For a look at how the very wealthy lived, visit Nemours Mansion and Gardens, a 300-acre country estate built for Alfred I. du Pont in 1910. This modified Louis XVI château, which underwent a $39 million restoration that was completed in 2008, showcases 102 rooms of European and American furnishings, rare rugs, tapestries, and art dating to the 15th century. The gardens, reminiscent of those at Versailles, are landscaped with fountains, pools, and statuary. The estate
can be seen only on guided two-hour tours. Visitors must be at least 12 years old.
Jul 24, 2012
Great Place for a Day Trip My spouse and I visited Nemours in June of 2012. Guided tours are the only option; you cannot tour this estate on your own. Allow 3 hours for your visit, and arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time to read the information in the visitor’s center, most of which is arranged in a timeline describing what the duPont family was doing in relation to the world. We visited on a Saturday, so there were three tour
times from which to choose: 9:00 am, 12:00 noon, and 3:00 pm. (I think the same tour schedule applies for weekdays; on Sundays, only the latter two tours are available). We booked our tickets online prior to leaving from home via MuseumTix/Ticketmaster (using the link on the Nemours mansion website); however, when we arrived at the visitor’s center, we were told that something went wrong with our on-line reservation and that the office had already booked all available slots for the 12:00 tour. (Something is still amiss with their on-line ticketing system - in my experiment today, when I tried to purchase tickets, even though it was 10:30 am, the system was still letting me book a 9:00 am tour!) We were encouraged to take the 3:00 pm tour instead, but we weren’t offered a refund if we couldn’t wait around. We had driven approximately 2 hours from our home to the mansion, so it wasn’t as if we could easily return on another day at our preferred time. We had arrived about an hour early for our 12:00 tour, which meant that if we accepted their offer, we would have 4 hours to “waste” in Wilmington. (We had already recently visited nearby Longwood Gardens and Winterthur, so those alternative suggestions weren’t desirable to us, even though we enjoyed both.) Apparently the problem was that they wouldn’t be able to send both of us together on the same small shuttle bus from the visitor’s center to the estate to begin our tour. We agreed to ride separately so that we could keep our scheduled tour time. (In the end, one reservation/couple did not show up, and we were able to ride on the same bus, but even if we couldn’t have, it would not have been as big of an issue as they were making it out to be.) You begin the tour by watching a short film in the visitor’s center (approximately 15 minutes); the film begins at your scheduled tour time. Guests are then bused to the estate grounds in two small shuttle buses, each holding approximately 25 guests. Upon arrival at the mansion, you are broken up into small groups (the groups held 4 to 6 people on the day that we visited), and each group begins their tour in a different place so that the groups are spread out around the mansion – a great idea! My greatest piece of advice for visiting Nemours is to make a reservation ahead of time; with only 50 slots available for each tour time, it is easy to get “shut out”. But you may want to book your tour a day ahead of time so that you don’t run into the overbooking issue like we did. The house is beautiful; we particularly enjoyed the basement level where the movie theater/billiards room/bowling alley, gym, office, bottling room, water purification room, and ice room are located. We have toured many historic houses, but we don’t often (if ever!) visit areas like those. The biggest attraction at Nemours, in our opinion, are the gardens (including the “Long Walk”, the reflecting pool, and the sculptures), so I recommend visiting in the spring, summer, or fall when the foliage is most attractive. (Actually, the estate is closed during the winter months.) After the guided house tour, you are set free on your own to explore the gardens for 30+ minutes, after which time you can board a shuttle bus back to the visitor’s center, or board another shuttle bus that takes you on a short drive through the property and to visit the chauffeur’s garage (this takes approximately 30 minutes). Although it looks like it is possible to walk from estate back to the visitor’s center, we didn’t see anyone walking. In our estimation, 30 minutes wasn’t quite long enough in the gardens – 45 or 60 minutes would have been better, but because of the need for the shuttle buses to return to the visitor’s center for the next tour, you are prevented from leisurely strolling around. On the hot day that we visited, a cooler of water (not bottled, but the kind that a child’s sports team might use) was positioned in the garden for guests. There is no snack bar onsite, neither at the visitor’s center nor on the estate; however, the visitor’s center contains some snack and drink machines near the restrooms. Lockers are also available, although I’m not sure why they are necessary (maybe they are for the staff?). There are restrooms in the visitor’s center as well as in the garden area at the mansion (there are no public restrooms in the house itself); however, the restrooms in the garden area were too far away for us to use in the 30 minutes that we were allotted. It looks like the estate is preparing to renovate the old schoolhouse, so that will be a nice addition to the tour of the grounds. No photographs are permitted inside the house, but you are free to photograph the gardens. Nemours made a nice day trip for us, and we felt that one visit was sufficient to see everything that it offered.