Longwood fountain garden with hedges, fountains and paths

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Visit Amazing Philadelphia Gardens, Longwood, and Winterthur

During summer, I love embarking on a journey across Pennsylvania to visit two of the most magnificent public gardens in the country – Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum & Garden. These two amazing Philadelphia gardens, Longwood and Winterthur, are located in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, only 15 miles apart, making them a great combo to visit together. 

The Philadelphia area is lucky to have a number of amazing public gardens, such as Longwood and Winterthur. These gardens are meticulously maintained, displaying diverse plants and flowers that will leave anyone in awe. The abundance of such gardens is due to the region’s rich history of horticulture and agriculture. It reflects the community’s dedication to preserving natural beauty and green space. These magnificent public gardens remind us of the importance of maintaining our environment and the joy nature can bring to our lives.

A Little History of the Amazing Longwood and Winterthur Gardens

Longwood Gardens is a historic botanical garden located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Industrialist Pierre S du Pont created it in the early 20th century to preserve the Brandywine Valley’s natural beauty. The gardens were opened to the public in 1931 and have since become a popular destination for visitors worldwide. Over the years, Longwood Gardens has expanded to include over 1,000 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, numerous fountains, conservatories, and other attractions. Today, the gardens are a testament to the vision of their founder and a celebration of the beauty of nature.

The founder, Pierre du Pont, was deeply passionate about gardening and spent years cultivating the gardens to perfection. He wanted to share his love of nature with others and create a place where people could escape the stresses of everyday life and immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural world. Inspired by the founder’s love for horticulture and his desire to create a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary, Longwood is now where visitors can connect with nature. Today, Longwood Gardens is a beloved destination for people from all over the world who come to be inspired and rejuvenated by its stunning displays of plants and flowers.

Winterthur Gardens and Museum is a beautiful destination rich in history and culture. Located in Winterthur, Delaware, this stunning estate is home to an impressive collection of art, antiques, and decorative objects that will captivate visitors of all ages.

The estate was originally owned by Henry Francis du Pont, who began collecting American decorative arts in the 1920s. Over the years, he amassed an incredible collection of furniture, ceramics, textiles, and other objects, which he displayed in his home.

In the 1950s, du Pont began to develop the gardens surrounding his estate, drawing inspiration from the formal gardens of Europe. Today, the gardens at Winterthur are considered some of the finest in America, with over 60 acres of rolling hills, woodlands, and meadows.

Visitors to Winterthur can enjoy various activities, including guided tours of the house and gardens, exhibitions of American decorative arts, and educational programs for all ages. Whether you are a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful escape, Winterthur Gardens and Museum is a must-see destination.

Foreground of allium in bloom with a fountain the background at the amazing Philadelphia area garden Longwood.
Blooming Allium Along The Flower Garden Walk At Longwood

Brandywine Valley As a Destination

The Brandywine Valley is a picturesque region in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, known for its rolling hills, scenic countryside, and charming small towns. It has many historic sites, cultural attractions, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The region is also famous for its wineries, gardens, and museums, including the renowned Brandywine River Museum of Art, which houses an extensive collection of American art, including works by the Wyeth family. Interested in exploring history, art, or nature, the Brandywine Valley has something to offer everyone.

This area has several wonderful small towns worth exploring. One of the most popular towns to visit is Chadds Ford. Known for its historic sites, including the Brandywine Battlefield and the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Another town that’s worth checking out is Kennett Square. I visited this town for its beautiful gardens, it is home to Longwood Gardens. Other towns to consider visiting in the Brandywine Valley include West Chester, Downingtown, and Coatesville. Each of these towns has its unique charm and attractions.

Details of a Visit To Longwood Gardens

Longwood deserves a whole day for a proper visit. The amount of land to be covered is massive, and a visit can be quite a workout. It is the perfect place for a nice long walk. Longwood requires a timed entry, so plan ahead and reserve a time. Longwood is closed every Tuesday. Admission tickets cost $25 for adults ($22 if you’re 62+) and $13 for children (under four years old receive free admission). Weekday hours are 10 am – 6 pm; on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the gardens are open from 10 am -10 pm. Be sure to check the hours during the winter months since they may be different. The large parking lot has plenty of room, making visiting it a breeze. 

Longwood Fountains

The Festival of Fountains is a don’t miss event at Longwood during the summer months. Enjoy the thrill of 1,719 jets — spinning and dancing to music and soaring as high as 175 feet. Evening performances include a spectacular light show.

