Lifestyle

#TryThis: “Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks” at The North Carolina Arboretum

Peacock sculpture made from LEGO bricks
Peacock by Sean Kenney (made from 68,827 LEGO Bricks)

Art, nature + LEGOS? The North Carolina Arboretum’s exhibit Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks exhibit checks all three boxes. Ali here, and I recently took off early to visit this remarkable installation, which features 16 larger-than-life sculptures created entirely out of LEGO Bricks by artist Sean Kenney. Follow me into the Arboretum’s gardens to find out how you can #TryThis.  

Experience: 

“Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks” at The North Carolina Arboretum

What we tried (with pricing): 

We chose a beautiful late summer day to head to the Arboretum, but don’t worry – the exhibit runs through Nov. 1, so you have plenty of time to check it out as the seasons shift. 

The self-guided tour meanders through the gardens, which begin outside of the Baker Exhibit Center. A map outside of the Exhibit Center details the location of each sculpture in the gardens. (Protip: Exploring the gardens is like a treasure hunt, so take a photo of this map to refer back to  – it’ll help you find all the sculptures.)

Butterfly sculpture made from LEGO bricks
Monarch on Milkweed by Sean Kenney (made from 29,708 LEGO Bricks)

Sculptures represent wonders of our natural world, including animals and insects, as well of examples of environmental stewardship. Be sure to check out the informational signs beside each one to find out more about what’s represented, as well as how many LEGO Bricks went into its creation. DYK? Kenney used almost 500,000 LEGO Bricks to create all the pieces.

The exhibit is free and no reservations are required – you’ll just pay the parking fee ($16 per personal vehicle) at the gatehouse. Bonus: Members park for free.

Don’t miss:

Make sure you have plenty of time to wander the gardens and linger at particular sculptures or landscape features that catch your eye. Since the Arboretum was inspired by landscape architecture giant Frederick Law Olmsted, there’s plenty to see (and hear – like burbling fountains and meditation bells + gongs that you’ll be listening to before you find). 

Wheelbarrow sculpture made from LEGO bricks
Wheelbarrow by Sean Kenney (made from 29,900 LEGO Bricks)

While we hate to play favorites, the stunning peacock (68,827 LEGO Bricks) + flashy hummingbird (61,107 LEGO Bricks) that await visitors outside of the Education Center were my personal top picks. A close second? The Galápagos Tortoise (topped by a Darwin Finch) that watches over a koi-filled pond deeper in the gardens, and the red wheelbarrow tucked amidst a flower patch just behind the Exhibit Center.  

If you’re visiting before 5 p.m., be sure to take the long way through the Bonsai Exhibition Garden. You’ll spy a LEGO family of deer on your way out

What we’re still talking about: 

I don’t know about y’all, but I was very into The Secret Garden as a kid, and this entire experience puts me back into that imaginative space. Taking two hours to wander and explore the gardens is even better when there might be a giant LEGO dragonfly around the next corner.  

Dragonfly sculpture made from LEGO bricks
Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly by Sean Kenney (made from 27,788 LEGO Bricks)

How you can experience this: 

Visit Nature Connects anytime the Arboretum is open (daily from 8 a.m.-7 p.m.). If you want to check out the Baker Exhibit Center and Bonsai Exhibition, make sure you arrive before 5 p.m. 

The Arboretum has safety measures in place for COVID-19. While masks aren’t required in outdoor spaces, they must be worn inside or when social distancing is not possible. Signs around the gardens remind guests of these + other safety precautions.  

More of a night owl? Don’t miss ArborEvenings, the Arboretum’s illuminated, after-hours garden experience. Take in Nature Connects under the moonlight as you listen to the sounds of live music performed by local + regional artists. The final ArborEvenings of the season take place this weekend (Sept. 24-26) from 6-11 p.m. Admission to ArborEvenings is $5.  

Things to know if you go: