One of the cool things about living in a vacation destination city is that when family and friends come to visit, you get to play tourist too. Sometimes that means “cruising the strip” (Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard) to see all of the neon lights and airbrushed t-shirts. Other times it means visiting hidden gems even the locals tend to forget about. And family visiting is one of our favorite excuses to visit Brookgreen Gardens.
I’ve transitioned to the age where I’m turning into my mother. I sing unapologetically (and off key, sorry Ma) in the kitchen while making dinner. I consistently refer to my children by their siblings name. And after 37 years of little to no interest, I suddenly cannot get enough of plants and birds.
I am not opposed to any of this.
In fact, I’ve quite enjoyed the fact that I’ve long since strayed away from the nightclubs and bars of my Myrtle Beach past, and instead gravitating towards outdoor spaces and cultural places the area has to offer. No, they definitely don’t come close to the number of golf courses and restaurants this area boasts, but we do indeed have a few notable gems worth mentioning.
What is Brookgreen Gardens?
Located in Murrells Inlet, SC (about 15 miles South of Myrtle Beach) Brookgreen Gardens is a is a unique melding of art, nature, and history. Originally founded in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, Brookgreen Gardens is now a Nationally recognized indoor/outdoor cultural center full of art, plants, animals, and history. Check out their impressive credentials:
- American Alliance of Museums accredited
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited
- Designated a National Historic Landmark
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Let me give this important preface: what little art knowledge I have is from an art history 101 class I had to take in college nearly 20 years ago. As a result, I can’t even begin speak to the impressiveness of the endless art located at Brookgreen Gardens from a professional standpoint. I am, however, as self declared nature lover, and I will never turn down an opportunity to this place. Here’s why:
My Top 7 Reasons to Visit Brookgreen Gardens:
In no particular order….
That’s the amount of land this park covers. Now, I couldn’t begin to tell you how much of that is open to visitors, but I can tell you it feels like most of it.
Need some fresh air or Vitamin D? You’re gonna get it here. Looking to log your 10,000 steps? Absolutely no problem.
While there are a number of indoor areas and galleries, the majority of Brookgreen Gardens is outdoors. There are seemingly endless paths to take, trails to follow, and gardens to explore. Best of all, the park is tucked far enough away from the closest major road, so all you can hear is the sound of birds and the breeze through the trees. It’s an incredible opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand, while appreciating some amazing art, history, and gardens.
Endless Flowers & Plants
I mean, endless. Plants I recognize, plants I’ve never seen in my entire life. So many opportunities for me to say “LOOK AT THIS ONE!” and for my husband to retort “YOU HAVE ENOUGH PLANTS AT HOME!” (not that I would take a plant from the gardens, but I still think he’s trying to tell me something).
For those of you – like me – who have absolutely zero idea what you are looking at when it comes to identifying plants, Brookgreen Gardens has you covered. MOST of the plants, flowers, and trees are labeled. Educational moments without exams! It’s fun being an adult!
The Live Oaks
Perhaps it’s because I’m a born and raised New Englander, but never in my life have I seen trees as majestic as the ancient live oaks here in the South. And Brookgreen Gardens has NO SHORTAGE of these breathtaking trees, covered in Spanish Moss. The little kid in me wants to climb them. The adult in my takes pictures and posts them on Instagram instead.
Ducks, Otters, & Other Critters
One of my absolute favorite things to do when I visit Brookgreen Gardens is to head to the Lowcountry Zoo. Morally and ethically, I’m not down with the concept of keeping animals in cages. I’m a tree hugging vegetarian who likes animals more than most people. That said, all of the animals in the Lowcountry Zoo are either domestic animals, like these horses…
…or have sustained a major disability due to injury at some point in their life, and could not survive in the wild. Therefore, they get to live out the rest of their lives being cared for at Brookgreen Gardens, while they simultaneously educated visitors. That’s a win.
My art preferences lie in the paintings and drawings my kids give me that reside on my refrigerator. That said, you don’t have to be an art connoisseur to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship of the endless sculptures on display at Brookgreen Gardens.
The sculptures come in all mediums, from various time frames of the last two centuries. I’m partial to the animals:
It’s Kid Friendly
While you obviously don’t want your little ones crawling all over the sculptures (they definitely frown upon that), there are two kids specific section with PLENTY for the little ones to do.
Structures to climb, little houses and forts to go into, and hands on adventures like the Children’s Sensory Trail. (Check out my previous post for more pictures on the kid friendly side of Brookgreen). For older kids, there are plenty of educational moments including the Lowcountry Trail, which features an interactive history of the South Carolina Lowcountry as well as the rice plantations of the 1800’s. Hooray for learning!
Here’s your brief Brookgreen history: apparently, the Huntington’s (who if you remember, founded this place) owned and bred Scottish Deerhounds. Anna Hyatt Huntington was very fond of them, and created many sculptures depicting the dogs. Angus, the current onsite Deerhound, is super friendly, and even gave me a wet sloppy kiss on the cheek when I bent down to pet him. Talk about customer service!
There is so much to see at Brookgreen Gardens, I’m pretty certain I’ve yet to see everything in my numerous visits. The good news? Once you purchase your admission to Brookgreen Gardens, your ticket is good for seven days. So you definitely don’t need to cram it all in to one single visit.
For more information, history, ticket info, and everything else you could possibly want to know if you’d like to visit Brookgreen Gardens, visit their website at: https://www.brookgreen.org/