Savor, The Review: Prime Time

The Chadds Ford Inn gets a big boost with Brandywine Prime.



Brandywine Prime
Seafood & Chops

Routes 1 and 100,
Chadds Ford, Pa.
(610) 388-8088

Entrée prices $18 (pappardelle) to $32 (8-ounce filet mignon)

Best bets: Braised lamb shank, raw oysters, beef tartare, dry-aged beef

 

 

 

Photographs all by Thom Thompson
http://www.thomthompson.com

 

When General George Washington’s fledgling American army faced the British at the Battle of the Brandywine in 1777, the Chadds Ford Inn was already 40 years old. During the past 30 years, the place saw almost as many ups and downs as the soldiers who tramped the surrounding hills and valleys.

Now the old homestead—the new Brandywine Prime Seafood & Chops—is hosting a winner. The hero this time is Dan Butler, one of Wilmington’s most successful chef-restaurateurs.

Until recently the restaurant depended on tourists to the Brandywine Valley. A steady flow was enough to keep the Chadds Ford Inn afloat, even when the food was far from stellar. Those days ended a couple of years ago, when an especially inept incarnation and the loss of aging fans combined to drive the old hostelry under.

Then the speculation started. After Butler’s involvement was announced, word began to spread that his new project would be an upscale steakhouse. History buffs began to fret that the building would be desecrated to make way for a palace of glitz and bling. The anxiety only increased as the planned opening was delayed from early fall to late fall, then into the new year.

The time was spent well. Contrary to early rumors, Brandywine Prime is a steakhouse neither in the range of its offerings nor its prices. The menu does feature several cuts of dry-aged beef raised on a farm in upstate Pennsylvania, but there’s also a raw bar, other seafood and several pasta dishes. Look hard enough and you’ll find a pork chop on the menu, too—hence the name. What’s on offer is a survey of Butler’s career on the local restaurant scene—mostly high points.

Back in the 1980s, Butler’s Griglia Toscana in Trolley Square brought the food of Italy, in all its regional variety and modern sophistication, to a town where even the expensive Italian eateries were wedded to Italian-American red-sauce classics. With Deep Blue, he ventured out with a stylish seafood place that thrives even on nights when there’s no theater crowd to lure customers into the deserted canyons of Wilmington’s business district. Along the way he opened a takeout shop based on the Toscana menu.

None of that, however, could prepare Butler for this project. Transforming an old building of thick, blue-rock fieldstone walls into something glossy enough to consistently attract locals is no mean feat.

Butler has done it by tacking against the prevailing wind. In a region that abounds in historic buildings and traditional restaurants, Brandywine Prime does justice to the inn by treating it as a starting point instead of its entire reason for being. Fieldstone walls, deep-set windows, exposed wood beams, and varnished plank floors form a backdrop for a smart, sleek bar and four ample dining rooms. Stone walls contrast with bare walls painted mainly in earth tones. Butler also eschews Colonial furniture, an obvious option, in favor of a lean, utilitarian look that matches the rest of the decor.

 

 

 

 

During our dinner, the wait staff pushed shrimp cocktail, and rightly so, given the size and freshness of the crustaceans. But they paled in comparison with the raw bar’s fresh oysters. The selection changes with the market. On our visit, most of the half-dozen choices were from the Pacific Northwest. They tasted just-out-of-the-water fresh.

So was every other form of seafood we sampled, from the succulently tender calamari to a suitably impressive crab cake formed from big lumps of meat whose delicate sweetness was deftly underscored by a vanilla-scented corn sauce. The crab cake was further enhanced by a side dish of sinfully rich lobster-flavored mashed potatoes.

The only seafood dish that failed to dazzle was an appetizer of lobster ceviche. The meat was simply too delicate to muscle its way forward in the presence of such acidity. But it was a good excuse for the kitchen to flaunt its au courant credentials by garnishing the dish with a scattering of truffle-flavored popcorn.

Steak hasn’t been forgotten. Some people like it raw. For them Brandywine Prime serves an appetizer of beef tartare. The meat is chopped (instead of ground), combined with capers, onion, egg and a mustard-touched vinaigrette, then formed into a small, chilled timbale. The result was more precious than the hearty French bistro classic, but no less delicious.

A big draw will, naturally, be the dry-aged beef. Aged beef, hung in temperature- and moisture-controlled conditions, develops a tenderness and nutlike flavor that can’t be achieved any other way. Brandywine Prime offers several cuts at prices of about $3 an ounce. I tried a 10-ounce rib-eye that was delicious rare. Next time I’ll pay the extra money for a pound, just to experience the extra thickness.

For my taste, the standout dishes were the Italian ones. Toscana still serves the best pasta in Wilmington, and that pedigree showed in a bowl of wide pappardelle with rabbit ragôut. Chicken had been substituted for coney the night we visited, but when it’s slow-cooked in a tomato base, it tastes just like rabbit. (The meat has since been changed to duck confit).

The standout among our entrées was a lamb shank braised in red wine and apple juice served atop large-grained couscous studded with dried fruit, merguez sausage and broccolini. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, moist with rendered suet—a rich counterpoint to the tart fruit.

 

 

 

 

With an eye toward the BYOB movement that has transformed fine dining in Pennsylvania restaurants, Brandywine Prime allows customers to bring a bottle of their own, with a corkage fee of $10. “I don’t want people bringing a bottle of Turning Leaf,” Butler says, “but if they have something special, we’ll be happy to have them bring it here.”

To that end, the restaurant has not invested heavily in high-priced bottles, and without a cellar on site, it couldn’t anyway. The result is a wine list that might be shorter than you’d expect, with a concentration in bottles that retail in the $15 to $25 range. Here they sell in the low-$20 to high-$30 range, making a two-bottle meal at Brandywine Prime more reasonable than most. We found the Cline Old Vine Zinfandel we had considered bringing from home on the list, then followed it with a fruity La Violette Syrah.

If there was a shortcoming in the opening days, it was service. Ours was fine; we never waited long for anything and our waitress was nothing if not friendly. But that was no surprise, considering we were recognized as soon as we arrived. Accounts from other customers painted a spottier picture, including some long pauses between courses—understandable, perhaps, considering the long trek from the kitchen to the upstairs dining rooms.

Butler already has undertaken his next challenge: turning a separate building on the property into a more casual eatery with a lower-priced menu. He’s already well on his way to making history. 

D

 

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Website »

More information

Hagley’s property will be open Wednesday evenings for curious guests and families to bicycle or walk. Visit areas normally closed to foot traffic. Bring a picnic or dine at the Belin House...

Cost: $2, free for members and children 5 and under

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 130-265-82400261
Website »

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be holding a four-session diabetes educational program, The Diabetes Connection, on May 11, 18, 25, and June 1 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The cost of the program may...

Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611x2446
Contact Name: Nanticoke's Diabetes Education Dept.
Website »

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The Arabian Nights is probably the medieval Arabic book best known in the west, full of ripping yarns and vivid characters that have influenced film, music, and literature for centuries. But did...

Cost: Advance tickets: $5 ($2 for Penn Museum members); $10 at the door based on avail

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Zumba sessions every Wednesday in Lewes Canalfront Park, overlooking the banks of the beautiful Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in Historic Lewes. Free.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lewes Canalfront Park
211 Front Street
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Zumba by Kelly, Friends of Lewes Canalfront Park
Telephone: 302-645-2795
Website »

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Looking to build your social network with fun and competition? Give tennis a try! It’s time to grab a racquet, your sneakers and some tennis balls and head to your local court to be part...

Cost: varies

Where:
Banning Park
201 Middleboro Road
Wilmington, DE  19804
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More information

Visit TheDCH's Urban Farmer, and shop our locally grown, seasonal produce to benefit our Urban Agriculture programs. Supplies are limited, so get there early for the biggest selection of fresh...

Cost: Produce prices vary

Where:
Urban Farm at 12th and Brandywine
12th and Brandywine Streets
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: 302-658-6262
Contact Name: Adrienne Spencer
Website »

More information

RAIL EXPLORERS Opens their Delaware Division! Partnering with the Wilmington & Western Railroad and the Delaware State Parks Rail Explorers brings their unique adventure to the...

Cost: Tandem $75 (2P), Quad $125 (4P)

Where:
Rail Explorers Delaware
200 Gun Club Road
Hockessin, NY  12983
View map »


Sponsor: Rail Explorers
Telephone: 302 601 0888
Contact Name: Mary Joy Lu
Website »

More information

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia examines the profound influence of Asia on the arts of the colonial Americas. Featuring some of the most extraordinary objects produced in the...

Cost: Included with admission. Members free. $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: DuPont, Glenmede and John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw. Additional support from M&T Bank and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and tours
Website »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Drawing from Hagley’s collection of automotive advertising art, this exhibition features rare marketing materials highlighting everything from Duesenbergs to Datsuns. This exhibition asks “Did...

Cost: Included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum & Library
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

Registration is open for our second annual Hook-In to take place on July 30, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM.  Hagley welcomes hookers (artists who practice the art of rug hooking) to gather and collaborate,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20.

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Cost: Free

Where:
World Cafe Live at The Queen
500 North Market Street
Wilmington , DE  19801
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Sponsor: Trellist Marketing | Technology
Telephone: 302-994-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

More information

Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery will be hosting bariatric support groups on the first Tuesday and third Thursday of each month from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at Nanticoke Memorial...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery
Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
Contact Name: Shelly Geis

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  Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers childbirth classes on Thursdays from 6:30pm to 8:30 pm in the Ground Floor Conference Room. The class will meet each Thursday for a total of five weeks –...

Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611x2540
Website »

More information

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Visit TheDCH's Urban Farmer, and shop our locally grown, seasonal produce to benefit our Urban Agriculture programs. Supplies are limited, so get there early for the biggest selection of fresh...

Cost: Produce prices vary

Where:
Urban Farm at 12th and Brandywine
12th and Brandywine Streets
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: 302-658-6262
Contact Name: Adrienne Spencer
Website »

More information

Looking to build your social network with fun and competition? Give tennis a try! It’s time to grab a racquet, your sneakers and some tennis balls and head to your local court to be part...

