Longwood Gardens travel guide: What you need to know if you go
The flower power is so strong at Longwood Gardens that it attracted enough guests in 2019 to fill Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, for 15 straight games.
And that's not all: There would have been enough guests left over to fill up two 76ers games at the Wells Fargo Center.
Suffice it to say, Longwood Gardens is a big people magnet. But it doesn’t grow steel magnolias.
This 1,000-acre botanical garden is world-famous and spacious enough to warrant a travel guide for newcomers (or those who haven't been in a long time) interested in walking the green mile.
Patricia Evans, communications director for Longwood, said visiting Longwood is like meeting a unicorn.
“There is nothing quite like Longwood. We often say Longwood is a world apart, and it is truly like being in another world,” she said.
“Whether it is our amazing, manicured gardens, the beauty of our more natural settings, the majestic architecture, or the spectacle of our dancing fountains and performances, there is something for everyone — all generations — to enjoy in our Gardens.”
No matter what season you decide to visit this year-round gem near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, we’ve created a roadmap with everything you need to know before adventuring to Longwood.
First things first, though. Make sure to carve out 3½ to 4 hours for your visit — although you can certainly stay as long as you want during business hours. Reentry is currently not allowed.
Over 1 million global guests
Longwood doesn’t track state of origin, Evans said, but they do survey travel time.
Evans said most of their guests come from within a two-hour drive. “But we get guests from almost every state as well as guests from overseas.”
She estimates that 4% of their guests are international.
What will I see at Longwood Gardens?
Featuring more than 9,000 species and varieties, Longwood Gardens’ plant collection equals many of its peer institutions, according to its website.
Speaking of the website, it’s a good idea to check it before visiting to see what’s in bloom. But over the course of the year, you’ll find a gorgeous display of lush and unique flowers.
For example, around the last week of March guests are treated to world-famous and rare blue poppies. These are real blue flowers that are native to high elevations of the Himalayan Mountains and are usually not cultivated outside their natural habitat.
In mid-April guests are shown a rainbow of 200,000-plus colorful tulips and other seasonal flowers.
Visiting the gardens is mainly an outdoor experience, but indoor offerings include a 4-acre Conservatory, the historic Peirce-du Pont House, the Webb Farmhouse & Galleries, The Terrace and a Visitor Center.
Its century-old Orchid House has been restored. It now can exhibit up to 50% more orchids from Longwood’s collection, recognized as one of the most important around the globe, and featuring 5,000 plants of diverse origin, size and color, representing 2,000 different taxa.
What can I eat at Longwood Gardens?
Although it’d be romantic to bring food and have a picnic in the Gardens, guests aren’t allowed to do that. But there is a picnic area (open seasonally) for guests outside the main grounds.
Patrons can check out The Café that features sandwiches and salads, hot dishes, freshly prepared desserts and the famous Longwood Gardens Mushroom Soup.
There are some vegan options including vegan strawberry shortcake, roasted eggplant, vegan chili and succotash quinoa salad.
Non-vegan dishes include chicken tenders, chili cheese dog and Oreo layer cake. Beverages include everything from soda and juice to a cappuccino and a cold draft beer.
If you want a more substantial meal, there’s also the 1906 restaurant that offers a full-service dining experience.
That menu includes jumbo lump crab cake, chicken salad and fried oysters, Berkshire pork chop and Maitake Mushroom (white bean, Tuscan kale, summer squash, Romesco and almonds).
For desert, there are treats like The Forest Floor (mascarpone cheesecake, pistachio ganache, espresso cookie, cherry, fig 13) and Chocolate Cherry Flower Pot (chocolate cake, ganache, cherry jam, cherry mousse, and vanilla ice cream).
The Beer Garden is another spot for dining. It features items like brick-oven pizza with a vegan cheese option, vegan Impossible Burger, Bratwurst sandwiches, gluten-free cookies or brownies, wine and local craft beer.
