The Rhododendron Festival at Heritage Museums and Gardens: A Blossoming Experience!


Now that we are in the middle of May we thought this would be the perfect read about this beautiful festival. Nestled in the picturesque town of Sandwich, Massachusetts, the Heritage Museums and Gardens is a serene escape offering a blend of horticultural splendor and cultural enrichment. Among its annual events, the Rhododendron Festival stands out as a highlight, captivating visitors with vibrant displays and educational experiences. This festival, held from May 17th to May 27th, is a must-see for garden enthusiasts, families, and anyone looking to indulge in the beauty of nature.

A Brief History of the Rhododendron Festival

The Rhododendron Festival at Heritage Museums and Gardens has become a beloved tradition, celebrating the peak bloom period of these stunning flowers. Established in the early 2000s, the festival was created to showcase the extensive collection of rhododendrons cultivated by the garden’s horticulturists. Over the years, it has grown to include a variety of activities and displays, drawing thousands of visitors annually.

What to Expect at the Rhododendron Festival

A Floral Wonderland

Visitors to the Rhododendron Festival can expect to be immersed in a sea of color and fragrance. The gardens feature over 100 varieties of rhododendrons, ranging from the common to the rare. Highlights include:

  • Rhododendron catawbiense: Known for its large, showy lavender flowers.
  • Rhododendron maximum: The great laurel with its beautiful white to pale pink blooms.
  • Rhododendron yakushimanum: Distinguished by its compact shape and pink flowers that fade to white.
  • Rhododendron ‘Nova Zembla’: Bright red flowers that make a striking display.
  • Rhododendron ‘Roseum Elegans’: Popular for its rosy lavender flowers.

In addition to rhododendrons, visitors will also see a variety of other floral species in bloom, enhancing the garden’s diversity and beauty:

  • Azaleas: Closely related to rhododendrons, these flowers add to the vibrant display with their own array of colors.
  • Tulips: Late-blooming varieties that add splashes of color throughout the garden.
  • Lilacs: Known for their intoxicating fragrance and delicate blooms.
  • Magnolias: With their large, striking flowers, magnolias provide an early summer spectacle.

Activities and Events

The Rhododendron Festival offers more than just floral displays. Visitors can participate in a range of activities designed to educate and entertain:

  • Guided Garden Tours: Led by knowledgeable horticulturists, these tours provide insight into the different species of rhododendrons and the care that goes into maintaining them.
  • Workshops and Demonstrations: Learn about gardening techniques, floral arranging, and the history of rhododendrons in these interactive sessions.
  • Photography Walks: Perfect for photography enthusiasts, these walks offer tips on capturing the beauty of the gardens.
  • Children’s Activities: Fun and educational activities tailored for younger visitors, including scavenger hunts and craft projects.

Exploring Heritage Museums and Gardens

The Rhododendron Festival is just one aspect of what Heritage Museums and Gardens has to offer. The site is a treasure trove of natural beauty and cultural artifacts, making it a year-round destination.

The Gardens

Beyond the rhododendrons, the gardens at Heritage Museums and Gardens are a horticultural paradise. Spread across 100 acres, they include:

  • The Dexter Rhododendron Garden: A collection of over 1,000 rhododendrons hybridized by Charles O. Dexter in the early 20th century.
  • The Cape Cod Hydrangea Garden: Showcasing a variety of hydrangeas that thrive in the Cape Cod climate.
  • The McGraw Family Garden of the Senses: Designed to engage all five senses, this garden is particularly accessible for visitors with disabilities.
  • The Hart Family Maze Garden: A fun and challenging maze that delights visitors of all ages.

The Museums

The museums at Heritage offer a glimpse into American history and culture through a variety of exhibits:

  • The J.K. Lilly III Automobile Gallery: Home to a collection of American automobiles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The American History Museum: Featuring artifacts that tell the story of America’s past, from Native American tools to colonial-era objects.
  • The Special Exhibitions Gallery: Hosting rotating exhibits that highlight different aspects of art, culture, and history.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Heritage Museums and Gardens is an ideal destination for families, offering attractions that cater to visitors of all ages:

  • The Hidden Hollow: An outdoor discovery area where children can explore nature through play.
  • The Carousel: A restored 1908 carousel that provides a nostalgic ride for visitors young and old.
  • The Adventure Park: An aerial park that offers ziplining and climbing fun for adventurous guests.

Plan Your Visit



To make the most of your visit to the Rhododendron Festival and Heritage Museums and Gardens, here are a few tips:

Make sure to book your accommodations with us here at the beautiful Old Manse Inn! Our 12 room romantic antique sea captains manor is located within driving distance to the Heritage Museums and Gardens.



  • Buy Tickets in Advance: Tickets can be purchased online per the link following, which is recommended to avoid long lines.


  • Check the Weather: May weather in Massachusetts can be unpredictable, so dress in layers and bring an umbrella if necessary.
  • Bring a Camera: The gardens are a photographer’s dream, so be sure to capture the beauty of the blooms.
  • Pack a Picnic: There are several scenic spots within the gardens where you can enjoy a meal amidst nature. To help prepare your next picnic let us do the leg work and all you have to do is relax and enjoy. Pre-order our Lobster Roll Picnic Package via your next booking and enjoy during your journey through the gardens.





The Rhododendron Festival at Heritage Museums and Gardens offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of rhododendrons in a stunning garden setting. With a range of activities, educational opportunities, and the chance to explore the broader attractions of the museum and gardens, it’s an event not to be missed. If you can’t make this event the Heritage Museums and Gardens is a must see during anytime of the year. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener, a history buff, or a family looking for a fun outing, the Rhododendron Festival has something for everyone.

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