The Great Gnome Hunt - Paine Art Center and Gardens

The Great Gnome Hunt

May 26, 2020 to October 25, 2020

Family Activity

While we humans were away, apparently a band of gnomes settled into the Paine estate. We’re not sure if they’re visiting for a brief sojourn or an extended stay, but one thing is certain – these little bearded men with pointy red hats have been seen everywhere at the Paine. Returning staff have spotted more than 100 of these curious little men in every nook and cranny of the Paine mansion and gardens.  

Gnomes are especially attracted to oak trees, and they are skilled woodworkers. This may explain their fondness for the Paine, which features several Burr Oak trees outdoors and elaborate oak woodcarvings indoors.  

Gnomes also enjoy caring for gardens and new plants, and they are dear friends of woodland creatures, including squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks. They are good stewards of nature overalland their presence at the Paine is an encouraging sign.  

Gnomes are mostly nocturnal creatures. During the day, when they are frightened by the presence of humans, they freeze in place thinking they can’t be seen, much like rabbits. Meanwhile, the sheer number of them seems to increase by the day. Or perhaps, they just keep moving about the grounds. It’s hard to say. You'll have to come and help us find out by going on a gnome hunt yourself!

Garden gnome near a tree
Garden gnome in a bookcase
Gnome in a garden

Go on a Gnome Hunt  

Families are invited to visit the Paine and help us to monitor the whereabouts of this curious band of gnomes. The gnomes can be seen any time you visit the Paine mansion and gardens.

The Paine estate is open to the public by reservation only, and admission is currently 50% off.

Make Reservation

What can I expect during my visit?

We invite you to stop by the reception desk in the Paine mansion when you arrive to check-in for your reservation. There you will receive a Spotter’s Field Guide with the last-known locations of gnomes in the Paine gardens and mansion.  

Keep a safe physical distance of six feet or more from all gnomes, as well as other humans who are not a part of your group.

Wear a mask inside (masks are not required outside) and sanitize your hands before touching railings and door handles. 

Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find every gnome in each setting. After all, they do scamper around and are trying to hide from you! 


Things to do during your visit

In addition to exploring the Paine gardens and mansion for gnomes, we invite you to visit the Studio space in the Paine mansion where you can find take-home coloring pages and crossword puzzles.  
You can also make your own origami hat to wear on your gnome hunt. If one dons a gnome hatcan he or she find more gnomes? We invite you to share your findings with us! 

You can also enjoy the many features of the Paine, including beautiful rooms, furniture, paintings, and sculptures indoors, and flourishing plants, nature's creatures, and striking sculptures outdoors.

When you visit, you'll be given a new illustrated guide map of the mansion and gardens, which features pictures of many of the Paine's most amazing elements.


Facts About Gnomes

Gnomes have an incredible lifespan of 400 years. The gnomes at the Paine are thought to be between 200 and 300 years old because their beards are not yet entirely white. 
Gnomes wear red hats so birds of prey don’t mistake them for mice. Their hats are pointy to protect them from falling acorns and other nuts.  
Gnomes can run faster, can jump higher, and are seven times stronger than humans, relative to size that is. 


Important Gnome-Spotting Tips 

Do not try and touch the gnomes. They may bite! We’re not sure if it’s something they normally do, but we know they prefer to be left alone. 

Do not cross over the ropes in the rooms of the mansion. The gnomes may get scared if you do and scurry away! They can disappear in the blink of an eye.

Stay on pathways and lawns in the gardens. The gnomes love nature and may get angry if you step on any plants! 


Share Your Gnome Findings Online! 

Little is known about these lives of these mysterious little men. Gnomes are believed to have occupied Northeastern Wisconsin for about 150 years, perhaps arriving as stowaways with European immigrants. This means the gnomes at the Paine were likely all born abroad and that there are gnomes living across the Fox Valley 
We invite you to share your gnome sightings, insight and research with us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy searching! 


10:00 AM–4:00 PM

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The Paine requests that all visitors wear face masks when touring inside the mansion.