Friday, July 12, 2013

Light Up the Night at Cheekwood Botanical Garden

Bruce Munro's Field of Light at Cheekwood Botanic Garden
Garden aficionados may go out of their way to visit a garden they've never seen before.  After the first visit, it often takes a special event to coax visitors into returning.  Nashville's Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum cooks up something special every year, from Chihuly Nights to Big Bugs.  When I heard about this year's Bruce Munro LIGHT, that piqued my interest enough to spur a drive across the state and revisit this fabulous garden.

Munro's dazzling displays feature fiber optic light as art.  The outdoor section of the exhibit has seven arrangements, including firefly-like lights throughout the bamboo grove in the Japanese garden, 40 water towers near the Botanic Hall that collectively contain over 10,000 recycled water bottles, and a massive field of light that fills the open space between the East Gardens and the Museum of Art with 20,000 glass spheres.  Wow.

These towers are made of recycled water bottles.
Each bottle contains thread for fiber optic lights.
Bruce also created several pieces that are showcased within the Museum of Art.  Keep your eyes peeled for my favorite from the indoor collection -- the interactive piece "Pop Princess."  I would have missed it completely if a kindly security guard in the adjacent stairwell had not walked me through it.

Garden hours were extended until 11:00 p.m. for optimum viewing experience.  During my visit mid-July, the show started just after 8:00.  If you're not much of a night owl, consider visiting later in the year when the days are longer.  Plan to visit before the exhibit closes November 10th.

Music lovers will especially enjoy the lights during "First Tennessee Fridays".  Live music will be scattered at several locations around the garden.  However, first fridays do get very crowded.  If you'd prefer to avoid large crowds, the exhibit is less busy on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Crawling Lady Hare" in Cheekwood's
Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail
That said, you don't need a special event to visit Cheekwood.  The phenomenal gardens are brimming with life and color year round, and there's always something to see in the Museum of Art or Frist Learning Center and Contemporary Art Galleries.  I especially enjoyed walking through the Burr Terrace Garden.  The use of layering with contrasting colors, textures and shapes was really refreshing. If you're up for a hike, the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail is full of art and wildlife.  In addition to exploring some pretty interesting displays, I crossed paths with a rabbit, turtle, two wood chucks and two deer.

Cheekwood also has plenty to keep young visitors entertained.  From the Walden Treehouse to the Trains! model train exhibit featuring Thomas the Tank Engine and friends, there is lots for the wee ones to do outdoors.  The Frist Learning Center often includes interactive art opportunities for visitors, and offers classes and camps to engage youth in the pursuit of art.

It would be remiss if I did not mention the fabulous Pineapple Room restaurant.  The Pineapple Room isn't your run of the mill garden restaurant aimed at satisfying visitor's appetites.  Many folks visit Cheekwood primarily to taste the garden gourmet.  You'll want to call ahead to make reservations to be sure you don't miss out.

Other important considerations when planning your visit:

  • Hours of operation:
    • Normally, Tuesday - Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • For the lights until November 10, Wednesday - Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
    • Closed Mondays except Memorial Day and Labor Day.
    • Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
  • Admission:
    Not all areas of the garden are wheelchair
    accessible.  Check the accessibility map for
    more information to help you plan your visit
    • Adults: $12
    • Seniors: $10
    • College Students (with ID) and Youth: $5
    • Children under 2: Free
    • Military personnel save 50% with a current ID.
    • Bruce Munro LIGHT Nights: An additional $3 after 4:30 p.m.
  • Parking: $3
  • Accessibility:
    • As a historic site, many of the garden paths are not easily accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers.  However, there are very accessible and easy to navigate paths throughout many areas where visitors can experience the most of the garden.  An accessibility map is available to help you plan your visit.
    • Shuttle transportation is available on request at any Cheekwood building.
  • Pets: Restricted to service animals only.
  • Cheekwood's "Helpful Hints" for visitors for available to review.
Special thanks to my cohort Chris for keeping me company at the light show and putting up with my incessant photography.

To see more photos of my visit to the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum, check out my flickr set.

If you have any questions, ideas or suggestions, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

When is the last time that you visited a botanical garden?  What was your favorite feature?

When is the last time you visited the Cheekwood Botanical Garden?  How was your experience?

20,000 glass spheres light a dazzling display the field between Cheekwood's East Gardens and Museum of Art
Cheekwood's perennial garden is especially stunning at sunset.
I explore Cheekwood before Bruce Munro's LIGHT exhibit

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