Heritage Museums & Gardens opens for the season on Saturday, April 24, with the extended special exhibit, “Let’s Play! New England Toy Stories” through October 17. What do Monopoly, Erector sets, and cornhusk dolls have in common? They were all produced in New England. This exhibit shares the stories about the people who created these games and toys.

Another exhibit, “From Carriage to Classic: How Automobiles Transformed America” through October 17, presents the origin story of the American automobile through cars from Heritage’s permanent collection. On display for 2021 are 26 automobiles, including the recently acquired 1965 Ford Country Squire station wagon. This exhibit answers questions such as, “What were early automobiles like? How did the car emerge as a transformative cultural force of the 20th century? Why did gasoline become the fuel of choice? What ever happened to steam engines? How did the car change the daily lives of ordinary families?”

This year’s outdoor art exhibit, “Bugs, Birds & Bricks” through October 17, will feature eight custom brick installations made by award-winning professional brick artist Cody Wells. Placed throughout the gardens and grounds, these sculptures of insects and birds found on Cape Cod explore the interconnected relationships between plants and animals.

This season, Heritage will also feature another new outdoor installation: a full-scale reproduction of a wetu, a traditional dwelling used by the Wampanoag Tribe through the late 1600s. The wetu will be made by members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, following centuries-old construction methods. Construction of the wetu begins on or near April 24 and will conclude in early May. Visitors will be invited to explore the wetu and to learn historical and contemporary information about the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from interpretive signage.

As the largest public garden in Southern New England and home of two of the most comprehensive plant collections in the country—rhododendrons and hydrangeas—these woody ornamentals will be in full bloom during the Rhododendron Festival (May 21 to 30) and the Hydrangea Festival (July 9 to 18).

During both festivals, take in Heritage’s iconic blooms of both species along scenic pathways and flower-studded woodland trails, using self-guided tours for either adults or families. Learn more about plants at the Garden Discovery Carts or attend one of the new virtual programs led by director of horticulture Les Lutz.

The Virtual Design Series will focus on designing gardens around rhododendrons, hydrangeas and pollinator-attracting plants (May 21, July 16, and August 20, respectively). The Hydrangea Festival will feature a recent expansion of the North American Hydrangea Test Garden and the kickoff event of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival, Virtual Hydrangea University (July 9), which will feature expert speakers. Plant lovers won’t want to miss the newest horticultural festival at Heritage, the Pollinator Festival (August 13 to 22) which, while highlighting the garden’s hardest-working insects and birds, showcases the plants that attract them.

The Heritage Annual Auto Show (June 12; rain date: June 13) will highlight antique and classic automobiles, hot rods, custom cars and motorcycles in excellent original or restored condition. Throughout the season, Gearhead Garage nights (May 19, June 23, July 21, August 25, September 22, October 13) provide an exclusive peek at Heritage’s automobile collection in storage and give participants the chance to see these cars up close and even running and to chat with curatorial staff and Auto volunteers. Each event features two vehicles that will be driven around the grounds.

Heritage’s focus on family-friendly fun includes Third Thursdays (June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16), with two extra hours to enjoy the gardens, galleries, and more in the beautiful evening light. Make a craft or visit one of the Garden Discovery Carts to learn about the plants and animals that live at Heritage. Each month’s event will feature themed activities.

Fall activities as well as events to close out the season are still being incorporated into the schedule and will be made public later this season.

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