With its famous rolling hills, proximity to Philadelphia and activities centered around art and history, the Brandywine Valley is the perfect location for a meeting, event or corporate retreat. The valley has scenic charm, acclaimed restaurants, fun attractions and hotels that are ready to handle your next meeting. And after that meeting, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun and build relationships with colleagues. “Chester County’s Brandywine Valley is a charming destination o ering a variety of inspiring experiences for both business and leisure travelers,” says Susan Hamley, executive director for the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau. “The scenic countryside is just 30 minutes from Center City Philadelphia and the International Airport. Our excellent facilities and accommodations, delectable cuisine and old-world hospitality will delight planners and guests alike.”
Where to Stay
The Desmond Hotel and Conference Center is a full-service hotel with 194 rooms and suites, restaurants for both casual and fine dining, and amenities such as free Wi-Fi, shuttle service, an indoor pool, fitness area and business center. Dining options include The Hunt Room for American regional cuisine, the Fox & Hounds Pub and the outdoor Sunset Grille, which offers food, entertainment and happy hours during the summer.
“The Desmond Conference Center is approved by IACC (International Association of Conference Centers),” says Carol Miller, director of marketing and public relations. “In addition to a 130-seat amphitheater and executive board room, there are 16 dedicated meeting rooms. The Conference Center has 26,000 square feet of event space and includes complete planning services and expert conference coordinators. The Conference Center is available for day and overnight events and offers all-inclusive packages that are flexible, and may be customized to meet your needs.” The Wyndham Garden Inn Exton offers two ballrooms, three meetings rooms and an executive boardroom, making it a perfect destination for meetings.
“This property is very special in that we have a three-season, 3,500-square-foot tent, and we have a 4,000-square-foot patio adjacent to it,” says Noreen Lagoy, director of sales and marketing. “And the tent is air conditioned. It’s beautiful, nobody has anything like it.”
She adds that the property sits on 5 lush acres. In total, it has 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, 217 guest rooms, two restaurants, a bar, gym and outdoor pool.
Long a destination for business and leisure travelers, the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel is poised to bring things to the next step with a $4.5 million renovation. Upgrades began in the lobby and continued to all of the hotel’s 193 guest rooms. The hotel has 13 different meetings spaces and a staff of executive meeting specialists to help customize any event. The on-site restaurant, The White Horse Tavern, is located in an 18th-century farmhouse and serves fresh, local food. The restaurant has five private dining rooms with fireplaces and hardwood floors.
“We just completed construction of a 2,000- foot wraparound outdoor deck,” says Colin Grice, general manager. “It’s been a pretty comprehensive renovation.” Grice adds that the renovations retain the natural beauty of the area surrounding the hotel.
“We didn’t do anything to alter the rustic charm, so to speak, of the property,” Grice says. “Right in the back, we still have a historic house and field, which is something we’ll be working on in the future. This is a great enhancement, not only to our hotel but also to the White Horse Tavern and bringing our farm-to-table restaurant experience to the area, which really fits in well with local tastes.”
Where to Eat
The historic General Warren Inne combines excellent food, overnight accommodations and a terraced event space for a special experience. Its Spring House Terrace is heated and available for year-round use as a location for lunch and dinner meetings and cocktail receptions.
“We are proud of our heritage in that we have brought this property back to its original incarnation as a tavern, restaurant and hotel,” says Patrick J. Byrne, owner of the Inne. “We provide a constant level of personalized hospitality with an established staff of professionals.”
The Gables at Chadds Ford serves a menu of traditional cuisines with a contemporary twist in a historic setting with a raised, gabled ceiling and exposed timber frame.
“I want guests to come to The Gables at Chadds Ford to experience a delicious meal made with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere with a welcoming staff,” says owner Ann Kolenick. “We offer an enticing mix of European-style cuisine with New American flavors and a touch of Southern flair. We have a beautiful outdoor patio for dining in the warmer months and a charming dining room inside with a cozy fireplace for when the weather is colder.
Last year, the restaurant completed renovations on their banquet room, making room for up to 165 guests. “With a wall of large French windows, exposed timber frame and raised gabled ceiling, this space will provide the perfect backdrop for your event,” Kolenick says. “It also features a private entrance and restrooms, so guests do not have to go through the restaurant.”
