If you know my family in “real life,” or if you’ve been following this page since I started it in the spring, you’ve probably noticed that we go to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ a lot. It’s actually our longest-running Membership we have, going on 10 years now I believe! Even though I grew up about 25 minutes from Grounds for Sculpture, I didn’t hear about it until I was in my 20s and saw someone post pictures on Facebook of a “day date” they went on there. As soon as I saw the pics, I knew it would be somewhere Harry and I would enjoy going. After our first visit, I knew I’d want to go often, so we became Members. We enjoyed going there in every season, celebrated special occasions at the restaurant on premises, Rat’s, and we even got engaged on the Monet Bridge while celebrating my 30th birthday.
I remember wondering while pregnant with Henry if we would still use our Membership once we had a baby. Turns out, we actually used it even more! Since we weren’t going out on as many dates or heading to Center City as much as we did prior to being parents, Grounds for Sculpture because an even more regular weekend destination for us. And as our family grew, we’ve continued the tradition. Turns out, our “Date Spot” works just as well for our “Family Days.” (Though we do save our dinners at Rat’s for nights out kids-free!)
So have your heard of Grounds for Sculpture? Have you been there?
I find that almost every time I post pictures of Grounds for Sculpture, someone I know comments or messages me asking me about it. It’s a bit of a hidden gem in the area, and I don’t think many people realize that it’s very kid friendly. Grounds for Sculpture was founded by artist and philanthropist, Seward Johnson in 1992. It’s located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds and is home to nearly 300 contemporary sculptures across the 42 beautiful acres. According to the website, more than 700 artists have had their work on view at Grounds for Sculpture, and the current collection contains pieces by 150 artists. While Seward Johnson passed away recently in 2020, his mark is all over the grounds. Many of the sculptures are made by him, and some of them are actually OF him!
Obviously, Grounds for Sculpture is a great destination the art aficionado, but you don’t need to be a connoisseur to enjoy yourself. It’s simply a beautiful, peaceful place where you can get the relaxing benefits of being outside in nature with the bonus of being exposed to art. I love that I have my favorite spots there, but I also feel like I’m always discovering something new. There are often new exhibits (especially in the indoor galleries), sculptures are sometimes rotated on display, and there are just THAT many little “secret” paths and hidden features. Another thing I love about it is that it never feels overly crowded. Currently, they are limiting admission and requiring advance reservations, but I felt like this in the past, too. I really appreciated this when we had two young toddlers because it’s one of the few places that I felt comfortable letting them “run free” out of the stroller without worrying that I’d lose them in a crowd.
If you’d like to visit Grounds for Sculpture, here are a few tips:
- Children 5 and under are FREE! Standard tickets are $18, but there are discounts for Seniors, Military, Health Care Workers and Students 6-17 years old. You can also check with your local library for free passes!
- Remember to make reservations online. When it’s not summer, this isn’t as big of an issue, but during peak times, I was seeing reservations close days in advance.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a lot!
- On that note, strollers are permitted. It’s actually a wonderful spot to enjoy a nice walk and possibly lull a baby to sleep. But if you DO bring a stroller, there are certain areas you won’t be able to explore without leaving it behind for a bit. Wheelchairs/scooters are also permitted, but again, some areas won’t be accessible.
- Pack snacks/water. There used to be more food options at Grounds for Sculpture, but they currently only have the main sit-down restaurant, Rat’s, and Van Gogh Cafe, which is more of a grab n’ go spot. Peacock Cafe (which I LOVED) hasn’t reopened yet. I don’t think they encourage outside food, but as long as you clean up after yourself, I’ve never had a problem.
- If you like to have a map, you can either download the app to your phone and use the interactive map, OR print a map at home before you arrive. (They are no longer handing out paper maps.)
- Don’t be afraid to visit during the fall and winter! As long as Grounds for Sculpture is open, there’s something to see.
- You’re going to want to take pictures! Have your camera in-hand or your phone charged. Grounds for Sculpture has SO many great photo ops, whether it’s striking a pose with a sculpture or taking advantage of the beautiful landscaping.
FREE Printable Scavenger Hunt
While we were visiting Grounds for Sculpture this week, I started thinking about ways that families could have even more fun with their kids there. I thought a scavenger hunt would be a way to really get the kids involved and create a “mission” that you could accomplish while you explore the grounds.
Whether you go for a date, with friends, for a peaceful solo walk, or as an outing with kids, Ground for Sculpture has something for everyone.