Cantigny Park after dark: Gardens, museum staying open late this summer

It's the middle of the workweek, the night is still young and you just need some peace and quiet.

After the sun goes down, Cantigny Park will offer a change of pace, a chance to get outside and spend a summer evening meandering through gardens.

Sounds dreamy, right?

Cantigny usually closes at sunset, but starting next month, the 500-acre campus in Wheaton, a haven of trees and flowers, will make use of new outdoor lighting to stay open late on Wednesdays.

The lighting was installed through “Project New Leaf,” a yearslong redesign of Cantigny's gardens, a military museum and a historic mansion where the park's benefactor once resided.

While in the midst of the third and final phase of the project, Cantigny is launching the “Stroll After Sunset” program to give visitors a glimpse of the gardens at night.

Starting May 5, the extended hours will keep Cantigny open on Wednesdays one hour after sunset, or as late as 9:30 p.m. as the days grow longer.

“The work we've completed through Project New Leaf makes this possible,” Executive Director Matt LaFond said Monday in a statement. “One of our key goals for the project was to make the park more accessible in every way. Stroll After Sunset is just the beginning of our ability to now host additional evening events and programs in the gardens.”

Cantigny's First Division Museum also will keep its doors open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. As part of COVID-19 precautions, patrons must make an online reservation before visiting the museum dedicated to the Army's oldest division.

The McCormick House, the former mansion of the legendary Chicago Tribune publisher Robert R. McCormick, whose namesake foundation is funding Project New Leaf, will remain closed for renovations until 2022.

Parking at Cantigny is $5 per car and free on the first Wednesday of the month.

Water features and flowers can be seen during a stroll through Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Daily Herald file photo
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