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5 Magical Places for Children (and Their Parents) at Brookgreen Gardens

Kerry Egan Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Blooming foxglove plants with sculptures in the background
Brookgreen Gardens is a place where art and nature work together to create magical spaces for folks of all ages.

A serene sculpture garden might not be the first place you think to bring children while visiting Myrtle Beach, but it should be. The magical, enchanting world of  Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, the largest and oldest public sculpture garden in the US, is home to incredible bronzes set among stunning gardens.

Created by Anna and Archer Huntington, it is their gift, along with Huntington Beach State Park, to the public. Anna Hyatt Huntington is a renowned sculptor, and her flowing, wild, passionate work figures prominently in the gardens along with that of more than 350 other artists. In a place with enchanting views at every turn, make sure to seek out these five places that kids will find especially magical.

 

1. Cypress Swamp Aviary

Birds and waterfowl in pond near boardwalk at Brookgreen Gardens.
The Aviary at the Lowcountry Zoo in Brookgreen Gardens lets you and your kids walk through clouds of birds.

It's one thing to look at birds in a zoo, but quite another to enter their home, and hear and feel the whoosh of the wind as they fly within inches of you. The Cypress Swamp Aviary, part of Brookgreen's Lowcountry Zoo, allows you to do just that. The only aviary in the world that's actually built over a cypress swamp, it houses many species of injured birds that could not survive in the wild. Visitors walk through the large netted enclosure on boardwalks above the black water where birds swim and fly freely.  

 

2. Butterfly Garden

Butterfly and flower yard art with interpretive signs in front of butterfly house.
A milkweed garden for Monarch caterpillars and walk-through Butterfly House offer visitors a close-up peek of its whimsical inhabitants.

Even the most boisterous child takes pause to bask in the awe of a butterfly landing on their shoulder - a main reason the Butterfly House is a favorite place of both kids and parents. The garden is lush, with the flowers butterflies need and love, and safely enclosed to maintain the right temperature and protect the butterflies from predators. Butterflies fly and float freely as you meander through the Whispering Wings exhibit. Outside, learn more from interpretive signage at the milkweed garden where Monarch caterpillars feed.

 

3. Mother Nature's Cafe

Alligator in the muddy swamp
Alligators are among the many native creatures at Brookgreen's Lowcountry Zoo.

Mother Nature's Cafe isn't a place, despite its name. It's a not-to-be-missed program at the Lowcountry Zoo that gives families the chance to see a zookeeper feed the animals. Just watching three otters come loping and scrambling through the woods and glide into the water to wait to catch fish is worth the time to take the hour-long tour. Get a glimpse of everything from gators to grey foxes to bald eagles. Check at the visitors center for times. 

 

4. The Labyrinth

Find wildlife, gardens, sculpture and inner peace when you visit Brookgreen Gardens’ labyrinth.

Located on the Trail Beyond the Wall, the Labyrinth isn't a maze with walls made of hedges, corn stalks or tires that you have to muddle through. Instead, it is a wide-open circle with a twisting crushed seashell-and-brick path that spirals to the middle and back out again. Inspired by the labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France, it's meant to lead you into a deep and peaceful walking meditation. There are no walls preventing you from running off the path and into the middle, but for children and adults alike, there is something strangely and deeply satisfying about twisting around and around to walk to the center. 

 

5. Dorothy P. Peace Garden Room for Children

South Carolina's Children's Garden Room at Brookgreen Gardens
A tortoise sculpture parade makes its way through flowers and foliage in the Garden Room for Children at Brookgreen Gardens.

We saved the most charming for last. The Dorothy P. Peace Garden Room for Children is a whimsical outdoor "room" that looks just like the backyard you wished you'd had when you were little. This is the stuff of enchanting childhood dreams: sculptures of roly-poly bears and pigs, tortoises on parade and a girl perched on a towering flower high in the air set among deeply shaded, narrow, twisting trails. Little teepees made of tree branches offer cozy places for pretend play. Tunnels of green leaves open up to a fountain with a chubby baby laughing at its center. Kids will think it's a magical place made just for them - and they won't be wrong.   

Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.