We like to feel as if all of our travel experiences are wonderful, even though some travel days are less than successful, but every now and then we’ll find ourselves somewhere extraordinary. It’s such a surprise when it happens. With an estimated 1.5 million visitors per year, Longwood Gardens in Kennett, Pennsylvania is one of those extraordinary surprises. We knew our visit to the gardens would be wonderful, but the surprise came in the fact that we spent nine hours exploring the gardens and we left plotting our return. Leaving when you want more, is always the best time to leave.
Beautiful Gardens in the World
- “The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” Gertrude Jekyll
There are beautiful gardens in the world, such as at the Palace of Versailles or the Sanssouci Palace. Beautiful serene walks through nature. Extraordinary gardens that seem to reach out and take hold of you. Longwood Gardens is such a place. It easily rivals the grand European gardens. At Longwood, everywhere one turns, one sees the extraordinary. It’s almost as if one is part of the masterpiece design while walking under a canopy of green on the wooded trail that leads to the Italian Garden.
Four Acres Under Glass
Four of the 1,000+ acres that make up Longwood Gardens are housed under the glass ceiling of the conservatory. Think about that for a minute. Four acres of mother nature blooming at her best under glass. There are some 4,600 plants and trees in the conservatory, as well as fountains. Tell me, have you ever heard of the lollipop plant? Or, maybe the gold fish plant? Right. Neither had we.
Again, it is all quite extraordinary. I’m using that word freely because I just can’t come up with a suitable synonym but I’ll keep working on it.
Music at Longwood Gardens
- “There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.” Minnie Aumonier
Not only is there an abundance of plant life growing in the conservatory, there is also a ballroom, with a 10,000 pipes organ, and a music room with a player piano. A nine-foot Steinway grand piano to be precise. The walnut veneer of the piano was specifically ordered to match the wall paneling in the music room. You know, because Mr. du Pont could do things like that.
Fountains & Dancing Water
There are fountains everywhere at Longwood Gardens, somewhere along the lines of 1,700+ fountains, and each one of them is mesmerizing. Whether it be a single tall spray or a fanciful pattern, or a long row of slow falling water, the fountains are… you guessed it. Extraordinary.
We arrived just in time for a fountain performance and it did not disappoint. Jets of water spouting to ridiculously tall heights and water cannons with synchronized firing kept us entertained. They were fun to watch, but little did we know what was waiting for us at 8:15 p.m. that night. This was just a teaser!
Grateful for the Rain
Although I don’t know if it was actually the fringe of Hurricane Dorian that blocked the sun on the day of our visit, or just a random weather pattern, but we never saw the sun that day. In fact, it was misty and gray all day and it did rain for a while. As tempting as it was, we opted not to return to our hotel for a few hours to wait out the storm. We just kept going and managed to find shelter from the rain.
As the rain continued to drizzle we found shelter in the indoor theater and watched a 40-minute movie depicting some of the history of Longwood Gardens, and the incredible transformation of the 5-acre central fountain garden. It was quite the undertaking to label, number and remove all of the original statuary and fountains, bring them back to life and reassemble them once the new fountain system was rebuilt. A series of underground tunnels, which allow maintenance crews access to the systems, was included in the $90 million project. Actually, we were grateful for the rain because had it not rained, we may not have taken the time to watch the film and it was time well-spent.
The Soft Glow of Lights
By late evening the rain had finally stopped. At dusk, it was magical to see the gardens lit with the soft glow of lights along the paths and all of the fountains. We found more gardens to stroll through and we walked out to the pond, the Italian Garden and we took a self-guided tour of the du Pont home. Talk about a fabulous back yard, 1000 acres of wooded grounds and gardens!
Illuminated Fountain Performance
If we lived near Kennett, PA, we’d buy season passes for the gardens and we’d take in as many summer illuminated fountain performances as possible. Seriously, we would. It was
extraordinary spectacular at best. Dancing waters, fantastic light arrays and the music of Hollywood set the stage for the 45-minute performance. A performance that offers the perfect blending of all things that make us feel happy and content.
As we were leaving a woman sitting next to us said to me, “It never gets old, only better each time.” I wholeheartedly agreed even though it was our first performance. Hopefully, it will not be the last.
If You Go:
- Longwood Gardens – 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348
- Smoke free environment
- Restaurant & Cafe on site
- Gift Shop & Visitor’s Center
- Timed admissions
- Garden maps available
- Children’s garden
- Wheel chair accessible
- Ample parking