If You Like/Need To _____ , Don’t Miss _____ (Hidden Gems at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center)

May 31, 2023 | The Highlights Foundation Experience

Whether it’s your first time here or your tenth, there’s always something new to discover at the Highlights Foundation and the Barn at Boyds Mills.

Here’s a quick guide to some of our favorite campus features, categorized based on what you might want or need while you’re here.

If You Want/Need to Eat, Don’t Miss…

Buffet Line for Dinner

The Dinner “Speech”

After appetizers each evening, one of our chefs drops in to tell us a little bit about the meal we’re going to enjoy (including notes and options for those with dietary restrictions).  You might learn fun facts, like how old the sourdough starter is, or where the greens for the salad came from, or what inspired a dish.  You might chuckle at one of Chef Amanda’s funny lines.  Or, you might learn a little more about the talented and dedicated hospitality team who feeds everyone daily.  Either way, it’s one of our favorite parts of the day!

Chef Amanda Holding Herbs from the Garden

The Herb Garden

If you visit in the Spring, Summer, or early Fall, you might be able to catch a glimpse of our Herb Garden in action.  It’s really fun to see the herbs growing, and then see them as a garnish or seasoning during your next meal.  (The dinner speech normally gives that information!)

Samples from the ice cream freezer

The Ice Cream Freezer

Sometimes, three meals a day is enough.  Sometimes, you need ice cream.

Our self-serve freezer is tucked next to the snack station in the Barn, and both are available 24/7.

Water, iced tea, and other beverages are also stocked and available anytime.

If You Want/Need to Get Immersed in Nature, Don’t Miss…

The Granary exterior

The Hiking Trails

Grab one of our trail maps and a reflective vest if you’d like one, and head out on a walk or hike.  There a plenty of options adjacent to the Retreat Center; just ask if you need directions, information, or a companion!

Finding Treasures in the Creek

The Creekside

Whether your style is “sit by the edge” or “wade right in” (like these happy attendees who came to a Science & Nature workshop), spend time by the creek for a memorable and beautiful experience.  There are some chairs at the edge if you’d like to write, sketch, or sit and take it all in.

lodge porch

The Lodge Porch

Even if you’re not staying in the lodge, you’re welcome to visit it.  Make sure to take some time on the Lodge rocking chairs; they offer an amazing stargazing spot on a clear night, a birdwatching spot on a clear day, or relaxation spot anytime you need it.

If stargazing is your thing, feel free to use the telescope in the lodge living room, donated by faculty Miranda and Baptiste Paul.

If You Want/Need to Find Community, Don’t Miss…

Summer Camp 2016

Making Connections at Our Workshops

We like the way Hallie Bertling describes how she met people during a workshop (Summer Camp):

“Hi! You’re trying to write a book?  Me, too!  And you have a rainbow dinosaur reading a book on your tee-shirt? Yay! We’re best friends now!!”

(No, I didn’t have that exact conversation, but it was that easy to make friends!)

Which, for me, a creative, high-sensitive introvert, it was a HUGE deal to be able to be in my comfort zone even though I was around people for 12+ hours a day.

Cheeses on a board


At our Retreat Center, appetizers aren’t just about the food. 

(Though the appetizers are pretty delicious.)

We love the chats that happen as we begin to close out the day together.  They can range from manuscript breakthroughs, to continued discussion from an earlier session, to shared struggles, to current events, to favorite types of pencils.

People hanging out on the barn patio

The Barn Patio

After dinner when weather permits, you’ll often find people gathering for conversation (and occasionally S’mores) on the Patio. 

Sometimes this is facilitated as part of a workshop; sometimes it happens impromptu.

In either case, some of the best connections are forged here.

If You Want/Need to Focus, Don’t Miss…

The Granary exterior

The Granary

This (usually) quiet spot has work surfaces, comfortable chairs, and space to be by yourself or gather with a small group.  (It’s called The Granary because the building used to be just that: a granary.)

Floyd Cooper at the Art Coop

The Art Coop

We love this photo of the late Floyd Cooper outside The Art Coop.  But it’s not called a Coop because of Cooper’s last name—it actually used to be a chicken coop!  Now you’ll find art supplies, larger work spaces, and lots of natural light for your use.

The Loft

The Loft

Head up the Barn stairs, and you’ll find a workspace hidden in plain sight.  This one can be a little more “noisy” since it’s open to the Barn area below, but it’s a good spot if you’d like to find a comfy chair, or a desk overlooking The Word Garden.  It feels tucked away, but not too isolated.

If You Want/Need to Find Inspiration, Don’t Miss…

Highlights Foundation Zoom Background: Word Garden

The Word Garden

Just outside the Barn lies the Word Garden, a place that sparks creativity and supports our scholarship program at the same time.  Find inspiration by building a poem or phrase to share your story, or donate a word that means something to you or a loved one.

The Word Garden was made possible by Christine and Tom Cully.


The Farmhouse Swing

There are few things that can help us access our inner child more than a swing in a beautiful tree.

Find this swing in front of our farmhouse, toward the road.  It also makes for a great photo opp!

While you’re there, feel free to visit the Farmhouse.  It is the former home of Garry and Caroline Myers, the founders of Highlights for Children.

The Highlights Foundation Library

The Library

Adjacent to the Barn is our Living Room.  Take a few steps further into the Library, where you’ll find books that have been donated by our Community.  Many feature stories and art that were “born” or honed at the Highlights Foundation.

If you’re feeling stuck, take some time to read books by fellow voices; please just return them when you’re finished.

You can also donate a copy of your own book, if you’d like.

(If you want to take something home, find books and gift items for purchase at our Store in the main Barn.)

If You Want/Need to Find Solitude, Don’t Miss…

Empty Table

To-Go Meals

Sometimes eating meals in the company of others is welcome.  Other times, it’s not!

If you ever want to eat by yourself, for whatever reason, feel free to take your meal “to-go.” You can either find a table outside, or go back to your room.

Ask the kitchen staff if you need something.  Otherwise, you can take dishes and utensils as needed, and bring them back when you’re finished.  Let us know if we can help.

Cabin Workspace

Your Own Workspace

Every cabin, lodge room, and farmhouse room has an indvidual workspace for your use while on campus.

While you are always welcome to find a community space or a picnic table, many find the desks and chairs in their own rooms to be a comfortable and private space to focus and work.

Zaynah working at a picnic table

Personal Retreats

To focus, retreat, or get work done on your own, you might consider a personal retreat instead of a traditional workshop.

You won’t have the structure and activities of a workshop, but you will have stretches of uniterrupted time by yourself in a setting where you don’t have to worry about anything (like cooking).

If you’ve never tried one, learn more about personal retreats here.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.