Disclaimer: We visited the mansion before cases began to spike in our area, so some of this information may be different by the time you read. We encourage you, before considering visiting, especially if you are out of the area, to review the website and restrictions as set by the state and the CDC. Also, PLEASE wear a mask!
We’re both huge history buffs and one of our favorite things to do together is to visit museums. However, with everything going on, we’ve been very cautious about where we go and have been doing our best to try to avoid crowds. This is why when we were thinking about visiting a museum with gardens, we were back and forth about whether or not we wanted to go to Winterthur, a historical mansion in Delaware that we loved visiting. Normally, tours are in guided groups and you have to go on an elevator access some of the rooms. There’s trolley cars that you can take to and from the mansion. Both things, in normal circumstances, are great, but during a pandemic can cause some to scratch their head. After reviewing some of the many things that they’ve put in place to ensure the safety of their staff and guests, we decided to visit after all. Here’s some of the details of how our experience went.
Everything from the parking to the purchasing of tickets is according to guidelines. Before we arrived, we were encouraged to purchase tickets online because they only let a small number of people inside of the museum at a given time. You can purchase while there, but tickets may not be available for that reason.
Once we arrived, we were instructed to park every other spot to ensure we were safely distanced from the next car. Inside of the Visitor’s Center, there’s hand sanitizer and plexiglass separating you and the person working behind the desk. There are stickers to encourage social distancing and to instruct of you where to walk. It was very thorough, easy to follow, and a simple way to ensure the safety of everyone.
We weren’t sure if the trolley would be running, but much to our surprise, it was! It’s an open-air golf cart style trolley, so there was nothing enclosed to make sure air was constantly flowing. The rows have a barrier behind all of the seats and due to the limited tickets, you can safely distance on the trolley cars without sitting close to people that aren’t in your household. When we went, it was also empty and just us on it, which seemed to be the case for most of the trolleys we saw go past. On the way back, we decided to walk, however, so we could explore the gardens, which was the primary reason why we visited that day.
While there, they open the doors for you to enter in, direct you to the Winterthur app, which will be helpful throughout the tour since it is self-guided. There’s stickers telling you where to stand, arrows encouraging a flow to ensure the safety of all, and guides who are behind the ropes, safely separated from guests. It was nice because although you don’t get the same thorough tour that you would have gotten if guided by a historian, you can get the gist of the details behind the rooms using the app and ask the historian in the room any additional questions.
We spent the majority of our time outside, however, as we primarily visited Winterthur to visit the gardens.
(This may be different since this has been published)
As for the museum, it was the same thing except there weren’t any historians in the exhibition. There were markers, encouraging you to stand safely distanced from others and instructing you on which direction to walk, but aside from that, you were free to navigate freely as long as you did so, safely. When we went, we choose a time where we imagined there would not be a lot of people and thankfully we were right! We were able to navigate the museum, with our masks on the entire time, safely distanced away from other guests. In fact, a large majority of the time, we avoided others.
Winterthur always has incredible exhibits and galleries to view in addition to the mansion and gardens. In fact, I’d say that even if you’ve gone before, I’d recommend checking their website frequently to see what’s new because their exhibitions often change. It’s a great way to engage with the museum in a new way each time you visit.
The gardens are so large that you can pretty much walk it without a mask, as long as you’re far away from others. We wore our masks nearly the entire time, however, because most of the time we were walking to and from the locations on the property that required masks. Rather than continue to take it off, put it on and sanitize our hands each time, we left it on with the exception of a few photographs and times when we were far away from others.
I’d say that we both felt pretty safe exploring the museum. Everyone was compliant with wearing their masks and wore them properly (over the nose 😉 ). Everything from the process to enter the grounds to the steps to enter the museum was done in a way to ensure that everyone would be safe. There were plenty of hand sanitizing stations located near doors. Plus, a large part of your visit to Winterthur is exploring the gardens and grounds around it, which can be done safely away from others. I’d say that the museum did a great job at taking the necessary precautions to ensure that their staff and patrons were as safe as possible.
I will say that now that as I’m writing this, cases are beginning to spike in our area. So, we’d recommend being mindful of any changing restrictions and evaluating whether this is something you’d want to visit at a later date or not. Personally, I think this will probably be our last museum visit for a bit. If you decide to go, however, the museum has protocols in place to ensure the safety of all in the museum. We felt incredibly safe while there and enjoyed our time exploring the museum!
What about you? Have you been to a museum in the last couple of months? What was that process like?