By LARRY VAUGHT
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — All the visits I have made to Myrtle Beach never once did I go to Brookgreen Gardens — and now I know that was a huge mistake.
I visited Brookgreen, a wildlife sanctuary with over 9,000 acres, during my recent trip to South Carolina. As impressive as that is, consider that Brookgreen also has more than 2,700 sculptures by over 425 artists.
No, I am not an art lover. However, it was amazing to walk around the grounds and see so many unique and unusual sculptures by so many artists. The oldest sculpture is from 1819 and the largest sculpture is “Pegasus” that was carved on granite from Mt. Airy, N.C. (better known to many as Mayberry, Andy Griffith’s hometown) that was transported here.
We even took a second visit to see the miniature sculptures that were part of a special exhibit. I was told none were larger than nine square inches but the work was mind boggling.
Brookgreen’s grounds are immaculate. There are about 120 full-time and part-time employees but also close to 500 volunteers, including those working in the welcome center and gift shop on our visit as well as tour guides.
The great thing about visiting in January/February is that Brookgreen — which is open every day except Christmas — is not crowded and the tours go at an even slower, more informative pace.
There’s also a zoo that is as much fun for adults as children — not to mention wild turkey and deer roaming the grounds. The butterfly garden was not open now due to the cooler weather. Brookgreen also has an activities room for children that looked amazing and locals told me there kids love visiting just so they can go there and create.
If that’s not enough, there are over 2,000 plant species and oak trees dating back to 1763.
There are a number of special programs at Brookgreen as well as special tours. We took the Silent Cities Cemetery tour. It is only available Jan. 5 through March 7 and you get to walk through the graves of former enslaved Africans and plantation owner family members. You get to see first hand the difference in burial grounds and customs. It’s really a moving, emotional time and I was surprised at how interested my grandchildren, ages 7-11, were to hear stories about the cemeteries and photos too.
Here is one other big point — if you purchase an admission ticket to Brookgreen Gardens it is good for seven days. That way you can leave and return to enjoy more and there’s so much to see and enjoy there’s no way to do it all in one day. In the summer months, what a great way to take a break from the sun and heat to let kids enjoy Brookgreen.
We missed the Night of 1000 Candles in December when close to 3,000 hand-lit candles and countless sparking lights mark the paths and also includes carolers and holiday music. Already contemplating a December trip back to see those lights in a few months.
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For more information call 843-235-6000 or go to www.brookgreen.org.