A stroll through the Chicago Botanic Garden is a treat in every season. Whether it’s spring flowers, a freshly fallen snow or cherry blossoms in the Japanese garden, Wonderland Express at Christmas, or any number of festivals and events to attend, you’ll almost always find something special. For the last few years, October’s been a particularly popular time to visit. Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns brings all the fun of Halloween to the garden, with over 1000 immaculately carved pumpkins scattered along the garden’s main thoroughfares, plus live performers, food and drinks, live carving demonstrations and more. Bigger pumpkins are carved with elaborate scenes representing various themes, from sports and movies to works of art and poisons.
While the carvers themselves aren’t local (A New York based company handles all the pumpkin prep), Chicago is always front and center. Each year explores Chicago sports teams, musicians and famous attractions, and includes some great moments in Chicago’s history. This year, one of the first things visitors saw as they gazed over gourds was a section looking at Chicago’s greatest teams, which included individual star players as well as front page headlines and famous pictures from the Cubs and Sox World Series wins, the Stanley Cup championships, the Bulls Dynasty and of course, the Bears Superbowl win back in ’85.
Photo Credits: Marielle Shaw
There’s lots more to see though, as there are multiple groupings of themed pumpkins to enjoy each year. This year’s themes included “A Drop of Poison,” “Chicago’s Greatest Teams,” “Monsters in Love,” Creatures of the Deep,” “Great Works of Art,” “Stephen King” and “Dia de Los Muertos.” With each large pumpkin scene taking up to 15 hours to carve, the man hours involved in this are truly staggering.
Pumpkins are being carved down to last few minutes that gates open, as getting 1000 jack o’ lanterns ready for their big moment is a lot of work. While the big gourds get most of the spotlight, pumpkins abound everywhere along the Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns’ paths, and Halloween even takes over in the Haunted Model Train Garden.
The truth is there’s no tricks here–it’s all treats. Maybe that’s why this event is a consistent runaway hit, with tickets selling out well before opening night and traffic just to get in clogging up the expressway for miles. We hope you enjoyed a look at all the amazing jack o’ lanterns like we did, and think about heading out to the gardens next year to get in the Halloween spirit.
If you’d like to see even more of these amazing gourds and all the festivities, we’d invite you to check out our Patreon Page, where we’ve set up a bonus gallery from the event as an extra treat. Then, if you like what you see, please consider becoming a patron and supporting all the hard work our writers, editors and photographers put in to bring you coverage of fun events like these every day. Thank you for reading, and Happy Halloween!