Psssst…we have a secret to share with you. It’s a massive savings offer that some people take advantage of year after year, and we’ve met lots of people who have never heard of it.
The annual Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport program offers visitors to what is fondly referred to as “chateau country” the opportunity to experience twelve of the region’s historic, cultural and garden attractions for one low price.
At $45 per person or $95 for a family of up to five, it’s not just an excellent way to plan a getaway, but for locals, it’s an economical route to enrichment, beauty and knowledge of local gems.
While a local user would have up to thirteen-and-a-half weeks (runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day) to visit twelve attractions, Town Square Delaware wondered if one could enjoy them all in a weekend. Our adventurous staff thought perhaps a 3-day weekend would suffice and offered the following itinerary for those who would dare attempt it.
Start with a visit to the Delaware Art Museum right after work. The Museum offers late hours on Thursdays, and visiting from 5:30-7:30pm will allow you to experience a good portion of the museum (if you don’t read every single exhibit label), and get up close and personal with its British Pre-Raphaelite collection. Grab a bite from the in-house café, where the food is provided by Piccolina Toscana, to keep yourself fueled.
At 7:30pm, depart for Longwood Gardens. You’ll likely be in the doors by 8pm, and we’d suggest bearing right to enjoy the Italian Water Garden side of the property, then hustling across the gardens to take in the heady floral atmosphere of the Conservatory for a bit. This will put you in the perfect location to catch a 9:15pm showing of a musically-programmed water and light show in Longwood’s $90 million Main Fountain Garden, which ends around 10pm. Refuel with a late night bite and brew at Victory Brewing Company.
Kick off your Friday with some nature. Begin with a 9:30am visit to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, with its bugs and birds and bones of species long extinct, and glass-bottom coral reef walkway. By 11am, a quick jaunt across the road (literally) will get you to Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, where you can enjoy a one-hour garden stroll.
A 12:30pm lunch at Buckley’s Tavern will provide a brief respite before you head downtown. Park in the Fifth Street garage (metered spaces are generally plentiful within one or two blocks, as well) and visit Market Street’s Delaware History Museum for a 75-minute-or-so visit, being sure not to miss the extensive collection of historical items reflecting Delaware’s African-American population.
Leave by 3:15-3:30pm and get settled in at Rockwood Museum by 4pm for the last tour of the day of this Rural Gothic mansion, and follow that with a leisurely wind-down in Rockwood’s Park, open until dusk. Three miles away, catch dinner at Ulysses Gastropub or Two Stones Pub.
Wake up your brain with a 10am visit to The Delaware Contemporary, featuring artwork from 20thand 21stcentury artists and technology themes. Leave your car and stroll to Constitution Yards for a Noon lunch, and perhaps a quick game of horseshoes.
Trek north to the Brandywine River Museum of Art; a 1:30pm arrival will allow you 75 minutes to experience plenty of Wyeth work and influences. Leave at 2:45pm, and catch nearly two hours at Hagley Museum and Library, taking in some industrial history or simply a stroll through some of the 235 acres that house the gunpowder foundry which built the du Pont empire.
Make Sunday a garden day. A 10am arrival at Mt. Cuba Center will introduce you to two hours of native plants and wildflowers. Travel east to New Castle for lunch at Nora Lee’s; park once, and after lunch you can walk along the cobblestones toward Read House and Gardens for 75 minutes on this historic, once-urban property in the style of the Federal period. Leaving by 2:30pm will allow you to experience the gilded Nemours Estate, modeled after Versailles, for two hours prior to 5pm closing.
Some exhibits you might catch, depending on the timing of your long weekend:
- Delaware Art Museum’s “Impermanence: Mystery, Transformation, Light,” May 19-August 5. This exhibition centers on impermanence, an essential tenet of Buddhism. Or, “African American Art: Migration and Modernism” through September 2, 2018, which spotlights work created between the 1920s and the 1970s
- Winterthur offers its first outdoor exhibit: “Follies: Architectural Whimsy in the Garden.” Follies are structures placed throughout a garden or landscape, designed to amuse or intrigue passersby, and there are thirteen of them currently at Winterthur.
- Brandywine River Museum of Art’s exhibit running through July 8 is “Southwestern Son: The Lithographs of Peter Hurd,” with “Natural Wonders: The Sublime in Contemporary Art” starting June 23. From July 14, enjoy “The Serious and the Smirk: Portraits from the Collection,” curated entirely from the Museum’s own collection and named after a famous Charles Dickens quote.
Be sure to check the websites of each attraction before you attempt this long-weekend feat. Some venues have a small number of blackout dates or hours, due to special events. (And since you’re local, we still encourage you to try the Passport and stretch your visits out over more than one weekend, or weekdays, if this speed-dating-for-culture isn’t the right pace for you.) Many attractions offer special tours for an additional fee and sometimes advance reservation. Parking is free and on-site for all attractions but the Delaware History Museum and Read House.
Tip: Sneak a Wednesday into your schedule and try Hagley’s Bike & Hike & Brews when you can stroll, jog, or bike through areas of Hagley property normally closed to foot traffic, as well as bring a picnic. Passports are valid for this program.
Purchase your Passport online or at the Visitors Center at 10thand Orange Streets in Wilmington. It makes an excellent Mother’s or Father’s Day gift.