Everything’s Coming Up Orchids

If I could choose to spend the rest of my days in one place on earth, it wouldn’t be Paris or Bali or even (as much as I love it) New York City. It would be Longwood Gardens. Longwood, formerly the summer estate of Pierre S. duPont, occupies over a thousand acres just outside Kennett Square and is a marvel of innovative garden design and horticulture.

I’ve been to Longwood Gardens with my family countless times in the 10 years that we’ve lived in the Brandywine Valley. We became garden members soon after moving here, and our membership has served us well over time. Our son has grown up with Longwood; from those early years in his stroller, he’s become a garden “regular.” These days he could give a guided tour possibly as well as anyone who works there, and we never leave without paying a visit to his old buddy Belin, the feline resident of the Pierce-duPont House.

But even though we’ve been to Longwood so many times, each time we visit we find something unexpected. A previously undiscovered nook in the conservatory, a fountain tucked away in the woods, a new color or variety of our favorite bloom—these are the details that keep us coming back again and again. We never know what we’ll find when we head to the gardens.

I visited Longwood last week to take in the “Orchid Extravaganza,” which opened on January 19 and will be on exhibit through March 24. I was anxious for a respite from the cold, gray days of January, but before I headed to the conservatory I walked around outside, savoring the tranquility. I was pleased to see that the treehouses are open, even during these cold days. If you come to the gardens with your children (or if you’re a kid at heart), bundle up and be sure to check them out!

When the chilly winds finally got to me, I headed to the conservatory. No matter how many times I cross through those doors, I’m always amazed by what I feel when I step inside. It’s hard to find just the right superlatives to describe it—it’s a stop-dead-in-your-tracks, just say “wow” moment. I stopped to take it all in, overwhelmed by the sights, smells, and artistry of my surroundings.

As with everything Longwood does, the Orchid Extravaganza is magnificent. I wandered around the conservatory, snapping photos and taking in the beauty of over 5,000 orchids in various displays. Highlights include six different Orchid Orbs, each weighing about 200 pounds and suspended above the East Conservatory and Exhibition Hall; the Orchid Arch comprised of 800 yellow Phalaenopsis orchids and spanning the entrance to the Exhibition Hall; and the triple-tiered yellow-and-white orchid chandelier hanging above the Exhibition Hall floor. Orchids are tucked away in every corner of the conservatory, from the Cascade Garden to the Palm House. As much as I tried, I’m sure I didn’t see all of them; no matter–this just means I have a reason to visit again soon!

This year’s theme at Longwood Gardens is “Beyond the Garden Gates.” Visitors have the opportunity to meet Longwood’s gardeners, enjoy talks and demonstrations, and go behind the scenes during special Beyond the Garden Gates Days, Beyond the Garden Gates Tours, Talks with the Gardeners, and Insider Tours. Find out more here. Ongoing events for families and kids include OrKID Days, Kids’ Storytimes, orchid scavenger hunts in the Children’s Garden, and more. Learn about family events here. Garden gates are open from 9am to 5pm daily. For directions, ticketing, and more information, visit the Longwood Gardens website.

—Michele Kornegay

Great Skate

I may be in the minority, but I love winter. The snow, the ice, bundling up against the blustery wind, even shoveling—I look forward to it each year. With its abnormally warm temperatures, this winter (so far) has been a bit disappointing for a cold-weather-lover like me. Other than one day of sledding just before New Year’s Eve, I haven’t gotten nearly as much winter fun in as I’d like. I’ve barely even had to wear my parka!

But as much as I love the cold, I’ve never been ice skating. I didn’t grow up in a town that had an ice rink or a pond that would get frozen-over in winter (at least not one I was willing to risk getting onto). Being of a certain age, I do have plenty of experience with roller skating, but those days of pom-poms, glittery laces, and disco balls are a long-distant—albeit very fond—memory. Basically, it’s been a good 30 years since I’ve had anything attached to the bottom of my shoes other than some nice 3-inch heels.

So when the opportunity arose for me to pay a visit to IceWorks Skating Complex, how could I resist? A few hours of icy cold fun was just what I needed, I thought, to remind myself that—yes!—it’s still winter. Located just off of Route 352 in Aston (and only 15 minutes from Philadelphia), the facility was easy to find for both me and my skating companions for the day, my friend Mary and her two children, Lila (age 4) and Jerry (age 9).

Upon arriving at the complex, I was awestruck by just how huge it is. IceWorks isn’t just a skating rink; it’s four separate skating rinks, in addition to a full-service restaurant, snack bar, pro shop, arcade, and banquet/party rooms. There’s plenty of space at the facility, both on and off the ice. Friendly staff members were on hand to direct us to the skate rental area and then to the rink being used that day for public skating. On our way we stopped to watch a few national-level figure skaters who were there that day for qualifications. Watching them glide across the ice, we were all inspired to give it a try ourselves.

Let’s just say, ice skating isn’t as easy as those graceful young men and women made it look. In fact, I’d say that our time on the ice could be described as anything but graceful. I tried channeling those long-gone days of roller skating with limited success. Luckily, while we were on the ice, we met an instructor from the facility, who gave us some tips to keep us on our feet (the most helpful? “Stand up straight!”). He later told me how he’s trained one adult who has gone on to win the Pennsylvania Adult Figure Skating Championship—at age 61! So perhaps there’s hope for me. 

Which leads me to my next point: IceWorks has an incredible Learn to Skate program. Classes are offered for all ages in both figure skating and ice hockey. As skaters advance, they can join one of IceWorks’ skating clubs; enjoy camps, clinics, and an annual Ice Show; compete as part of both in-house and club-level hockey teams (the Dragons, Phantoms, and Little Flyers); or participate in the IceWorks Academy and even high-level competitive skating. Private lessons are also offered. The trophy cases packed with awards in the facility’s lobby are evidence that IceWorks knows how to teach skating.

Despite our novice attempts to skate (and more than a few wipeouts), Mary, the kids, and I had a great time—and a lot of laughs. I got my winter “fix” for the day and re-lived some of those old roller skating memories. With a little practice, I think I may even become pretty good at it, and the experience opened up a whole new avenue of physical activity for me (cross that resolution off the list!). It was great getting out of my comfort zone for a few hours—thanks, IceWorks!

IceWorks is open for public skating 7 days a week (check the schedule here). On January 21, head to the complex for extended open skate hours during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The cost is $10 for adults and children over 4; children 4 and under are free. Skate rentals are $1 (free on Wednesdays). Discount skating, family value, and annual membership packages are also available. For more information about passes and packages, call 610-497-2200.

—Michele Kornegay


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Delaware County�s Brandywine CVB  |  1501 N. Providence Rd.  |  Media, PA 19063
Phone: 800-343-3983  |  Fax: 610 627-9207