6 Things to Know About Grounds For Sculpture

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Introducing kids to art at a young age is the key to igniting a passion for learning and lifelong interest, and the Grounds For Sculpture, located in Mercer County, is the perfect place for developing it. Families love Grounds for Sculpture because it’s not your typical museum—white-walled gallery spaces give way to the great outdoors, where contemporary artworks, installations, and sculptures are placed amid gorgeous gardens, trees, and shrubbery. The 42-acre property lets you get up close to the art, and kids of all ages can appreciate the space. It’s no wonder Grounds For Sculpture is in our NJ Attractions to Enjoy This Spring Guide. Scroll down to learn more about what you should know before you go. 

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Here 6 things to know about Grounds For Sculpture

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Hanging with their garden buddies at Grounds for Sculpture. Photo via @jamiengrose

Map out a plan

Once you get your timed tickets, you can stay for as long as you want. You’ll want to figure out the best way for your kids to make the most of the visit. Use the interactive map on your phone to download an audio tour, which offers history, interesting tips, and perceptions of notable pieces. You can interpret the info on a kid level and plan the spots that pique your family’s interests. Over the years, more than 700 artists displayed on the grounds, emphasizing works designed to challenge perceptions. Grounds for Sculpture gives those artists a voice through their current exhibition spaces, which change annually. While the buildings and indoor exhibitions are currently closed due to the pandemic, the special exhibits and the permanent collection are being shown outdoors. 

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Giant sculptures are only part of the fun you’ll find scattered throughout Grounds For Sculpture. Photo via @jamiengrose

Discover larger-than-life art

Teach your family about a wide range of art with giant sculptures and installations by national and international artists. These are displayed all around the park in the permanent collection, with 400 life-size works. Your animal-loving littles will get a kick out of Ba’al with Cat and Asa with Dog. The pieces are all made with everything from ceramic to paper to stone — try to see if your kids can identify one sculpture made from each type of material during your visit. Other highlights littles will love include the Amphitheater space with the Oligarchs watching over, Seward Johnson’s lifelike sculptures of people scattered throughout the property, and the giant, metal Spider, where kids can pose for selfies under the arches. 

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Getting out some energy running around the sculpture garden. Photo via @jamiengrose

Go on a sculpture scavenger hunt

Explore the grounds with a sculpture hunt—start a friendly competition, or collaborate and find the sculptures together. Remember to look high and low, walk down winding pathways, and check for hidden doors, like the one that opens revealing Inua, by Helen Lukasova. Grounds For Sculpture also has downloadable kid-oriented Explorer’s Guides, which encourages kids to observe their surroundings and the artwork more closely and reflect on what they’re seeing and experiencing.

Sign up for a family-friendly activity

Register your kiddos for an ArtBox class, where they’ll get an art box designed to help them explore their creativity. You can also gather the fam for a family meditation class to help with stress relief, relaxation, and self-empowerment with drumming, vocal exercises, and fun movement meditations. And don’t miss the Garden Stories events for your littles—an artist will perform live storytelling based on the nature in the garden.

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Water views with a make-believe brunch. Photo via @jamiengrose

Explore the gardens and nature

The gardens feature a wide range of trees and plants—both native and foreign. Make sure to check out Maplehenge, where three rings of foliage encircle a few collection pieces—that is, if you can find it. Locate the hidden wooden doorway, and your kiddos will feel like they’re entering a secret haven when they walk inside. There’s also the Wisteria Pergola, a 230-foot long natural tunnel connecting the grounds. Make sure you visit it in late April and early May when the cascading purple blooms are at their finest. 

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The Wind in the Willows inspired Rat’s Restaurant at Grounds For Sculpture where the food is as good as the views via @groundsforsculpture

Grab a bite to eat at Rat’s

Rat’s Restaurant—named after The Wind in the Willows character with a setting that resembles Monet’s garden in Giverney—serves up tasty French food with Insta-worthy views. Your kiddos can nosh on simple buttered pasta, chicken fingers, and cheeseburgers while you refuel on steak frites, seared branzino, or spiced cauliflower. And to finish, the whole fam can share creme brulee or cream puffs for dessert. For something lighter, stop by French-inspired Van Gogh Cafe. They have snacks, coffee, and other drinks, and they’re open for outdoor dining only. 

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Photo via @jamiengrose

What to know before you go to Grounds for Sculpture

All buildings and indoor exhibitions are closed for safety reasons, but the outdoor exhibitions and installations are open. Even though entry into the park is timed, you can stay for as long as you want once you enter. However, keep in mind that once you leave the grounds, you cannot re-enter. Paper maps are not available on-site, so print one out at home or use GFS’s online interactive map while you explore the sculpture park. Grounds For Sculpture only sells tickets online and in advance—and they’re timed. And with a limited capacity, make sure to get your tickets early. Tickets go on sale up to two weeks before the entry date, and new tickets are released every week and are non-refundable. Through April 30, the grounds are open Thursday through Monday, 10 AM-6 PM. Rat’s has limited seating capacity and requires online reservations, and since you can’t enter the restaurant from the Grounds, you should plan it around your ticket times. 

Grounds For Sculpture
80 Sculptors Way
Hamilton, New Jersey 08619

What’s your favorite part of Grounds For Sculpture? 

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About Author

Caroline is a writer from central Jersey who loves checking out new boardwalks and beach towns (current faves include Long Branch and Ocean Grove), admiring the foliage and walking around downtown Princeton, and singing along to music—often with her younger sister. One of her favorite jobs was being a camp counselor and helping out at local, family-friendly events. She can regularly be found ordering a pie to go from Romeo's in Plainsboro, her favorite pizzeria.

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