Longwood Gardens: The Art of Christmas


It doesn’t feel like the holidays for my family until we visit Longwood Gardens, a historical garden and grounds purchased by Pierre S. du Pont in 1906 and open to the public. And with a different theme every year—  this year, art takes center stage during The Art of Christmas—it’s become an annual tradition to bundle up and go see them in Pennsylvania. My kids are always thrilled to watch the trains go over the bridges and under the tunnels at the Garden Railway, see the twinkle of over half a million lights, and admire the beautiful Christmas trees in the Exhibition Hall in the richly appointed music room. And we aren’t the only ones who love to visit this PA attraction—Longwood Gardens has been nominated for the Best 2022 Botanical Garden Holiday Lights By USA Today’s 10 Best Readers Choice Awards (they won last year!). Read for more about our recent trip, and if you want to keep the holiday mood going close by, check out the light shows or Christmas Villages in NJ. (featured photo credit: Longwood Gardens and @longwoodgardens)

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The lights and lanterns outdoors bring Longwood Gardens to life.

Feast your eyes on outdoor delights

Despite the wintery temps, our first stop is to take a stroll to see the twinkling half-million lights along Flower Garden Drive with their wintery hues. We were all in awe of the gorgeous luminaria displays that gave the Large Lake a warm glow and the 200-foot-long Meadow Tunnel with nearly 20,000 sparkling lights that shifted from rainbow to warm colors to a galaxy effect. While we were outdoors, we also visited three different decorated treehouses where my kids could climb and explore. The largest Canopy Cathedral Treehouse (inspired by a Norwegian Church) made my husband and I feel like kids again as we climbed the two-story structure to take in gorgeous views of the lights and the lake below.

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Stay warm at one of the many outdoor fire pits in the gardens.

Experience the food and firepits

It’s hard not to cozy up at one of the three fire pits on the grounds of Longwood Gardens. Everyone in my family gathered around the fire pit and heated up in one huddle. After we warmed up, we explored the dining options on the grounds. Longwood Gardens has everything from a full-service restaurant named 1906, the year it was bought by Pierre DuPont, and an a la carte menu at The Cafe, an outdoor beer garden with wood-fired pizza, or a BBQ grill hut. No matter where we stop to eat every year, I always make sure to enjoy a steaming cup of their famous mushroom soup, available in many food locations on the grounds.

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The Garden Railway is a treat for spectators, young and young at heart.

Choo Choo at the Garden Railway

The whimsical railway is always a highlight during our trip. After we ate, my kids were racing to get there (it’s near the Terrace Restaurant). There are dozens of diesel engines, steam engines, locomotives, and specialty engines zooming around the tracks creating an air of excitement for all spectators. Littles and bigs anxiously watched as trains weaved in and out of tunnels and peeked out from behind buildings on over 500 feet of track. We even saw the famous Thomas the Tank and his friends zoom around the railway, which was a real treat.

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The Children’s Garden is kid-friendly and full of fun surprises.

Inspiration at the indoor children’s garden

Secret stairways, hands-on water features, plant displays, and hand-crafted sculptures create a unique experience for children of all ages (and adults too!) Longwood Gardens originally built the Indoor Children’s Garden in 1987, and it tripled in size in 2007. My kids picked up the paintbrushes to “paint” the dragon’s teeth with water, and they had a ball “chasing” the water up the fountains as the water hops from one fountain to the next.

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The Music Room will leave you with a cozy and inspired feeling that will put you in the holiday spirit.

Glowing indoor sights

Next, we entered the East Conservatory with flickering flame lanterns and trees. We also couldn’t miss the mesmerizing Exhibition Hall, where the whole Conservatory was filled with one showstopping spectacle after another. The highlight was the Music Room with silk paneled walls, filled with larger-than-life Christmas trees and a perfectly decorated fireplace mantle that inspired me to create my own mantle masterpiece at home.

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Lanterns and lights fill Longwood Gardens for the holiday season. Photo Credit: Longwood Gardens and @longwoodgardens)

What To Know Before You Go

A Longwood Christmas runs from now until January 8, 2023, from 10 AM-11 PM Daily. It is recommended to dress in layers since some exhibits are outdoors and some are inside. Most paths are paved, and you can use strollers on the grounds; however, a few areas are not accessible to strollers. The Lookout Loft Treehouse is the only treehouse that is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Private changing tables are available in each of the restrooms, and there is a nursing room along the Green Wall in the Conservatory (FYI, there are substantial private bathrooms along the Green Wall, and they are definitely the bathrooms to try). Tickets range from $2-$30. Timed Admission Tickets are required every day from opening to close. 

Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348
(610) 388-1000

Learn more about Longwood Gardens through their website, Instagram, and Facebook.

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.