About this time of year, I start getting requests for family and friends about how to see the lights at Longwood, since i live about 5 miles away and the person in this house who has 51% of the vote on "what's for dinner" worked there.
So.....if you're going, let me make a suggestion:
Go early! Like 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon before the crowds hit.
Tour the Orangery and the insides first while it is still light out. You can still see the amazing sites and probably not have half the crowd you will find after 5:00. It can take you an hour or more to fully explore it. If they have the figure skating this year (I'm not sure), you might even want to do that first depending on the schedule of performances.
About 4 or 4:30 or so have an "early dinner" in their cafeteria. It is surprisingly good with an array of foods, sandwiches, home-made soups. Not that expensive and they have beer and wine for sale. There is also a sit-down and be served restaurant and it's nice, but for my money, the cafeteria is better, especialy if you have younger ones with you.
By the time you have finished, it will be getting dark and you can stroll the outside to your heart's delight.
If you're done by 6 or 7 and still desire a light something (or decided to forego the cafeteria), the Brandywine Prime in Chadds Ford has some nice appetizers to go with a glass of wine. They also have full meals There's also the Gables on Rt 1 for a drink, but their dinners are more substantial and fewer appetizer thingys.( The entrance is a little tricky if you're headed North on Rt 1.) The Brandywine Pub has sandwiches as well as a full dinner menu.There is a nice Italian place next door. Headed the other way, a not to be missed place is Sovana Bistro on Route 82. You can take the "back way" out of Longwood (eg. right out of the parking lot and keep following the road around to the right until you get to the light) and a left on 926 and it will take you to a light at Rt 82. Sovana Bistro is on your left that way.
Unfortunately, a great roadfood place, Hanks in Chadds Ford, will be closed at that hour, but you might want to get there for lunch before going to Longwood. And just beyond Hank's on the opposite side of the road is the Brandywine River Museum with a wonderful holiday display of Christmas Ornaments made out of local woods and meadows materials.
I have no ownership, sense of pride, or any other interest in any of these places. But since I just had my third phone call today, I thought there must be others who are thinking about these things. Brought to you in the spirit of public interest. Happy Holidays!