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Brookgreen Gardens is a true gem that far too many visitors to the Grand Strand area miss. The name, "Gardens", is a misnomer. Brookgreen is so much more than just beautiful outdoor gardens (spread over approximately 10 acres). Brookgreen Gardens are located right on Highway 17, south of Murrells Inlet, and just north of the Litchfield area of Pawleys Island.
Brookgreen Gardens Admission tickets are for 7 consecutive days, which allows you to return on either a better-weather day, or to see some of the many attractions or tours that you missed on your first visit. Reduced prices for Seniors and children under 12, free under age 5. There is a wonderful restaurant for lunch (11:30-3:00), the Pavilion, which has a wait staff. In addition, there are two locations for casual meals that you pick up at the counter, either the Low Country cafe, or the Old Kitchen. Both have casual seating nearby.
Brookgreen is also the largest outdoor sculpture garden in the nation, with nearly 300 scultpures on display outdoors, and hundreds of others - mostly smaller - displayed indoors in various galleries. This was the first public outdoor sculpture garden or park to open in America, in 1932. Now public sculpture gardens can be found in almost every state! Brookgreen is set amongst some 9,000 acres of woodlands, which are protected from ever becoming developed. This is also a National Historic Trust Site, based on the fact that its co-founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington, was the foremost female American sculptor in the early 20th century.
One of the enclosed galleries is a favorite of all visitors - the "Brown" indoor/outdoor sculpture court. Two galleries here are connected to each other (one built in the 1930's, the other added in the 1990's), and both have sculptures arranged down the left and right sides, with central water features open to the sky. One of the galleries has a whole open area towards the back area, and that leads you to another outdoor garden area known asThe Dogwood Garden.
In addition to gardens and sculpture, there are a number of short nature and hostoric trails, several of which travel through historic rice plantation areas. Yes, Brookgreen Gardens is set on a historic rice plantation dating to the 1760's, whose name was - of course - Brookgreen Plantation. It is one of many that were built along the Waccamaw River, which is also now part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Complete hour-long Garden tours are given several times daily, which include information on the best-loved sulptures, the extremely old Live Oak trees, horticulture, and the history of the plantation as well as of the building of the Gardens in 1931. In addition to the historic aspect of Brookgreen, there is an education center at the Low Country Center, where there is an indoor exhibit, and an afternoon "Meet the Animals" program, during which 3 different types of local animals are introduced and explained. There is usually a mammal, a reptile, or perhaps a snake or turtle. This is a popular program for families, with lots of opportunities for getting your questions answered. Also in that area is the new Childrens' Discovery Room, with a number of craft and interactive programs for younger children (and their parents!).
Besides the Garden and Low Country Center area, one of the most popular areas is the Zoo. Set along a woodland trail, visitors can view various animals and birds of prey that are all native to South Carolina's Low Country. Here is another area where visitors may take several tours daily. If your take the trail on your own, however, there are always one or two "Zoo strollers" on hand to answer questions or give information. The newest attraction here is the River Otter exhibit, where visitors can watch these lovable animals both above and below water behind huge acrylic windows. In addition,there is a large cypress swamp bird aviary, where you can spy several types of herons, ducks, ibis, and more. As you move along the path, you can see the alligator habitat, the red and gray fox habitat, and then birds of prey. These birds have all been injured, and would not be able to live out in the wild. There are bald eagles, red tailed hawks, and three distinctively different breeds of owls. You can also see wild turkeys, trumpeter swans, and a flock of deer.
Two extremely popular tours with visitors are by boat or Brookgreen's specially built 4x4 "Trekker". For a small additional fee, the 48-passenger boat cruises down former rice field canals, all manmade. Your tour guide will fill you in on stories of life on these plantations, how rice was grown, and some of the families that once lived there. You will also have the opportunity to spot a lot of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and various kinds of birds, which the tour guide will stop and tell you about.
Tours on the Trekker, also an additional charge and running 4 times daily, take you to several of the three other former plantations that make up all 9,000 acres of Brookgreen's property. You will see the ruins of the plantation manors, a beautifully intact rice mill chimney, stunning overlook of the Waccamaw River, slave cemeteries, plantation owners' above-ground cemetaries, and learn much about the plant and tree life unique to the "low country".
Throughout the year, Brookgreen Gardens hosts many special events or weekends. you can learn about these on the website, http://www.brookgreen.org/. The most popular are throughout December, when three weekends celebrate the beauty of the Gardens at night, resplendant with luminary candles, white & colored twinkling lights, special effects, and a whole range of Christmas entertainment. These are known as The Nights of a Thousand Candles, though the amount of candles lit is now closer to 3,500! This is an extremely popular annual event for Myrtle Beach locals, and for first-time visitors, it can literally take your breath away!
There is much more that you can see at the Gardens, but that would make this page even longer! Just read the many Trip Advisor reviews, and you will see how wonderful and worthwhile the drive is to visit this magical place.