Zoom in: the northern burbs 

Catch your train to San Fran at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The trains in the model railroad garden are on what's called G scale—1/29th the size of the real thing—though nothing about this subset of the Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, chicagobotanic.org) feels particularly small. The whole mess is 7,500 square feet, a scatter of tiny plots of land populated by tiny people and cut through with 17 tiny trains. They chug through tunnels and over bridges and past landmarks made of organic materials and comprising a charming collection of Americana—see for instance the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, a regularly erupting Old Faithful, Wrigley Field, the Golden Gate Bridge. The garden at large can feel a little busy at times, but something about the narrower walkway in the train garden—and maybe the $5 entrance fee—keeps it feeling quieter. (It's also seasonal: the railroad shuts down 10/30 till spring.) Kids thrill to this, but they're not the only ones.

Have a peculiar observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? E-mail it to zoomin@chicagoreader.com.

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