As I write this newsletter, the Longwood Conservatory is filled with hundreds of staff and volunteers breaking down the Chrysanthemum exhibition and putting up Christmas. It all happens in 3 days: an extraordinary feat of organisation with spectacular results. A Longwood Christmas has become for me, synonymous with Christmas and if you haven't visited, I have one word of advice – go! Stepping into this world of lights and sparkle is to suspend reality: it's pure escape and I recommend everyone see this at least once. Join me on December 9 or go yourself; but you do need a little preparation. Here are my tips to help you make the most of a Longwood Christmas!
On Thanksgiving Day, Christmas is ready for visitors. Every year the theme is different and this year is guaranteed to be super glamorous as decorations throughout the Conservatory draw on the splendor of France’s Versailles for inspiration. In the Exhibition Hall, thousands of floating cranberries, apples, and gilded walnuts create an intricate mosaic in the grand tradition of a French parterre garden. Ornate mirrors, trimmed trees and sparkling crystal ornaments fill the Music Room in the style of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors; even the Children’s Garden has Eiffel Tour ornaments!
Getting There You’re heading to the Brandywine Valley - 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348 longwoodgardens.org
Hours November 23 to January 7. Every day from 9am–10pm
Tickets You must book timed tickets. Once you’re in the gardens, stay as long as you like. Timed tickets are aimed at managing the numbers of people entering the gardens at one time. Do this online.
Not a Longwood Gardens Member? BOOK TICKETS HERE
Longwood Gardens Members visiting Monday to Thursday, or before 2pm on Friday, don’t need a timed reservation. But if arriving after 2pm on Friday, or on Saturday or Sunday you need to reserve your time slot. MEMBERS GO HERE TO RESERVE. Select 'Timed Member Reservations' Remember to take your membership card & photo id on the day.
Like to become a member? Go here
Parking & Traffic Parking is free. Traffic is heaviest when arriving between 3-7pm. Friday nights & weekends are considered peak times and the busiest.
Maps Go here for Longwood's Christmas Map or what's on & where.
The Outdoor Gardens are amazing when at 3:30pm, half a million lights are turned on!
Open Air Theatre Fountain Shows feature a rainbowed curtain of water set to holiday music. Runs on the hour from 10am–3pm, and every 5 minutes beginning at 3:30pm.
Warm up at the firepits! There are 3 fire-pits at the Pumphouse Plaza, Peirce-du Pont House & Hour Glass Lake.
Climb a treehouse for fantastic winter views! The Birdhouse (tallest); Lookout Loft Treehouse (wheelchair accessible) and the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse (grandest; inspired by a Norwegian stave church & built by Pete Nelson of Treehouse Masters).
See the Wildlife Tree It’s an 18ft Canaan Fir just near the Canopy Cathedral Tree. I love this tree: it's so pretty & gives you fun ideas for wildlife-edible ornaments.
Floating Trees illuminated in gold, red and green lights on the Large Lake are divine.
Garden Railway G-Scale model trains rumble through a mini landscape of model Longwood buildings – it’s adorable! You’ll find the train next to the Beer Garden.
The Conservatory Visit early in the season for decorating ideas. Allow time to see everything in the daylight, then go back after dark – you'll be amazed at the transformation!
Enter through the East Conservatory doors for a view to the 2 Fraser Firs and the white fir. Here see winterberry, cyclamen, paper white narcissus, eucalyptus.
While you're here, check out Longwood's Green Wall.
Follow the Christmas Trail signs for all the highlights. I love the Christmas Trees decorated according to their garden rooms - don't miss the Succulent Tree - it's one of my favorites!
Sing along to Christmas Carols played on the Longwood Organ in the Ballroom. Monday to Thursday 2pm, 3pm, 4pm. Friday to Sunday on the hour from 2pm to 8pm. Even if singing carols is not your bag, the Organ is a must see! It's the largest Aeolian organ ever built in a residential setting. Walk into the Ballroom and follow the signs to see the inner workings of 10,010 organ pipes.
The Indoor Children’s Garden is for all ages! SO fun with secret passages, small rooms, big sculptures and lots of water action!
Eating There's great options, but due to the crowds, you do need to be organised. A little planning will definitely make for a better experience. Get to the Terrace Café before 4:30pm. After this time, lines are out the door & you’ll waste time queuing instead of enjoying the garden.
Avoid the dinner crowds and book at 1906 Restaurant – it’s fabulous! GO HERE TO BOOK Try the Mushroom Soup Kennett Square is mushroom capital of the world and the soup at either the café or restaurant is ridiculously delicious (if you like mushrooms that is!).
The Beer Garden is outside beside the Café and offers tasty pizzas.
What Else to Know Dress warmly but in layers You’ll be outside looking at the lights, but in the Conservatory, it’s a lot warmer, so layers are best. Comfy shoes – you’re walking a lot! Don’t be in a rush when leaving. This is a major event and people come from miles around - expect lengthy delays especially if departing from 6pm onwards. Make a weekend of it! There's a lot to do in the local area. Go here for hotels & itinerary suggestions
LOVE TO SEE LONGWOOD BUT DON'T WANT TO DRIVE? Join my trip to Longwood on Saturday December 9! This takes all the hassle out of getting to Longwood and leaving, which is a big deal as the bus avoids all exit queues. I give out Christmas maps on the ride down, show a film about Longwood, have great snacks & make sure you are well oriented to enjoy your time in the garden. Bring your girlfriends or make it a Christmas date night! Go here for trip information or call Kirsty on 908-512-0600
Photos from Longwood Gardens website