Introducing kids to art at a young age is the key to igniting a passion for learning and lifelong interest. The Grounds For Sculpture, located in Mercer County, is the perfect place to develop 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 close to the art, and kids of all ages can appreciate the space. It’s no wonder Grounds For Sculpture is one of our favorite NJ attractions. Scroll down to learn more about what you should know before you go. (featured image Philip Grausman, ‘Leucantha,’ 1993, metal, aluminum, 108 in x 118 in x 118 in, 1/3, Grounds For Sculpture, Gift of the Seward Johnson Atelier, © Artist’s Estate, photo: David Micheal Howarth Photography)
Here 6 things to know about Grounds For Sculpture
Map out a plan
You’ll need to purchase tickets ahead for a reservation of the time and day you want to go, but once you enter, 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. There are indoor exhibitions along with special exhibits, and the permanent collection is outdoors.
Discover larger-than-life art
Use this time to teach your kids 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 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.
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 to reveal Inua by Helen Lukasova. Grounds For Sculpture also has downloadable kid-oriented Explorer’s Guides, encouraging 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
You can gather the fam for a young artists workshop or sign them up for tots for sculpture. Each experience includes hands-on art-making inspired by the sculptures and guided exploration of our galleries and gardens, all geared toward their age group. And don’t miss the Storytelling in the Gallery for your littles—during winter, this indoor event features live narratives based on the current exhibits.
Explore the gardens and nature
The gardens feature an interesting variety 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 them). 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. These are at their prime in late April and early May, when the cascading purple blooms show off.
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 Tuscan kale. And to finish, the whole fam can share creme brulee or beignets for dessert. For something lighter, stop by French-inspired Van Gogh Cafe. They have snacks, coffee, and other drinks.
What to know before you go to Grounds for Sculpture
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 unavailable 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. Tickets go on sale up to two weeks before the entry date, and new tickets are released every week and are non-refundable. Rat’s is an ideal place to stop for a meal after you visit the gardens, and reservations are recommended. You can also enter the Van Gogh Cafe with your ticket or plan a picnic in the park for something extra special (contact the Grounds For Sculpture for more information).
Grounds For Sculpture
80 Sculptors Way
Hamilton, New Jersey 08619
What’s your favorite part of Grounds For Sculpture?
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