Cost: varies

Where:
Banning Park
201 Middleboro Road
Wilmington, DE  19804
View map »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Registration is open for our second annual Hook-In to take place on July 30, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM.  Hagley welcomes hookers (artists who practice the art of rug hooking) to gather and collaborate,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20.

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Drawing from Hagley’s collection of automotive advertising art, this exhibition features rare marketing materials highlighting everything from Duesenbergs to Datsuns. This exhibition asks “Did...

Cost: Included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum & Library
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

RAIL EXPLORERS Opens their Delaware Division! Partnering with the Wilmington & Western Railroad and the Delaware State Parks Rail Explorers brings their unique adventure to the...

Cost: Tandem $75 (2P), Quad $125 (4P)

Where:
Rail Explorers Delaware
200 Gun Club Road
Hockessin, NY  12983
View map »


Sponsor: Rail Explorers
Telephone: 302 601 0888
Contact Name: Mary Joy Lu
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia examines the profound influence of Asia on the arts of the colonial Americas. Featuring some of the most extraordinary objects produced in the...

Cost: Included with admission. Members free. $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: DuPont, Glenmede and John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw. Additional support from M&T Bank and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and tours
Website »

More information

The inspirational Japanese art of floral arranging will be on display for you to see and enjoy. Members of the Sogetsu Brandywine Study Group with advisor Midori Tanimune will exhibit their...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: 302-658-6262
Contact Name: Marcia Stephenson
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Both children and adults enjoy the First State Heritage Park's candlelit walking tours – there’s history, humor, and sorrow in the stories of real people from Delaware’s past centuries. ...

Cost: $10

Where:
First State Heritage Park
John Bell House
43 The Green
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Website »

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PurpleStride Delaware is back and better than ever! This year, our 5K run and family-friendly walk will take place on June 4, and will take participants on a route through Dravo Plaza at Riverfront...

Cost: $10-$30

Where:
Dravo Plaza
900 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network - Delaware Affiliate
Contact Name: Donna Stollings
Website »

More information

The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is back again at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) this June 4 and 5! Come out and enjoy the most exciting collegiate rugby in...

Cost: $33-$99

Where:
Talen Energy Stadium
1 Stadium Drive
Chester, PA  19013
View map »

More information

Whether you have a new interest or are a seasoned advocate, this overview covers the important aspects of tree and shrub pruning to ensure the healthy growth and cultivation of your trees. For...

Cost: Members $10; Non-members $15

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: 302-658-6262
Contact Name: Samuel Seo
Website »

More information

Looking to build your social network with fun and competition? Give tennis a try! It’s time to grab a racquet, your sneakers and some tennis balls and head to your local court to be part...

Cost: varies

Where:
Banning Park
201 Middleboro Road
Wilmington, DE  19804
View map »

More information

First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia examines the profound influence of Asia on the arts of the colonial Americas. Featuring some of the most extraordinary objects produced in the...

Cost: Included with admission. Members free. $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: DuPont, Glenmede and John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw. Additional support from M&T Bank and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and tours
Website »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

The definition of the word art has changed over time. From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that...

Cost: Members free. Included with admission, $5-$20.

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Drawing from Hagley’s collection of automotive advertising art, this exhibition features rare marketing materials highlighting everything from Duesenbergs to Datsuns. This exhibition asks “Did...

Cost: Included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum & Library
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Registration is open for our second annual Hook-In to take place on July 30, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM.  Hagley welcomes hookers (artists who practice the art of rug hooking) to gather and collaborate,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Vanessa Spence
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

RAIL EXPLORERS Opens their Delaware Division! Partnering with the Wilmington & Western Railroad and the Delaware State Parks Rail Explorers brings their unique adventure to the...

Cost: Tandem $75 (2P), Quad $125 (4P)

Where:
Rail Explorers Delaware
200 Gun Club Road
Hockessin, NY  12983
View map »


Sponsor: Rail Explorers
Telephone: 302 601 0888
Contact Name: Mary Joy Lu
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the interesting world of the mysterious Reptiles and Amphibians! Flip logs and explore wetland habitats looking for salamanders, frogs, snakes, and turtles. 

Cost: $5 for TLC members, $10 for non members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Road
Avondale, PA  19311
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County
Telephone: 610-347-0347
Contact Name: Hannah
Website »

More information

Experience the culture in agriculture at Coverdale Farm Preserve's Saturday barn dance! Bluegrass music will enliven a swingin' night of barn dancing led by an experienced contra caller....

Cost: $10/$15

Where:
Coverdale Farm Preserve
543 Way Road
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Nature Society
Telephone: 302-239-2334
Website »

More information

Explore Hagley Museum in a new way by joining us for one of our six walking tours.  One or more Themed tours are offered most Saturday and Sundays at 11 a. and repeated at 2 p.m. Check...

Cost: Adults $14, Senior and students $10, Children 6-14 $5, children 5 and under

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd.
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Website »

More information

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