Kick off the holiday season with a getaway to Chateau Country . . . and there are many ways to celebrate safely this year despite the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives.
Enjoy long walks through gorgeous gardens and historic homes brilliantly decked out with festive lights and decorations. Revisit your childhood and make memories with your own kids with activities that inspire the yuletide spirit. Take in a romantic evening by a roaring fire sipping hot cocoa.
No matter how you choose to kick off the season here, an escape to Greater Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is sure to inspire hope, wonder and joy . . . all the things that make this the most wonderful time of the year. Here are some of the spectacular holiday happenings going on in our area:
Beginning December 4, this historic du Pont estate and grounds will be decked out for the holidays. There are also lots of special yuletide activities the entire family will enjoy. This year, back by popular demand, is the third annual Gingerbread House Contest. The theme this year is Hometown Heroes. Enter your own creation (there is no fee to enter), or check out the sweet creations of others, including award-winning pastry chef Michele Mitchell.
Head up to the Gibbons House and peek into a nineteenth century kitchen where cookies were once baked in a woodstove. Don’t forget to take your own holiday cookie (individually wrapped) before you go! There’s also a special visit planned by Santa and Mrs. Claus, Santa’s Workshop Selfie Station, and a free activity kit for children so they can make their own wooden gear ornament. Check www.hagley.org for dates, times and specific details on each holiday happening.
From December 1 through January 3, teachers, front-line healthcare workers, active fire and police personnel, and others who have been working to keep the community healthy and safe will receive free admission.
New this season is “Yuletide in Lights,” a magical outdoor holiday show featuring 3D animation, light and sound with Winterthur’s famed estate house as the backdrop. This Disney-esque display runs December 1 through 12. Also during Yuletide are “Christmas Tree Tram” holiday hay rides, S’mores Around the Fire (sounds like so much fun!), and Yuletide Jazz. Topping off this festive roster of celebrations are live ice sculpture carvings, choir performances, and the ever-popular Winterthur holiday house tours (with social distancing and COVID safety precautions in place). There are also fun workshops including how to make mistletoe cactus, make your own holiday ornament , and holiday craft making workshops just for kids.
Kids will not want to miss the Santa Tram ride. Take a ride to the Enchanted Woods on the tram, and be sure to bring your imagination! There, Santa Claus awaits. There will also be hot chocolate, a sing-a-long, and sweet treats to enjoy.
For more details on these holiday events and more, visit www.winterthur.org. Reservations for all events are required as capacity is limited.
Named America’s Best Botanical Garden in USA Today’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards, Mt. Cuba is offering holiday-themed classes that will help you get your home ready to celebrate the yuletide season. Learn to make nature-inspired table centerpieces in time for Thanksgiving. Enjoy a glass of wassail as you learn to hand-craft wreaths from magnolia leaves and evergreen boughs. Other opportunities to let your creativity shine include lessons on how to make Bayberry candles, colorful winter containers, and natural holiday arrangements. For a class calendar, go to www.mtcubacenter.org.
One of America’s most lauded holidays light displays is on for 2020! The magic starts November 20 and runs through January 10. It features more than half a million lights, with Longwood’s towering trees wrapped from top to bottom in dazzling, brilliant colors. The dancing lights that mimic the fountain jets in the majestic Main Fountain Garden are a sight to be seen. Other must-sees include the illuminated light show set to yuletide music and the 100-foot tunnel of light that pulses with changing colors.
There is so much holiday cheer to take in here. Be sure to plan at least several hours for your Longwood adventure. Kids will be mesmerized by the outdoor model train. If it happens to be on the chilly side when you visit, no worries! Take a break and warm yourself at one of Longwood’s fire pits. Inside the heated conservatory, you’ll find bedazzled holiday trees and a carnival of color from lovely flowers of the season including poinsettias of all shades, amaryllis and paper whites. To make a reservation and for more details, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.
Holiday Magic at the Brandywine is now open through January 10! The highlight of this event, the Brandywine Railroad, has been a family favorite since 1972. Model trains run on a thousand feet of track through a small village, a drive-in movie theater and even a carnival.
Exciting new additions this season are two model train sets once owned by Nicky and Jamie Wyeth, the sons of the renowned American artist Andrew Wyeth. Artist Jamie Wyeth’s N-gauge train display was originally co-owned by his friend and fellow toy collector, Andy Warhol. The Brandywine’s whimsical Critter ornaments decorate towering trees in the museum’s atrium, and the fairytale-like dollhouse of artist and composer Ann Wyeth McCoy is sure to delight. For more details, click here.
Board this historic and scenic train for a visit with the Big Guy (Santa) himself. Jolly Old St. Nick will great you as you board the train and give every child a chocolate to sweeten the ride. There’s also the opportunity for selfies with Santa so be sure to bring your camera or Smartphone. Adults will love the winter scenery as the train takes its 1 ½ - hour round-trip journey through the beautiful Red Clay Valley.
Be sure to dress warmly. Though the train is heated, doors and windows will be open as part of COVID-19 safety precautions. For dates, fees and other details, click here.
The Grand Opera House will put on the first-ever Winter in Wilmington Drive-Thru Holiday Show this year! This light show extravaganza opens November 27 and runs through January 3, lighting up the night sky every Thursday through Sunday. Featuring lights, animation and music, it will bring holiday cheer to even the Grinch himself! The event is staged in the outfield parking lots of Frawley Stadium. Pre-purchased tickets are required. Go to www.TheGrandWilmington.org to buy yours today.
The holiday spirit is very much alive in Greater Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley despite COVID-19. All our attractions have extensive safety measures and precautions in place to protect your health, including limited capacity. That’s why it is important to purchase event tickets early and check the websites of individual attractions for their individual procedures before your visit. For overall safety practices and requirements in our region, access our handy Know Before You Go guide by clicking here.
And while you are in our area, we encourage you to visit some of our other world class attractions. The Delaware Art Museum has an excellent collection of American artwork as well as the largest Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of Britain. You also won’t want to miss the festive Chihuly glass. This is also your last chance to visit one of our hidden gems, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, before it closes for 2021 for a complete renovation! A stroll or drive through historic New Castle and Historic Houses of Odessa to view the holiday decorations and lights is another fabulous way to celebrate the season.
Ready to visit? Go to www.visitwilmingtonde.com for a host of options for tax-free shopping, dining and accommodations to round out your trip. We also offer customized travel assistance through the Live Chat accessed through the website. We hope to see you soon!!