Everyone knows what Kennett Square is all about: mushrooms. Right?

Well, yes. But also no.

Sure, there’s no shortage of fantastic fungi to try, and in all types of ways, too. But Kennett Square these days is also an excellent destination for a getaway that’s filled with great restaurants, shops, and tons of unique activities.

You could, for example, start your day with some coffee from one of the best coffee shops in the state, take in an endless array of flora at the nearby Longwood Gardens, enjoy the great outdoors at the local 106-acre park, and head to dinner at one of the most lauded locavore restaurants around. That’s all in one day, and without traveling more than a few miles between everything.

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Or, you could just chill all day at a B&B housed in an early 1900s mansion, venturing out only for amazing ice cream, beer, food, or all three.

But there’s so much packed into this small, charming borough. And that, combined with its beautiful setting in the rural Brandywine Valley, is what makes it a perfect spot to spend a few days exploring.

History of Kennett Square

Out in the Brandywine Valley, you’ll find the one-square-mile tract of land that makes up the borough of Kennett Square. Originally home to Lenni-Lenape Native Americans, the area today is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” thanks to its successful agricultural (and decidedly mushroom-focused) industry.

» READ MORE: More than mushrooms: Kennett Square squeezes more shops, people in a tiny borough

While it was incorporated in 1855, Kennett Square has a history that goes back a lot farther than that. During the Revolutionary War, for example, thousands of British troops camped in the area ahead of the ill-fated Battle of Brandywine in September 1777 (an event today commemorated by Kennett Occupation Day). Later, it served an important role as part of the Underground Railroad, thanks in part to its proximity to Delaware and Maryland, as well as its prominent Quaker population.

By the late 1800s, the Kennett Square area began on its path to becoming a mushroom powerhouse. Legend has it that around 1885, William Swayne, a Kennett Square florist, began growing mushrooms underneath benches in his greenhouse, using spores from Europe. Over time, the idea caught on, and today, Kennett Square reportedly produces about half of the country’s mushroom crop.

But it’s not all fungi here. Today, Kennett Square is a quaint, beautiful town that’s home to some of the best shops, restaurants, history, and activities in the Philly area.

Getting there

Located about 40 miles from Center City, Kennett Square is most easily accessible by car. The trip takes approximately one hour using I-95 South, U.S. Route 322 West, and U.S. Route 1 South. It is not easily accessible from Philadelphia via public transportation, and public transportation is limited once you are there, so, if you don’t own a car, using a rideshare service or renting a car is probably your best bet.

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Things to do in Kennett Square

Longwood Gardens

For lots of folks, this horticultural oasis is the quintessential Kennett experience. And with more than 1,000 acres of gorgeous gardens, meadows, and woodlands — plus illuminated fountain shows, seasonal events, and special exhibitions — it’s easy to see why. And if you want to keep it historical (but still a little spooky), Longwood Cemetery is right next door.

📍1001 Longwood Rd., 📞 610-388-1000, 🌐 longwoodgardens.org, 📷 @longwoodgardens

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Anson B. Nixon Park

If you want to get out into nature, check out the 106-acre Anson B. Nixon Park, located just a few minutes’ walk from the heart of Historic Kennett Square. There, you’ll find three miles of walking trails, a playground with three areas for the kiddos, a great new dog park for the pups, and one of the most beloved 18-hole disc golf courses in the Philadelphia area.

📍405 N. Walnut Rd., 📞 610-444-1416, 🌐 ansonbnixonpark.org, 📷 @ansonbnixonpark

Kennett Underground Railroad Center Tours

Known locally as KURC, this nonprofit volunteer group helps chronicle and celebrate Kennett’s significant role as part of the Underground Railroad. The center offers occasional guided bus tours to the public throughout the year, and private tours are also available — or you can take a self-guided tour using KURC’s guide on the PocketSights app.

📍 120 N. Union St., 📞 484-544-5070, 🌐 kennettundergroundrr.org

Kennett Classic Computer Museum

As the birthplace of the first modern computer, the ENIAC, the Philadelphia area is an O.G. tech hotbed — and this Kennett museum offers a place to explore our computing past. Launched in 2019, this spot preserves computing history with displays and exhibits on the computers of yesteryear — Commodore, Atari, Altair, you name it. Plus, there’s a self-guided audio tour, and a hobby shop if you want to get tinkering yourself.

📍126 S. Union St., 📞 484-732-7041, 🌐 kennettclassic.com

Barnard’s Orchard

There’s nothing quite like picking your own apples, and Barnard’s is the place to do it. Established in 1862, this fourth-generation orchard grows about 30 varieties of apples on its 74 acres of land, plus pumpkins, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables (plus flowers like zinnias and freesias), depending on the time of year.

