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Visit the elegant Hotel DuPont
Driving through the rolling hills of the Brandywine Valley in Northern Delaware, it’s easy to picture yourself in a different era – an era of elaborate homes, vibrant gardens and weeklong gatherings of family and friends. It’s especially easy since you’re within reach of three of the country’s most beautiful mansions.
Nemours Mansion & Gardens; Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; and Hagley Museum and Library are all part of the du Pont family’s rich history, and each has its own personality and tale to tell.
Nemours Mansion & Gardens in Wilmington is a French-style country estate inspired by the Palace of Versailles. The focal point is a five-story mansion with more than 70 rooms, and outside a garden featuring flora, fine art, fountains and an elaborate pool stretches one-third of a mile.
Visitors to Nemours can take a guided tour of the grounds (reservations are strongly recommended, and for groups they’re required); both a Guided Mansion Tour and a Guided Garden Walk are available. On the mansion tour, see some of the du Ponts’ fine art and furnishings, like the painting of George Washington in the reception hall and the two-lane bowling alley in the basement (it doubled as a cinema!). The garden tour takes visitors by the gilded statue named Achievement, through the gardens extending from the mansion to the reflecting pool and to the Temple of Love.
Nearby is Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Winterthur was once the home of Henry Francis du Pont, an avid antiques collector and lover of horticulture, and today it’s a museum featuring nearly 90,000 pieces in the mansion’s 175 rooms, plus permanent and special exhibitions in its galleries. (March 2014 through January 2015, don’t miss the must-see “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibit featuring costumes from the award-winning PBS series.)
The 60-acre Winterthur Garden complements the mansion. With a koi pond, sundial and reflecting pool found in different areas, and flowers blooming year-round, it’s one of the finest gardens in this part of the country. There’s even a children’s garden, Enchanted Woods, where kids can explore the Tulip Tree House, cross the Troll Bridge or walk the Fairy Flower Labyrinth.
General-admission tickets to the grounds (good for two consecutive days) are available with an introductory tour, and you can also reserve special-interest tours. Point-to-Point Steeplechase, a full day of horse racing, is held each spring, and around the holidays the mansion is decorated with poinsettias, Christmas trees and garlands for Yuletide at Winterthur.
See where the du Pont story began at the Hagley Museum and Library. Set along the Brandywine Creek in Wilmington, Hagley is where the du Pont Company was founded – and where E.I. du Pont saw his American dream come true. It’s the site of his original gunpowder works and a restored mill, as well as the du Pont family’s home for five generations. French-style gardens complete the mansion grounds.
Visit Hagley anywhere from two hours to a full day. While there, you can learn how the gunpowder-making process was developed and how it changed through the years; tour the gardens, which are especially lovely in spring and fall; and see the family’s residence for five generations, Eleutherian Mills.
Experience the serene botanical gardens and natural lands of Mt. Cuba Center from the picturesque meadow to the tranquil ponds. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour, annual events or leisurely stroll through the ever-changing scenery.
While you’re in Northern Delaware, have Afternoon Tea or dinner at the AAA Four Diamond award-winning Green Room at Hotel du Pont, and stay overnight in a house at the Inn at Montchanin Village. Save some time for a relaxing, refreshing treatment at the village spa; the seven-step Hammam Body Ritual is just the ticket to complete your trip through time.