MUST-HAVE EXPERIENCES AT LONGWOOD GARDENS WHEN YOU VISIT THIS YEAR

The sun was setting and we were in our seats. We had purposely stayed extra-long at Longwood Gardens for this moment, and I was bouncing in my seat. My children weren't even with me, but I was excited. You see, I was finally getting to see the Illuminated Fountain Show, an attraction that had been renovated and revived in 2017, but I had yet to experience.If you have never been to Longwood Gardens, just 25 minutes outside of Wilmington DE, you have missed the magic of one of the country's premiere gardens. This is a special spot for many of us who grew up in Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic region. Many kids went during the holidays or as a special outing in the spring or summer months to see the gardens in bloom. Only members got to go regularly; the rest of us only visited once or twice as kids if our parents could afford it.When I was younger, Longwood Gardens was a mythical land, one I only experienced less than a handful of times. For my husband, who grew up 20 minutes down the road, it was a yearly tradition. His parents performed there as area musicians, his sister met her husband there while he was in school.As an adult, it has begun to weave its magic on my own little family. I insist on visiting every Christmas Eve. We don't have many traditions as we are usually running from one relative's house to the next. This is one we can stick with though as it is between houses. My boys can see the Christmas lights and Conservatory dressed up. It brings a little magic to the holiday season.Longwood Gardens is part of our family, as it is many families, but it all started with the du Pont family, back in the early 1900s.While Pierre S. du Pont was born in a DuPont Company house north of Wilmington in 1870, he would later own one of the most magnificent gardens in the country. Du Pont's love of horticultural and landscape design was heavily influenced by his travels, bringing jets of water, French and Italian design together throughout his gardens soon after he bought what was then the Peirce Farm.Unlike other family members and wealthy men of his time, du Pont didn't keep his beloved Longwood to himself. In 1921, he built the large Conservatory, adding on the Music Room in 1923 for his 3650-pipe Aeolian organ. He opened the Conservatory and Music Room to the public, hosting civic and educational groups as early as 1923.Throughout the past century, from the time du Pont bought the Peirce farm to the present day, Longwood Gardens has grown and transformed into a world class horticultural display. Landscape designers and horticultural students come to study and test out plant theory in the Idea Garden. The Conservatory and outdoor gardens continue to show off what can grow in a Mid-Atlantic flower garden throughout the summer, but also in a greenhouse in winter.While wandering the property, it is easy to miss a lot of the smaller gardens or hidden gardens. It’s not that they are small, there are just so many. Take not of a few of our favorites so you don’t skip over them when you visit.The Meadow Garden was set up and opened to the public in 2014 to show off the history of the land. It harnesses ecological landscape design and sustainability practices to preserve the open spaces and valley around the gardens.You can walk out to the 18th-century Webb farmhouse, if your feet can carry you, to get a deeper understanding of the history of the land. This is one of the many gardens that will change throughout the year and is worth a look. If you don’t want to make the walk, you can still get a good view from the entrance that looks over the field.