📍 1079 Wawaset Rd., 📞 610-347-2151, 🌐 facebook.com/Barnards-Orchard-277402103895

Kennett Flash

For some evening entertainment, check out this nonprofit’s café-style performance space located right off the main drag. From national, regional, and local music to comedy and kids’ shows, there’s something for everyone — but, if you want something really unique, look out for their Rooftop Series gigs on the top floor of a nearby parking garage.

📍 102 Sycamore Alley, 📞 484-732-8295, 🌐 kennettflash.org, 📷 @thekennettflash

The Woodlands at Phillips Mushroom Farms

Yes, you can buy all sorts of mushroomy goodness at this Phillips Mushroom Farms outpost housed in the original 1828 home that the family has owned since 1890. But you really should check out their Mushroom Museum and growing room to learn all about the growing process, uses, and benefits of the humble fungus that made Kennett famous.

📍 1020 Kaolin Rd., 📞 610-444-2192, 🌐 thewoodlandsatphillips.com, 📷 @woodlandsatphillips

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Where to eat (and drink)

Philter

Start your day at this local coffee shop, which some have called the best in the state. Open since 2013, the shop uses Ceremony Coffee Roasters beans to make everything from single-origin espressos to batch-brewed classic cups. The nearby Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop, meanwhile, curates their single estate tea menu — and, yes, there’s breakfast and pastries, too.

📍 111 W. State St., 📞 610-444-7687, 🌐 philtercoffee.com, 📷 @philtercoffee, 🕑 Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

Kennett Brewing Co.

Founded in 2015, Kennett Brewing has fast become a must-drink Pennsylvania brewery, thanks to their seriously great brown ales, maibocks, porters, and English-style bitters. But it’s not just for beer lovers — there’s really cool sangrias and house-made sodas (try the yerba mate), too. And check out the pub food-focused menu for burgers, pretzels, nachos, wings, and more.

📍 109 S. Broad St. #2, 📞 610-444-0440, 🌐 kennettbrewingcompany.com, 📷 @kennettbrewingcompany, 🕑 Fri. 5-9 p.m., Sat. 2-9 p.m., Sun. 2-7 p.m.

Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery

If you spent the day at Longwood Gardens and want to cap it off with some nice vino, take a five-minute drive to Lele and Brad Galer’s spot. Grab a glass, a tasting, or a bottle, especially if you’re into rosés or chardonnay — and if you want live music with your drink, hit them up on Fridays and Saturdays between 5 and 7 p.m.

📍 700 Folly Hill Rd., 📞 484-899-8013, 🌐 galerestate.com, 📷 @galerestate, 🕑 Fri.-Sat. noon-8 p.m., Sun. noon-7 p.m. (online order pickup available daily from noon to 6 p.m.)

La Michoacana Homemade Ice Cream

Got a sweet tooth? Then it’s La Michoacana to the rescue with unique homemade ice cream flavors like majarete (corn pudding), queso fresco, tequila, flan, and avocado, plus chamoyadas, popsicles, milkshakes, and more. And if you want some heat with your sweet, top your scoop up with a little (or a lot) of chili powder.

📍 231 E. State St., 📞 610-444-2996, 🌐 michoacanagrill.com, 📷 @lamichoacanaksq, 🕑 Daily noon-9 p.m.

Nomadic Pies

Nomadic Pies settled down in Kennett Square in 2015 — and whether you’re looking for sweet or savory (or even a little quiche), it’s a can’t-miss. By our count, there are nearly 100 offerings on their menu over the course of the year — from velvety chocolate lavender and bright lemon chess to roasted root veggie and pizza pot pie — so you’re bound to find something seasonal that hits the spot. Check out their weekly offerings.

📍 132 W. State St., 📞 610-563-9686, 🌐 nomadicpies.com, 📷 @nomadicpies, 🕑 Wed. noon-6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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Talula’s Table

Reservations for the eight-course tasting dinners at this local farm-to-table institution must be made a year in advance, but if you snag one, look forward to dishes like ricotta gundi, spiced lamb kabob, and scallop and lobster sabayon, all of which are on their autumn 2021 menu. For something more casual, check them out during their daytime market hours for gourmet provisions, coffee, pastries, and sandwiches — or place an order for their Sunday Supper, a three-course gourmet takeout meal that changes weekly.

📍 102 W. State St., 📞 610-444-8255, 🌐 talulastable.com, 📷 @talulastable, 🕑 Marketplace: Daily 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Tasting Menu: Tue.-Sun. starting at 7 p.m.

