish the cold his 2-year-old daughter, Cary, was battling.

“It’s almost like summer around here with the flowers and the smells,” he said.


Johnny Callaghan and daughter, Cary, at Garfield Park Conservatory. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

On Wednesday, during double digit subzero temperatures, only 45 people showed up at the conservatory. That number was surpassed in the first couple hours of operation Thursday.

And the phone at the reception desk rang constantly with calls from people wanting to make sure the conservatory was open for business.

“It’s as much for the parents’ sanity as for the kids,” moms and dads said.

The conservatory is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 pm and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. It’s counterpart, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We didn’t get out of pajamas yesterday,” said Trevor Norrington as his sons Beau and Hugh explored. “And there was just too much screen time yesterday, which makes me feel bad as a parent. So to be able to come to this place is great.”

Beau and older brother Hugh accompany dad, Trevor Norrington to the Garfield Park Conservatory. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times