Delaware, The First State, is often overlooked as a vacation destination. On a quest to see all 50 states, I found all sorts of fun things to do in Delaware while checking off state #43. I always try to find cool points of interest on my journeys, and love sharing them with you.
(UPDATED APRIL 2020) I was surprised by Delaware’s excellent 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, while the beaches are spacious and welcoming. Wilmington caught my eye with its exciting 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.
How does visiting a gorgeous American estate, several distilleries and breweries, attending a cool art festival, and devouring delicious food sound to you? There are all of these and more, but here are my recommendations for 11 fun things to do in Delaware.
1. Nemours Estate (Wilmington)
This elegant 47,000 square feet mansion was built for Alfred I. du Pont, at the turn of the 20th century. It was done by the same architectural firm that designed the iconic New York Public Library.
The Nemours Estate is fashioned after Marie Antoinette’s Le Petit Trianon. Du Pont’s astonishing 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 at Nemours Estate 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 delightful 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.
2. Kick Back and Enjoy Some Brews at Crooked Hammock Brewery (Lewes)
This fun restaurant and brewery has captivating decor and an outdoor area perfect for dining, relaxing in hammocks, playing corn hole, or enjoying live music. Crooked Hammock Brewery is a great place for happy hour after work or dinner with the whole family.
Crooked Hammock prides itself 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. It is also a stop on the Delaware Beer, Wine, and Spirits Trail.
3. See the First State’s State Capitol and Tour First State Heritage Park (Dover)
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. Learn about Delaware’s history at the Visitors Center. You can also take a self-guided tour of the property.
Since the 17th century, Delaware has played a large part in shaping The United States. 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 more productive.
4. Watch the Tide Roll In and Out 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, a unique Victorian hotel that is full of charming antiques and reproduction furniture. The hotel offers both heated indoor and outdoor pools, fine-dining at the onsite restaurant, and an impressive afternoon tea service. Adorable birds are in the lobby to converse with the guests.
Other features of the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel include free onsite parking, WIFI, a friendly staff, comfy and spacious guest rooms, and a fitness area.
By the looks of this elegant hotel, it is no wonder that the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel’s tagline is “Victorian Elegance by the Sea”.
5. Stay in the Heart of Downtown Wilmington (Wilmington)
Selecting a hotel in downtown Wilmington is essential if you plan on touring the city because it is very walkable. The reasonably priced Sheraton Suites Wilmington is a prime spot because it is within walking distance of many cultural, architectural, and splendid food finds.
The hotel offers a friendly staff, indoor pool, fitness center, and an onsite restaurant. The Sheraton’s nicely decorated lobby has complimentary WIFI, computers, and printing stations. Since the rooms at the Sheraton are suites, each includes a mini-fridge, microwave, wet bar, and living room. There was plenty of space to relax and unwind, with a fantastic view of the Brandywine River.
Family weekend rates at the Sheraton Suites include an in-room movie, free children’s meals, and a welcome snack for the kids.
6. Check Out the Architecture and Exhibits at Zwaanendael Museum (Lewes)
The picturesque Zwaanendael Museum (“Valley of the Swans”) 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 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 at Zwaanendael Museum 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.
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 three locations, a happy staff, a spectacular bakery, and a general store offering at the restaurant. Best of all, Jimmy’s serves three delicious home-cooked meals a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Perhaps you’re craving a Three-Egg Omelet or Jumbo Cinnamon Roll for breakfast. Then there is Jimmy’s Hot Meatloaf and two-piece Fried Chicken Meal for dinner. Jimmy’s Grille serves 17 choices of side items (many local vegetables) that could make a delicious meal in itself.
The 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?
8. Attend the Brandywine Festival of the Arts (Wilmington)
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 artworks while creative food trucks provide trendy foods. The Brandywine Festival of the Arts selection is impressive and priced just right. A crowd favorite was the delicious 44 ounce Georgia Peach iced tea, served in a Ziploc bag.
In addition to art, sculptures, jewelry, clothing, books, and pottery are sold. There is a particular 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.
9. Visit the Air Mobility Command Museum (Dover)
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. Thirty-one 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.
10. Dine at the Eclectic Krazy Kat’s (Wilmington)
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. Though it has modern conveniences, the village resonates from life centuries ago when the workers from the du Pont powder mills lived there.
Krazy 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. Don’t miss the incredible wine menu featuring wines from around the world. Oh, and of course, schedule a Sunday brunch.
11. Tour the Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton)
Perhaps the most well-known business in the state of Delaware is Dogfish Head Brewery, the holy grail of craft beers. A tour (including samples) is one of the best things to do in Delaware, as well. Dogfish specializes in off-centered beer for “off-centered people”. Job applicants have to explain how their off centeredness fits the existing team.
This famous 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 handcrafted spirits. Today, the brewery produces 240K barrels of beer and is the 13th most popular, 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 treehouse that decorates the Dogfish Head lawn.
Delaware: A Real Delight
I hope this list will encourage you to add this state to your travel plans. There are so many things to do in the state and we’ve just touched on a few of them. Best of all, you can drive through the whole state in only one day. Plan your weekend getaway today and be sure to include some of our best things to do in Delaware.
Happy traveling, friends.
Thanks to the Southern Delaware Tourism CVB, Visit Dover, Greater Wilmington CVB, and the Sheraton Suites Wilmington Delaware for hosting my visit. As with all posts on this site, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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