Pennsylvania botanical gardens: 7-Day tour Travel Plan

Read “Important notes about my travel plans.”

~This is a 7 day travel agenda that visits some of Pennsylvania’s best botanical gardens and arboretums.
~This plan is designed to begin on a Saturday in order to accommodate the open/closed days of some establishments.
~This plan is intended to be traveled between May and September.
~Any prices listed are for comparison only and are not reliably accurate for travel dates other than my own.

~This is a PLAN made based on research and the reviews of others. It is not my review. (A review of this trip will soon follow).

About this plan: This vacation was designed to be taken during the pandemic. After a year being practically house bound we needed to get out and go. But many tourist sites remained closed and we also wanted to remain healthy so we planned for a vacation in the outdoors where we would have little contact with others. This vacation was the first of its kind for me. Instead of visiting a typical mix of parks, museums, and other tourism sights, or choosing a single destination for an extended stay, this tour focuses almost exclusively on visits to botanical gardens and arboretums. I was overwhelmed by the number of  these places that I found in my neighboring state of Pennsylvania. There is no way my husband and I could have visited them all in a week. But I doubt we could have gone wrong with any that we chose to visit.

Day #1 Saturday
Travel Day

Chart your own travel route.
If you are flying, you should choose either Pittsburgh or Buffalo as your destination. You will need a rental car. Plan your travels so that you arrive in State College by noon.

Driving U.S. Rt. 322
Those driving from the neighboring state of Ohio may enjoy this scenic route. Running from Cleveland east to Atlantic City, U.S. Route 322 is a two-lane highway that takes a little longer (it added 20 minutes to my first day’s drive), but there is less truck traffic to contend with and it is a more leisurely drive that winds through a stretch of beautiful Pennsylvania scenery.

12 p.m.: Arriving in State College, lunch at one of the many top rated restaurants.

Visit the Arboretum at Penn State
336 Forest Resources Bldg. University Park, State College, PA 16802-3604
Corner of E Park Ave & Bigler Rd., State College, PA 16803
~ Beautiful, well-maintained, manicured gardens.
~ Admission is FREE.
~Open from dawn until dusk.
The arboretum’s parking lot holds approximately 55 cars. On weekdays from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. you must go into the office in the Overlook Pavilion to get a (free) parking pass to hang from your rear-view mirror. You do not need a parking pass after 5 p.m. on weekdays, or on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays if the lot is full, you may pay by the hour (for up to four hours at a time) to park in the lot of the nearby Lewis Katz Building by using either of the two automated pay stations in the lot (one in the middle and the other at the end of the lot adjacent to the intramural fields). Accepts only coins or a credit card.
Expected duration: 2 – 3 hours

More things to do in State College…
Check out the campus or maybe browse a few of the town’s many shops.

Happy Valley Mini Golf
1890 S Atherton St, State College, PA 16801-7649
Traveler’s review: We found the course to be challenging, well landscaped, and in great condition. One of the better mini golf courses we have found in our travels.

State College top restaurants:

Cozy Thai Bistro

232 S Allen St, State College, PA 16801-4805
+1 814-237-0139
Mon- Fri.  11 AM – 3 PM and 5 PM – 9 PM Sat. 12 PM – 9:30 PM
Take out available
Traveler’s Review: Best restaurant in State College. Easy online ordering, plenty of parking, safe and fast pickup. Large portions, reasonable prices.

Plaza Mexican Bar and Grill
1550 S Atherton St South Atherton and University Drive, State College, PA 16801-6207
 +1 814-954-7451
Order online ~Gluten Free Options

The Field Burger & Tap
1 Country Club Ln Ste 1 Toftrees Golf Resort, State College, PA 16803-2001
 +1 814-234-8000
Gluten Free Options
Traveler’s review: Great atmosphere. Attentive staff. Some of the best burgers my family has ever had.

Duffy’s Tavern
 113 E Main St, Boalsburg, PA 16827-1422; +1 814-466-6241
Traveler’s review: The sign said “Boalsburg Tavern.” An old stone inn with many rooms, furnished with antiques.