Kolenick adds that the Brandywine Valley is an ideal place to host a meeting or event. “You can see where soldiers fought in the Battle of the Brandywine, where the du Ponts made their fortune and three generations of Wyeths lived and created amazing works of art,” she says. “With all there is to see and all the activities to do, the Brandywine Valley is the perfect destination for meetings and events.”
A local favorite, The Whip Tavern is a British-style pub that serves 60 different beers in a charming setting. While it does serve beer, The Whip is BYOB, allowing diners to bring their favorite wines with them.
“The Whip is the epitome of a destination restaurant,” says K.C. Kulp, operating partner. “We are nestled in the rolling hills of bucolic Southern Chester County. Once the home of 17,000 acres of prime feeding pastures for Texas’ King Ranch, the tavern is still surrounded by working farms, many of which supply our ingredients. In addition, the equestrian tradition in the area (polo, steeplechase racing, eventing, fox hunting) runs deep. Such a vibrant agricultural and pastoral setting makes the excursion over hill and dale almost as awe-inspiring as a meal at The Whip.”
What to Do
Longwood Gardens is a horticultural display founded by industrialist Pierre du Pont, who purchased the land it’s on in 1906 in order to save a collection of historic trees from demolition for lumber.
“Today, Longwood Gardens continues the mission set forth by Mr. du Pont to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education and performing arts,” says Abigail Palutis, marketing communications associate.
The gardens also host many events, including meetings and retreats. The facilities can be booked for after-hours events for corporate and nonprofit events. The gardens also present live jazz and classical performance at its ballroom, Exhibition Hall and Open Air Theatre. The annual “Longwood Christmas” offers free and ticketed holiday performances during the holiday season.
“Longwood Gardens is one of the great gardens of the world and is truly a unique venue for meetings and events,” Palutis says. “With an exceptional guest services team, over 1,077 acres of gardens and a 4.5-acre conservatory, Longwood is the perfect place to hold your next event.”
What better way to relax after a business event than to take in a show? People’s Light is a restored 18th-century farmhouse with two theaters, one with 340 seats and one with 160.
“Now in its 41st season, People’s Light is one of Pennsylvania’s largest professional nonprofit theaters and is known for its resident company of artists, eclectic mix of productions, and innovative work with young people,” says Shawn Stone, director of marketing and communications. “We produce seven to nine plays per season, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays and fresh approaches to classic texts.”
The theater also has a full-service restaurant, The Farmhouse Bistro, which seats 52. Event space is available at the farmhouse’s ballroom, which can accommodate up to 25 people for a sit-down dinner or 300 for buffet receptions. Corporations and organizations can also arrange a team-building outing with a dinner-and-show package offering a 15 percent discount off show tickets and a prix fixe dinner starting at $73.
The Brandywine River Museum of Art sits on the banks of the Brandywine River in a restored 19th-century gristmill. “It’s been redone into a modern art museum, but retains all of that beautiful brick and stucco and the huge beans,” says Dawn Dowling, events coordinator. “In the front you see a brick façade, but in the back, it is three stories of circular lobby with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.” The museum is known for its collection of works by three generations of the Wyeth family: N.C., Andrew and Jamie. It also is home to a collection of American illustrations, still life and landscape paintings.
“We have a collection of art that is very focused on this area,” Dowling says. “This area was very well-known for artists that came here.” Those include the Wyeths and artists who came to the Brandywine Valley to study with the Wyeths. “This was a real hotbed of artists. So it’s nice for local companies to show this off. If you get people from Europe, or people from across the country, this is very significant for our area.”
For corporate events, Dowling says the museum is best-known for evening rentals.
“On those three circular lobby floors, it’s open in the middle so we have a beautiful grand piano on the second floor, so you can hear the music throughout,” Dowling says. “There are six main art galleries, so people can circulate. And we actually put the food and the drinks on all of those lobby levels. So the most fun thing to do, I think, is to have a roving cocktail event or buffet event. We can do up to 900 people. I don’t like to do that many, but we can hold quite a few people for that type of event.”
The museum also offers after-hour private tours with a cocktail reception. It’s less expensive and shorter than a full rental, and Dowling says those are popular as a postmeeting, team-building event. “I’ve been trying to really accommodate the changing needs of corporate clients,” Dowling says.