Longwood Gardens is tucked away in the small town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Valley. Less than an hour outside of Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens, is one of America’s most beautiful public spaces. Open to the public almost continually since the 18th century, a walk through these gardens is a great way to spend your days.
Filled with beautiful flowers, fountains and history, Longwood Gardens should be on your travel list. You should also plan to visit during different seasons, as there are special events that bring the gardens to life year round.
In 1906 Pierre S. du Pont, bought a simple farm and turned it into a majestic early 20th century estate garden. Attractions include magnolias and azaleas in spring; roses and water lilies in summer; chrysanthemums in fall; and camellias, orchids, and palms in winter. This 1,000 acre wonderland will leave you in awe.
History of Longwood Gardens
The land that would one day become Longwood Gardens was purchased from William Penn in 1700 to be used as a farm. In 1798, twin brothers Joshua and Samuel Peirce began planting trees, and, by 1850, the land had become one of the best collections of trees in the country. Known as Peirce’s Park, the land was a popular destination for visitors. However, due to a declined interest by the family, the trees came under threat of being cut down by a local lumber company. Pierre du Pont stepped in and bought the land to preserve it.
Mr. du Pont didn’t just preserve the land. In fact, he created much of what can be seen today. When du Pont died in 1954, he left most of his fortune to the Longwood Foundation to maintain and improve the gardens. Today, more than 50 years after du Pont’s death, his gardens continue to delight visitors.
Admission & Hours
The outdoor gardens and Conservatory open at 9 am every day of the year. Closing time varies by season, as the Gardens frequently remain open later for special events, Illuminated Fountain Performances, and the holiday display.
If you are visiting during a special event be sure to purchase tickets in advance, as many will sell out. When you arrive at Longwood Gardens you will enter through the visitors center before entering the main gardens. Parking is on-site, and free for guests. They do have over flow parking with free shuttle buses during special events.
Seniors (age 62+): $20
College Students (with valid ID): $20
Youth: $12 (ages 5-18)
Children 4 and under: FREE
Year Round Attraction
Longwood Gardens is a year round attraction, open 365 days a year. The weather is not a problem, as four acres of cactus, ferns, bonsai plants, and the biggest green wall in North America, are housed in the heated conservatories. I could have spent all of my time just in the conservatory exploring, every inch of these buildings is covered in beautiful horticulture.
If you are visiting with children be sure to spend time at the Indoor Children’s Garden. This magical area is home to a creative crew of garden residents, innovative water features, and a palette of plants to inspire imagination. They can paint the walls with water, relax in a quiet nook or just explore the beauty around them.
While in the Conservatory, don’t miss the large pipe organ that was installed by du Pont. With over 10,000 pipes, this organ was one of the largest private pipe organs in the world when it was installed here in 1929.
Visitors can walk around the organ to learn about its history and even get a glimpse into the inner workings through a window. When there isn’t a performance you can go behind the scenes and see how it all works. Even the youngest kids in our group were fascinated by this musical wonder.
Orchid Extravaganza: January 19–March 24
Longwood transforms its Conservatory into an orchid oasis as colorful blooms cascade down walls, spill from containers, and hang from above throughout Longwood’s 4.5 acres of indoor gardens. Outdoors, vibrant witch hazel punctuate the landscape and will entice you to stroll the beautiful subtlety of winter. In early March, Longwood’s famed blue-poppies, known for their unique blue hue, return to the Conservatory for a limited time.
Spring Blooms: March 30–May 5
Relish being outdoors as Longwood’s 1,083 acres herald the arrival of spring. Enjoy the spectacular outdoor spring bulb display, culminating in a rainbow of more than 250,000 spring bulbs blooming in their famed Flower Garden Walk and Idea Garden.
Festival of Fountains: May 9–September 29
Summer at Longwood makes a splash as the Gardens’ fountain collection jets to life. The Main Fountain Garden offers jaw-dropping performances daily and extended hours for Illuminated Fountain Performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. A number of new shows will be added, highlighting a number of musical genres. Also, be sure to enjoy the Open Air Theatre fountains, which perform daily, as well as the picturesque Italian Water Garden, which offers a cool respite from the warm summer sun.
The wildly popular Fireworks & Fountains Shows return with six new shows in 2019 on May 26, July 3, July 20, August 10, September 1, and September 28. Other performing arts highlights include the return of the Wine & Jazz Festival on June 1 featuring live jazz music and wines from around the region and world.
Wine and Jazz tickets go on sale March 13 at 9 am. General admission tickets for Festival of Fountains and Fireworks and Fountains Shows go on sale April 8 at 9 am.
Festival of Fountains also features the Gardens in their summer splendor. Flowering annuals and perennials abound, as well as a breathtaking Waterlily Display that showcases aquatic plants from all over the world. No summer visit is complete without relaxing with friends in the beer garden under the stars.
Autumn’s Colors: October 3–November 17
The Gardens embrace the harvest season with pumpkins and thousands of chrysanthemums indoors and out. The miniature Garden Railway will young and old with its fanciful cars and engines. The fountain shows continue daily through October 27, with Illuminated Fountain Performances every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening through October 26.
Chrysanthemum Festival (October 24–November 17) spotlights Longwood’s horticulture expertise as chrysanthemums are crafted and grown into extraordinary shapes, some taking as long as 18 months to complete. The highlight of the display is the Thousand Bloom Mum, a single chrysanthemum that boasts more than 1,500 uniform blooms on a single plant.
A Longwood Christmas: November 22, 2019–January 5, 2020
No visit to Longwood is complete without taking in the beauty of the holiday season. Thousands of poinsettia, towering Christmas trees, and fragrant flowers transform the Conservatory into a warm holiday wonderland. Outdoors, more than 500,000 decorative lights glitter in more than 100 trees and colorful fountain displays set to holiday music enchant visitors. Evening choral concerts, strolling carolers, and organ singalongs fill the Gardens with the festive sounds of the holiday.
We absolutely loved A Longwood Christmas, despite the rainy weather. The damp day gave us plenty of time to explore the conservatories. It cleared up just enough to stroll along the main paths and see all of the lights.
Next time you are looking for a new place to explore with or without the kids, head to Longwood Gardens for a day you won’t soon forget.