Drive 33 min. from State College to Quality Inn Burnham.

Night #1 Saturday
Quality Inn Burnham

13015 Ferguson Valley Rd US 322, Burnham, PA 17009
Off Route 322, this contemporary hotel is 3.5 miles from downtown Lewistown. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms and free WiFi, as well as coffeemakers and 32-inch flat-screen TVs. Some upgraded rooms additionally provide living rooms with pull-out sofas.

Day #2 Sunday — Hershey Gardens

Drive 1 hr. 13 min. from Quality Inn Burnham to Hershey, PA

Hershey Gardens

170 Hotel Rd (across from The Hotel Hershey) Hershey, PA 17033-9508
Open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Expected duration of stay: 2 – 4 hours
What they say: Overlooking the town of Hershey, Hershey Gardens features a breathtaking assortment of flowers and shrubs, a stately collection of rare, signature trees, and various programs. Indulge your senses in the color and variety of our brilliant seasonal displays and theme gardens, including the indoor, tropical Atrium and the hands-on Children’s Garden.

Other things to do in Hershey:
Hershey’s Chocolate World
– Free factory tour by trolley.
101 Chocolate World Drive, Hershey, PA 17033-2005

Crossroads Antique Mall
825 Cocoa Ave, Hershey, PA 17033-1706

Hershey Top Restaurants
Pho Miss Saigon

1736 E Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033-1181+1 717-533-6857

Fenicci’s of Hershey
 102 W Chocolate Ave Frnt, Hershey, PA 17033-1598+1 717-533-7159
Traveler’s review: Fennici’s has THE BEST pizza and Stromboli’s.. Hands down. The meatballs are also delicious!

The Mill in Hershey
 810 Old W Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033-1908+1 717-256-9965
Traveler’s review: Great food, atmosphere and service. The building is amazing! New favorite spot for us.

4 p.m. (or thereabouts) Drive 1 hr 18 min (44.7 miles) via US-322 E to Honey Brook, PA

Night #2 Sunday
The Waynebrook Inn

4690 Horseshoe Pike Route 10 & Route 322, Honey Brook, PA 19344-1078
What they say: Since 1865, the Waynebrook Inn has welcomed many visitors. Today our Inn perfectly blends historic charm and quaint lodging with many modern comforts, including complimentary breakfast, free WIFI, and flat screen TVs.

Dinner at the Waynebrook Inn.

Day #3 Monday – Longwood Gardens

Drive 43 min (25 miles) via US-322 W from Waynebrook Inn to Kennett Square.

Longwood Gardens (closed Tuesdays) Wed – Mon 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Please note: Timed admission tickets are required. Adults $25 Seniors $22
Duration – Plan to spend the entire day.
Gardens open 10 am–6 pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Vast collection of vibrant flower gardens, a greenhouse & fountain shows plus student courses.

What they say: In 1906, industrialist Pierre du Pont (1870-1954) purchased a small farm near Kennett Square, PA, to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Today, Longwood Gardens is one of the world’s great horticultural displays, encompassing 1,077 acres of dazzling gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ and 4.5-acre conservatory. Longwood continues the mission set forth by Mr. du Pont to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education and the performing arts, through programming that includes exhibitions, musical performances by leading artists, renowned horticulture education programs, horticulture research, environmental stewardship and community engagement.

Italian Water Gardens
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square,  PA 19348
10:00 am to 10:00 pm
•              Festival of Fountains  10:15 am
•              Open Air Theatre Fountains  11:15 am
•              Main Fountain Garden Performances  12:15 pm
•              Open Air Theatre Fountains  1:15 pm
•              Main Fountain Garden Performances 2:15 pm
•              Open Air Theatre Fountains
Mr. Du Pont planned every aspect of this Garden, from the sculptures inspired by his travels in Italy to the hydraulic calculations. He even calculated that the northernmost pools needed to be built 14 feet longer than the southernmost pool to appear symmetrical from the viewing deck.
Experience a piece of Europe with this water delight that operates daily mid-April through mid-October
The basic layout of this much-loved water Garden, which debuted in 1927, is similar to one seen by the Du Ponts at the Villa Gamberaia near Florence, Italy.

Kennett Square Top Restaurants

La Michoacana Grill
201 S Union St, Kennett Square, PA 19348-3330; +1 610-444-8979
Take out available. Outdoor seating.
Traveler’s review: Even my picky husband loved it. Outside tables. Portions were huge.

Two Stones Pub Kennett
843 E Baltimore Pike, Kennett Square, PA 19348-1801;
+1 610-444-394
Traveler’s review: The food is very good. The menu has some of the usual pub fare item and is also sprinkled with seasonal favorites too

Lodging Night #3 Monday
Faunbrook Bed and Breakfast

699 West Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 19382
Established in 1860, Faunbrook is a Victorian inn set atop a hill overlooking the wooded 2-acre Brandywine Valley property. The estate was designed by notable Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan and built by William Baldwin in 1860. Baldwin topped it with a weathervane that depicted a faun and named it Faunbrook.
Brandywine River Hotel
1609 Baltimore Pike Building 300, Chadds Ford, PA 19317-7395
6.7 miles from Kennett Square
Traveler’s review: We chose here as a quick, quiet getaway. We loved it so much we came back for our 1st Anniversary. The room is perfectly sized for our needs and the jetted tub can’t be beat.”

Day #4 Tuesday
Visit the Morris Arboretum
100 E. Northwestern Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Weekdays 10am to 5pm
Weekends 9am to 5pm
Gates close: 4:15pm
~Advance tickets required.
Duration: 2-4 hours

Afternoon: Visit Winterthur
5105 Kennett Pike,
Winterthur, New Castle, Delaware
Duration: Garden tram tour only 1 hour

General Admission prices:
$20       Adult
$18       Senior (62)
$18       Student (12 and older; valid ID required for college students)
$6         Child (2–11)
Infant (under 2) Free
In Person
Purchase tickets in the Visitor Center. Tickets purchased by phone are picked up here. Reservations are strongly recommended. You may purchase tickets at the Visitor Center for your desired time slot if space is available.

Tuesday–Sunday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm
House Tour Hours
Reservations required.
Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11:00 am–3:30 pm
Wednesday–Friday, 11:00 am–2:00 pm
Reservations are strongly recommended. You may purchase tickets at the Visitor Center for your desired time slot if space is available.
Exhibition Hours Tuesday–Sunday, 10:30 am–5:00 pm
Garden and Estate Grounds Hours Tuesday–Sunday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm
Members have dawn to dusk access to the garden and grounds.
Guided Tram Tour Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm; Space and weather permitting.
Guided Garden Walks Hours
Garden walks are offered Saturdays at 2:00 pm.  Estate hikes are offered Sundays at 2:00 pm.

Once a Du Pont family country retreat, this estate’s spectacular gardens surround a 175-room mansion housing the world’s finest collection of American decorative arts from 1640-1860. Spend the day exploring our famous 60-acre naturalistic garden, or get lost in 1,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, and woodlands carefully designed by H. F. du Pont. Winterthur has 25 miles of well-marked paths and trails, and lush gardens to explore. Our award-winning children’s garden, Enchanted Woods, provides kids the perfect place to safely run, play, and imagine.

Night: Tuesday
Same as Monday

Day #5 Wednesday

Make an early morning visit to:
John Bartram’s Garden

54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19131
To navigate using GPS, use the address “5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA.”
Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

Founded in 1728 by botanist John Bartram, it is the oldest surviving botanical garden in North America. 
The grounds at Bartram’s Garden are free and open to the public 365 days a year, dawn til dusk. By arriving early you may have the gardens to yourself.
~ Admission is free
~Duration 1-2 hrs.
~ parking is free but also limited
~50 acres
~ Welcome Center: Monday–Saturday, 9am–4pm

Visit Chanticleer, “a pleasure garden

786 Church Rd, Wayne, PA
Weds – Sun. 10-5
35 of 47 acres are open to the public. The main path is just under a mile in length.
Duration 2.5 – 3 hours
Gen admission $10
Early Saturdays in 2021
Chanticleer will open at 8 am on May 1, June 5, July 3, August 7, September 4, and October 2. Regular admission fees apply and parking reservations are required. All guests arriving by personal vehicle must make a free parking reservation for the day and time of their visit. Parking reservations are required and are available two weeks in advance of your visit.

