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July 30, 2003 -- Your first mental images of the Brandywine country near Wilmington may have been of gorgeous mansions, expansive gardens and neat little art museums tucked away in Wyeth-like landscapes. And those are all correct. What you may not have realized is how inexpensive it can be to visit such marvelous spots as Winterthur, Longwood Gardens or the Nemours Mansion & Gardens. Like, a $105 per night hotel room for two persons, with admission for both to two such attractions!

You needn't be a du Pont to pay prices like that at the Quality Inn Skyways in New Castle DE for their Brandywine Valley Package, good from September 1 through December 21, 2003 (excepting September 19-21). Facilities include an outdoor pool and two restaurants. Choose two attractions from seven, including the three mentioned above. Contact Stella Stetser at 800/775-7352 or 302/328-6666, hotel e-mail gm.de005@choicehotels.com.

Slightly higher, $109 per night for two, is the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts Package, offered by the Sheraton Suites in Wilmington. The package includes lodging in the 223-suite hotel with indoor pool and health facility and two admission tickets to the Delaware Center, a forum for new ideas and new art. Also included: a hot breakfast buffet for two each morning and free parking. Offer good from September 1 through December 31, 2003, for Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Contact Deb Cline at 302/576-8034, hotel e-mail sheratonsuiteswilmington@sheraton.com.

The Hilton Wilmington/Christiana has a similar package, at $109, valid for any day of the week from September 1 through December 31, 2003, including two tickets to your choice of Winterthur, Longwood Gardens or a couple of other spots. Contact them at 302/454-1500, e-mail dsantos@chrishil.meyerjabara.com or visit www.hiltonestate.com.

A Fall Foliage Cruise which includes an overnight stay at the Olde Canal Inn, Delaware City, goes for just $99 per couple, from October 5 through November 17, 2003, on Saturdays and Sundays. Contact them at www.oldecanalinn.com, e-mail reservations@oldecanalinn.com, phone 302/832-5100. Ask for Frank Luxl.

Just as much fun might be had on the Wilmington & Western Railroad, traveling through the Red Clay Valley. The price for the trip, $61 per person, also includes a night at the Ramada New Castle in Wilmington, an expanded continental breakfast and a box lunch for each guest AND a second nights' stay, free. Valid from September 1 through December 31, 2003, any day of the week. Contact Valerie Phillips at 302/658-8511 or e-mail the hotel at ramada@snip.net.

Many other packages are available through the state of Delaware, including a free travel planning kit. Check out www.visitdelaware.com or phone them at 866/2-VISIT DE.