Longwood Gardens /1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348
We might make it to Longwood Gardens once a year. I love it and the history behind it but it does not entertain my boys enough to drive out there. However, I watched a video on their seasonal event Nightscape and decided to give it another try. If you have ever been to Longwood then you know how beautiful it is. I can tell you that in the dark it is even more beautiful and is a whole different place. I can also tell you that the pictures and this review will not do the show justice. This is not a light show. This is actually super cool.
Nightscape is a light and sound experience by Klip Collective that is taking place at Longwood Gardens from now through October. So what is a light and sound experience? For Nightscape the gardens become the backdrop for an intensely sophisticated projected light show that is coordinated to an original score. The Klip Collective uses the massive trees and giant topiaries and turns them into moving parts that change and dance to the music. And just like in the promotional videos I saw where people talk about the show… you really do have to see it to fully understand it.
We went to Nightscape on opening night. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. and that gave us a chance to explore some of the tree houses and the duPont family home. Then we made a quick stop at the Longwood Beer Garden where you will find beer, wine, and food (more food is inside The Café) under giant white tents with plenty of seating. The boys loved the hot pretzels with all the dipping sauces.
At 9:00 p.m. you start to hear Willy Wonka like umpa music start-up and the Longwood Beer Garden starts to empty out towards the sound. The show has officially begun. The grounds are pitch black with low lit street lamps lining the walkways. You follow the sound and the lights in the distance to each new experience. This is a self-guided tour where you pretty much just follow the crowd depending on where you are when the show starts.
Nightscape really does transform Longwood into an entirely different place. The pristine (dare I say slightly stuffy) image of Longwood disappears and is traded for weird ambient music, color explosions, mind trips, and a much more interesting audience then it usually gets during the rest of the year.
Some of the sections you physically get to walk through the light show and you feel completely surrounded by the experience and the music (it’s like the IMAX experience at the Franklin Institute minus the nausea). The scene by Pierce Woods and Flower Garden Walk is so captivating that people just sat down and watched it forever. Through the magic of light the insanely high wall of pines across the pond displays every season from a winter snowfall to fall winds stealing the leaves in one big sweep. It was magical. I know that sounds cheesy but it is honestly the best way to describe it. On your way to the Pierce Woods section there will be a pond on your right with bullfrogs competing for your attention with their loud croaking. Shine a light on the edge of the pond and you are sure to see a bunch of them sitting there waiting for you.
The drive to Longwood from the city is about 30 miles but can take anywhere from 45-60 minutes. I am 100% glad we went to Nightscape. More than a few times my oldest Henry turned around and said, ”this is the coolest thing I have ever seen.” However if I did have the chance to do it all over again I would have done it differently and this is where you benefit. Here is how I recommend you do Nightscape with kids!
The show starts at 9:00 p.m. I would say that was the exact time my youngest started to go down like a jet plane. I ended up doing my own version of Longwoods Crossfit with him on my back most the time.
9:00 p.m. start time.
For kids that pass out on the dot for their bedtime this might be a problem. I would bring a stroller or baby carrier for sure. For older-ish kids like mine, Longwood Gardens has those plastic stroller buggies. You can rent a single for $6.00 or a double for $9.00 (#priceless). I highly recommend you get one of those and toss a blanket in there. I can tell you that I would have spent more time at certain areas if we would have had one of those and Ollie could have passed out when he wanted to.
The other option is to go in the fall when it get darker sooner and the show has an earlier start time. The show runs through October and tour Nightscape in a comfy sweater and hot chocolate sounds pretty adorable right about now.
I wish I would have arrived earlier. I would have actually arrived earlier and explored the grounds more when it was light out. Because it is a light show the grounds are almost pitch black. I wish I would have arrived at 7:00 p.m. and done the conservatory and some of the other grounds. Then stopped off at the beer garden for their delicious pretzels ($6.00) and then done the show starting at 9:00 p.m. Once the show starts you really are on limited time with the kids so even though the entire place is open until 11:00 p.m. families should arrive earlier to take advantage of everything.
VIP HH TIP: Some families had little flashlights which was really smart.
Download before you go. I would have done my homework and downloaded the app ahead of time. Make sure you check out Nightscape Interactive Map on their website. After I look at it to write this review I am pretty sure I missed two spots by the Conservatory. There are some signs guiding you through the experience but they are not consistent and there needs to be more of them. Depending on where the crowd is standing you might not see them because they are on the ground. There are eight spots total so make sure you don’t miss any of them.
Now, go an enjoy this amazing show!