Kennett Square, a rural town in Chester County’s Brandywine Valley, is known as “The Mushroom Capital of the World.” The lush acres of farmland provide the right conditions for the fungi to flourish. Simultaneously, the proximity to major cities allows the delicate crop to arrive from farm to table the day it’s picked. Over 60 percent, nearly half the country’s production can be processed and shipped from the area each year, but there’s so much more to Kennett Square.
If you love history, you’ll love Kennett Square. From the beginning, the Lenape Tribe lived and hunted around the forests and streams. The Revolutionary War saw British occupation and battles. The Civil War slave trade met resistance with the help of the Underground Railroad. Kennett Square’s historic past earned the city a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Longwood Gardens, one of the world’s great gardens, is only a 3-minute drive from State Street, the vibrant shopping and dining road. Chester County is a culinary, craft brewery, and winery destination but is also known for the Brandywine River Museum of Art and Wyeth Family Studios. Only 30 miles drive from Philadelphia and 13 miles from Wilmington, Delaware, the best way to explore Kennett Square is by car. There is plenty of municipal and metered parking in town. Between the events and offerings nearby, you’ll want to visit every season of the year.
Note: Brandywine Tourism hosted my lunch and visit to Longwood Gardens. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Kennett Square
1. Visit Longwood Gardens
Philadelphia is known as America’s Garden Capital. There are 30 gardens within 30 miles of the city, including the world-renowned Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. The 1,100 acres of displays, including formal and natural parks, fountains, and a 4.5-acre Conservatory, have a historical past and an exciting future. In 1906, industrialist Pierre S. du Pont purchased a small farm to save a collection of trees from the sawmill. The land encompassed a parcel known as Peirce’s Park, which included a group of priceless trees selected from up and down the Eastern seaboard and overseas. The philanthropist rescued the trees planted by naturalists Samuel and Joshua Peirce and had the vision to educate the public about horticulture. Today, Longwood is poised to continue the mission set forth by Mr. du Pont. In the fall of 2024, Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience will open to the public. The expansion continues to collect, protect, and educate about species of plants from around the globe with stunning exhibits and exciting spaces to house them. A legacy of stewardship continues for generations to come.
2. Honor Historic Heroes At Longwood Cemetery
As you exit the gates of Longwood Gardens, you will notice The Longwood Cemetery. John and Hannah Cox were Quakers and abolitionists. They owned the farmland and were leaders in the abolitionist movement. Founded on Quaker ideals, the cemetery doesn’t discriminate. Black Civil War soldiers, Civil War doctors and nurses, Quaker abolitionists, and station masters of the Underground Railroad are all laid to rest here side by side. The most famous citizen is Bayard Taylor, a Kennett Square resident, author, and diplomat. This place of peace sits across the street from the famed Longwood Progressive Meeting House that is now the Brandywine Valley Tourism Information Center. The Meeting, built in 1855, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is one of the eight stops on The Kennett Square Underground Railroad Tour. Reformers and abolitionists met here to discuss and plan the Underground Railroad routes and end the scourge of slavery. Six delegates from this congregation met with Abraham Lincoln on June 20, 1862, urging him to emancipate all slaves. Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are among the notable people who spoke here about emancipation and women’s suffrage.
3. Appreciate Inspirational Art
The Square Pear Gallery is a beautiful space to wander and explore. Whether you’re looking for a specific piece or just interested in art, you will love this gallery on State Street. There is always an evolving display of pottery, drawings, or paintings at Square Pear. You will love the friendly experience that resident artist and owner Corien Siepelinga shares with her customers. She encourages you to walk in and just enjoy the work. If you love it, then take it home. There is no pressure. Square Pear showcases emerging and established artists in the main gallery. Corien offers children’s art classes on weekends in small groups to encourage creativity in a safe, socially distanced environment. It is a pleasure to visit and experience this creative place.
4. Buy Mushroom Themed Items And Fresh Mushrooms
The Mushroom Cap knows mushrooms. Here, shoppers can find informational books to learn about foraging, cookbooks, gifts, and fresh mushrooms from shop owner Kathi Lafferty’s and other local farms. When owner Kathi opened the Mushroom Cap in 2004, she wanted to showcase the crop that put Kennett Square on the map. Kathi felt that there needed to be a place in town to buy fresh mushrooms and learn how they’re grown. “So many people wanted to know where the caves were and how mushrooms are processed in Chester County,” Kathi explained. Since tours are no longer offered due to health regulations, she shows a 13-minute video and operates a free museum that explains the entire process. Kathi sells products including dried and marinated mushrooms, sauces, and mushroom chowder. If there is a mushroom lover in your life, she creates customized gift baskets and takes online orders shipping directly from the store. Mushrooms were historically recorded since the Pharaohs and were thought to be a gift from the gods. As we learn more about their nutritional benefits, including reducing cancer risk, I am starting to feel the Egyptians were right.
The Best Restaurants In Kennett Square
5. Try Corn Ice Cream At La Michoacana
La Michoacana is the best homemade ice cream with authentic Mexican flavors and Mexican-style ice pops known as paletas. The ice cream shop on State Street should not be missed. The creamy authentic flavors of Mexico can be found with their number one seller, corn ice cream. Try two scoops of the sweet, creamy corn sprinkled with chili powder and salt, and you have the most authentic treat you’ve ever tasted. If that is not your speed, there are traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and cookies and cream (among others). If you want to step out on a limb, try a flavor like avocado, queso fresco, or guava and cream because if it’s made here, it’s going to be delicious. They have ice pops in every flavor and milkshakes too.