What they say: The Chanticleer estate dates from the early 20th-century, when land along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was developed for summer homes to escape the heat of Philadelphia. Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural. It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home. The garden has evolved greatly since the death of the owner in 1990. As the home of the Rosengartens, Chanticleer was beautiful and green with impressive trees and lawns. Most of the floral and garden development you see today has occurred since 1990, designed by Chanticleer staff and consultants.

There are seven horticulturists, each responsible for the design, planting, and maintenance of an area. The areas are continually evolving, each with its own feel, yet joined together as one complete unit. The Teacup Garden and Chanticleer Terraces feature seasonal plants and bold-textured tropical and subtropical plants. These areas change greatly from year to year. Non-hardy plants overwinter in greenhouses and basements. The Tennis Court, Ruin, Gravel Garden, and Pond Garden focus on hardy perennials, both woody and herbaceous. The Tennis Court builds on the idea of foliar display introduced in the Teacup. The Ruin is a folly, built on the foundation of Adolph Rosengarten, Jr.’s home. It is meant to look as if the house fell into disrepair. The Gravel Garden is hot and dry, a touch of the Mediterranean in Pennsylvania. The Pond area is exuberantly floriferous. Asian Woods and Bell’s Woodland are shady areas. The former features natives of China, Korea, and Japan; the latter, plants of eastern North America. The Serpentine celebrates the beauty of agricultural crops. The cutting and vegetable gardens produce flowers for our arrangements and food for our tables. Surplus goes to a shelter. The parking lot is our “low maintenance” area, with hardy plants that are neither irrigated nor fertilized. Staff build furniture, fences, gates, bridges, and drinking fountains during the winter in converted garages.

Traveler’s review: Awesome place to spend the day and enjoy nature, beautiful gardens and plenty of places to sit down and relax. 14 acres of gorgeous gardens and landscape to explore, a paradise for garden lovers.

Top Restaurants near Chanticleer
Asiana Garden
232 W Wayne Ave, Wayne, PA 19087-3922+1 610-293-7500

Pipeline Taco
165 E Lancaster Ave, Wayne, PA 19087-3525+1 610-225-8226
Traveler’s review: Our Friday night go-to place. Their tacos are excellent.

Drive 10 min (4.4 miles) via Conestoga Rd from Chanticleer to Jenkins.

Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens

631 Berwyn Baptist Road
Devon, PA 19333
Arboretum & Gardens: Open every day of the week from 9 am – 8 pm
Wednesdays – Saturdays, Tours Every 30 Minutes from 10am – 3pm (Last tour of day: 3pm)
Reservations highly recommended. 

Parking is limited only to designated spots in our parking lot. Street parking or idling in the street will not be permitted. If the lot is full, we encourage you to return at another time to visit. This will help us limit the number of people in the gardens at any given time, ensuring the well-being of our staff and visitors.

What they say: The history of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens is a love story. It sprouted from the love between a husband and wife and their love of horticulture and nature. This theme flourished at every stage, through the love between a father and son, the dedication of directors, donors, board members, staff, volunteers, and visitors with a deep love of horticulture and nature.

The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins. Elisabeth and Lawrence were neither a wealthy nor a noted couple. They lived within their means and enjoyed the beautiful natural setting of their home. The Jenkins house, situated on a hillside and filled with wonderful woodland trees and shrubs, was perfect for cultivating her passion and love of nature.

