Delaware, The First State, is often overlooked as a vacation option. I discovered 11 fun things to do in Delaware on a recent visit that you might like. Before I turn 50, I am hoping to visit all 50 US states. Delaware brought my list to 36 states now visited. As always, I end up finding really cool points of interest on my journeys and I could not wait to share Delaware with you. How does visiting one of the most gorgeous estates in America, several distilleries and breweries, a cool art festival, and devouring delicious food sound to you?
I was surprised by Delaware’s awesome eateries, one of a kind hotels, and pristine beaches. Rehoboth Beach and those on both sides are often referred to as “American’s Summer Capital”. The coastline is picture perfect and the beaches are spacious and welcoming. Wilmington caught my eye with its interesting art features and classic estates. Visiting Dover and seeing the state capitol was, of course, a biggie for me because I love checking off historic places on my travel bucket list.
Things To Do In Delaware
This elegant 47,000 square feet mansion was built for Alfred I. du Pont, at the turn of the 20th century, by the same architectural firm that designed the iconic New York Public Library. The Nemours Estate was fashioned after Marie Antoinette’s Le Petit Trianon. Du Pont’s amazing collection of art, antiques, and collectibles fill each room; all 77 of them. The billiards room, library, morning room, and conservatory will more than impress you. Self-guide your way through the du Pont family’s day to day life in the mansion.
Outside, a beautiful French formal garden and fountains await you. The statuesque gates were imported from Wimbledon Manor, outside of London. The bronze statue (that you are sure to photograph) is the Temple of Love, sitting amidst the Oriental and sunken gardens. A nice selection of Rolls Royces (including one that was special ordered in Blueberry Blue), Cadillacs, and other classic cars can be found in the Chauffeur’s garage.
This fun eatery and brewery has interesting decor and an outdoor area perfect for dining, relaxing in hammocks, playing corn hole, or enjoying live music. Crooked Hammock is a great place for happy hour after work or dinner with the whole family.
Crooked Hammock prides themselves on what they refer to as a “backyard cookout” every day with their upscale bar food menu choices. Nachos, Wings, Bavarian Pretzels, and Deviled Eggs are some of the yummy appetizer choices followed by healthy salads, hearty burgers, and creative sandwiches. Crooked Hammock’s seasonal and year round craft brews are sure to satisfy your thirst. This is, also, a stop on the Delaware Beer, Wine, and Spirits Trail.
Delaware’s First State Heritage Park is a square comprised of legislative buildings, museums, the Old State House, and Public Archives. The state capitol building, known as the Delaware Legislative Hall, is also found here. The Visitors Center will help you learn about Delaware’s history and plan your self-guided tour of the property. Parking is easily accessible.
Since the 17th century, Delaware has played a large part in shaping The United States. In fact, it was the first state to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787, by a unanimous vote, 30 – 0. Make sure to visit Woodburn and Hall House, built circa 1798, which has housed Delaware’s governor since 1965. Check out the offerings on the first Saturday of each month, which include tours of the Governor’s House. Download a Delaware History Trail passport online to make your adventure even richer.
#4 Watch the tide roll in and out from your balcony room at the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel (Rehoboth Beach)
Rehoboth Beach has a gorgeous oceanfront boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean. Anchored on its edge is the stately 84 room Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. This unique Victorian hotel is full of charms, decorated with antique and reproduction furniture. It offers both heated indoor and outdoor pools, fine-dining at Victoria’s Restaurant, an impressive afternoon tea, and birds in the lobby who love to converse with the guests. Other specialty features include free onsite parking, WIFI, a friendly staff, comfy and spacious guest rooms, fitness room, and a small balcony in some rooms.
It is no wonder that the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel’s tagline is “Victorian Elegance by the Sea”.
Selecting a hotel in downtown Wilmington is important if you plan on touring the city because it is very walkable. The Sheraton Suites is a prime spot because it is within walking distance of many cultural, architectural, and splendid food finds. It features reasonably priced accommodations, a welcoming atmosphere, convenience, and an onsite restaurant. Since each Sheraton room is a suite, they are super spacious. Rooms include a mini-fridge, microwave, wet bar, desk area with ottoman, living room and some have outside views of the Brandywine River.
The Sheraton’s nicely decorated lobby has complimentary WIFI, computers, and printing stations. The Sheraton Suites is a popular wedding venue and great for hosting family reunions, conferences, and parties. Do not miss their indoor pool and fitness center. Family weekend rates include an in-room movie, free children’s meals, and a welcome snack for the kids.
