Though it stretches only 12.5 miles, the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway is brimming with impressive sights as it winds its way through southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Boasting a bevy of museums that showcase everything from natural history to American art, 18th-century French furniture, and restored industrial buildings—as well as historical landmarks, waterfront dining, and even a bucolic estate—this easily-negotiated roadway offers a surprisingly eclectic array of experiences for roadtrippers to enjoy.
Whether you’re seeking an opportunity to soak up nature’s splendor or looking for an underrated wine country destination, here are 10 stops on this enchanting stretch of road.
1. Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site
Kick off your road trip in the village of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Located just 25 miles southwest of Philadelphia, this quaint community feels worlds away from the big city. Here you’ll find the Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site, once home to the largest engagement of the Revolutionary War. The site brings to life the Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777, between the Continental Army led by General George Washington and British forces headed by General William Howe. Take some time to reflect on the history of the area before journeying further into the Brandywine region.
2. Brandywine River Museum of Art
There’s no shortage of museums in the Brandywine Valley, and you won’t have to travel far down this scenic byway to find the Brandywine River Museum of Art. This regional museum showcases the work of American realist painter Andrew Wyeth, and offers a collection that spans three generations of the Wyeth family. Equally breathtaking is the museum’s setting, as the collection is housed in a 19th-century mill that features a modern addition made of steel and glass overlooking the stunning Brandywine Creek.
3. First State National Historical Park
Continuing, you’ll cross into Delaware, known as the “First State” as it was the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787. At First State National Historical Park you can explore the early colonial history of the region and the role Delaware played in the establishment of the nation. Learn about early settlers to the Delaware Valley, including Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and English immigrants, and their relationship with the Native Americans. The park contains a variety of historical sights, including a courthouse, church, fort, and plantation.
4. Nemours Estate
Next up: Versailles. Well, not quite, but the sprawling 200-acre Nemours Estate will make you feel like you’re walking through the famous French gardens. In fact, the jardin à la française at the Nemours Estate is the largest in North America, offering delicately landscaped plantings, fountains, pools, a carillon tower, statuary, and a pavilion. But while the gardens are truly a sight to behold, the estate’s 77-room mansion is equally opulent, playing host to rare 18th-century French furniture and a collection of notable antiques; don’t miss the chauffeur’s garage, which houses an impressive collection of vintage automobiles.
5. Hagley Museum and Library
The DuPont chemicals company was founded in Delaware in 1802 and its legacy can still be felt throughout the area. Perhaps the most lasting symbol of DuPont’s humble beginnings is the Hagley Museum and Library, which is set in the former industrial site of the company’s original black powder works. Situated amid 235 acres of wooded hills, this locale features hundreds of stone remnants of the gunpowder industry, dozens of restored buildings, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family, while the on-site library houses a collection of records ranging from 18th-century merchants to modern telecommunications.
6. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
Filled with objects collected by Henry Francis du Pont, scion of the DuPont Company founders, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is widely regarded as the world’s premier museum of American furniture and decorative arts. But during your visit you’ll also want to enjoy the more whimsical beauty found in the property’s Enchanted Woods, a fairy-tale garden filled with climbing and play areas for children, including a giant bird’s nest, adorable faerie cottage, and acorn tearoom.
7. Wilmington Riverwalk
When it comes time to seek out a dining destination, take a stroll along the nearly 2 miles of scenic waterfront walkway in downtown Wilmington. The Riverwalk offers a variety of local boutiques and outdoor sculptures, along with some of the region’s best eateries. Step inside the Riverfront Market to find stalls serving up everything from oysters to pad Thai, empanadas, collard greens, and more. And come summer, be sure to visit Constitution Yards, an outdoor beer garden offering BBQ, brews, and lawn games.
8. Delaware Museum of Nature & Science
Explore the region’s diverse ecosystem at the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science, recently reopened after an extensive renovation of its galleries and public spaces. Visitors can stroll across a giant geographical floor map to explore the state’s temperate forests, dunes, salt marshes, the bald cypress swamp, and the Delaware Bay. The museum is especially known for its extensive collections of seashells, birds, and bird eggs. The popular PaleoZone dinosaur exhibit showcases creatures that once called the Mid-Atlantic U.S. home.
9. Brandywine Valley Wine Trail
The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail comprises six wineries and cideries scattered throughout the region. Aspiring sommeliers, as well as novice wine drinkers, will find a lot to love as they sip and savor the unique offerings from this underrated wine-producing region. From touring barrel-aged cellars to wandering through stunning estate vineyards set in the area’s rolling hills, you’re sure to find something to suit your palate in this charming, laid-back setting.
10. Longwood Gardens
Finish your drive along the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway with a stop at Longwood Gardens. This remarkable botanical garden consists of more than 1,000 acres of manicured gardens, woodlands, and meadows. Take in a fountain show or delight in one of the gardens’ many events, which include demonstrations, educational programs, children’s activities, concerts, and musical theater. Plan a visit during the holiday season to enjoy the locale’s most popular event, A Longwood Christmas, and watch as more than 500,000 festive lights fill the gardens.