One of the great things about a trip to Delaware from a New Yorker’s perspective is the lack of traffic. It is very easy to get around.
Except if you decide to take your getaway when the President is in town.
The last time we went to Wilmington, we were there to rendezvous with my cousins from Philadelphia, my sister from Delaware County and friends from New Jersey. The last thing we expected was a motorcade. But when President Biden decides to pay a visit to his home state, expect crowds.
What you can also expect is restored historic buildings filled with great American art, a DuPont legacy, delicious beer and extensive tax-free shopping. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Delaware.
Learn About the DuPont Legacy
The DuPont family, one of the richest American families, came to the Brandywine Valley in the 19th century. Descended from Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the family built its fortune in the gunpowder industry. The DuPont largesse continues with tourist attractions throughout Delaware.
To get the full feel of the DuPont legacy, stay at Hotel DuPont.
Explore the Hagley Museum and Library, Indoors and Out
The Hagley Museum and Library, where the DuPont family first set up shop, has the original DuPont Company gunpowder mills. Hagley, a vast indoor-outdoor museum, sprawls over 235 acres in New Castle County.
The historic 19th century family home, filled with American art, is open for self-guided tours. You can walk through a classical French garden, the E. I. du Pont, and see the Crowninshield Garden, a neoclassical garden built on the industrial ruins of Eleutherian Mills. Don’t miss the Nation of Inventors, which exhibits over 120 patent models. If you like antique cars, see the 1928 duPont Motors Phaeton.
Bring comfortable walking shoes if you want to stroll around the property, down to the river and to the visitor center and historic powder yard. There is also shuttle service and a picnic area.
Winterthur Museum and Grounds
Henry Francis du Pont founded the Winterthur Museum, which specializes in American decorative arts. The collection of over 90,000 objects includes furniture, crafts and American paintings. But it’s not all American here. We saw a special exhibit years ago with costumes from “Downtown Abbey,” then another one with costumes from “The Crown.”
Some guided tours are included with admission to Winterthur Museum. The 30-minute Winterthur Garden tram tour includes stops at different gardens. You can also explore the trails and gardens on your own. There is a Yuletide guided tour during the holiday season.
You can bring food and eat at the picnic tables. There is also a café with sandwiches and salads.
Grand Living at Nemours Estate
The Nemours Estate includes the Nemours Mansion, a full acre of indoor living space with a formal French garden.
Immerse Yourself in Nature at Mt. Cuba Center
This botanic garden in Hockessin, Delaware, is open April through November. Founded by Lammot du Pont Copeland, the garden focuses on native plants and natural lands. Guided tours introduce you to the garden’s history, native plants and conservation tips.
Mt. Cuba Center has over two miles of natural trails. These are great for birdwatching and seeing native wildflowers.
Go for a Hike
White Clay Creek State Park in Newark (pronounced with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable, unlike Newark, New Jersey), Delaware has miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Entrance fees are charged from March 1 to November 3. We recommend parking in White Clay Park Preserve in Landenberg, Pennsylvania for free and hiking over.
Another hiking destination, Brandywine Creek State Park, includes the Brandywine Creek State Park Nature Center. Come for the birdwatching, hiking and kayaking. Brandywine Creek State Park was also a former DuPont family estate, so you can see 19th century stone walls along with natural beauty.
Rehoboth Beach, one of the best beaches on the East Coast, has a long boardwalk lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, amusement park rides and places to rent a surrey or bicycle.
Delaware Seashore State Park has kayaking in a protected bay, two campgrounds and hiking and biking trails.
Tourist attractions include mini golf, arcades and Funland. Jungle Jim’s River Safari Water Park has water slides and a lazy river if the ocean waves are too much.
Dogs are allowed on the beach only from October 1 – April 30.
Note: Lifeguards are on duty at Rehoboth Beach from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend until three weeks after Labor Day.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Summer season is May 15-September 1, when you have to pay for parking and bikes are allowed on the boardwalk only from 5-10 am.
Bethany Beach has tourist attractions like a boardwalk, but it is mellower than Rehoboth Beach. It has a concert series with live music Thursday nights in the summer and Saturday nights in September and October, and movies and bonfires on the beach. The Bethany Beach Nature Center, open year-round, has family oriented hands-on activities.
