Museum Adventures: deCordova Sculpture Park

This 30 acre park is filled with thoughtful and creative sculptures that will engage your family

By Cheryl Regal, Contributing Writer January 1, 2023

Before kids, I used to travel and go places just to read, to write, or to get inspiration for my creative energies. I had been to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum at least twice during those 20-something, pre-children days. I remember finding solace there with my sketch pad in hand; gaining inspiration from the quiet and peaceful outdoor setting. I had no idea what a trip there with children would be like and although I was excited to return to this part of myself I had long abandoned, I was also somewhat apprehensive about bringing two very active children to this serene place.

When we first got there, we headed for the restrooms and the cafe that I knew was on site, figuring I could better tackle this day with a coffee in hand. As soon as I went up to the counter, the barista led my attention to a children’s area with blocks, drawing activities, and other kid friendly items that my children could play with while I fixed my coffee. She also told me that I could get a Family Activity Kit from their main building and kindly directed my attention there. I’m pretty certain she could feel the palpable energy coming off of my children right from the start. After a few moments of creating in the kids area, I grabbed a lid for my coffee and we headed outside.

Soon enough my children were busy exploring, creating, running, and discovering all 60 of the sculptures throughout the beautifully maintained 30-acre outdoor park. While many of the artworks state that there is no touching or climbing on the structures, there were walkways to skip across, grass fields to run in, and areas that welcomed children to play and explore scattered throughout. 

“The Musical Fence,” where children can grab sticks and run up and down the aluminum pipes to hear their own musical creations was a favorite for my 5 year-old girl. 

Not far from there was the “City Lights Orchestra” - another sculpture that invited its guests to pick up drumsticks and play music from a variety of discarded street lamps. Both of these were near another favorite sculpture entitled “Two Big Black Hearts.” 

Although I had questioned why there were tools and faces held within the hearts, as well as some other interesting items, the Family Kit told us that these were all items that the artist loved and held dear to him. While I thought at first that some of these things were a bit ominous, my daughter loved looking at the faces of people this artist loved and seemed to see it as a wonderful token of appreciation for those who became part of the artwork.

Throughout the park, I often asked my children what they saw in the various sculptures. Approaching one sculpture made out of cor-ten steel, my daughter volunteered that she thought it looked like a giant donut. I chuckled, as this is often where her mind goes, but was surprised when we approached to find that its name was “Donut with 3 Balls.” Her simple interpretation was so natural and accurate, leading this to be one of her other favorite pieces that she enjoyed looking at from all different angles.

While there were sculptures that massively stood out in their form or size, there were others that were nearly hidden and that my children enjoyed finding. There were pathways that led to nearly secret places for which to explore and from within our Family Activity Kit there was an Eye Spy booklet that encouraged them to search for particular art pieces. Various information and questions were on these cards as well to encourage them to think more intimately about what they were experiencing. What did a particular sculpture look like to them? What would they name it? What piece of one tall sculpture resembling a building did they think held the most weight? Why did another sculpture resembling a ball not roll away?

Within this kit there was also plenty of paper and pencils (along with the ever important clipboard) to invite children to sketch or write about their observations. My son wanted to stop at various places along the way to sketch his favorite sculptures. 

“Rain Gates” was perhaps the favorite for all of us. An installation made primarily from granite and natural landscaping materials, this sculpture had both of my children creating sketches, my son taking photographs, and me finding a time to quietly reflect on this amazing experience we were having and to get back to that 20-something year old woman who used to be able to do these things much more often. 

Built into the side of a hill leading up to the main building, which closely resembles a princess’s castle, “Rain Gates” was a quiet haven of sculptures where water gently came down into a meandering stream and pool of water. With a granite “portal” to enter through, rocks to climb over, places to sit, and different shapes and creations to explore, it seemed to calm even the most heightened of energies.

Our last stop before leaving was in a wooded area that appeared nearly hidden, even though its location was fairly centralized within the park. Within a canopy of trees there was an area that the Lincoln Nursery School had created for others to interact with and create their own natural art. Much like a fairy garden in the woods, there were pieces of cut tree limbs, parts of acorns and tree bark, along with other natural elements that soon became a kitchen, a bedroom, and a complete home to my children’s stick figures. 

After four hours, my daughter still did not want to leave as this place engaged her in such a beautiful way. After her mind had been filled with the all of the inspiration around her, now was her time to create and imagine in a more hands-on way.

Overall, I was amazed and humbled by how my children reacted and engaged themselves at deCordova. While I had been talking to them about perspectives throughout our experience there, getting them to look at various forms from different angles and sides and heights, I have to step back and say that my own perspective of this sculpture park was greatly transformed. Seeing their interpretations of the art and watching how they experienced these 30 acres of wonder was an even greater experience than what I remember from going there by myself nearly 15 years prior. My son has quickly named it one of his favorite places to visit and while I had only anticipated us spending the morning there, I was thankful that I had packed enough food for us to eat and had enough time for us to spend a very unexpected, but wonderful, chunk of our day.

In terms of the details, deCordova is open 10 am to 5 pm every day during the summer.  From mid-October to mid-May, it's open 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm on the weekends, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Adult admission is $14 and children 12 and under are free but you may be able to obtain highly discounted passes through your public library. There was ample parking and although there were a number of cars in the lot, the park uses every bit of its 30 acres, which allowed us to feel as though we were often wandering through on our own solo adventure.  Additionally, there is an indoor area to explore as well, with a “lab” on the 4th floor that allows children to create from tangrams and some basic building supplies. It was a nice place to decompress before we left, although my children also enjoyed going up to the sixth floor rooftop terrace and taking in all that we had just experienced.  

deCordova offers a number of family activities, including Artfull Play for children age 2-5 (September to June), Artfull Explorations for children age 5-12 (monthly from September to June), Play in the Park during the summer, vacation week programs and the hive summer camp program.

I received free admission to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own, however, and no other compensation was received from deCordova.

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Rd
Lincoln MA 01773






Cheryl Regal is a mother of two highly active, nature loving children (ages 7 and 5) and a part-time mental health counselor in NH. When she is not working, she loves to run, hike, and explore. Cheryl also has a degree in English and spends a great deal of time at the local library and bookstores.

All images credit Cheryl Regal

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