An Autumn Escape To The Brandywine River Valley
By Taylor Smith
The Brandywine River Valley encompasses sections of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware. This is horse country, rich in farmland, rolling hills, and history. The area is dotted with 19th century grist mills and Civil War sites. In autumn, the foliage is alive with color and the many bed and breakfast lodgings open their doors to weekend travellers. It’s no wonder that the famously talented Wyeth clan made the Brandywine their primary home when they weren’t in Maine. Located only a few hours from Philadelphia and Manhattan, the Brandywine makes for a relaxing long weekend. Visitors will soon come to understand why it is often referred to as the “England of Pennsylvania.”
Kennett Square (www.historickennettsquare.com) is a small town with many shopping and dining attractions. The unique eateries range from Japanese to German. Sovana Bistro is an excellent choice for authentic European and Mediterranean cuisine (www.sovanabistro.com). Half Moon Restaurant and Saloon (www.halfmoonrestaurant) is a cozy pub in downtown Kennett Square that serves a huge selection of bottled Belgian beers accompanied by hearty entreés. Art galleries and home décor stores are a particular highlight when visiting Kennett Square. The Longwood Art Gallery (www.longwoodartgallery.com) has been serving the Brandywine River arts community for over 30 years. They currently represent more than 50 local and regional artists. Scout & Annie (www.scoutandannie.com) houses a fun collection of vintage furniture, pottery, accessories, fine candles, and luxurious bath products. They are the go-to source for mid-century modern furniture.
Gateway Stables Riding Center (www.gatewaystables.com) in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania provides expert riding services to locales and visitors, alike. The center offers English and Western-style riding lessons 7 days per week, along with trail rides, and boarding services. Autumn trail rides are particularly peaceful. These rides are geared towards riders ages 10 and older and last approximately 1 hour. Reservations are requested to ensure availability of horses and guides. Dress code is also enforced for the comfort and safety of the rider. Be sure to wear long pants and boots with a heel.
Don your warmest fall sweater and rent a canoe from Northbrook Canoe Co. (www.northbrookcanoe.com) in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The Brandywine River is calm and quiet here—almost meditative. On your paddle journey you will pass by stately acorn, oak, and sycamore trees, along with a host of local wildlife. Be sure to row past Trimble’s Ford, the spot where British and Hessian troupes crossed the river to surprise George Washington. A one-hour canoe rental is $45.
Longwood Gardens (www.longwoodgardens.com) was once owned by the industrialist Pierre S. du Pont who purchased the property to serve as an arboretum and his private estate. Du Pont was greatly inspired by his world travels and added extensively to the property over the years in the form of fountains, sculptures, and flora. Today, the property consists of 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens, greenhouses (conservatories), fountains, tree houses, and a new meadow garden. The entire property is set on approximately 1,077 acres. Longwood Gardens changes with the seasons. The onset of fall brings new life to the acres of walking paths. After Thanksgiving, the estate creates special yuletide displays, light shows, and festive orchestral concerts. Longwood Gardens is located less than 15 minutes from Kennett Square.
The Brandywine River Museum (www.brandywinemuseum.org) houses a definitive collection of art works by the Wyeth clan. Located in beautiful Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the area inspired the many folkloric scenes painted by N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew Wyeth, and grandson Jamie Wyeth. The current exhibit, “Exalted Nature,” includes the visionary landscapes of Charles Burchfield, and is on view through November 16. Paintings and drawings depicting the quests of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table will be on view from November 28 through January 4 in the exhibit, “Enchanted Castles and Noble Knights.” Visitors can take a tour of Andrew Wyeth’s actual studio in Chadds Ford where he painted from 1940 to 2008. The modest studio has undergone careful restoration to preserve its original appearance. Not to be overlooked is the museum’s collection of American landscape paintings, illustrations, still lifes, and portraits.
The Benjamin Ring House (www.thebrandywine.com/attractions) is a historic building on the Brandywine Battlefield in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The home, which served as main headquarters for General George Washington during the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, is now a walk-through museum and contains a delightful collection of Quaker-style furniture.
Winterthur (www.winterthur.org) is one of America’s leading museums for the exhibition of American decorative arts. Costumes of Downton Abbey is an exhibition of original fashions from the award-winning television series Downton Abbey. The exhibit is on view through January 4, 2015. The museum’s 60-acre garden and surrounding woodlands make for ideal exploration especially if the weather is cool and mild. The museum offers a variety of tours and programs for families with young children. Museum stores and cafes are another fun diversion.
The Inn at Montchanin Village (www.historichotels.org) in Montchanin, Delaware, was named for Alexandrine de Montchanin, grandmother of the founder of the DuPont Gunpowder Company. The inn is actually a 19th-century village that includes 11 restored buildings, landscaped gardens, outdoor fireplaces, walking trails, and the popular Krazy Kat’s Restaurant, which was once the village blacksmith shop. The village is located halfway between New York and Washington, D.C., and only 25 minutes from Philadelphia’s International Airport. A stay at the village is ideal for a family vacation or a solo retreat.
The Fairville Inn (www.fairvilleinn.com) includes elegant accommodations and is conveniently located a short distance from Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, and the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Although it is a bed and breakfast, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Fairville Historic District. Situated on over five acres, the inn is surrounded by miles of backroads, which make for excellent hiking and walking paths. Each of the 13 rooms and two suites are individually decorated in elegant colonial décor. The inn serves a complimentary homestyle breakfast each morning with freshly-baked breads and muffins. Afternoon tea is served daily, accompanied by fruit and cheese. If you are looking to break a sweat, the inn will direct you to nearby golf courses and bike rentals.
The Chaddsford Winery (www.chaddsford.com) was founded in 1982 and has since then grown into one of the most productive vineyards in Pennsylvania. They regularly produce Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, to much acclaim. Their new artisan series includes a collection of Niagra, Sangria and Spiced Apple. The Chadds Ford location consists of a tasting room, patio and market where you can purchase all of their wines. They also maintain a Wine Tasting Room at Peddler’s Village (www.peddlersvillage.com), a popular outdoor shopping center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.