Brandywine Valley is a great getaway destination that is often overlooked by residents of the Mid-Atlantic region. Located in Delaware just an hour south of Philadelphia, an hour north of Baltimore and two hours north of Washington, D.C., the Brandywine Valley offers historic attractions, art museums, scenic countryside, and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. The gardens and arboretums are spectacular destinations for nature lovers and the historic homes are must-sees for those interested in the decorative arts.
Many of the attractions, which are located within a 10-mile radius of Wilmington, Delaware, are the legacy of the DuPont family. (E.I. DuPont founded the DuPont chemical company in the early 1800s, beginning as a manufacturer of gunpowder).
There's so much to see and do when visiting the Brandywine area that you can't experience it all in one trip. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your getaway.
- Allow enough time to visit each attraction, half a day for most of them. Take your time and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the historic sites and gardens.
- Plan ahead and reserve guided tours in advance.
- Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
- Visit the gift shops. Delaware has no sales tax so be sure to enjoy some great shopping.
- Enjoy the scenery and some outdoor recreation. Play a round of golf, canoe down the Brandywine River, or have a picnic in one of the area’s parks.
- Visit a winery or brewery.
- Enjoy a wide range of gourmet restaurants or dine at one of the historic sites.
- The Brandywine area has a variety of places to stay, ranging from large hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts.
Hagley Museum and Library
To learn about the DuPont story, begin at the Hagley. The 235-acre site along the Brandywine River houses the original DuPont gunpowder mills, estate, and gardens. The museum features exhibits, demonstrations of the powder mill machinery and tours of the first DuPont family home built in 1803. Special year-round programs are held for many age groups.
The 1,077-acre premier horticultural showplace includes 20 outdoor garden areas, 4 acres of indoor Conservatory gardens and 11,000 different types of plants. Built in 1919, Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. DuPont and is the most renowned attraction in the Brandywine Valley. The Gardens offers classes and workshops, flower shows, gardening demonstrations, garden walks, and other special events.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
The 1,000-acre estate of Henry Francis Du Pont houses a collection of more than 85,000 American antiques and decorative arts. The 175-period rooms, exhibition galleries, and gardens are open for tours and a variety of special events.
Nemours Mansion and Gardens
The 102-room home of Alfred I. DuPont features fine antique furniture, rugs, tapestries, paintings, and China. The 300-acre gardens include reflecting pools, fountains, and sculptures. Tours are available and reservations are suggested.
Brandywine River Museum
The 19th-century gristmill with a beautiful setting along the Brandywine River houses one of the largest collection of paintings by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth. The art museum also features the works of other well known American illustrators.
Delaware Art Museum
The museum features a world-renowned collection of American art and illustration and British Pre-Raphaelite art. The Copeland Sculpture Garden, on the grounds of the museum, shows the works of contemporary sculptors.
The Delaware Contemporary
The museum presents more than 30 temporary art exhibitions in all media including painting, sculpture, photography and installation art. DCCA also offers educational programs, gallery talks, and family events.
Read House & Gardens
Guided tours are available of the beautifully restored 19th century home, a National Historic Landmark, located in historic New Castle. The riverfront town served as the first state capital of Delaware and includes historic sites, specialty shops, and restaurants.
Delaware Museum of Natural History
The small museum has an extensive collection of seashells, an African watering hole, a giant squid, dinosaur skeletons, and an interactive Discovery Room with hands-on activities for kids.
Mt. Cuba Center
The horticultural institution is dedicated to the study, conservation, and appreciation of native Appalachian Piedmont plants, with the region's finest woodland wildflower gardens. Tours are given seasonally and require advance reservations.
The English country estate, owned and operated by New Castle County, features unique gardens and a Rural Gothic mansion which was built in 1851 by Joseph Shipley, a Quaker merchant banker. The Carriage House and Walled Garden are available for rent for private events. Guided tours of the mansion are available by reservation.