June 22, 2023
Are you looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors on paved surfaces? If you or someone in your family uses a wheelchair or scooter, or if your family includes a child in a stroller or wagon, or you just prefer the stability of pavement, The Morton Arboretum has plenty of places to explore.
Near the central Visitor Center, you’ll find accessible areas with lush and beautiful gardens; a tranquil lake surrounded by tall trees and sweeping masses of native plants; a cool path among towering evergreens, recently rerouted to make it fully accessible; and a special play space with plenty of fun activities for kids. Guests using wheelchairs or electric mobility scooters can now follow paved connections between these areas, making it possible to make a long excursion with varied sights.
You can also drive along the nine miles of Arboretum roads to explore the farther reaches of the 1,700-acre Arboretum, and you can park the car and navigate safely among ancient oaks or see a restored prairie.
Visitor Center and Arbor Court: The main building, with restaurant, gift shop, and restrooms, is fully accessible. Outside, the Arboretum’s central courtyard, Arbor Court, has paved paths and shady seating areas. Manual wheelchairs are available on loan at the Visitor Center Information Desk, and there also are a limited number of outlets for charging electric mobility scooters.
The Gerard T. Donnelly Grand Garden: Straight north from Arbor Court is a spectacular 2-acre garden, as long as two football fields, designed to be fully accessible with concrete-paved paths, gentle slopes, and ample seating. The central Centennial Plaza circle has colorful flower beds and tall trellises. To the west, the Joy of Plants Garden is full of colorful perennials, small trees, and shrubs to inspire the home gardener. To the east, the Celebration Garden, planted mainly in shades of green and white, leads up to the hideaway Juniper Terrace. Fountains throughout the garden mean every visit is accompanied by the soothing murmur of water.
Children’s Garden: Just off Arbor Court, this 4-acre outdoor play space is designed to provide children from birth to age 12 and their caregivers with fun, safe, and enjoyable experiences in nature. Much of the garden is accessible to wheelchairs, wagons, and strollers. The Tree Walk, with paved surfaces, tall trees, and easy-to-read signs, begins at the entrance gate. Nearby is a fountain in which a huge ball is balanced on water, at a perfect height for children in wheelchairs to touch and splash. In the Every Which Way area, designed for preschool-age children, the path and many of the play structures can be entered with a child’s wheelchair. Make your way to Adventure Woods on a paved path that leads to Wonder Pond, home to many fish, toads, and dragonflies. A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk runs alongside the pond. The family restrooms in the garden have power doors and cubicles with plenty of space. Learn more about the many features available in the Children’s Garden on its Access and Inclusion page.
Meadow Lake: Just east of Arbor Court, a .6-mile path paved with asphalt loops through sweeps of native plants along the lakeshore. It’s not unusual to see birds, such as egrets and herons, butterflies, and other wildlife. Benches, with space for wheelchairs alongside, provide places to pause and enjoy the view.
Ground Cover Garden: This tranquil, shady spot, just north of Arbor Court next to the Grand Garden, has about .15 miles of asphalt-paved paths, with benches for restful pauses. The garden is designed to show off the many ground covers, perennials, and shrubs that grow well beneath mature trees. From early spring to late fall, there are blooms and colorful foliage to enjoy.
Conifer Walk: To the south of The Grand Garden, this path, paved in concrete and asphalt, wanders through the Arboretum’s Conifer Collection, including evergreen trees from around the world. An older path was rerouted and repaved to create gentler slopes that make it accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. The new path also will make Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum, the annual winter light exhibition, easier for those with wheels. The Conifer Walk also connects to the Meadow Lake path and back to Arbor Court, so guests can combine paths and attractions for a longer or shorter jaunt.
Sterling Morton Library: The Arboretum’s fully accessible library has an extensive collection of children’s nature books, as well as adult books and magazines on trees, gardens, nature, and gardening. Guests can relax and read books in the library, and Arboretum members can register for a card to check out print and digital books.
Main Driving Route: There is much more to The Morton Arboretum than the cluster of attractions near the Visitor Center. You can also drive along nine miles of roads that lead past many beautiful vistas. In spring, there are sweeps of daffodils, wildflowers, and blooming trees. In summer, there is a tapestry of green. In fall, the trees take on all the colors of the sunset. More than 30 parking areas provide places to stop and drink it all in.
Big Rock Visitor Station: One of two opportunities to get out and roll through more natural areas is at Parking Lot 13, on the Arboretum’s East Side. This visitor station is a trailhead in the East Woods, an area maintained as a natural woodland full of oaks and other native trees and plants. Although most of the Arboretum’s trails are covered with wood chips and are not accessible to wheels, at the Big Rock Visitor Station there is a .2 mile loop through the woods paved in textured concrete. The visitor station also has an accessible portable toilet.
Prairie Visitor Station: On the West Side, at Parking Lot 25 is the restored Schulenberg Prairie. More than 100 acres, once farmland, have been painstakingly returned to prairie and oak savanna habitats over six decades. Now the area is full of waving grass and prairie flowers. Enjoy a .2 mile loop of textured concrete path that passes through a sample prairie with an overall view of the prairie’s expanse. This visitor station also has an accessible portable toilet.
Fragrance Garden: Near the Thornhill Education Center on the West Side (an accessible building where most of the Arboretum’s classes are held) is this lovely hideaway with paved paths and benches. It’s full of plants selected for fragrance as well as visual beauty.
The Arboretum is continually working to make all of its spaces and programs more welcoming and inclusive to everyone. Find out more in the Have an Accessible Visit visitor guide. If you have questions about accessibility or need a special accommodation for your visit, contact the Visitor Services team at 630-968-0074 or email email@example.com.