Who says summer is peak travel season? This fall you can experience an unforgettable weekend road trip with your spouse, closest friends, or family as you check out Wilmington, Delaware, and the treasured surrounding Brandywine Valley attractions. Discover gorgeous, Instagram-worthy pops of color as you drive through Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway, and along the way explore some of the country’s best kept secrets as you make stops at museums, restaurants, and gardens, experiencing 300 years of American history and natural beauty. The attractions are all in close proximity to one another, making this an easy and ideal fall journey.
Let’s get started…
Hagley Museum & Library
This landmark along the Brandywine has something for everyone - fans of classic cars, history buffs, nature lovers, and people who just want a relaxing experience in a beautiful fall setting. Hagley is the site of the gunpowder works founded by E. I. du Pont in 1802, later to be known as the DuPont Company, and it now includes restored mills, a workers' community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family. This is the perfect place to take in the natural wonders and history of the area on the banks of the Brandywine. The museum’s vision is “to be a place where innovation inspires and imaginations run wild,” so get ready to get inspired as you explore the museum and grounds.
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Travelers can spend an entire day at this nearly 1000-acre estate nestled in Wilmington’s gorgeous chateau country, where Henry du Pont designed the naturalistic gardens himself as a tribute to the landscapes he loved as a child. The museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of Americana (including paintings, textiles, ceramics, glass, and more), and a tour of the museum will transport you back in time as you explore the premier collection of American decorative arts. A must-see is the “Costuming THE CROWN” exhibit on display until January 2020, which showcases 40 award-winning, intricate costumes from Netflix’s acclaimed show.
Brandywine River Museum of Art
As you marvel at the vivid colors of the foliage along the byway, stop off at this one-time nineteenth century mill and historic home of the Wyeth family - namely famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth and his son, acclaimed American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World” at least once. The museum holds treasured nineteenth and twentieth century American artworks, many of them created by artists who lived and worked in the area and painted the very landscapes you’re walking through.
Pierre du Pont, who reshaped the family company and brought it into the 20th century, personally designed Longwood Gardens, getting inspiration from lush European gardens he’d seen on his travels. The majestic 1000+ acre gardens are an explosion of color and beauty, and there are annual events plus music and fountain shows, so check the schedule before your trip to make sure you’re getting the most out of the experience. During fall, Longwood is also home to the Thousand Bloom Mum, the largest chrysanthemum plant outside of Asia. It’s a flower that must be seen to be believed. There is also an on-site restaurant if you’re ready to soak in the beauty of the gardens over a meal.
Delaware Art Museum
Don’t miss a visit to the Delaware Art Museum, with its collection of over 12,000 paintings, sculptures, and illustrations, plus a nine-acre sculpture garden. The collection features local Brandywine-school illustrators and pre-Raphaelite art, and there are rotating events and presentations year-round. Towards the back of the garden you’ll find the Labyrinth, which “allows visitors to slow down, let their minds settle, and step into the quietude of another time.”
Whether it’s a couples' weekend, a girls trip, or a romantic getaway for two, Wilmington is the ideal location to finish off this unique fall road trip. There are plenty of things to do in Wilmington, Delaware, from boutiques full of tax-free shopping and world-class entertainment to a burgeoning dining scene that’s starting to get national recognition - not to mention the fact that weekend hotel rates are generally cheaper due to weekdays filled with corporate travelers.
So get your camera ready and your bags packed as you start to plan this stress-free fall getaway through some of America’s most stunning landscapes. There is no shortage of things to do in Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, and you can request a Visitors Guide or view the online digital guide to help you make the most of your trip. If you’re planning a longer vacation, the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway isn’t the only scenic route in Greater Wilmington. There’s Delaware’s Bayshore Byway, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, or the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway, all offering unique views of this beautiful area.