Places to visit in New Jersey: Grounds for Sculpture & Rat’s Restaurant Review.

An amazing sculpture; the pond is full of fish!
An amazing sculpture; the pond is full of fish! | Source

Things to do in New Jersey

Although I am a self professed geek and love nothing better than sitting in front of an XBOX 360 blasting away the latest international terrorist I do occasionally endeavor to enrich my life. My wife, not being the geeky type, is an ardent lover of art in any form, and I must admit that thanks to her influence I am beginning to delve into a wider world, one that doesn’t involve pixels, sports or eating.

Having travelled to some amazing places such as Longwood Gardens, Washington DC, Ohio and Cambridge I’ve found that I am beginning to appreciate art; we are always looking for new places to visit and found this gem several years ago.

The sculptures appear all over the park, even on top of buildings.
The sculptures appear all over the park, even on top of buildings. | Source

How do I rate the Gardens for Sculpture?

The Gardens for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey is a fantastic place to visit. The serene setting combined with the superb art provides a great experience for all ages. With excellent food, plenty of exhibitions and stunning scenery it is a great place to visit.

How do you rate Gardens forSculpture?

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Gardens for Sculpture

What is the Grounds For Sculpture?

Founded in 1992 on the grounds of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, the Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre public sculpture park. Designed to promote contemporary sculpture and help people understand sculpture’s place in society by J. Sweard Johnson, the park is a fascinating collection of permanent sculptures, seasonal exhibitions and educational workshops. The park is situation in stunning parklands in Hamilton New Jersey and features a high class restaurant, several places to eat, shopping facilities, lush green lawns and beautiful flora and fauna.

As you walk through the gardens you’ll be enamored by the peacefulness of the setting; the sculptures, ranging from contemporary sculptures through to modern sculptures enhance the experience. Often you’ll come across a lounging couple, or a lady walking through the trees only to discover that it is a sculpture and not real people. As you walk through archways, some created by trees, others man made and cross streams you’ll see a diverse range of animals ranging from squirrels to fish. It’s amazing how nature combines with art to create a stunning and almost cerebral setting.

Where is the Gardens for Sculpture and other attractions in New Jersey

show route and directions
A markerGardens for Sculpture -
18 Fairgrounds Rd, Mercerville-Hamilton Square, NJ 08619, USA
[get directions]

Beautiful gardens full of amazing sculptures.

B markerAtlantic City -
Atlantic City, NJ, USA
[get directions]

A great boardwalk and world class casinos.

C markerLamberstville -
Lambertville, NJ, USA
[get directions]

An eclectic town with quaint shops; also has the River Horse brewery.

D markerAsbury Park -
Asbury Park, NJ, USA
[get directions]

Great boardwalk and town; home of The Stone Pony, frequented by Bruce Springsteen.

E markerLakehurst NJ -
Lakehurst, NJ, USA
[get directions]

Famous for the Hindenburg disaster.

F markerSeaside Heights -
Seaside Heights, NJ, USA
[get directions]

Famous for the show The Shore and for having a great boardwalk. Sadly devastated with the recent Hurricane Sandy - but it will be back and prosper!

G markerPrinceton -
Princeton, NJ, USA
[get directions]

Picturesque town with an Ivy League university.

Gardens for Sculpture: Admission Price

Age Group
Price
Adults
$12
Senior (65+)
$10
Children (6-17)
$6
Children (under 6)
Free

Gardens for Sculpture: Hours of Operation

  • Tuesday-Sunday
  • 10am-6pm Open year-round.
  • Closed Mondays except Labor Day and Memorial Day.
  • Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
  • Closed for Members only events.

Brief History of the Grounds for Sculpture

J. Seward Johnson is a modern sculpture artist best known for his life-sized sculptures of ordinary people in life situations. Also a major philanthropist he created a vision for a public sculpture garden and museum in Hamilton NJ in 1984 – his vision was to bring sculpture to the masses in a form that was accessible to the public; combining stunning gardens and sculpture was key in helping normal people understand and become comfortable with contemporary art and sculpture.

The park was constructed on the grounds of the old New Jersey State Fairgrounds beginning in 1989 and opened to the public in 1992. The park features over 240 works by renowned artists such as Beverly Pepper and George Segal, commissioned sculptures and other guest sculptures from artists such as Dale Chihuly. Originally funded by public tax-exempt bonds and private foundations, the Ground for Public became a not-for-profit corporation in 2000.