The picturesque Zwaanendael Museum was erected in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first European settlers in Delaware. Zwaanendael’s ornate gables were adapted from the old town hall building in Hoorn, Netherlands. The name translates to “Valley of the Swans’.
The museum showcases the Lewes area’s military and maritime culture plus special changing exhibits. Their current Wine & Spirits display illustrates Delaware’s alcohol trade from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Admission includes two floors of historical artifacts, many that are hands on. The museum is also a popular Poke (Pokemon Go!) stop which encourages children and families to get out and explore. While some businesses are up in arms about the constant foot traffic, the Zwaanendael staff seemed to embrace it.
#7 Eat a tasty breakfast at Jimmy’s Grille (Rehoboth Beach)
Peace, love, and chicken is the motto for this creative eatery. Jimmy’s Grille has 3 locations, a vivacious staff, a killer bakery, and fascinating general store offering at the front of the restaurant. Best of all, Jimmy’s serves three delicious home cooked meals a day. Perhaps you want to try one of their 3-Egg Omelets or Jumbo Cinnamon Roll for breakfast. What about Jimmy’s Hot Meatloaf or 2-piece Fried Chicken Meal for dinner. The restaurant serves 17 choices of side items (many local vegetables) that could make a delicious meal in itself.
Jimmy’s bakery sells a vast collection of cakes, pies, cookies, and seasonal favorites. Just watching the pies being made through the window was a real treat. Have you ever seen meringue piled this high? Take home a tasty treat.
This annual Wilmington art event has been going strong for 50+ years. Over 100 juried artists from across the country sell one of a kind art works while creative food trucks provide trendy foods. The selection is impressive and priced just right. A crowd favorite was the 44 ounce Georgia Peach iced tea, served in a Ziploc bag. It was delicious!
In addition to art, sculptures, jewelry, clothing, books, and pottery are sold. There is a special area for children to make arts and crafts, play on the outdoor equipment, and have their face painted. Live music performances are also a hot offering. The Brandywine Zoo (over 50 years old) is located on the hill behind the festival.
Delaware’s best-kept secret is the free Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover. This one of a kind museum houses operational collector and retired planes from the Air Force. 31 planes in total make up the aircraft fleet, including Air Force 2 (VC-9C) that carries the Vice-President or often First Ladies, bombers, helicopters, and cargo haulers.
The Air Mobility Command Museum houses a control tower (Dover’s Air Force Base cab until 2009), simulator, and airport. Inside of the museum, a C-47A Skytrain shows off the D-Day invasion stripes from its World War II days. These aircraft dropped supplies and paratroops, hauled injured soldiers, and dropped flares during the massive attacks.
A renovated blacksmith shop at Montchanin Village houses Krazy Kat’s Restaurant. This 19th-century village is on the National Register of Historic Places in the Brandywine Valley and though it has modern conveniences, the village resonates from life centuries ago when the workers from the du Pont powder mills lived there.
Crazy Kat’s prides itself on innovative and eclectic fine dining. The funky interior includes animal print upholstered furniture and a cozy fireplace. Delicious French cuisine is served on leopard print china. Creative menu options include Berry Bruschetta, Crepe Madame, and Cider Caramel Glazed Wild Boar Rack Chop. Krazy Kat’s Crab Bisque is heavenly, loaded with chunks of succulent crab in an uber rich broth. Do not miss their incredible wine menu with wines from around the world and Sunday brunch.
Perhaps the most well-known business in the state of Delaware is Dogfish Head Brewery, the holy grail of craft beers. Dogfish specializes in off centered beer for “off centered people”. Job applicants have to explain how their off centeredness fits the existing team.
This popular brewery opened in 1995 and quickly made the Top 50 Breweries in the US list with its 20 styles of beer. Dogfish Head Brewery has even branched out to hand crafted spirits. Today, the brewery produces 240K barrels of beer and is the 15th largest, of around 4500, craft brewery. Dogfish Head Brewery’s free year round tours dazzle guests with their 200 barrel system. Your visit might even include a trip inside the steampunk tree house that decorates the Dogfish Head lawn.
I hope this list will encourage you to add the state of Delaware to your travel plans. For those of you who have been there, what else would you have added to this list? If you have not traveled to Delaware, do these attractions interest you? Happy traveling friends.
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