A September 2000 trip
to Wilmington by RV Momma
Quote: Snowbirds headed south for the winter should consider a stop in Wilmington, Delaware, where a dazzling exhibit of Faberge eggs and magnificent mansions of the duPont family deserve a visit.
The DuPont family arrived in Wilmington just after the American Revolution and soon began making gunpowder - the original foundation of their great fortune. Today, many of the mansions and gardens belonging to this prolific French family are open to the public.
Hotel | "Hilton Wilmington/Christina"
The Hilton offers several dining choices. Le Chameleon, located in the hotel's gorgeous grand ballroom, is a AAA 4-Diamond selection. Its four-course Prix Fixe Menu is a real steal at $19.95. The more casual Brasserie offers a popular Thursday night Prime Rib, Seafood and Pasta Buffet ($15.95), daily Dinners at Dusk from 5-8pm ($10.95) and a big Sunday Brunch Buffet.
Other special events include a Tuesday evening Swan Feeding that's a hit with all age groups, Happy Hours with free hors d'oeurves M-F in the lounge, Wine & Cheese receptions (M-Th) and High Tea served in the Conservatory, reservations only.
The Hilton turned out to be a convenient place to stay during our exploration of Wilmington and the surrounding area. It's just a short drive into downtown, and a central location for reaching Old Newcastle and the Brandywine Valley attractions. It would also be quite convenient for a trip into Philadelphia or Baltimore.
The Hilton is a sponsor of the Faberge exhibit and offers packages that include a room, breakfast and tickets to the event for $129-$169 per couple. Golf packages are also available.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 30, 2000
100 Continental Drive (Exit 4B off I-95)
Wilmington, Delaware 19713
Attraction | "Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library"
The gardens are equally grand and were Henry Francis' first love. He ordered the estate firefighters, in case of fire, to save the towering trees first, and let the house burn. Fortunately, it never did.
First time visitors can take the Highlights Tour of the Period Rooms and the Garden Tram Ride to get an overview of the estate. Special tours are also available. A general admission exhibit area includes interactive exhibits on decorative arts, a Touch-It Room for kids, and the Campbell Soup Tureen collection.
Winterthur hosts many special events all year, including an Easter egg roll, a Point-to-Point steeplechase in early May, a huge craft festival on Labor Day weekend, the annual Delaware Antiques Fair in November, and Yuletide Tours, mid-November to early January.
General admission in $8, $13 with the Highlights Tour, for adults. Senior and children's discounts available.
Winterthur Museum: Garden Shop
In the front of the museum, a temporary exhibit 'Opulence and Elegance' complements the Faberge exhibit over at the Riverfront Arts Center. Including works by Tiffany, Baccarat, and Faberge, it continues until March 3, 2001.
Upstairs at the History Museum, kids find 'Grandma's Attic' a great place to play dress-up or have fun with historic games.
The Delaware History Museum is located in Wilmington's Historic downtown, within easy walking distance of the downtown hotels. The Old Town Hall, also open for tours, is nearby. Street parking is available, but RVs may run into problems.
Delaware History Museum
504 N Market Street
Attraction | "Hagley Museum"
The Hagley site is quite large, stretching out along the banks of the Brandywine, so allow plenty of time to explore. A park bus leaves from the Henry Clay Mill, now a visitor orientation center, and takes you to all the sites. It will also take you up Blacksmith Hill to the Belin House, a seasonal restaurant. There are also picnic areas along the river, if you prefer to bring a lunch.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 29, 2000
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Rd
Wilmington, Delaware 19807
Attraction | "Nemours Mansion & Gardens"
The French-inspired gardens are equally magnificent. A green lawn sweeps down to a reflecting pool and maze garden, a sunken garden and a Temple of Love.
Tours of Nemours are offered only from May to November. Knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the mansion. You can then stroll through the gardens before reboarding a bus for a guided tour that includes the garage where antique autos are preserved. Tours cost $10.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 26, 2000
Nemours Mansion and Garden Tours
1600 Rockland Road
Peter Carl Faberge was the legendary jeweler and goldsmith who created the famous Faberge eggs for the Czars of Russia. A stunning array of these fabulous treasures provides the focal point of the Broughton exhibition. Among the eggs on display is the first egg created for the Romanovs by Faberge in 1885, as well as the Orange Tree Egg of 1911 and the Cross of St. George Egg of 1916, which was brought from Russia by the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna at the time of the Revolution.
The exhibit tells the story of Faberge's rise from humble beginnings to head an international business empire, until his ultimate escape from Russia and tragic death in Switzerland. His influence on jewelry design and fashion of the day is also explored. Master works created by Faberge's contemporaries - Lalique, Cartier, Tiffany and Boucheron - are included in the exhibit for contrast.
Besides eggs, many other precious objects created by the Faberge workshops are on display in Wilmington, including a delightful menagerie of animals and exquisite miniature floral arrangements made of gemstones.
The Faberge exhibit continues through February 18, 2001 at the Riverfront Arts Center. Admission is $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, $5 for K-12 and $9 for college students. Family and group rates are available. The exhibition is open daily from 9am to 7pm, except Mondays. Ticket prices include a 10-minute orientation film and a 45-minute audio recorded tour. Both adult and student versions of the tour are available that touch on different aspects of the exhibition, and many adults like the student tour. Call 1-888-395-0005 for advance reservations.
Many area hotels offer a Faberge package that includes tickets to the exhibition, a night's lodging and various other perks. The most prestigious of these is the four-star Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington. Even if you don't stay at the du Pont, your ticket stub from the Faberge exhibition will get you a 15% discount on lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch in the hotel's famous Green or Brandywine rooms (reservations required). More information can be found at www.faberge-exhibition.com/ In addition, Amtrak offers a special discount on rail fare to those traveling to the Faberge exhibition. Ask for Fare Code X-81N-966.