When Elisabeth died in 1963, Lawrence wanted to preserve their 20-acre property as a living memorial to his wife. He chose to create the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation by his will, stating that the property should be developed into a “…public park, arboretum, and wildlife sanctuary for the use of the public and responsible organizations engaged in the study of arboriculture, horticulture, and wildlife for educational and scientific purposes.” Lawrence died in 1968 and his bequest provided a green oasis for the community and a perfect legacy to honor his wife by preserving the woodland and gardens she loved so much.

George Edwin Patton, noted Philadelphia landscape architect, was hired in 1971 to develop a proposal on how best to convert the property into a public garden. Based on slope, soil type, and drainage of the site, he proposed the property be developed to feature native flora as well as plants in the Ericaceae (heath family) such as rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurels, and blueberries. He believed that this type of garden would be a complement to the many gardens that had already been established in the Philadelphia area.

In 1973, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property included a house and cottage designed by the renowned architect R. Brognard Okie.

Throughout the 1970s steps were taken to create a public botanical garden. Trails were created, a pond was installed, a visitor’s center was constructed, and rhododendrons, azaleas, and other ericaceous plants were planted in keeping with George Edwin Patton’s site plan. In 1974, Leonard H. Sweetman was hired as the first Director, after serving as Assistant Director of the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College for several years. It wasn’t until 1976, however, that Mr. Jenkins’ vision was realized when his property officially opened to the public as what is known today as Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens.

Traveler’s review: Enjoy the Rhododendrons and azaleas in May and return for the summer wildflower display.  This 48 acre garden has a 1.2 mile of trails.  The sometimes inclined path is well shaded. Plants are clearly labeled.

Drive 1 hr. 30 min. to Jim Thorpe, PA.

Lodging Night #5: Wednesday
Jim Thorpe Inn

Browse downtown shops.

Other things to do in Jim Thorpe:

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

1 Susquehannah Street, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229
Mon – Fri 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Sat – Sun 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Saturday, June 19 – 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM – Steam Loccomotive 425
Sunday, June 20 – 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM
Open air car Adults $20
Standard coach Adults $17
Caboose $125 for party of up to 6 people
What they say: Lehigh Gorge trains, a trademark of the Reading and Northern Railroad, take a 70 minute round-trip tour following the Lehigh River over bridges, through Glen Onoko, into the Lehigh Gorge State Park. High-rising cliffs and mountain scenery surround the train along the route to Old Penn Haven. You will see hikers, rafters, mountain bikers, and wildlife along the railroad. You will learn about railroad lore, wildlife, the history of the anthracite coal region, and the people who launched America into the Industrial Age. Seasonal days and hours apply throughout the year. Call for more information or visit our website for current schedules.
Travelers review: Sit on the right side, away from the station, for the views of the river and surrounding gorge.

Night #6: Thursday

Day #7: Friday

Travel home.

Other Pennsylvania Gardens to explore:

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburg, PA (a spectacular facility that we skipped only because we have been there recently).
Pittsburgh Botanical Garden, Oakdale, PA
Tyler Arboretum, Media, PA
Lake Erie Arboretum, Erie, PA
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, PA
Ambler Arboretum at Temple University
There are many more all over the state.

A few post trip notes: (a full review to come later).
Favorite Garden: Bartram’s Garden. It was the smallest garden we visited and is not as well funded as many larger establishments. But walking the grounds in the quiet early morning I could almost hear the voices of our founding fathers whispering in the breeze. Slipping in this early visit also allowed us to see two more gardens that day.
Most Elaborate Garden: Longwood Gardens is also the largest of the gardens we visited and requires an entire day to do it justice.
Best Rose Garden: Hershey Gardens.
Best Perennial Garden: The Arboretum at State College.
Most Disappointing Garden: Winterthur. Go for the art collection. Or go in the springtime to see the spring blooms. But what they call “gardens” are naturalized areas of native plants and not cultivated gardens.
Best Place for Viewing Trees: The F. R. Newman Arboretum at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. This was a last minute addition that was not on my travel plan.


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