If you’re looking for some extraordinary art and a chance to take in the sun over your holiday weekend, it’s definitely worth driving down to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township, just a little over an hour from Montclair.
Ground for Sculpture is a sprawling, whimsical sculpture garden with over 270 works on display throughout the pristine park. From the blooming archways and red-lacquered pond bridges, to the lush flower gardens and resident peacocks, I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.
It’s easy to feel like Alice in Wonderland at first, wandering through the hedge mazes and among giant abstract works. Self guided tours and maps are available at the Visitor’s Center. But unless you have specific pieces you’d like to see that day, getting lost is one of the best ways to explore Grounds.
Many of the pieces are homages to classic art and literature. Towards the beginning of the walk, there is a graceful replica of Henri Matisse’s “The Dance.” Just across the way, over a small network of fountains, is a striking sculpture of King Lear. You can sit among the guests in Renoir’s “The Luncheon of the Boating Party.” Even the names of the shops on the grounds – Toad Hall and Rat’s Restaurant – are taken from the classic children’s book, The Wind and the Willows.
Other works are totally original and abstract. The park features many enormous geometric constructions, placed on manicured landscapes and reflecting pools. Also featured are works by local favorites like Alexander Calder and George Segal.
There is a complete list of “Park Etiquette” on their website. Plaques on every piece that indicate whether or not sculptures can be touched. Outside food and beverages are not allowed. The park is great for kids, but it’s easy to wander, so keep a close eye on them.
You’ll find three eateries at the park – Rat’s Restaurant, the Peacock Cafe and The Gazebo. Rat’s has an eclectic wine list and full menu, including a Sunday brunch selection. If you’re planning on dining there, it’s best to call ahead of time and make a reservation. We waited about 30 minutes for a table without one, but dinner was well worth it. For a more casual meal, the Peacock Cafe offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, burgers, coffee and desserts. The Gazebo is open during the summer. It’s a charming gingerbread-esque house overlooking the water lilly pond in the shade of willow trees. It’s a great spot for a glass of wine, or some ice cream.
The park hosts special events and performances throughout the summer. Check out their calendar for upcoming events .
Grounds for Sculpture is the best place to savor a summer day amidst breathtaking art… and find yourself at the edge of the Forest of the Subconscious.