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This is arguably the best time to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden's Celebrations! festival of flowers, lights, and music. The annual event may be replacing the ritual trip downtown to view department store holiday windows: pre-Christmas crowds were big enough to take some of the fun out of it in December. Now that the holiday's technically over, there's likely to be less of a crush around the indoor trees, elaborately trimmed with crystal, blown glass, gingerbread, and Tinkertoys, and you probably won't have to wait to try your hand at making a beeswax candle in the greenhouse. Ice sculptures are created nightly in the courtyard, and there's storytelling and live music in the auditorium. And no one beats the garden at dressing outdoor trees: on the North Lawn a regal spruce decked out in glowing multicolored globes and surrounded with large balls of primary-colored lights reigns over a kingdom of delicate branches and elegant trunks in white-light bodysuits. Meals are pricey, even in the "casual" dining area, which is more formal this year than last ($15.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids), but hot chocolate is available from an indoor cart. "Celebrations!" runs from 5 to 9 through Sunday, January 4, at the garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd. in Glencoe. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children; parking is $8.75. Call 847-835-6900 or see www.chicago-botanic.org for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Biederbost.

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