Sunday, December 11, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland at Winterthur

For the second year in the row, we decided to have a holiday-related family outing. Last year, we went to Radio City for the Christmas Spectacular and then wandered over to Rockfeller Center to check out the decorations. This year, we decided to go south instead and visited Winterthur near Wilmington, Delaware. Winterthur is a DuPont family estate, which was donated by the family to become a museum some time in the 1950s, in part for H.F. DuPont to share his collection of American decorative arts with the world outside of his family and friends. The property also boasts extensive (and I mean extensive) grounds with wilderness and gardens for visitors to explore.

For three months of the year, the estate also features a Yuletide at Winterthur tour. I was pleasantly surprised by the length and breadth of the tour and by how much the Christmas theme was incorporated throughout. The tour covered numerous rooms in the huge 175-room mansion, each decorated for Christmas based on different time periods. The tour guide provided lots of details about different traditions of decorating and gift giving over the years. For instance, a very early Christmas day featured a small tabletop tree that used cookies as ornaments, which the children were then allowed to immediately eat. A much later Christmas day included gifts after lunch, and these gifts were wrapped in the newly discovered colored cellophane. There were also displays of children's toys and games over the years, in addition to the usual displays of furniture, paintings, hand-painted wallpaper, etc. This tour was also pleasantly surprising in holding the attention of young children as they could find Christmas trees and gifts in nearly every room.

Speaking of appealing to young children, we had also spent some time on the grounds having fun at the Enchanted Woods, although mostly it was a bit too cold to spend much time outdoors. (Foiled again, as the last time I was at Winterthur, it was a warm summer day but it down-poured when we hoped to go out and explore the grounds.) Indoors, we all (and I really do mean all, adults included) had a blast in the Touch-It Room, where kids of all ages can learn about life in the past through imaginative play including dress-up clothes, pretend food, replica old-fashioned toys (like tops, cup and ball, Jacob's ladder), and various scenario areas.

Other current exhibits at the museum include "With Cunning Needle: Four Centuries of Embroidery,"which was interesting but small, and "Paint, Pattern & People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725-1850," which was more extensive but not quite as interesting. We also brushed briefly through some of the permanent collections of porcelains, furniture, and etc., which I had seen on a previous visit. We also noticed that there was an "orientation video" describing a brief history of the estates, so we stopped and watched that.

On this second visit, I once again found this place delightful and informative, and I'm hoping to one day make it out there on a pleasant spring day to see all the flowers in bloom and actually get to take a walk through the grounds.


  1. Ah, I remember that downpour. Foiled indeed :/

    The rest sounds awesome, especially the Touch It Room and the Christmas theme throughout.

  2. At least it didn't rain when we are the tram ride though! Got to enjoy some of the grounds :)

  3. True! That was fun and amazing :)