Many locals and tourists know that Longwood Gardens is a spectacular place to visit all year long with its ever-changing gardens, fountains, and shows. However, because Longwood is always changing, there is a chance that you haven't seen everything the Gardens have to offer. This goes especially for those visitors that haven't been in a few years, like me. Longwood Gardens The last time I saw Longwood Gardens I was no more than 12 years old, running around without a care in the world right by my Grandmother's side. As teenage years got to me, I paid no mind to the updates and happenings at Longwood Gardens. Now I am over 20 years old with a beautiful and open view of the world and I caught wind of some exciting news. Well, news to me, that Longwood Gardens has three very large tree houses, or what they refer to as "Nature's Castles" located in various locations throughout the sprawling property. That 12 year old me jumped for joy! I couldn't believe these amazing structures have been there for over five years and I just heard about them for the first time. After a quick visit to the website, I realized that Longwood's Tree Houses are not just for children, people of all ages can enjoy the simplicity, excitement and childhood memories of a tree house!

Just days after finding out about these whimsical structures, I picked up a friend and took a beautiful drive through the Brandywine Valley to Longwood Gardens. Longwood Gardens Mother Nature was on my side - it was a gorgeous, breezy, 78 degree and sunny day. My return to Longwood Gardens was set. Map in hand, I made my first stop at the Lookout Loft which is located in the far back right hand side of the property. The massive tree house is constructed of beautiful wood and steel for support and doesn't actually use any real tree limbs for support, although they are incorporated into the structure to give it an authentic feel. Longwood Gardens Sitting back among the Forest Walk, the Lookout Loft tree house is shaded perfectly creating a cool place to look out over the meadow to one side and a forest of trees on the other. Wrapped around two of the trees in the Lookout Loft are hand-crafted metal "sound horns," which look like they came straight out of Whoville. The sound horns are used to amplify the nature sounds that surround you in the tree house. The Lookout Loft tree house is a playful space for children's imagination's to wander and quaint enough for an adult to have a moment of serenity.

The Birdhouse is a similarly built tree house that sits high up among the trees, perfect for taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Longwood Gardens The enclosed room at the top of Birdhouse has a wicker basket full of bird books and games that all can enjoy while high off the ground. And, if you step onto the balcony area, visitors can use the provided binoculars to spot native birds and even play a game of I Spy searching for the five small birdhouses hidden among the trees. A personal favorite of Birdhouse was a small wind up box tucked in the corner that allowed me to listen to four distinct bird calls, then attempt to match those calls among the many different birds surrounding me high atop the trees.

Playing in tree houses all morning can sure work up an appetite and thankfully the Birdhouse is located very near to The Terrace Cafe and 1906 Restaurant. 1906 is the upscale fine dining establishment connected to the Cafe. I chose to take the more relaxing route and enjoyed a wonderful summer salad from the Cafe on the outdoor terrace. The terrace is tucked back into a quiet area of Longwood Gardens which makes a perfect intermission to an exciting day of sight-seeing.

Longwood Gardens After refueling and on my way to the third Longwood Gardens tree house, Canopy Cathedral, I couldn't help but stop to take in the timeless beauty of Longwood's Italian Water Garden. Longwood Gardens This sight alone, for a moment, could make you forget where you are and transport you to another place in time. Continuing on, I made it to Canopy Cathedral, my last stop for the day. The first thing that hit me with this tree house was the smell of rich wood. And when you see Canopy Cathedral you'll know why. This tree house is true to its name. Its cathedral-like design was modeled after a Norwegian church and includes newly installed reclaimed church pews - a surreal experience that I did not want to end. And, even though all good things must come to an end, I will certainly be back again. This time however, much, much sooner.

I highly recommend Longwood Gardens and its magnificent tree houses for all. They are a sight to see and fun for all ages.

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