Services Review: Follies & Fountains

Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens Offer Joint Ticketing this Summer

For those who are interested in enjoying all that summer has to offer, two outdoor adventures are now available at a discounted ticket price.  Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens are offering $34 tickets that will allow you to visit both attractions.  A mere 15 minute drive from one another, this excursion is an excellent choice for adults and children alike who want to enjoy an exciting day visiting two key locations in the Brandywine Valley.  Longwood and Winterthur have very different things to offer, making it a well-balanced joint initiative.

Winterthur (pronounced “Winter-tour”) is the 5th largest house in the United States.  What began as a 12-room home has expanded over the years to an impressive 175 room mansion.  The exterior mansion itself is quite impressive, but it is what it houses, as well as the expansive acreage that makes it worth the trip.

Brick_Lookout_Folly_photo_by_Bob_Leitch_previewBrick Lookout Folly, photo by Bob Leitch

The vibe at Winterthur is very different from Longwood Gardens.  Whereas Longwood’s visitor center was chaotic and crammed full of busloads of people, Winterthur’s atmosphere was incredibly quiet and calm.  When you purchase your ticket, you will be given several different pieces to keep track of.  One is a sticker for your shirt to indicate that you have checked in.  This entitles you to ride the tram and shuttles buses that run periodically throughout the grounds.  While you can walk through all of Winterthur’s gardens and follies, there is a 30 minute tram tour that will take you around the grounds and give you interesting tidbits of history and information.  It’s a great way to orient yourself if you’ve never visited before.  Fair warning, however:  if you complete both the tram tour and the walking tour of the museum, you will hear a lot of repetitive information.

The centerpiece of your visit is a tour of the Winterthur mansion.  During the approximately 1 hour walking tour, your guide with show you several “frozen rooms,” spaces that have been lovingly preserved exactly as they were when the du Pont family lived in the house prior to the opening of the museum in 1951.  These rooms display an impressive collection of American art, furniture, and history.  Henry Francis du Pont collected architecture from houses all over the United States and had it integrated into the house to preserve it.  The tour is a must-do for history buffs, as well as anyone interested in American art and architecture.  The tours run periodically throughout the day, and are staggered into small groups running about 4 minutes apart from one another.  This means if you have a particularly chatty group in front of you, you may be stuck waiting in halls or doorways for them to move on.

ottomon tent
Ottoman Tent Folly, Rob Cardillo Photography

Beginning this summer, and continuing over the next 2 years, Winterthur is presenting 13 garden follies scattered throughout the gardens.  These follies are architectural features meant to draw your eyes and entice you to explore.  There is a bright pink (though it was meant to be red, the sun has bleached it) Turkish tent, a fully mirrored structure based on part of the train station still visible on the property, and a small castle folly that has been created to look matte black by carefully charring the wood.  While several of the follies are visible on your tram tour, it is highly recommended that you discover them on foot to fully appreciate them.  Your map includes all of the follies, so they are relatively easy to find.  For children, the Enchanted Woods offers a 3-acre interactive area designed by woodland faeries for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Winterthur is an excellent addition to your family’s summertime fun, though it may be difficult for very small children to participate in the mansion tour, as it is slow-paced and geared more toward adults with an interest in the house’s history.  The gardens, however, offer plenty of space for working off that summer energy, and the 13 garden follies make for a unique and visually interesting experience.

Longwood Gardens also has ties to the du Pont family.  It was created after Pierre du Pont purchased a farm in 1906 in order to preserve its beautiful old trees, which had been slated to be cut for timber.  In addition to their everyday garden offerings, Longwood is currently exhibiting their Festival of Fountains.  Longwood is typically a much more chaotic experience than Winterthur, and may be less relaxing for those who are looking for a quiet excursion.  This does not detract from the beauty of the Gardens, or the impressive fountain displays, however.

Longwood has long been a premier day trip destination for locals and tourists alike.  With its expansive horticultural displays and wide range of family activities, it is a great way to spend a fun and active day outside.  If you visit Winterthur first, you will be given a ticket to hold onto that you can exchange at the Longwood ticket office for general admission to the Gardens.  This ticket is actually good not only for same-day admission, but through the end of the joint ticket program on August 31st.  So for the admission price of $34, you and your family can enjoy two days of fun if you decide to split your trip.

DANIELTRAUB__20170703_0140_tchd_flat-smallPhoto by Daniel Traub

While exploring the Gardens is a wonderful way to spend your time at Longwood, the fountain shows are the true centerpiece of their summer events initiative.  The fountains are spectacular, with awe-inspiring visual displays set to music, including Carmina Burana and The Sounds of Motown.  If you’ve never experienced the fountain shows, now is your chance to understand why the event is back for a second season.  Performances run daily at 11:15 am; 1:15, 3:15, and 5:15pm, with an additional performance Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:15.  For those seeking a truly awesome experience, the illuminated fountain shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday run at 9:15pm through the end of your dual ticket admission on August 31st.

Of course, in addition to the amazing fountains in the Main Fountain Garden, there is plenty more to explore.  Summer is a beautiful time to visit the Gardens, including impressive water lily displays, the Rose Arbor in June, orchids, hydrangeas, and the bee gardens all offer a colorful experience.  For adults, Longwood’s seasonal Beer Garden offers live music and refreshing beers (and a short selection of wines) alongside a small, but satisfying pub-inspired food menu.  The Beer Garden is open Thursday-Saturday from 6-9pm.

The biggest drawback to Longwood Gardens is always the crowd.  If you want an up close view of the fountain shows, it’s important to arrive early, especially if you are visiting on the weekends.  If you can take the time for a weekday trip, you may have an easier experience, especially if you are planning to bring young children or a stroller.  And, if you see a busload of people taking a group photo when you arrive, it’s best to hurry through the visitors center to try and get ahead of them.

Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens‘ “Follies and Fountains” runs through August 31st.  Tickets may be purchased online.

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