Portabello’s of Kennett Square

This one is the for the mushroom lovers. At it for 10 years now, Portabello’s is probably best known for their roasted mushroom soup, which features local mushrooms from Stinson’s Farm, Madeira, and fried shallot. Then, there’s the mushroom en cocotte (with raclette cheese, leeks, garlic, thyme, chives, and crostini), the mushroom truffle pizza, the cremini mushroom-loaded stroganoff, and simple brown butter mushrooms as a side. More of a brunch person? Try the mushroom frittata, mushroom crepe, or mushroom lasagna.

📍 108 E. State St., 📞 610-925-4984, 🌐 portabellosofkennettsquare.com, 🕑 Wed.-Thu. 4-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. noon-9 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.

Hood’s BBQ

The Hood Family started slinging barbecue in southern Chester County decades ago, and that experience shows in everything from their smoked sausage and chicken, to their burnt ends, ribs, and brisket. But their specialty is the “Hoodie” — a heaping pulled pork sandwich topped with homemade barbecue sauce, sharp provolone, and coleslaw. And hard cider lovers shouldn’t miss their cider menu from Old Stone Cider.

📍 1664 W. Doe Run Rd., 📞 610-347-1670, 🌐 hoodsbbq.com, 📷 @hoodsbbq, 🕑 Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

La Peña Mexicana

This local staple may look unassuming, but there’s a reason it’s one of Craig Laban’s favorite joints in Kennett Square. Here, the focus is on authentic Mexican food based in tastes from Guerrero, a southwestern Mexican coastal state. From beef tongue sincronizadas, tacos, and enchiladas to juicy pork tamales, salsa-soaked chilaquiles, and some of the best chimichangas around, La Peña’s menu is stacked with must-taste offerings.

📍 609 W. Cypress St., 📞 610-925-2651, 📷 La Peña Mexicana on Facebook, 🕑 Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8:40 p.m.

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Shopping

The Mushroom Cap

If you’re not sick of mushrooms by the time you leave, you can always take some of Kennett’s finest home with you thanks to the Mushroom Cap. Fresh-picked, foraged, and dried mushrooms of all kinds are available, as is just about every mushroom snack or pantry item you can imagine — like Snack ‘N Shrooms, a kind of mushroom chip, or a variety of mushroom teas. Full up? Then just try growing your own with a DIY kit.

📍 114 W. State St, 📞 610-444-8484, 🌐 themushroomcap.com, 📷 @TheMushroomCap, 🕑 Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Penny Lane Emporium

Folks with little ones in tow, this stylish, unique kids boutique is the spot. Launched in 2017 by owner Shannon Blake, who spent nearly two decades in corporate retail, this shop has all types of chic fashion for babies, kids, and tweens, plus a curated selection of stuffed animals, books, and games. Our pick? This cool DIY neon sign kit.

📍 121 W. State St., 📞 484-678-6494, 🌐 pennylaneemp.com, 📷 @PennyLaneEmporium, 🕑 Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

worKS

This curated collection high-end artisan, designer, and vintage goods and retailers is a must-see for the connoisseurs among us. Head here on weekends for offerings from more than 20 retailers including the suds-slinging Vellum St. Soap Co., vintage home goods boutique Scout & Annie, and maple syrup mavens Whiskey Hollow Maple.

📍 432 S. Walnut St., 📞 484-732-8586, 🌐 workskennettsquare.com, 📷 @worKSKennettSquare, 🕑 Fri.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Square Pear Fine Art Gallery

Aesthetes paying a visit to Kennett Square shouldn’t miss this gallery, which features monthly exhibitions from local, national, and international artists (for the full experience, go on the third Thursday of the month for each exhibition’s opening reception). And if you’ve got a budding artist with you (aged 8 and up), they can take drawing and painting classes with owner and resident artist Corien Siepelinga.

📍 200 E. State St., 📞 484-883-5429, 🌐 squarepeargallery.com, 📷 @SquarePearGallery, 🕑 Weds.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (or by appointment)

Where to stay

Kennett House Bed & Breakfast

You could spend your stay in one of the chain hotels in or around town — but for a real Kennett experience, check out this stunning B&B that dates to 1910. Set on Hessian Hill — where an encampment of Hessian soldiers hung out before the Battle of Brandywine — Kennett House is a short walk to most of the places on this list, and serves a great way to get away without corporate lodging (and, yes, there’s a complimentary hot breakfast, too).

📍 503 W. State St., 📞 610-444-9592, 🌐 kennetthouse.com

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