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Downton Abbey at Winterthur

This past weekend, we drove up to Delaware to visit Winterthur to see their "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibit. More than just an exhibit, the sprawling estate was like an American version of Downton in no small part because it once served as the home of the unimaginably wealthy du Pont family. The exhibit even compared the many similarities between Downton (fiction) and Winterthur (fact) that served to make both seem that much more alive and real. Winterthur also had two great areas for the kids: the Enchanted Woods and the Touch-It Room.

Even the entrance to the estate set the mood for the experience. We drove in through the gates at the edge of the property, then followed the winding road around rolling hills of a well manicured lawn. My first thought was that it was a lot of grass to mow. From where we parked, it was a short walk down hill to the visitor's center.

Parent note: If you're deciding whether to bring/use a stroller, yes. The grounds are pretty conducive to using a stroller (there's even a marked-out, stroller-friendly path), and if your kids are like ours, there are plenty of walking opportunities to wear them out. Also, there are stroller-friendly trams that stop at the Enchanted Woods, so they've really thought things through for the little ones.

Tour of Winterthur
We arrived sometime around 9-9:30 am, I wasn't really keeping an eye on the watch. It's not really the kind of place where precise timing exists, which is a tad ironic since the estate is named for a connection of a relative-by-marriage of the du Ponts to Winterthur, Switzerland. Since we had time before our exhibit viewing window, we opted to take a guided tour of the Winterthur house / museum. It used to be a fully functional house of 175 rooms, but at some point the du Pont family decided to convert the house into a museum and downsize into a more conservative 50+ room "cottage" which is now the gift store and cafe across the road. When the house converted into a museum, the bathrooms, kitchens, closets, and all those spaces got converted into showroom spaces.

Map of Winterthur
Since the girls did such a great job not breaking any museum-quality pieces on display (there were a lot), I let them play house in the Touch-It room, which is configured to allow kids to play like they were the house staff by "cooking" the food, stocking the pantry, setting the table, and ultimately "dining".  The museum really is an incredible immersion into the lives of the super-wealthy from a by-gone age. Which is a nice segue into the exhibit...

Costumes of Downton Abbey Exhibit
We had tickets for the 11am-1pm window, but it turned out that the time was merely a suggestion. In fact, you could arrive at the exhibit anytime between 11-1 and then stay for however long you wanted to. It wasn't like they'd send Carson in there to chase you out at 1pm on the dot.

There were dozens of vignettes related to the various clothes, styles, events show in the TV show. Some of the clothes were pure vintage, others were partially vintage and altered slightly.

By the way, it took me about two months to post these pictures, because we'd lost our camera shortly after returning from the trip before I downloaded them. Which motivated me to finish that post about how I back up my photos. We found the camera in lunchbox in the back of a kitchen cabinet while preparing to PCS.

In case you missed an episode from Season 1-4, you can catch up on Amazon Instant video:

Enchanted Woods
I don't have all that many pictures of the Downton Abbey costume exhibit because the kids (who can't read and haven't developed an obsession with British TV, yet) were starting to lose interest in just looking at stuff. So I left Kacey in the exhibit and took the kids over to another part of the estate to play in the Enchanted Woods. Totally the right move.

Map of the Enchanted Woods at Winterthur
The Woods have all sorts of kid-sized, faerie tale themed venues and all are within a relatively well confined space (so there was little concern of them getting lost in the woods).

Here are some of my favorite moments:
The Faerie Cottage...
...where you can recreate Game of Thrones: Winterthur is Coming
The Tulip Hat...
...can be used as a prison
The Forbidden Fairy Circle has a motion sensor
(the black box on the mushroom) connected to a mist machine.
Kids walk into the circle and the fog appears!
Massive egg rolling in the Bird's Nest
One last thing, entirely unrelated to the Winterthur experience: We found a great Indian restaurant called Shere-E-Punjab in Glen Mills, PA (which is where our hotel was). I highly recommend it.

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