Rolling Through Brandywine

5/27/2016

Art Takes Many Forms in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley

The Brandywine Valley, a bucolic stretch of land defined by the Brandywine River (also called Brandywine Creek) that slices through it, straddles Delaware and Pennsylvania and is less than an hour southwest of Philadelphia. There you will find lanes that weave through lush fields, old stone fences that thread the rolling hills, thickets of woods, and quaint historic villages that beg to be toured in your Subaru. Most of the landscape remains unblighted by the sprawl that has seized so much of the open space on the East Coast.

Visit the duPonts 

The area has long been the playground of the very wealthy, dating back to 1802 when French immigrant E.I. duPont established his gunpowder factory along the banks of the Brandywine Creek. Visiting this site where the powerful duPont family got its start, now home to the Hagley Museum & Library, is a fitting way to kick off a visit. 

Next, head to Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, a 175-room mansion, inherited by Henry duPont, and used to house his collection of American antiques. The collection is the largest of its kind in the world and includes gems like George Washington’s dinner service and reconstructions of small craftsmen’s shops. Henry designed his 1,000-acre property as a naturalist garden, renowned for its large specimen trees. 

Up the road from Winterthur is Longwood Gardens, which was established by another duPont (Pierre). This 1,077-acre property includes topiaries, dancing fountains, native meadows, and artistic tree houses. The conservatory is a masterpiece with rose gardens and bonsai, palms and a desert oasis, an orchid room and reflecting pool, and a children’s garden and living wall. 

Longwood’s Orchid Extravaganza. There are more than 10,000 different species, varieties, and cultivars of plants growing at Longwood Gardens.
Longwood’s Orchid Extravaganza. There are more than 10,000 different species, varieties, and cultivars of plants growing at Longwood Gardens.

Gardens Galore

The Brandywine Valley has other exquisite gardens, like the Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware, a hilltop garden with paths to stroll and plateaus for picnicking, and Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania, which has become a media darling celebrated by Martha Stewart and Architectural Digest for its 5,000 different plant species. The most recent addition to this roster of horticultural excellence is Terrain in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, owned by the founder of Anthropologie, a chic-but-substantial nursery which also includes a trendy organic restaurant tucked within a greenhouse.

A Magnet for Painters

The natural beauty of the area is what made it an artistic haven for one of America’s greatest painters, Andrew Wyeth, best known for Christina’s World. If you pop into Hank’s Place, a homey local diner in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a riot of petunias and impatiens hanging outside, be sure to sidle up beside locals who will regale you with tales of “Andy” over a plate of homemade corned beef hash. Across the road sits the Brandywine River Museum of Art, a repurposed gristmill perched on the river that showcases Wyeth’s work, along with that of his father N.C., famous illustrator for classic books like Treasure Island, and that of realist artist Jamie Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s son, who still lives nearby. Don’t forget to explore N.C. and Andrew Wyeth’s studios, which remain very much as the artists left them.

Art from the Kitchen

You can’t mention the Brandywine Valley without talking about its reputation as a foodie mecca that first earned its stripes as America’s mushroom capital. The charming town of Kennett Square is the heart of mushroom country. Stop in at The Mushroom Cap, an anchor store downtown, to view a homespun rendering of how mushrooms grow, and grab a case or two of the good stuff: shitake, button, and portobello varieties. Every September, this town yields its streets to a mushroom festival with tastings, cook-offs, and, yep, mushroom-related crafts ranging from earrings to pottery. A few miles away in the town of West Chester you’ll find the region’s best food shops, such as Éclat, an innovative chocolatier that turns out treats like organic hot-chili chocolate sticks, and Carlino’s, an old-school Italian market that delivers homemade gnocchi and spinach ravioli. On weekends, at the buzzy Artisan Exchange, local food purveyors sell everything from Asian dumplings to German bread, Caribbean hot sauce to site-roasted fair-trade coffee. 

A weekend is not enough to delve into the rich heritage and culture in the Brandywine Valley, so plan to linger a while longer or, barring that, start plotting your return.

Kathi Lafferty of The Mushroom Cap.
Kathi Lafferty of The Mushroom Cap.

Exclusive Benefits for Subaru Owners

Subaru owners visiting the Brandywine Valley will receive the following special deals and discounts.1

Stay

Nestled amid woodlands and gardens is Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast, a stately manor once owned by a 19th century congressman in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast will offer a 10 percent discount on any Friday or Saturday night stay or a 20 percent discount on any Sunday through Thursday stays in 2016 to Subaru owners who use the code “DRIVE” when booking one of the six antique-filled guestrooms.

Located in the center of West Chester, Pennsylvania, the Hotel Warner is the Brandywine Valley’s newest hotel. Tucked behind an Art Deco-era theater, the boutique hotel has a small pool and gym, along with free Wi-Fi® and complimentary snacks courtesy of a retro popcorn maker. Use the code “DRIVE” when booking a stay to receive a gift bag filled with welcome amenities.

Shop

Nowhere can you more easily access the bounty of the self-proclaimed “Mushroom Capital of the World” than at The Mushroom Cap in downtown Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The shop sells all things mushroom, from snacks to aprons. Plus, it features a mini museum dedicated to the tastiest fungi. Readers who make a $10 purchase and use the code “DRIVE” at checkout will receive a free pound of mushrooms.

With live music, free samples, and a commitment to sustainability, The Artisan Exchange in West Chester, Pennsylvania, has become a popular gathering place. The lively indoor food and farmer’s market showcases local growers and manufacturers, who sell everything from organic produce to fair-trade site-roasted coffee to award-winning egg rolls to hand-dipped candles. Readers who mention Subaru Drive magazine at the entrance will receive a complimentary tote bag filled with vendor discount coupons and special offers.

Museum

The setting of the Brandywine River Museum on the banks of the Brandywine River in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is as inspirational as the work by the American artists within. This is Wyeth Country and the museum, which exhibits works like Andrew Wyeth’s iconic Christina’s World, offers off-site tours of the nearby art studios of Andrew Wyeth and his father N.C. Wyeth (illustrator of Treasure Island, among other classics). The museum also offers tours of the Kuerner Farm, which stands beside the Brandywine Battlefield and was the subject of thousands of Wyeth paintings. Readers should use the code “DRIVE” at the ticket desk to receive $3 off admission for any studio tour with museum admission. The offer is valid through November 20, 2016. No other discounts apply and this discount may not be combined with other offers. 

1 Offers valid through September 15, 2016.