What are the Sculptures like in the Gardens for Sculpture?

I must admit that I am not an art expert, and to be honest often cannot understand what makes some art so great. As I pondered the sculptures within the Garden for Sculpture it struck me how simple and effective many of the pieces of art were.

There were many different types. The most obvious were the lifelike sculptures that simply made you look again to see if they moved – they were amazing, very detailed and a little creepy if you ask me. Some statues were more contemporary and showed the art of sculpture at its best. Some of the ballet figures, pregnant women and other stone statues were amazing – I had a profound sense of awe as I looked at them, an awe inspired by the artistry shown by these great artists. Finally, I was excited by the variety of art on show – there were eclectic pieces, fun pieces, strange and eerie pieces and horrifying pieces.

I came away from the gardens with a feeling that I understood a lot more about the art world and what drives these amazing men and women to create – it was a privilege to be able to spend time among some of these masterpieces.

Some Pictures from Gardens for Sculpture

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The attention to detail in the sculptures is incredible.It's amazing how many of the sculptures manage to capture movement.There's something for everyone!Some sculptures are very profound.The natural use of trees to create tunnels and walkways is superb.Be prepared for a surprise occasionally.Sometimes you have to double check that the sculpture isn't a real person.The variety and scope of sculpture is incredible.You can almost imagine that some of the sculptures are actually people frozen in time.The guy in the middle isn't a sculpture - it's me!A lot of the sculptures are based on paintings.This is my favorite sculpture.The views are very tranquil.My wife avoided this as she thought it was real people snuggling together.As I'm from Wales, my wife took great delight in pointing out the sheep.The play of sunlight on this sculpture was stunning.Just one of the many water features throughout the gardens.As you wander through the gardens you'll come across many hidden sculptures.The variety of flower is incredible - truly a stunning garden.The use of different elements such as mist add a lot of atmosphere to the sculptures.
The attention to detail in the sculptures is incredible.
The attention to detail in the sculptures is incredible. | Source
It's amazing how many of the sculptures manage to capture movement.
It's amazing how many of the sculptures manage to capture movement. | Source
There's something for everyone!
There's something for everyone! | Source
Some sculptures are very profound.
Some sculptures are very profound. | Source
The natural use of trees to create tunnels and walkways is superb.
The natural use of trees to create tunnels and walkways is superb. | Source
Be prepared for a surprise occasionally.
Be prepared for a surprise occasionally. | Source
Sometimes you have to double check that the sculpture isn't a real person.
Sometimes you have to double check that the sculpture isn't a real person. | Source
The variety and scope of sculpture is incredible.
The variety and scope of sculpture is incredible. | Source
You can almost imagine that some of the sculptures are actually people frozen in time.
You can almost imagine that some of the sculptures are actually people frozen in time. | Source
The guy in the middle isn't a sculpture - it's me!
The guy in the middle isn't a sculpture - it's me! | Source
A lot of the sculptures are based on paintings.
A lot of the sculptures are based on paintings. | Source
This is my favorite sculpture.
This is my favorite sculpture. | Source
The views are very tranquil.
The views are very tranquil. | Source
My wife avoided this as she thought it was real people snuggling together.
My wife avoided this as she thought it was real people snuggling together. | Source
As I'm from Wales, my wife took great delight in pointing out the sheep.
As I'm from Wales, my wife took great delight in pointing out the sheep. | Source
The play of sunlight on this sculpture was stunning.
The play of sunlight on this sculpture was stunning. | Source
Just one of the many water features throughout the gardens.
Just one of the many water features throughout the gardens. | Source
As you wander through the gardens you'll come across many hidden sculptures.
As you wander through the gardens you'll come across many hidden sculptures. | Source
The variety of flower is incredible - truly a stunning garden.
The variety of flower is incredible - truly a stunning garden. | Source
The use of different elements such as mist add a lot of atmosphere to the sculptures.
The use of different elements such as mist add a lot of atmosphere to the sculptures. | Source

Eating at the Grounds for Sculpture: A Review of Rat's Restaurant

There are several places where you can grab a snack in the gardens, however if you are looking for something heartier and perhaps classier then you cannot go wrong with Rat’s Restaurant.

