By Lauren Matison
The Brandywine Valley’s unsullied green hillsides appear out the window within two hours of leaving New York City. It is a countryside not taken for granted with its centuries old trees, stone cottages, and small, unpaved dirt roads. No new commercial developments will wake you up here with their screeching cranes.
Before pumpkins and candy apple red leaves are replaced with bread bowls and snowballs, consider strolling through vineyards, historic towns, and world famous gardens in the Brandywine Valley for your next quick getaway.
Traditionally known for its place in the history books, the piece of land straddling southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware stakes its claim to Revolutionary fame according to a battle between George Washington’s troops and the redcoats in 1777. History junkies can visit the Brandywine Battlefield Wednesday through Sunday until 4pm for a tour of the hallowed grounds.
The valley is a living museum, worth visiting as much for its deep historical roots as for its diverse acres of wineries. The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail website is a great resource that keeps tabs on a wide variety of year round events on the vineyards, like yoga classes, bon fires and outdoor movies, and ugly sweater parties. You can always find deals and half-off tasting specials going on around the valley.
A visit during the fall season means lower prices than chain hotels (rates can range from $70-$345), homemade meals, and a vintage experience in a locally run guest house. Peruse the Brandywine Valley bed & breakfast directory for a list of charming B&B’s like Sweetwater Farm and Kennett House, which is a short walk from great shops and sustainable eats—Talula’s Table is a must try—in historic Kennett Square. In addition to last minute specials starting at $126, the Kennett House has a Brandywine Wine Trail for Two package that includes overnight accommodations, wine glasses, and a wine passport for two to enjoy free tastings at the area’s top wineries.
More widely known is Chaddsford Winery. In contrast to Va La, where all the wine’s grapes are grown in the family’s vineyards, Chaddsford imports the grapes for its extensive wine list. The much larger property has a picnic area, greater selection of wines and accessories on sale, and frequently hosts festivals and concerts. The wine tasting package—sample 10 wines paired with 10 candies—is $20.
For those seeking a taste of local culture, explore nearby Brandywine River Museum, a four-story 19th century gristmill that hugs the river and holds thousands of landscapes, stills, and portraits by 19th and 20th century American artists, all part of the Wyeth family art collection.
Gateway Stables offers everything from hour long trail rides ($40/person) through the fields and woods to 60 minute group lessons. The owner’s daughter, Laurie Jakubauskas, is an international professional jumper with an equestrian facility a few miles away. Longwood Gardens is something you might expect to find in the backyard of Versailles. More than 1,050 acres of greenhouses, fountains, conservatories, and naturally, gardens, it is every horticulturist’s fantasy and your best bet for finding a few sobering hours (though you could spend half a day) that will awaken all your senses. Check the schedule for a complete list of upcoming events, like the Chrysanthemum Festival (October 27-November 18).`
How to get there: You can take the Amtrak Northeast regional train or the high-speed Acela from Penn Station to the Wilmington, DE station and arrive in 1 hour and 26 minutes. The roundtrip Acela ticket costs $118. The station is a 33-minute drive to Kennett House. Budget has a rental car location at the station. While it is possible to get to the area via public transportation, it will be difficult to visit all the destinations without a car. Use our hybrid rental car guide to leave directly from Manhattan.
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