Travel Guides Delaware 9 Ways to Explore Delaware’s Past

9 Ways to Explore Delaware’s Past

You can see it, sense it, feel it come to life: A tale that stretches back to the founding of our nation, embracing legends of Colonial courage, and life in the palatial homes of a more regal time.

Start with a stroll on the cobblestone streets of Old New Castle. Or take a tour through the richly appointed rooms of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, home of the world’s premier collection of American antiques. In a way, Delaware’s story is a lot like the story of all of America—the triumphs and the struggles, the dreamers and the doers.

The echoes of a rich past reverberate through the centuries, giving us all us the chance to make them part of our own story, our own lives.

Top Spots for History Buffs

Hagley Museum and Library

From the hills of Northern Delaware, to the agricultural vistas of Central Delaware, to Southern Delaware’s sparkling ocean shores, Delaware’s favorite historic adventures await.

Travel to a Time of Regal Estates

Step back through the decades to a regal time at Delaware’s Chateau Country mansions and gardens, now open to all. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is renowned for its lush gardens and unparalleled antique collections, Hagley Museum and Library for its original DuPont Co. gunpowder mills along the Brandywine River, and Nemours Estate for its formal French garden, inspired by the palace of Versailles.

Explore the Colonial Past in Old New Castle

It’s a scene from a storybook: Cobblestone streets, flickering streetlamps, a brilliant view of the broad river. There’s a special charm that draws people by the thousands to this immaculately preserved Colonial town, which stood as Delaware’s first capital and is still home to such leading historic sites as the New Castle Court House, Old Swedes Church, and the Amstel and Dutch Houses.

Coastal Delaware’s Iconic Sites

Standing on the coast, you can imagine the sights of the past: Tall ships sailing north for ports in Wilmington and Philadelphia, guided by the stately lighthouses at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. In their shadow lies Cape Henlopen, now a beautiful state park, but long a breezy landmark for those who are drawn to that magical place where sea meets land.

Prepare for Takeoff at the Air Mobility Command Museum

Delaware’s aviation history is being made every day at sprawling Dover Air Force Base, a key post in the U.S. military’s ongoing efforts, and also the home to this jaw-dropping collection of vintage aircraft. The museum specializes in cargo and refueling planes, but keep an eye out for historic fighters, helicopters, a presidential aircraft, and even a bomber. Guided tours are provided by military veterans.

Old State House
Old State House
Fort Delaware State Park
Fort Delaware State Park

Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park

Take a Railroad Ride into the Rolling Hills

The past comes chugging into the present when you climb aboard Wilmington & Western Railroad, a vintage-era train that takes passengers on a short-but-scenic ride through the Red Clay Creek Valley in open-air carriages, stopping along the way to enjoy a picnic lunch in a countryside meadow.

Set Sail on a Tall Ship

It’s a hands-on experience sailing aboard this full-scale replica of the tall ship that brought 17th-century Swedish settlers to Delaware. So get ready to haul some lines, and hear how the original Kalmar Nyckel brought the first permanent European settlement to the Delaware Valley.

Take a journey to Fort Delaware State Park

As Americans fought through the Civil War, this island in the middle of the Delaware River would become Old State House Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse a barrier against attacks against northern ports, but would earn its infamy as a prison for thousands of Confederate prisoners. Costumed interpreters take you back to those days, and occasional ghost tours add a touch of the macabre.

Feel Nature’s Splendor at Mt. Cuba Center

Standing on the hillside at this one-time estate, you feel the embrace of nature, and begin to appreciate just how crucial native plants are to all our lives. In a way, this botanical garden is a living, breathing museum, one that celebrates the beautiful bounty of native wildflowers and trees (and birds and bees) that surround us.

Explore First State National Historical Park

This sweeping journey into Delaware’s past spans the entire state and pays respects to all who made it possible at seven sites: Woodlawn Tract at Beaver Valley, Fort Christina, John Dickinson Plantation, New Castle Court House Museum, Old Swedes Historic Site, Ryves Holt House, and The Green in Dover.

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