Brookgreen Gardens in nearby Murrells Inlet is beautiful year-round. But for frequent visitors and permanent residents who have their choice of when to visit, there's no time like the fall, especially the highlight event of the autumn season – the Harvest Home Weekend Festival.
This two-day festival features a wide range of activities for the whole family, along with the usual beauty Brookgreen Gardens has to offer. The East Coast's largest and oldest botanical sculpture garden merges art and nature into 900 acres of beautiful scenery in a Lowcountry setting.
Guests can stroll through the pathways that are surrounded by native wildflowers, plants and trees, some of which change colors in the fall. The ancient live oaks, some of which predate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, tower over the landscape and provide a nice break in the shade under the twisting branches and Spanish moss. The sculptures, crafted by some of the greatest American artists of the 20th century, add to the aesthetic beauty of the park and provide great photo opportunities for visitors.
Although the gardens and sculptures are available for viewing all year, Brookgreen Gardens goes all out for the Harvest Home Weekend Festival, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 4, and Sunday, Oct. 5. For a small fee in addition to regular park admission, guests can take hayrides around the garden grounds and more secluded parts of the property and even boat rides through the tidal creeks and inlets on the “Not-So Spooky” Adventure Cruises. Other attractions include the Brookgreen Gift Shop, Mother’s Nature Café, the Welcome Center, the Children’s Discovery Room, the Pavilion Restaurant and Old Kitchen and the Sculpture Galleries.
Brookgreen Gardens sets up a main concert stage for live music and entertainment throughout the day, as well as hosting several interactive arts and crafts programs for all ages. Guests can try their hands at building scarecrows, carving and painting pumpkins, making sweetgrass baskets and handmade pottery items. Professional artists also will shop their wares, including glass art, homemade soaps and candles, and the popular Gullah trees made of bottles.
While most of the grown-ups enjoy the natural and manmade beauty of the gardens themselves, Brookgreen Gardens also caters to the younger crowd with numerous activities at the Lowcountry Zoo section of the park. Featuring native animals in a natural setting, the Lowcountry Zoo includes gators, otters and various birds of prey, as well as a petting zoo with goats, horses and other domesticated critters. Guided tours by staff zoological experts are available.
Those activities are available year-round, but the Harvest Home Weekend Festival adds even more excitement. Visitors can make animal-related arts and crafts, such as a giant sidewalk chalk painting the kids will work on throughout the day and pine cone bird feeders children can make and take home. The Enchanted Storybook Forest features costumed characters spinning spooky yarns about the swamps, special animal displays and programs, and the new fall display of the Butterfly House will be open for visitors.
It's all part of the autumn traditions of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and Brookgreen Gardens is the place to see and do it all. The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4-5. Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for children in addition to regular park admission, which is good for seven calendar days. Admission fees are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $7 for children ages 4-12 and free for ages 3 and under. For more information, visit www.brookgreen.org.
(Photo courtesy: Brookgreen Gardens)