Delaware is the second smallest of all 50 states, but don’t let its size fool you. Often called “The First State” since it was the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution, it is home to many historic sites associated with the Underground Railroad and WWII. From history trails to wine and beer trails and museums to beaches, Delaware’s vacation spots have plenty of fun in store for your next family vacation. And did I mention the entire state offers tax-free shopping, dining and entertainment.
Wonders of Wilmington
Located just 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, Wilmington offers numerous historical sites and museums perfect for family travel.
Experience the history of Wilmington’s riverfront by boarding the Kalmar Nyckel, a hand-crafted replica of the original Swedish ship that brought the first permanent settlers to Wilmington in 1638. Groups can tour the ship, reserve it for a deck-top dockside reception or event, or even set sail on a three-hour or 90-minute cruise. The Kalmar Nyckel is located near Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park—named after famed Underground Railroad organizers Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett—and the Shipyard Shops as well as historic Dravo Plaza, one of the busiest shipyards during World War II.
Other unique ways to see Wilmington’s riverfront include taking a river taxi ride on the Christina and Brandywine rivers or enjoying one of Christina Riverboat Company’s specialty cruises such as the History Cruise or Wine Cruise.
Wilmington is home to several of Delaware’s most popular museums. The Delaware Museum of Natural History offers permanent exhibits on dinosaurs, mammals and birds as well as animal adaptations, which explains how animals can survive harsh environment situations, and a shell gallery that houses more than two million shells including a giant 500-pound clam shell.
Also in Wilmington are the Delaware Art Museum, Delaware History Museum and the Hagley Museum and Library. At the art museum, your group can view permanent collections featuring American Illustration, American Art from the 19th century to present day and British Pre-Raphaelites. At the history museum, run by Delaware’s historical society, your group can visit an interactive exhibit called “Distinctively Delaware.” The Hagley Museum and Library is where the DuPont story begins. The museum provides tours through the industrial ruins and restorations of a 19th century industrial community.
The Blue Rocks, Wilmington’s minor league baseball team, was voted Delaware’s best place to take kids, but with discounted tickets for families of 20 or more, a Blue Rocks game can be a home run for the whole family. Options such as food vouchers and souvenir hats can be included in your group tickets.
“Go a little wild” at Brandywine Zoo, where family fun is guaranteed. Enjoy family experiences such as “Close Encounters of the Wild Kind” and “Keeper Watching,” where your family can get up close and personal with animals and also learn about how zoo keepers handle animals—both are free with zoo admission. Brandywine Zoo is home to about 150 animals native to the Americas and temperate areas of Asia.
For a relaxing adventure outside of the city, take a canoe trip in Brandywine Valley. Located just outside Wilmington’s city center, Wilderness Canoe Trips offers families the opportunity to canoe, kayak or tube—lazy river-style—down the tranquil Brandywine River. Dogs are welcome too!
Boating and Beers in Dover
Delaware’s capital city is centrally located, making Dover a great Delaware vacation spot – ideal or families hoping to experience a variety of activities while in the state.
Members of your family who are 21+ should visit Fordham Brewing Company and Old Dominion Brewing Company, where they can tour the breweries, sample the brews and leave with a souvenir mug. If your family is of age, look into the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, which features 12 breweries and wineries stretching from Wilmington to Shelbyville. Get the trail passport and visit at least eight locations to receive a limited edition Wine and Ale Trail beer mug or wine glass.
With over 36 sites throughout the state, the Delaware History Trail is certain to offer something for everyone. Dover sites include the Air Mobility Command Museum, located at Dover Air Force Base, Biggs Museum of American Art, Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village, John Dickinson Plantation and the Johnson Victrola Museum. Completing the History Trail passport will entitle your family members to receive the limited edition book Landmarks and Legacies.
Enjoy tax-free shopping while in Delaware. In Dover, visit the Dover Mall, Tanger Outlets, The Colonnade at Dover Downs Casino, or the downtown shops of Dover, Milford and Smyrna.
Racing fans in your family? No problem. Visit Dover International Speedway, also known as the “Monster Mile.” Even if you can’t schedule your vacation when a NASCAR race is taking place, your family can tour the speedway. And a new addition to the speedway tour is the “SegZone Monster Mile Experience” Segway tour. Special arrangements can be made for large families.
Located at Bowers Beach just 25 minutes from Dover, Russell’s Fishing, Inc. can accommodate up to 68 people. This chartered fishing excursion includes bait free of charge and the option to rent fishing rods.
Also located at Bowers Beach is Captain’s Lady Charters, which offers fishing excursions or dinner cruises on Delaware Bay catered by JP’s on the Wharf seafood restaurant. Entertainment for your private charter is also available.
For homemade crafts, quilts, food and furniture, take your family Delaware’s Amish community, located just west of Dover. Travel through this serene countryside to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Be sure to check out Spence’s Bazaar and Auction for a wide variety of Amish-made items.
Reunite at Rehoboth Beach
One of several beaches in Delaware, Rehoboth Beach offers more than just a day in the sun. Its year-round enjoyable weather and numerous family-oriented attractions make these vacation ideas for Rehoboth Beach worth looking at.
Ranked 6th on National Geographic’s “Top Ten U.S. Boardwalks” list, Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk offers an array of family activities for your group. Try some of Dolle’s famous salt water taffy while playing games at the Surfside Arcade. Also located at the boardwalk is Funland, Rehoboth Beach’s family-owned amusement park that features rides for children and adults as well as an array of carnival games.
The whole family can also enjoy the sun and fun at Jungle Jim’s. Here families can race on two different go kart tracks—one designed specifically for families with small children—a bumper boat pool and a waterpark equipped with a wave pool, lazy river, rope climb, kid’s spray ground and several thrilling waterslides.
Another amusement park option for your group is Midway Speedway Park, where your family can experience five different go kart tracks, an 18-hole miniature golf course, bumper boats, a rock climbing wall and White Water Mountain Water Park.
For indoor fun be sure to check out Creatable Crafts, where your family can create special keepsakes to remember your vacaton. They can paint their own pottery and pick up the finished product the very next day. Other crafts are available but completion times vary.
Cape Henlopen State Park offers exciting outdoor activities for your entire group. Nestled between Rehoboth Beach and Lewes Beach, this state park provides kayak rentals, picnic pavilions, sports facilities and a fishing pier where you can learn how to go crabbing. You should also check out the Fort Miles Historical Area to learn about the importance of the fort and Delaware shores during WWII. Campgrounds and RV sites are available as well as the Biden Environmental Training Center, a renovated Naval Reserve training facility with dormitory-style rooms that can accommodate up to 53 people and a meeting area that can accommodate up to 260 people.
Seashore State Park, also at Rehoboth Beach, is home to the historic Indian River Life-Saving Station. Your family can take a self-guided or staff-guided tour of the station to learn about its creation in 1876 and the history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, now known as the U.S. Coast Guard.
Just south of Rehoboth Beach is Fenwick Island. Here your group can tour the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum and learn about maritime heritage, shipwrecks and piracy.
Just north of Rehoboth Beach your family can tour the historic Lightship Overfalls, one of only 17 remaining lightships. Take a tour above and below decks and learn about the history of Overfalls and other lightships.