Day Trip Destination: Grounds for Sculpture

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Most art-loving New Yorkers know about Storm King Art Center, the amazing arts complex upstate that’s home to many large-scale sculptures on beautiful grounds. Lesser known, and especially great for kids, is New Jersey’s Grounds for Sculpture, located in Hamilton, New Jersey. It’s a great day trip from NYC and we headed out to see what’s happening there. Read on to find out!

photo: Meredith Levine

Come on down to the Grounds! 
There’s no question kids are fascinated by nature and taken by art, but combine these forces and you’ve got Grounds for Sculpture. Founded in 1992 by sculptor and philanthropist J. Seward Johnson, this non-profit is a 42-acre exquisite plot resides on land that was the former site of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. It’s jam-packed with influential contemporary sculptures at every turn, and a breathtaking arboretum of exotic plant life.

Located in Hamilton, New Jersey, it’s a convenient 5 minute cab ride from the Hamilton Train Station and only 75 minutes from NYC.

We visited with a 5 year old and a 3 year old on a beautiful sun- drenched cloudless morning, which happens to be the perfect weather for outdoor exploration.  “Timed-tickets” are required for non-members; you must choose the day and time and pay in advance to enter the facility. This helps encourage a steady flow of traffic while exploring the massive land. (Members do not need timed-tickets, and there is a Museum Pass program with local libraries where library card holders can check out the Grounds for Sculpture pass from the library for up to three days and be granted free admission for 4 people.)

photo: Grounds for Sculpture 

A lot of grounds to cover
A glance at the Grounds for Sculpture  map, filled with a list of over 250 sculptures can be overwhelming, and hitting all of them with small kids is impossible.  We spoke with a Grounds for Sculpture visitor assistant to get ideas on what young kids would love most and where to focus our time.

The best sculptures for kids are the ones that are the most interactive, and while the vast land is filled with “touchable” sculptures (the signs will indicate what you can or should not touch), you may want to stay close to the Domestic Arts Building where you will find arts and crafts and the Peacock Café (appropriately named as you may spot several peacocks in the nearby vicinity).

Be sure to watch the witches stir a bubbling cauldron of soup at the “Has anyone seen Larry?” sculpture by Seward Johnson, and head to the “Seat of Sound“ sculpture by Robert Cooke and have a bang, literally.  You can venture out further to find sweeping views and a continuation of cutting edge art against sweeping view of nature, but the littlest kids may lose steam.

photo: Meredith Levine 

Look, Eat, Play
We spent several hours experiencing art and then creating some ourselves at the DIY art studio in the Domestic Arts Building.  The Peacock Café was armed with just the right mix of kid-centric snacks and refreshments and even some wondering peacocks.

Our time at Grounds for Sculpture was just the tip of the iceberg, as other destinations like the Museum Building, the Seward Johnson Center for the Arts, and Rat’s Restaurant, and garden features such as Bamboo Observation Tower, Rat’s Pond & Monet Bridge, and Forest of the Subconscious are among many other attractions that sound right up our alley for exploration galore.

photo: Grounds for Sculpture 

Know Before You Go
Bring a stroller if you plan to walk with youngsters, and outdoor gear such as water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent. Comfortable shoes are a good idea as well. Be sure to allow time for the DIY arts & crafts at the Domestic Arts Building

Grounds for Sculpture
Hours:  Tues., Wed., Thurs. & Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Tickets: $18/$16 adults (in-person/online); $15/$13 seniors 65+ (in-person/online); $10 students 6-17 years old; free for Members and children 5 & under; free parking
80 Sculptors Way
Hamilton, Nj

Have you visited Grounds for Sculpture with the kids? What’s your must-see piece? 

— Meredith Levine

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