From Revolutionary War history to lavish gardens, wineries, restaurants and the artwork of an iconic American family, the Brandywine Valley provides a smorgasbord of getaway options for a day or a destination weekend. Here are some of the attractions on a “must do – must see” list. – Jay Lloyd
THE BRANDYWINE BATTLEFIELD
U.S. Rte 1
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
A morning visit while the dew still sparkles on rolling countryside is an ideal start to a Brandywine ramble, and the Brandywine Battlefield is the centerpiece of any visit to the valley. It’s the historical root of George Washington’s failed attempt to stop the British advance into Philadelphia. The redcoats rolled over Washington’s forces, and within two weeks, were strolling the city. Today, the sprawling battlefield and the surrounding area are a treasure trove of artifacts and memorabilia, displays and stunning vistas, recalling the days that sparked the birth of America. The Visitor Center is open Wed. through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
For prices and information on special events, click here.
THE BRANDYWINE MUSEUM
U.S. Rte. 1
Chadd’s Ford, PA 19317
The work of three generations of Wyeths is represented at this picturesque 19th century grist mill-turned-museum, located on the pristine Brandywine Creek. From now through November 20th, you’ll find an exhibit of illustrations that stimulated generations of childhood fantasies. From the brooding hulk of Billy Bones to the cunning visage of Long John Silver, N.C. Wyeth’s enduring illustrations for the classic edition of Treasure Island are showcased along with his work for Kidnapped and The Last of the Mohicans. And the Andrew Wyeth Gallery is now showing works that haven’t been viewed for decades. In December, you’ll be entranced by a dazzling patchwork of toy trains, one that stretches for 80 cars, all lovingly maintained by craftsman Steven Clarke.
1001 Longwood Rd.
Kennett Square, PA 19348
So, just what can you do with a chrysanthemum? How about thousands upon thousands of them crafted into a unique horticultural display that portrays butterflies, spirals, ornate shapes and designs?
Between the end of October and November 20th, Longwood Gardens, a major Brandywine Valley attraction, is the setting for the annual Chrysanthemum Festival. And Longwood regulars also know that now is the time to score tickets to the upcoming Christmas display, an explosion of color created from blooms that are artfully framed by manicured shrubbery, towering Christmas trees and a nighttime blaze of over 400,000 lights. And of course, there’s the massive organ that fills the Longwood Conservancy with a blend of rich traditional sound.
632 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Bright sun above the Brandywine Valley, a bit of a fall nip in the air and some mulled wine on an outdoor patio are the ingredients for a refreshing stop at the Chaddsford Winery. Some of the grapes here are still crushed the old fashioned way, with foot power, and I recall being surprised when Vintner Lee Miller proudly boasted, “We make certain wines that way, and sometimes we do it just for fun.”
Tour the winery’s cellars, tanks and barrels. Then take part in a tasting; perhaps start with the light, dry wines and move on to the full bodied. The winery is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6. Check for special events here.
The picturesque borough of Kennett Square might be considered the heart of the Brandywine Valley. It’s a walk-able town with a boutique studded Main Street, unique restaurants that range from breakfast hangouts to worth-the-drive gourmets, and bed and breakfast lodging to make a weekend of it.
Of course, dining in and around Kennett Square is the draw. In town, you have the stately 19th century Kennett Square Inn, the locally popular Half Moon Restaurant with its lively bar scene and imaginative menu and Lily’s Asian for a sushi fix. And with the influx of Mexican farm workers also came an influx of genuine Mexican restaurants. My favorite, just outside of town on Gap Newport Pike, is a busy little spot called Taqueria Moroleon—the chiles rellenos will make you forget you’re north of the border!
And unless you’re a purist who trudges into the woods to gather your own mushrooms, Kennett Square is as close as you’ll get to the largest mushroom source in America. A stop at the Woodlands Retail Store lets you cart them away in bulk or by the till.
The Brandywine Valley is a year-round destination that can be enjoyed in small day-trip bites or through multi-day visits. The Valley stretches through southern Chester County and Northern Delaware, offering a broad array of museums, outdoor activities, gardens and restaurants. It is one of the most explorable and pristine areas that remain close to home.