What makes the Beer Garden extra fun is it features live entertainment Thursday through Sunday evenings from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
More than just flowers on tap at Longwood
The name of the game is gorgeous flowers, but Longwood has more to offer than just that.
There’s the summer performance series that has booked everyone over the years from Rosanne Cash (daughter of country legend Johnny Cash) to New Orleans royalty Trombone Shorty, one of the few brass leaders to play at Firefly Music Festival over the last decade.
Longwood offers an indoor performance series in the Conservatory, too.
Art installations also find a home at Longwood and its Festival of Fountains choreographed display over the summer is one of the most popular attractions. It features over 1,700 jets that spin and dance, spouting water as high as 175 feet.
What should I wear and bring to Longwood Gardens?
With over 400 acres open to the public, you’ll want to make sure you wear comfy shoes because the Gardens are set up as a walking experience.
Dress for weather and bear in mind it’s a good idea to bring items like water, bug spray, a hat and sunscreen as needed.
Insects such as ticks, mosquitoes and bees are part of the Longwood Gardens’ ecosystem, so their experts suggest guests stay on pathways and check for ticks after leaving the Gardens.
Helping underserved communities
There are a number of programs to welcome underserved communities to the Gardens, Evans said.
The first is the Longwood Welcomes program that works with targeted organizations in the region to offer their communities discounted $3 admission.
They’ve partnered with several area libraries on a library membership program, including Wilmington Public Library and North Wilmington Library, “in which library users can sign out a Longwood membership through their local library, which they can then use to visit with parties up to nine guests free of charge,” Evans said.
Also for families that qualify for the ACCESS card or Delaware SNAP, there are general admission discounts year-round.
“In total, nearly 75,000 guests enjoyed the gardens in 2021 through one of these programs,” Evans added.
Accessibility options for guests
The pathways at Longwood are accessible, so guests don’t have to worry about whether they can bring their own wheelchair, scooter, stroller, wagon, or personal mobility device — all welcomed.
Wheelchairs also are available for rent in the Visitor Center on a first-come basis and may not be reserved in advance, according to the website.
A shuttle service isn’t provided inside the Gardens except for the Meadow Garden Shuttle that runs between the Peirce-du Pont House and Webb Farmhouse, as per the site.
The internet is your friend
The popularity of the Gardens is real, so guests shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are times that Longwood sells out.
To help your chances of avoiding disappointment, Evans said, patrons are encouraged to buy tickets in advance and have tickets ready to show when you arrive.
In addition, you’ll want to check the website before your visit to check the hours of operation and any special announcements, such as possible early closures, which vary depending on the season.
Best times of year to beat crowds at Longwood
Weekdays are typically less crowded than weekends. While tickets for the holiday display go quickly, Evans explained, there is capacity throughout the rest of the year, with fall being especially nice both indoors and out.
January through March is the least busiest time to visit and “there is nothing like being in a warm, colorful conservatory filled with blooming flowers in the middle of winter,” she said.
The merriest, busiest time of year
Their busiest time of year is during “A Longwood Christmas” display, which Evans said attracts about 450,000 guests during the seven-week display.
In 2019, Evans said Longwood attracted over 1.5 million patrons. By the end of this year, she anticipates 1.6 million.
The Christmas show alone features over half a million shimmering lights.
“Our holiday display is spectacular and for many in our region it is a tradition to come to Longwood to celebrate the holiday season,” Evans said. “We are honored that so many people have made Longwood a part of their cherished family holiday traditions.”
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at firstname.lastname@example.org
Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Road, near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania) is open June 30 to Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Sunday; Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Monday; Nov. 14 to Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday; Nov. 18 to Jan. 8, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Sunday; Jan. 9 to March 31, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday; April 1 to May 3, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Tickets for adults $35; seniors (62+) $32; college students (ID required) $32; active military and veterans (ID) $27; youth (ages 5-18) $19; SNAP/EBT/PA access (ID) $8; free for children ages 4 or younger. For more information, visit longwoodgardens.org or call (610) 388-1000.
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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Visiting Longwood Gardens? Here's what you need to know