The Heritage Museum and Garden campus is home to a variety of both fun and educational activities meant to allow visitors the ability to have an adventure while also learning something (although it does not often feel like that!). Visiting the grounds is the perfect additional to any vacation to the state of Massachusetts.
The land that now makes up the grounds of the museum and garden can be traced back to the mid-1600s, through the original residents of the land (The Wing’s), the Dexter’s, and eventually the Lilly’s, who founded the museum. Annually, nearly 130,000 visitors come from all over the country and the world to visit the grounds, to ride the historic carousel, and to see some interesting and original artifacts that feature American artists.
Heritage Collection - Boasting a collection of more than 12,000 different items, including paintings, rare artifacts, and military miniatures, all made and manufactured by American artists. The collection and the museum itself was created in honor of the founder’s father, JK Lilly Jr, who was himself a collector of many rare coin, stamps, books, and other memorabilia (mostly American made firearms and miniatures with a military focus), although the elder Lilly was much more private with his collection (which was kept behind his house). After taking over, the hope was that making the museum more accessible to the general public would help educate visitors who would hopefully be traveling there from further out than just the small local area it was currently available to.
He went on to continue to collect thousands more items, all from American crafters and artists. The collection is broken up into four themes:
Carousel - Possibly the number one attraction at the museum is the Looff Carousel, made in 1908. This hand carved beauty, which visitors can still ride on, has been located at the museum for over a hundred years and still maintains its star appeal. Guests can enjoy as many rides as they would like with the cost of museum admission.
Adventure Park - For more adventurous guests who enjoy ziplining and climbing, there is the adventure park. Enjoy an adventure with the whole family in the aerial forest, although this attraction is recommended only for guests age 7 and older due to safety restrictions. Try one of the five different trails, each varying in difficulty, climb across the tree bridges and try out the zipline! Monitored by trained staff and featuring a safety lecture and appropriate safety equipment prior to the adventure, the park is great for bonding, testing endurance and developing new skills… as well as having fun!
Make sure to plan ahead by wearing appropriate clothing, purchasing tickets ahead of time via the website, and bring a camera! There are other gardens in the area to explore as well, either before or after the adventure. Make sure to plan for plenty of time and check out the labyrinth, the maze garden, and the mill!
The museum and gardens work closely with classrooms to offer field trips that follow state guidelines while also being fun! The website has a full list of the offerings and reservations are strongly recommended as most classes and courses fill up very quickly due to their popularity. One adult chaperone (admitted to the grounds free of charge) is required for every 10 students, and additional adults are welcomed at a discounted admission price (although they are not allowed to participate). There is a picnic area located outdoors that is available, although it is not able to be reserved in advance.
The tour options are divided into two types - self guided and guided. There is a slightly increased cost for the guided tours, which are led by museum educators, and these tours last around 3 hours (as compared to the 2 hours that should be allowed for self-guided tours). There are also options at the adventure area provided the students are old enough to participate. See the website for additional information.
Shopping and Dining
For guests looking to grab a souvenir from their visit, there is the Shop (at Heritage). The Shop sells a variety of items that are locally made, including home decor, jewelry, food items, and more. If visitors get hungry, there is the Magnolia cafe, which features options like clam chowder, lobster salad rolls, quiche, salads, sandwiches, drinks, and a handful of dessert options sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.
Heritage Museums and Gardens, 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, MA, 02563, Phone: 508-888-3300