Rat’s Restaurant is located within the sculpture gardens in Hamilton New Jersey and offers a high quality experience for the discerning customer. The restaurant aims to recreate the experience of a Claude Monet painting with the end result being a friendly and rustic experience.

With French cuisine, cocktails, craft beers and a great atmosphere the whole experience is worthwhile. As you enter you immediately can feel the atmosphere and you are almost transported to France. The restaurant has a rustic design, with impressionist art and a great fireplace. Situated in and idyllic setting that overlooks a beautiful lily pond you feel immediately at home.

The staff are very attentive and friendly and have their own advice about what food is good. The restaurant serves a full buffet brunch on Sundays, lunch and dinner and also allows for special events. It is open to all park visitors. There is no formal attire requirement, although if I was visiting for dinner I’d be inclined to dress in ‘business casual’.

I experienced the lunch menu; we started with the cheese board which offered a wide variety of specialty cheeses; the variety of cheeses was excellent and while I probably wouldn’t buy the individual cheeses, the combination on the platter was varied and pleased the pallet.

For lunch I ordered the Burger au Fromage; the combination of Gruyere Cheese, Applewood Bacon and Louie dressing was excellent and the burger was cooked to perfection. Beware, the burger is very large and I had to use a knife and fork to eat it. The taste was very good and I was very pleased with the meal. My wife ordered the Crispy Shrimp Chop Salad which contained cabbage, cashews, cucumber and of course shrimp. While she enjoyed it, she felt the combination didn’t quite work and perhaps the addition of some romaine lettuce would have improved the overall lunch.

The restaurant offers a diverse wine, beer and cocktail list. I sampled four draft beers; each was a craft beer from the tri-state area and were all top quality. My wife went for a seasonal drink combining cranberry and champagne and was pleasantly surprised by how refreshing it was.

Overall I was very pleased with the experience. The setting was beautiful, the food was excellent and there was a wide choice of food, the drinks were also very good and again there was a wide variety of beers, wines and cocktails to choose from.

Other Facilities at the Grounds for Sculpture

  • The Museum Building showcases the art of a particular artist. Through April 2013, the building is featuring Robert Taplin’s Heave, Hell and the History of Punch.
  • Visitor’s Center (More Info) – provides self-guided tour maps and exhibition catalogues. The center also provides information about Guided Tours, although these must be booked in advance – there are some drop-in tours on weekends (11am and 3pm) and weekdays (May – October; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 11am and 1pm.) but are on a first come first served basis – space is limited.
  • The Museum Shop has a large collection of items focusing on contemporary sculpture. It features books, art kits and other unique gifts. It is reasonably price. The shop is open 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
  • Toad Hall Shop & Gallery – this shop features fine jewelry, gifts, home décor, pottery and other art. The art gallery features different exhibits throughout the year. The shop is moderately priced. The shop is open 11:30am to 6pm, Tuesday through Sunday. It is located next to Rat’s Restaurant.
  • Exhibitions – the sculpture gardens features different artists in different parts of the grounds. For early 2013 this includes:
  • Domestic Arts Building (through March 2013) features two exhibitions; the 1st floor features the work of 12 talented sculpture students from among 400+ nominated students in six countries. The Mezzanie features the Mapping Memories installation by Mark Parsons. (Check).
  • The East Gallery features the work of Ming Fay – the Canutopia is a superb visionary garden utopia and is available through July 2013.

The park constantly updates guest exhibits throughout the year – use the link below to visit their main website to view current exhibitions:

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Comments 3 comments

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

So, I have to admit that I clicked on this hub because I thought the first picture looked like a statue of a slug. I now can see it is clearly a fish, but in the thumbnail it looked like a slug and I figured anywhere unusual enough to have a slug statue was worth reading about!


SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 4 years ago from NJ, USA Author

Natashalh: when I first saw it, I too thought it was a slug - but when you really look at it, you do see an artistic impression of a fish!


Rock_nj profile image

Rock_nj 4 years ago from New Jersey

I've been to both the Grounds for Sculpture and Rat’s Restaurant. Both are worth a visit. The Grounds for Sculpture is a great place to stroll and take pictures.

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