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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Exploring Philadelphia's Suburbs

Though Philadelphia is a sprawling city with enough to keep you busy for more than a week, there's more to see nearby and a little further afield. We indulged in culture and history and art and fun, and then we went outside the city to explore a bit more and see things most tourists don't get to. 

On our way to actually stay in the city, we drove to Kennett Square, outside of Philadelphia, where Longwood Gardens lives. It's over 1,000 acres of plants, flowers, paths, and fountains. Started by a Quaker, the land was purchased by Pierre du Pont, who had a great love of horticulture. He wasn't sure it was a fantastic purchase, but he had a small house built on the property. Over the years, as he became wealthier, he added to the property and its features.

The coolest thing by far on the property is the Greenhouse, which is huge. You'll find everything from tropical plants to a bonsai trees inside In fact, it's a bit like a maze inside and we probably didn't see every corner that was open. 

On each end of the massive greenhouse are lawns with different plants, many you may not have seen before. 

There are lots of photo opportunities, even when it's freezing outside, like it was when we were visiting. Inside felt like Spring, while we had to bundle up outside on the grounds. 

If you enjoy Chrysanthemums, you'll love the hallways lined with different colored ones. We were there as they were putting up decorations for a light-up event happening after dark. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of plants all in one place and interested in how many gardeners it takes to maintain the property.   

du Pont had a great love of fountains and added a huge group of dancing fountains to his property, where people would come from all over every year to see them and special shows put on by entertainers hired by the du Ponts.  

I can see how the warmer weather would make the gardens a great romantic day out. W skipped some parts, because the fountain garden was shut down for the season and I doubted the wildflower field would have been in bloom. 

There is a large lawn full of topiaries. Unfortunately, they were also closed for the season, so we  could only see them from the walkways around them. 

On the property is the original du Pont home, with additions. Inside you can see the ground floor and learn more about the family that lived there. 

In between the buildings is an adorable courtyard and you can ask questions at the information booth and then go inside and sit in the library to watch a video about the du Pont family. 

Pierre du Pont loved to travel, and his modest home turned into a bit of a mansion, despite his wondering if he made the right choice in buying the property in the beginning. 

When I learned we were going to visit Longwood Gardens, I looked at dining options and found that aside from the cafe and outdoor dining options (open in the warmer months) that include a beer garden with woodfired pizza and outdoor seating, there is a fancier option called 1906. We decided to make lunch our splurge meal for the day.

1906 is gorgeous with forestgreen velvet banquets, a living wall and a bright, open feel. It's wonderful to have an upscale restaurant in the middle of all the beauty of nature. The menu has three parts. You can choose from Past, Present, and Future dishes. Your meal starts with an adorable dinner roll baked in a terra cotta flower pot. You can also order starters, like their popular mushroom soup, which is always on the menu. 

Eric ordered a veggie goulash and I got a duck ragout with carrot noodles. It was all amazing. I was just sad that I couldn't fit in a dessert, but luckily, they brought us some chocolate bark served on a tree stump. Even that was fab.

1906 isn't cheap, but it's not too expensive. You'll also be fed so well, that you don't need a big dinner later. Of course, you can split up your visit with a meal here and walk off those extra calories...and then double back for dessert. If you're going to Longwood during a busy time, because it sees one million visitors a year, make sure to make reservations so you can actually get in for one of the best meals you'll have on your trip.

Longwood Gardens, besides being beautiful and educational, also has walking tours and an educational program. and make sure to learn more about the sustainability of their restaurant and stop by their large gift shop on your way back to the car. The gardens are only about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, so if you have the time to get out of the city for half a day, you should definitely make the trip. Bring your walking shoes and a camera with a full battery.

Do you have a favorite gardens from your travels?

Disclosure: I was provided with a VIP Media Pass from VisitPhilly in order to visit Longwood Gardens for this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

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