The shows in the main fountain garden run on the following schedule: May 9 through August 30, 2024

  • Mondays, Wednesdays & Sundays at 11:15 am, 3:15 pm, 5:15 pm
  • Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 11:15 am, 3:15 pm, 5:15 pm, 8:15 pm

Throughout the summer, you will also find a list of special events that will make your visits memorable: musical performances, open-air theater, and different behind-the-scenes tours. Check the schedule for performances in the fall, which would also coincide with the Chrysanthemum Festival. Longwood Christmas is also an event not to miss; although the gardens outdoors are not in full bloom, the light show is spectacular, and the conservatory will put you in the holiday spirit.

Dining Options At Longwood

In addition to the events, Longwood offers several dining options, including 1906 restaurant, which provides an unparalleled full-service dining experience, the Café for an à la carte menu suitable for the whole family, with both indoor and outdoor seating, or dine alfresco with family and friends in the Beer Garden. I ate at the Cafe during my recent visit and enjoyed my meal. Although the meals were cafeteria-style, the food was delicious. The Roasted Cauliflower salad was delicious, and I had to get the Mushroom Soup (a Longwood favorite).

A pale blue hydrangea in the foreground with the Longwood Conservatory in the background
Hydrangea In Bloom In The Conservatory

Longwood Gardens is filled with so many beautiful things to see and experience! Among the highlights are:

  • Stunning fountains and classical statues in the Italian Water Garden.
  • Tranquil and peaceful Grotto.
  • Breathtaking conservatory with its exotic plant displays.
  • Impressive Bell Tower.
  • Beautiful meadow.

There’s so much to explore and enjoy at Longwood Gardens; it’s worth a visit!

Remember, Longwood is open year-round, and there is so much to see, even if you visit in the winter. I want to point out that there is a lot of construction near the conservatory and fountain garden. It didn’t impact my visit, but it is something to remember. The new conservatory garden area is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.

Details of a Visit To Winterthur

Winterthur is a little less crowded and visited than Longwood, so advance purchase of tickets is not an issue. Winterthur Garden is closed on Mondays. Spring, Summer & Fall hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. A nice thing to keep in mind is your admission ticket is good for two consecutive days. So you can visit, leave, and return a second day without buying a new ticket.

Sunken Quarry garden at Winterthur, with two little girls wearing fairy wings running throught
Quarry Garden At Winterthur (notice the two little fairies running through the garden)

Food options are slightly more limited, but the Visitor Center Café is open Tuesday–Sunday, 11 am–3 pm. Offering grab-and-go sandwiches, wraps, and salads; soup of the day; sweet treats and snacks; and coffee, tea, and assorted bottled beverages. Unlike Longwood, you can bring a picnic with outside food and drink into Winterthur. And there are many great places to unfold a blanket and sit.

The gardens were full of life and beauty, with each section offering something unique and special. One of my favorite parts of the gardens was the Peony Garden, which was in bloom during my visit. The vibrant colors and delicate petals of the peonies were simply breathtaking. I also loved the Azalea Woods; the spring blooms were fading, but it was still an excellent walk. Other areas include Magnolia Bend and the Enchanted Woods, with winding paths and hidden nooks. The Quarry Garden was a favorite since the Japanese Primrose was in full bloom.

Bright pink peonies in full bloom at the amazing Philadelphia area garden, Winterthur.
Peony Garden At Winterthur

The Best Time To Visit The Brandywine Valley

Although there is always something happening in both gardens, spring and fall are the best times to visit. Both gardens are in peak bloom in late April and early May. Fall color is also perfect in late October. Summers in the Philadelphia area can be sweltering, but both gardens make spectacular escapes during the early morning or evening hours.

Near By Attractions and Places to Stay

When looking for a place to stay while exploring the two amazing Philadelphia gardens, Longwood and Winterthur, you will find several good options, such as larger chain hotels in Chadds Ford. The Hampton Inn in Chadds Ford has always been a good choice. Another good option is the Inn at Mendenhall. If you want a more charming B&B option, check out the Fairville Inn.

A visit to this area demands a stop at Terrain. The Glen Mills location, near Chadds Ford, is where the concept originated. It’s a beautiful home and garden store that is fun to browse and a great place to eat. We had dinner at Terrain, and it is a wonderful garden environment to round out a day of garden touring.

If you are an avid gardener like me, you will love visiting the Brandywine Valley, where you will find two amazing Philadelphia gardens, Longwood and Winterthur. There are even more places to check out during your visit, including several arboretums and excellent nurseries. But if you are a more casual gardener or have never gotten your hands dirty, you will still find much to love at the grand gardens of both Longwood and Winterthur.

Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

    Booking.com and Expedia.com are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

The links above contain product affiliate links. We may receive a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. But your support of Fork & Wander is greatly appreciated!

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