VISTA Escape: 20 Must-Have Longwood Gardens Experiences

Visiting Longwood Gardens

Last week’s VISTA Escape post laid out everything you need to know and do to prepare for a Longwood Gardens visit, including Longwood’s history, how to purchase tickets, directions to get there, and where to park.

But Longwood Gardens, at 1,100 acres, is a big place, so maybe you are wondering what attractions the Garden is known for that you want to make sure you have time to see.

We can help with that as well, so look no further if you’re looking for recommendations on what Longwood Garden scenes to check out and experience during your visit.

The Flower Garden Walk

The Flower Garden Walk

Immediately inside the front gate and to your right is the Flower Garden Walk. This was the garden that started it all. First created in 1907, this section is only 600-feet long, but is filled with colorful plants that are changed based on what best tolerates the season.

This area also boasts Longwood’s first-ever fountain. You have to see the garden that began everything, so you absolutely want to take a stroll down the walk when you get a chance.

The Rose Arbor

As the name suggests, in the summer is when you can see the roses on display at Longwood Gardens. However, beyond just the nice sight of the flowers, concerts are also held in this location for people to enjoy. Depending on what time of the year you come, you will find this area decorated with seasonal trappings reflecting the coming calendar occasions.

The Wisteria Garden

The various gardens of Longwoods allow for an excellent opportunity to showcase plants from a great variety of countries. In this one, you can enjoy the different colors of Japanese wisteria. If you come as they are blooming during the spring, you will also be able to take in the pleasant fragrance of the wisteria as well.

Peirce’s Woods

This section of Longwood Gardens is quieter and not as bright as some of the other areas, but it makes for a peaceful interlude on your journey. If you are a tree-lover then you will enjoy getting to look up at the towering maple, oak, and ash trees along the pathway. And in the autumn you can admire the colorful flowers that appear on the trees.

The Canopy Cathedral Treehouse

If you want to get a look at how Longwoods looks from above, the canopy treehouse is the best place to do it. This is a two-story house that was built to resemble a Norwegian church, complete with pews to sit on to enjoy listening to the birds. Or you can head out onto the balcony to get the complete bird’s-eye view.

The Italian Water Garden

The Italian Water Garden

It’s not just the plants that come from all over at Longwoods. As the name suggests, the architecture of these fountains takes a European inspiration, influenced from when the du Pont family visited Florence, Italy.

The design of the plants and fountains alike here are simple and elegant, designed to be a place of peacefulness.

The Lake

While much of the beauty of Longwood Gardens has been cultivated or built, it also has natural splendor as well. One of the best examples of this is the large lake that was once used for boating parties, but now creates a serene image along the paths. You can see the naturally colorful leaves reflected in the water, and it is especially a sight to behold when the seasonal light displays are up and mirrored off the lake as well.

The Meadow Gardens

If you want the feel of walking a bit off the beaten path you will definitely want to experience going through the meadow garden. This will give you a feel for the beauty Longwood offers with less of a man-made touch. Just fields of wildflowers and miles of tranquil trails.

The Pierce DuPont House

For history buffs, this is where you can learn the most about the past of Longwoods. Built in 1730, the house is the oldest building on the premises. Now inside you can learn about the life of the owner, Peirce-du Pont, and his vision that started the creation of Longwood Gardens as we know it today.

1906 at Longwood Gardens (Image via Longwood Gardens)

1906 at Longwood Gardens (Fine Dining)

As nice as the sights are, eventually it’s nice to sit and relax and have a bite. Named in honor of the year Pierce DuPont purchased the property, 1906 is a full-service dining experience with a menu that changes each season to offer something new.

Seafood, steak, salad, pasta, and cake are all commonly on the menu. This is your spot to get a taste of the finest Longwoods has to offer.

