Summer Light: Art by Night – Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina

I recently spent a weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and during that visit, friends in the area invited me to join them for a wonderful event at Brookgreen Gardens, located in nearby Murrell’s Inlet.

Brookgreen Gardens originally consisted of four separate rice plantations during the 1800s. The over-9,000 acre property was purchased by Archer and Anna Huntington in 1930 to create formal gardens and a place to display Anna’s sculptures. Today the property houses sculpture gardens with works by dozens of artists, historical exhibits, nature trails and a zoo. Brookgreen also hosts events throughout the year, and I was fortunate enough to experience their “Summer Light: Art by Night” exhibit, which runs through mid-August.

It’s hard to verbally describe the magic of this exhibit: a case of “you really had to be there” but hopefully the photos I took do it some justice. The gardens themselves seem to go on endlessly, with beautiful displays of flowers and often a backdrop of beautiful Spanish moss-clad oak trees. We arrived an hour or so before sunset and got to see the flowers and sculptures in the late afternoon light and during sunset. But as it got dark, the flowers and sculptures were enhanced by a variety of light installations that changed the mood dramatically.

Perhaps the single most impressive display was along the Avenue of the Oaks, where majestic, centuries-old oak trees, draped with curtains of Spanish moss, were illuminated by lights that changed from pink to blue and green to violet. The effect created the sense of being in a magical, enchanted forest, but without a big bad wolf or wicked witch to spoil the mood. Elsewhere in the gardens, the reflections from hundreds of lanterns transformed fountains and ponds, while the ceiling of one of the buildings was adorned by dozens of glass butterflies. I have been a whole lot of places and seen some amazing things in my travels, and this experience was one of the highlights.

Though my feet were killing me after several hours of wandering the grounds, it was hard to pull myself away from Brookgreen that night. I am so grateful to my friends, Marilyn and Bob, who suggested we attend this event. They tell me that the Night of a Thousand Candles, Brookgreen’s Christmastime event, is not to be missed, so I think I may have to make a return trip to the area over the holidays this year. No matter the time of year, if you find yourself within a day’s drive of Myrtle Beach, I’d encourage you to visit Brookgreen Gardens and experience this amazing place for yourself.

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