Step into Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens and experience an oasis of flora for all seasons. This noted botanical garden of over 1,000 acres is open year round and located in charming Kennett Square, in the picturesque Brandywine Valley, about one hour west of Philadelphia. The Gardens opened in 1921 under the auspices of businessman and philanthropist, Pierre S. duPont, who originally purchased the land in 1906.
My trips to Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine Valley have taken me there both in summer and during the holidays. Each time, the Gardens’ seasonal displays have been amazing sights to behold. And don’t forget those fabulous fountains! (More about those in a minute.)
Longwood Gardens offers visitors of all ages a chance to enjoy everything from rapturous fountain displays, its lush plant and flora exhibits, lectures and tours, to music performances. And let’s not forget that must-do (written with a wink!) to cap it all off — shopping. The Gardens’ shop satisfies that activity quite well, trust me. I developed a newfound appreciation from each of my visits to just how captivating nature can be. The Gardens provide accessibility options for guests in need, as well as mobility provisions to help make the visit to Kennett Square enjoyable for all.
These water wonders, signature Gardens attractions, are truly mesmerizing in action. Each time I have witnessed their synchronized water dances in the air, it is a transfixing moment. There are various fountain displays open at certain times of the year. The Main Fountain Garden is open from May through October. Its daily performances offer visitors a brief, narrated background on this attraction as well as a musical accompaniment to its ensuing “aqua ballet.” This marriage of music and movement blends effortlessly. The Main Fountain Garden’s Illuminated Fountain Performances are veritable nighttime experiences to behold. The fountains are lit in a stunning array of colors, set to different themes of music.
There are the Open Air Theatre Fountains; The Italian Water Garden; and, a spectacular summer-to-fall staple, the Fireworks, and Fountains shows. Those performances, set to different styles of music, seamlessly blend the fountains’ water choreography with a dazzling fireworks display.
Seasonal Exhibits And More Surprises
Many of Longwood Gardens exhibits correspond with the seasons, with a multitude of displays spanning the plant world. Be one with nature in a peaceful garden, or even explore a treehouse (or all three) for a change of pace. There’s more, of course, so here are some highlights that make for good starting points.
One of my favorites during a summer visit is the Waterlily Display. These vibrantly hued, and, at times unusual, plants hail from across the globe and are true floral gems to behold.
The Meadow Garden
The Meadow Garden is an ideal spot for a stroll among wildflowers and other exhibits along the way. There are walking trails and bridges that allow visitors to get close up to the plants, trees, and natural surroundings that comprise the Brandywine Valley. I enjoyed getting in a bit of walking exercise while taking in what this expansive outdoor space offered. There is also the historic, circa 1700’s Webb Farmhouse on this property which houses two galleries and provides background on the history of the land. There is also an accessible meadow path for those with mobility needs to enjoy the Meadow’s wonders. Those wishing to indulge in a bit of whimsy near this garden can visit three unique treehouses. They are all fun to explore; however, Canopy Cathedral was my favorite: a two-story arboreal abode in the style of a Norwegian church. Lookout Loft is wheelchair accessible and evokes a bucolic atmosphere. The towering Birdhouse affords visitors an ideal, high observation point to take in the natural scenery below.
Admire Autumn’s Colors
A Longwood Christmas
It was a true holiday treat for me to experience this exhibit during a day trip with friends during our college mini-reunion. The festive and beautiful decor is truly a sensory delight. Christmas trees, bathed in an array of colorful lights, wreaths, and traditional poinsettias add special touches and are but a few delights of what’s to see. I gave my phone a workout with all of the photo opportunities presented during this magnificent seasonal presentation. What would Christmas be without a holiday fountain extravaganza, complete with merry music and the display awash in holiday hues. A highlight I found particularly special was the group sing-a-long of traditional Yuletide tunes complete with organ accompaniment and music sheets provided for guests. A Longwood Christmas is a lively and merrymaking activity for all ages.
Beer Garden Music
Music provides a nice complement to a gardens visit, and Live Music in the Beer Garden showcases performances running the gamut of musical styles. Enjoy blues, Caribbean steel pan music, acoustic performances, and more while sampling the garden’s culinary fare of pizza or barbecue offerings. Take your pick of craft beers and a variety of beverages, as well.
The Garden Shop
The gardens’ very own shop, with a wide selection of merchandise featuring botanical and homespun themes, offers visitors the opportunity to just browse or purchase meaningful mementos of a visit. The shop features goods made by local artisans, such as soaps and artwork, to name a few. I am partial to wearing floral scents, so the gardens’ very own fragrance, evoking its many aromatic blooms, was the perfect parting purchase. Every time I wear it I am reminded of my memorable visits. Of course, being a magnet collector, I could not leave without one more buy. Now adorning the fridge is one that displays the magnificent Main Fountain.
Restaurants At Longwood Gardens
Visitors can choose from the gardens’ more formal to casual dining options, and even enjoy a picnic on its grounds for a back-to-nature dining experience.
1906’s name is a tribute to the year of duPont’s purchase of the land on which the gardens stand. This restaurant offers lunch and dinner, and each sitting features an innovative and unique menu that is divided into Past, Present, and Future. The Past’s menu hosts classic dishes, as well as ones curated from duPont family recipes. Present offers locally sourced ingredients, and ones from the gardens themselves, with items that are in season. Future blends vegetables, seafood, and other seasonal flavors for delectable offerings.
The Café was an inviting place to grab a bite on my visits. It features everything from its signature mushroom soup (to which I give a hearty thumbs up), to sandwiches, entrées, sides, and desserts. The Café delivers good food in an informal atmosphere.
The Beer Garden, open weather permitting and at certain times, offers choices of pizza, barbeque sandwiches, snacks, wine, and other beverages. Of course, what would a beer garden be without its namesake, a fine selection of craft beers to enjoy.
Break out the picnic basket on one of many tables in the gardens’ picnic area and fire up one of its grills for your own outdoor dining experience amid the surrounding natural beauty.
Hotels Near Longwood Gardens
There is a wide choice of lodgings to pick from that are convenient to Longwood Gardens: from hotels, intimate bed and breakfasts, and inns. Here are several:
Inn At Whitewing Farm
This family-owned, historic, and charming bed and breakfast is a handy hop and a skip drive from the Gardens right on an adjacent property. The inn boasts a pool, fishing pond, and tennis courts. It offers guests two accessible rooms.
Hilton Garden Inn Kennett Square
The Hilton Garden Inn Kennett Square is a five-minute drive from Longwood Gardens, and the hotel is close to other attractions in the Brandywine Valley. Its website details accessibility options for those in need.
Nina Kelly, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, offered these helpful tips for travelers to Kennett Square.
“The region is known as the Mushroom Capital as over 60 percent of the nation’s crop hails from the area,” Kelly wrote. “Every September the town hosts a Mushroom Festival.”
She also mentioned Kennett Square’s annual brew fest.
Longwood Gardens and Kennett Square are ideal places for an eventful visit to enjoy everything from the gardens’ natural beauty and lush exhibits, to the town’s unique charm and wide choice of activities. Read more about things to do in Kennett Square in our article here.
There are many destinations that feature beautiful gardens and landscaping: