Heritage Musuems & Gardens in Sandwich MA
Authors: Marco & Angelo

Authors: Marco & Angelo

We own the Candleberry Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in central Cape Cod. We're glad to share our recommendations on all the great things to explore throughout Cape Cod.

Guide to Visiting the Heritage Museums & Gardens

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    Cape Cod is full of natural beauty — the Cape Cod National Seashore is just one example of that. For a uniquely designed experience of the Cape’s beauty, plan a day trip to the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich Massachusetts.

    You can certainly spend an entire day exploring all that this fantastic destination has to offer — historic exhibits, garden collections, and events. So to help you plan your visit, we’ve put together a guide of everything that you can do and see, as well as tips for your visit.

    For more wonderful attractions to experience on Cape Cod, download our free Vacation Guide. You’ll find tons of recommendations for more things to do on the Cape.

    Heritage Musuems & Gardens in Sandwich MA

    About the Heritage Museums & Gardens

    Located on 100 acres in Sandwich Massachusetts, the Heritage Museums & Gardens features three gallery buildings and thousands of flowers, shrubs, and trees — offering hours of exploration, breathtaking scenery, and of course, fun.

    A Brief History of the Property

    The land that is now Heritage was once home to the Wampanoag Tribe, and some of their artifacts are available to see in the museum galleries. Over hundreds of years, the land changed hands between the Wing family (some of whose farm still stands), sculptor Frank Edwin Elwell, cranberry farmer John Josiah Crane, and textile manufacturer Charles Owen Dexter.

    The founders of the Heritage Museums and Gardens — Mr. and Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly III — didn’t take ownership of the property until 1967. They had started collecting antique vehicles in 1964 and inherited art and military collections from Mr. Lilly’s father. That’s when they decided to open their own museum.

    Building the museums and renovating the gardens quickly proceeded after they purchased the land. At the time, it was named the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, and it opened in 1969. The couple began adding more facilities soon after, opening the Arts and Crafts Museum in 1972 with a working 1908 carousel as a centerpiece.

    For more than 50 years, Heritage has continued evolving with new exhibits and garden features, celebrating the culture and landscapes of Cape Cod and connecting the community with the environment.

    heritage museums and gardens
    Heritage Museums | photo courtesy of @victorialaur

    Heritage Museums & Gardens Exhibits

    The three gallery buildings at the Heritage Museums & Gardens feature permanent and temporary exhibits. The 18,000 items commemorate the culture, lives, and work of Southeastern New England people — with special attention on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

    NOTE: Only a limited selection of the automobiles, art, and artifacts are on display at a time.

    Automobile Gallery

    In the Automobile Gallery, you can see the story of the American automobile with a collection of 21 world-class vehicles. From the 1899 Winto to the 1932 Auburn Boattail Speedster to the 1965 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, this exhibit is so interesting to see — especially if you’re an automobile enthusiast.

    American Art & Carousel Gallery

    In the American Art & Carousel Gallery, you get to explore American folk paintings and sculptures, fine art, Native American artifacts, and militaria. Some highlights include works by master bird carver Elmer Crowell, marine painter Frank Vining Smith, and whimsical folk artist Martha Cahoon.

    1908 Looff Carousel

    One of the most popular parts of the American Art & Carousel Gallery is the working vintage carousel. The hand-carved carousel was completed by Charles I.D. Looff in 1908 (the oldest horses were carved in the 1880s) and has been thrilling riders ever since. For more than 50 years, it has been part of Heritage.

    FACT: Looff built his first carousel in 1876, and it was the first ride at Coney Island in New York. The talented woodcarver built about 40 carousels between 1876 and 1916, and only about 10 are still operating.

    Special Exhibitions Gallery

    In the Special Exhibitions Gallery, you’ll see temporary exhibits of all kinds. For example, a popular returning exhibit is Creating Cape Cod — the story of how the Cape transformed from a “Yankee backwater” (as naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau described) to a vacation destination that captivates more than 5 million people per year.

    walking path at Heritage Musuems & Gardens in Sandwich MA

    Gardens & Trails at the Heritage Museums & Gardens

    Surrounding the galleries, the 65 acres of developed gardens are what make the Heritage Museums and Gardens so beautiful. Each garden features certain flowers, shrubs, and trees, as well as various structures. In addition, you can explore bee hotels and nature trails.

    TRAVEL TIP: The best time to visit Heritage to observe the flowers is from May to October. To see the Gardens Aglow with holiday lights, visit during November.

    Parking Garden

    The Parking Garden is a stunning mosaic of color and texture that you can enjoy all summer season. The main entrance features American elms, and the catmint and Russian sage remain aromatic all year.

    McGraw Family Garden of the Senses

    Designed to appeal to the senses, the McGraw Family Garden of the Senses is 2 acres. It has a range of elements — a boardwalk, meadows, stone walls, and water features — not to mention more than 25,000 plants.

    Part of the area is the Windmill Garden — an English herbaceous perennial-style garden with four microclimates — and the Garden of Hope — a colorful garden with fascinating shaped plants.

    Dexter Rhododendron Garden

    You’ll find about 160 named varieties of rhododendrons in this garden, and there are thousands more unnamed varieties. The colors range from purple to red to white to yellow.

