A Summer Sunday at Grounds for Sculpture
Tomorrow is the official start of summer but I'm doing it already: staying up late and drinking wine on the porch and spending every weekend out and about. That's probably my favorite part of the summer: good weather forces you to step out and explore! What I love the most about my home state is that there are so many things to see. Nothing is too far for a little day trip in the Garden state! Far and away one of the best places to explore in New Jersey is Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton. This outdoor sculpture garden sits on the historic New Jersey state fairgrounds and showcases a constantly growing art collection. It also has a gorgeous gourmet restaurant, Rats, modeled off a French chateau. Everything about this place is like living in a dream. Many of the sculptures are life-sized or greater than life-sized. Many of the sculptures in the garden are by Seward Johnson who creates realistic versions of paintings and everyday scenes. My favorite is Were You Invited? where you can step into Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" (with Seward Johnson himself hidden in the scene!).
Tips for Visiting Grounds for Sculpture
Arrive early - just like any popular art museum or botanical garden, Grounds for Sculpture can get busy. Like, insanely busy. Which makes it hard to get those fabulous photos that you know you want to take. The grounds open at 10am on the weekends so get there then to beat the crowds.
Wear comfortable shoes and casual clothes - as I said, Grounds for Sculpture is located on the old NJ state fairgrounds so I'm not kidding when I say this place is BIG. You will likely walk several miles if you visit all the sculptures and the indoor galleries. My Converse sneakers were perfect for the day, especially when we stumbled upon some muddy pathways. You may also want to wear a hat in the summer because, while there is shade, you spend a lot of time out in the open.
Bring a bottle of water - outside food and drinks are not allowed at Grounds for Sculpture but you can (and should) bring a bottle of water with you. You may walk several miles seeking out all the beautiful art so stay hydrated!
Leave enough time to see everything - Grounds for Sculpture is not for making a list of sculptures and checking them off as you see them. It's for exploring, lingering, relaxing, and enjoying art and nature. Don't rush through your trip here. Make sure you leave enough time to see everything you want and to spend some time just being a part of the gardens.
Take the path less traveled - the best part about Grounds for Sculpture is that there is no set path. It's up to you to decide how you want to experience it. There are well-worn paths and there are overgrown ones. I feel like every time I go, I discover a new way to experience it. One of my favorite "secret" sculptures is a realistic sculpture of a lady in a bath house. It's complete with running water, music that she sings along with, and the feeling that you're interrupting her privacy!
For a really special visit...
Make a reservation at Rat's Restaurant - the on-site restaurant is named after "Ratty", the beloved character from The Wind in the Willows, and modeled after the Giverny home of Claude Monet. Come in the warmer months to enjoy a meal outside overlooking the lily pond. There are several rooms in the restaurant, each making you feel like you took a trip to the French countryside. Though a meal at Rat's can be a bit pricey but definitely worth it to make the whole Grounds for Sculpture experience even more special.
Truly, Grounds for Sculpture is in the top ten of my favorite New Jersey places, maybe even in my top places in the world. It's like taking a vacation to an art museum and garden. You don't feel like you're in New Jersey anymore! If you ever have the opportunity to go, you must GO!