The James Farm Ecological Preserve has hiking trails, observation decks for birdwatching and its own beach.
Other Delaware beaches to consider include Fenwick Island, Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, South Bethany Beach for surfing and Dewey Beach.
Read More: Ocean, Bay or Both! Delaware’s Best Beaches
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
The birdwatching paradise, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, a tidal salt marsh, includes meadows, mud flats, tidal pools, rivers, creeks, tidal streams and forests. There is a 12-mile wildlife drive, five walking trails, three observation towers and a visitor center with interactive displays. The Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, in Smyrna, is on the Atlantic Flyway.
The Grand Opera House opened in 1871 as a home for the Grand Lodge of the Mason. The historic site presents a full complement of performing arts: rock, classical and traditional American music, comedy, dance and jazz. The Grand Opera House is the home of The Delaware Symphony, Opera Delaware and First State Ballet Theatre.
The Delaware Art Museum includes the Copeland Sculpture Garden, where you can hear live music in the summer. Year-round, the indoor galleries focus on British Pre-Raphaelites, collected by founder Howard Pyle, 19th-century American art and contemporary art. The Delaware Art Museum also has an interactive play area.
The Wilmington Riverfront on the Christina River has several attractions including a minor league baseball team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks; the Delaware Children’s Museum, The Delaware Contemporary, filled with art galleries, mini golf and the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge, a freshwater tidal marsh. The wildlife refuge is popular for birdwatching.
We have hiked along the seven-mile trail that goes all the way to New Castle. This is also a great place to bike. The DuPont Environmental Education Center has a Visitors Center with panoramic river and marsh views.
The Brandywine Zoo
The Brandywine Zoo, in Wilmington, is a small zoo, great for kids. It has a pretty setting along the Brandywine River.
Fort Delaware State Park
Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, protected Wilmington and Philadelphia. Now a state park, you can visit by ferry only. It has one of the largest wading bird nesting areas on the East Coast, so it attracts birdwatchers. There are also 19th century costumed interpreters, ghost tours, hiking trails and a nature preserve.
Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head in Milton, offers free daily tours, along with more extensive paid tours. And it’s not just a brewery anymore. The Dogfish Head Distilling Co makes vodka, gin, whiskey and rum. Dogfish Head has a beer shop in Rehoboth Beach.
We were also quite pleased with Wilmington Brew Works in Wilmington. The dog- and kid-friendly brewery lets you bring in food. La Pizzeria Metro, just around the corner, has delicious wood-fired pizzas to go perfectly with the beer on tap.
After lunch, we let the kids run around at the playground across the street.
From New Jersey
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry connects New Jersey’s southernmost tip, the beach town of Cape May, to Lewes, Delaware. The year-round car ferry takes about an hour and a half, so you can take a day trip from either location. Lewes is on the Atlantic Flyway so it’s a great place for birdwatching. You can also see beautiful restored Victorian homes in Lewes.
Love to Fly?
Visit the Air Mobility Command Museum, a military aviation museum at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. Admission to the Air Mobility Command Museum is free. You can see outside aircraft, weather permitting. On open cockpit days, the third Saturday of each month, you can actually go into the different aircraft and hear from retired crew members about each plane.
The Dover Motor Speedway, a race track in Dover, Delaware, hosts a NASCAR weekend every year. There is RV and tent camping.
Just Over the Border in Pennsylvania
Longwood Gardens Blooms Year-round
The spectacular Longwood Gardens, across the Pennsylvania border in Kennett Square, is another DuPont masterpiece. Come for the day to see the flora. Stay for the evening to see the light shows. Visit here year-round; the conservatories offer refuge from bad weather.
Brandywine River Museum
The Brandywine River Museum features 19th century American art in a renovated 19th-century gristmill. There are galleries dedicated to the Wyeth family of artists. Take guided tours of the N.C. Wyeth House and Studio, and the Andrew Wyeth Studio, both National Historic Landmarks. The museum also offers guided tours of the historic Kuerner Farm, a short shuttle ride away. The farm is yet another National Historic Landmark.