    Flume & Donald Marvin Daylily Garden

    You can observe hundreds of daylily varieties in this garden, but the biggest attraction is the flume fountain. The fountain is 26 feet tall and 208 feet wide, and the pool below is filled with waterlilies, dragonflies, frogs, and turtles. It’s a very tranquil place to experience.

    Also in the Daylily Garden is a sundial (armillary sphere) — a functional work of art made by James Moss in 1981 for Heritage. It’s 40 inches in diameter and weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

    Cape Cod Hydrangea Display & Test Gardens

    The hydrangea gardens here are really something else. The Cape Cod Hydrangea Display Garden showcases about 155 cultivars and varieties of hydrangeas, so you’ll see thousands of plants. The North American Hydrangea Test Garden is where experts plant, grow, and study new hybrid varieties.

    TRAVEL TIP: If you plan your visit for early July, you can attend the Hydrangea Festival, which celebrates the plant that embellishes Cape Cod through September.

    McInnes Garden

    Behind the Special Exhibition Gallery, the McInnes Garden was gifted to Heritage in 2010 by the McInnes family. This round garden gets a new theme every year, so you get to see something new every time you visit.

    Herb Garden

    Designed as an 18th-century herb garden, this beautiful spot features functional plants for culinary, household, and medicinal use. A millstone water feature surrounded by Gallic roses is at the center of the garden. And, adjacent to the Herb Garden are a Cottage Garden and a Vegetable Garden, continuing the functional theme.

    Bee Hotels

    To aid pollination throughout the gardens at Heritage, bee hotels have been constructed in the Arbor Bowl. While bee hives are homes for bee colonies, bee hotels attract solitary bees. They’re made of materials from the grounds — bamboo, hydrangea sticks, and Japanese knotweed stems.

    Nature Trails

    As you walk through the galleries and gardens, you see meandering trails that stray from the main path. In fact, 7 miles of nature trails wind through the grounds under oak and pine trees, past the Concrete Distinction sculpture exhibit, and along Shawme Lake.

    Hidden Hollow

    While walking along the lake trail, you may come to the Hidden Hollow, a discovery and learning center for kids ages 2 to 10. It’s located in a 2-acre dry kettle hole and features a variety of play areas — move, splash, create, build, and perform — and has a new theme every month. The biggest feature here, though, is the Treehouse designed by master treehouse builder Pete Nelson.

    Heritage Musuems & Gardens in Sandwich MA

    Heritage Museums and Gardens Visitor Tips

    Not all surprises are good when you’re traveling and visiting new places. To help you avoid unwanted surprises, here are some more details and tips for visiting the Heritage Museums & Gardens.

    Tickets & Admission

    You could wait to purchase tickets for admission to Heritage when you arrive. Or, you could purchase tickets ahead of time online. Discounted tickets are available for special events, programs, and organizations.

    In any case, the tickets are date-specific and non-refundable. With that in mind, Heritage is open from late April to late December rain or shine — except during severe weather.

    Visitor Accessibility

    For visitors with mobility issues, handicapped parking spaces are reserved in the parking lots, and the main path around the museums and gardens is paved. The other shell and wood-chipped trails throughout the property may be manageable for guests in wheelchairs who have able-bodied assistance.

    Also, complimentary transport is available at seven fixed locations around the grounds. And, the cafe, museum buildings, and restrooms are accessible for wheelchairs. On top of that, Heritage welcomes service animals who are legally registered.

    Food, Drink, & Shop

    You’re sure to get hungry while exploring the museums and gardens, and Lilly’s Cafe is the ideal stop. The menu features panini, sandwiches, soups, salads, and sweet snacks. You can even order beer, wine, and cocktails.

    If you prefer to eat in nature, picnic tables are available, or you can have your snack or lunch on the lawn. You can bring your own food but not your own alcohol.

    And before you leave, you have to stop by The Shop at Heritage. It’s full of unique creations made by local artists and themed items to commemorate your visit.

    What to Bring & Not to Bring

    We recommend that you wear the right clothes and comfortable shoes for your visit — check the weather beforehand and bring a jacket just in case. If it’s going to be super sunny, don’t forget to apply sunscreen.

    Aside from not being able to bring your own alcohol, you can’t bring non-registered service animals, bikes, roller skates, and skateboards. You can’t smoke on the premises either — not even e-cigarettes.

    Personal & Portrait Photography

    You are welcome to capture photos of your time at Heritage — what would make a better memento? Additionally, Heritage is happy to arrange a portrait photo session with a two-week notice.

    outdoor patio seating area

    Stay in Historic Rooms at the Candleberry Inn

    Like the Heritage Museums & Gardens, Candleberry Inn has a rich history that’s worth experiencing during your getaway on Cape Cod. Our former home to artists, authors, and sea captains is conveniently located alongside scenic Route 6A in Brewster Massachusetts.

    Renovated with amazing attention to detail, our nine rooms and suites offer an elegant respite, and we have been voted the #1 Bed & Breakfast in the country by Tripadvisor. And before you head out for a Cape Cod adventure, we make a complimentary breakfast fresh every morning with locally sourced ingredients.

    Look at our available rooms when you start planning your Cape Cod vacation!

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