6. Taste American And World Cuisine At Portobellos
We stopped for lunch and enjoyed a fantastic meal at Portobellos. Chef/Owner Brett Hulbert and his wife and business partner Sandra Morris settled into Kennett Square in 2011. As an Executive Chef, Brett ran several commercial kitchens in large casino hotels in Atlantic City, offering various cuisines. He wanted to reconnect with diners on a personal level and found that in Kennett Square. This accomplished Chef creates seasonal menus with a focus on the region. Mushrooms are highlighted, and since he hails from the beach, so is seafood. He draws from his extensive culinary training. Hulbert moved his way up the line in high-end kitchens employing French techniques, especially during his days as a saucier. You will notice French, Asian, Italian, and American flavors reflected here. We started with Clams Avalon, his version of “Casino” topped with pancetta, onion, peppers, and Parmesan. The stuffing would have been delicious alone but combined with the clams, it was outstanding. Next, we shared Porcini ravioli with Oyster mushrooms, tomato concasse, and truffle cream. It was light, and the delicate mushroom flavor shone through. I wanted more, but the duck was next, and it’s my favorite. The crispy duck with French cherries, blood orange, Grand Marnier, and Merlot reduction was hands-down the best I’ve tasted. The pizza oven (left by the previous owner) roasted the skin crisp, and when finished with the tart cherry orange sauce from this master, well, it was divine. The hospitality made me feel like we dined at a friend’s. Bonus, there’s live music on the weekends. There are many dining options on State Street worth noting. Check here for more options.
7. Sample Tea At Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop
Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop is that perfect mix of serious and silly. Serious about sourcing over 150 varieties of unique, high-quality tea. Mrs. Robinson has one goal, to find the best tea and then share it with everyone. She loves small patch teas that she sells loose by weight or in prepared tea bags. The shop has an entire wall dedicated to her precious finds. She shares her discoveries daily by offering samples of selections to patrons. The silly part of the store is the stocked novelty items, including mugs, dish towels, and aprons that bring chuckles and smiles to shoppers’ faces. There are plenty of valuable products like stationery, gardening items, and perfect cards for unique gifts.
8. Sip Coffee On State Street
Philter is a coffee lover’s dream. The definition means, “A potion supposed to cause the person taking it to fall in love.” If that doesn’t sum up how we feel about a great cup of coffee, I don’t know what does. This tiny coffee house on State Street looks like it belongs in a chic metropolitan city instead of a suburban town like Kennett Square. The funky sign outside the shop was designed by two local artisans Rob Sigafoos and Katee Boyle. They hand-welded and forged the unique art piece, which signals the hand-crafted coffee inside. Owner Chris Thompson offers pour-over small batch and brewed filtered coffees created with beans from Ceremony Coffee roasters. Ceremony roasts each type to perfection and highlights the flavor profile from the beans’ country of origin. Fresh pastries, breakfast, and lunch options are available daily. Espresso and curated teas from Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop are also on the menu. Retail items include artisan chocolates, hand-crafted leather goods, and a selection of curated plants.
9. Drink Craft Beer At Kennett Brewing Company
The Brandywine Valley has a growing craft brewery scene with 19 different taprooms where you can sample the fantastic local beer. Kennett Square Brewing Company is dedicated to the hand-crafted brewing process and “believes that everyone deserves an extraordinary beer.” Founder Mark Osborne traveled worldwide and conducted over 12 years of research to develop his unique style. Much like an artist, Mark created or developed an interpretation of styles that give his customers an excellent experience. The beer has fun names like Wee Wobbly or Puffy Hoppy IPA, but the taste is proof that the research paid off. If you aren’t a beer drinker, Jossy Osborne’s sangrias or cider are available. The food is inventive and tasty, with Kennett mushroom soup at the top of the menu. Other bites include jerk wings, a hummus plate, burgers, salmon kabobs, and empanadas. Live music plays on the weekends.
10. Order A Wine Flight At Chaddsford Winery
Chaddsford Winery is interested in making wine that makes you happy. Their goal is to make wine approachable and food-friendly because that is what we all want, a wine to enjoy with friends and food. The winery is the oldest, largest, and most acclaimed in Pennsylvania, producing over 24,000 cases of wine every year. The Chaddsford Winery sits on 5 scenic acres but is not an estate winery. The 100 percent vinifera fruit comes from vines grown on the historic Hopewell Vineyards in Lower Oxford, Pennsylvania. Additional fruit comes from growers throughout Pennsylvania and New York who have partnered with Chaddsford for decades. All this results in delicious dry whites, reds, sparkling, and sweet wines that celebrate the “Mid-Atlantic Uplands” microclimate. Tastings are offered at the Winery in Chadds Ford by booking a Reserve Tasting, Table Service, or Walk-In Seating. Food is paired for certain tastings and you can also schedule a private event.
Pro Tip: Kennett Square is a beautiful day trip, but with so much to see, you might want to extend your stay. There are historic inns and hotels nearby. For more information about lodging and other activities in the Chester County area, visit Brandywine Valley Tourism.
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Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher, she used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each unique place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad. Follow along with her travels on Jeanine Consoli Travels.