School is out, the weather is magnificent, and daylight is abundant. Is there a better time of the year than summer for kids? Is there a better place to enjoy family-friendly fun than at Brookgreen Gardens?
There’s lots to do, see, and hear at Brookgreen, located on Highway 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, from displays of larger-than-life Chinese lanterns to weekly concerts, wispy butterflies, the work of nationally-acclaimed sculptors, and a zoo featuring birds and other wildlife native to the Lowcountry. Of course, visitors will be able to soak in the gardens, renowned worldwide as “the floral jewel of South Carolina’s coastal community.”
The Brookgreen Summer Lights Festival, based on world-famous Chinese Lantern Festivals, is on tap Wednesday through Saturday nights until Aug. 18, with a special final night on Sunday Aug. 19. Created specifically for Brookgreen, the huge silk sculptures depict animals and flowers native to the Carolina coast.
During the day, visitors can see the lanterns in the Lowcountry Zoo for the regular price of admission, according to Brookgreen Gardens Marketing Director Lauren Joseph. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., when the lanterns are lit up, and food trucks, live music and traditional Chinese games arrive on the scene, the exhibit is a separate ticketed event. Tickets for the Summer Lights Festival are $20 for adults and $15 for children 4-12. Children 3 and under are free.
The Whispering Wings Butterfly Experience, a longtime favorite, is open until the weather cools off in October. The Whispering Wings ticket, $4 for adults and $3 for children, will give you the opportunity for an up-close look at a variety of butterflies. If you happen to catch the right time, you might witness a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis and stretching its wings for the first time. “It’s a wonderful butterfly adventure,” Joseph says.
You can see a variety of other birds and animals at the Lowcountry Zoo, including foxes, deer, otters, alligators, swans, hawks, owls, and two bald eagles. “All of our raptors are non-flighted birds. They have been hurt in some way. They can’t live in the wild, so they live out their days being taken care of at Brookgreen Gardens,” Joseph explains.
Of course, there’s lots for art lovers to see. Brookgreen is hosting the exhibit Richard McDermott Miller & His Circle through July 29. A groundbreaking sculptor, Miller focused on the female figure. The exhibit includes his works, and those of artists he influenced. In addition, the National Sculpture Society will hold its annual exhibition at Brookgreen from August through October, highlighting the works of many rising stars.
Music is also on the agenda at Brookgreen Gardens, in the form of the Cool Summer Evening Concert Series, set for every Sunday at 7 p.m. through Aug. 19 on the Pavilion Lawn. The lineup includes a wide range of musical talent, from Prettier Than Matt and Vocal Edition to Oracle Blue and, on the final night of the season, Tru Sol.
Among the most popular events at Brookgreen is the annual tribute concert, scheduled for the first weekend of September. From the 6th through the 9th, the music of the late Donna Summer “and that whole fun ’70s-era music” will be featured. Tickets, which always sell out early, are currently available on the Brookgreen website.