The Cafe & Beer Gardens

If you are hungry but want something quicker and more casual than a sit-down meal, Longwoods accommodates that too. The café and beer garden are open most days and are the perfect spot to rest and grab something quick you can eat on the go. Pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream are all available here. And if you are in the mood to turn your trip into a tasting session, you can enjoy the craft beer and wines on offer in the beer garden.

The Open Air Theater

This 1,500-seat performance venue has been part of the gardens since 1914. Here you can enjoy a variety of shows, including ones that don’t even require people.

This is a popular place to come and sit to watch the shows designed around the fountains that raise up in a curtain and change colors thanks to illumination from below. You can check the schedule for other performances planned, or come and watch the water dance to different musical pieces.

Main Fountain Garden (Image via Longwood Gardens)

Main Fountain Garden

This is one of your main hubs for accessing different areas, but it’s also a sight to behold in its own right. Here over 1,700 jets of water spin and soar to a variety of songs in a 12-minute show at various times throughout the day. From now through October you can catch the performances at 11:15 am, and afternoon shows at 3:15 and 7:15.

The Topiary Garden

If you want to see artistry through plants, this garden features trees that have been cultivated into a variety of impressive shapes. Some of the trees in this area date back to the 1930s, and continue to thrive as they are shaped into spirals and different animals. It just goes to show that even tree trimming can be an outlet for creativity.

The Hillside Garden

Some of the things you see at Longwood Gardens are such a seamless blend of nature and design that you might not even realize it. The hills in this garden are actually man-made, with the stream also being an addition made by humans. The end result is a diverse section of Longwoods that lets you enjoy the contrast of the plants as you walk up each level to see them from new angles.

The Exhibition Hall

You might picture the outdoors when you think of gardens, but there are of course many plants that thrive better indoors, which is why you will be spending much of your time in the conservatory.

The central hub of the conservatory is the exhibition hall, which is always a sight to behold in its own right with whatever seasonal plants are adorning the room. And depending on the theme, the center of the room can contain either a shallow pool to reflect surrounding lights, or an entire area for performers.

The Organ Museum

Pierre du Pont was also a lover of music, which is evidenced in the Longwood Organ found in the conservatory. You can sometimes catch demonstrations in the main room, or you can head behind the organ to check out the small museum dedicated to its history. Learn the full story of the Longwood organ and about the evolution of the instrument worldwide.

The Silver Garden

The Orchid House

The silver garden demonstrates the importance of the conservatory as it allows you to traverse between the plants and flowers of multiple climates all in one trip. In this room you get to see all the different desert plants, complete with floorwork designed to appear like a stream running through the middle of everything. The silvers and grays of the vegetation here allow you to focus on their textural contrast, such as the cacti compared to the leafier plants.

The Orchid House

As mentioned in our first post in this series, Longwood Gardens is undergoing an extensive renovation that will carry into 2024. However, the orchid house in the conservatory will have its new features finished by the fall of 2021.

So this century-old section will be enhanced to become even more diverse. By the fall, you will find up to 50% more orchids now on display in what was already an impressive collection.

The Garden Shop

A gift shop is always a fun way to end your time at an attraction, but Longwood’s Garden Shop has its own special touches.

The Garden Shop

If some of the plants and decorations you saw during your visit looked nice enough to take home with you, now’s your chance!

In addition to typical items like candy and clothes, the Garden Shop also has books on gardening, enchanting decorations like windchimes, and all sorts of plants and seeds for you to take home.

You can use this list to make sure you experience some of the most noteworthy spots at Longwood Gardens, but it is far from exhaustive.

There are so many more incredible areas to behold on your journey, so make sure to explore during your visit so you can find your personal favorite.

Bonus: Before you set off to visit Longwood Gardens make sure you have everything you need to make your visit to America’s best botanical gardens memorable.

Bonus x2: You enjoyed touring Longwood Gardens and even stayed for the spectacular Festival of Fountains at the end of the day. Now what? Here are 11 nearby historical, artistic, botanical, and fun places you should consider visiting.


This walking tour of Longwood Gardens was recorded in October 2020.