From the authentic Colonial charm of Old New Castle to the regal splendor of a “Chateau Country” mansion, Delaware is known for a few particularly iconic experiences, the kinds of joys you simply shouldn’t miss during your stay. Some are easy to do in a day. Others beg for more time to savor the full flavor of fun. Either way, it pays to keep these Delaware bucket list destinations handy.
Stroll the Dunes at Cape Henlopen State Park
It’s a picture-postcard view: A curving stretch of sand and dunes, jutting out into the Delaware Bay just off the coast of Lewes, offering a sparkling view of the dignified lighthouses offshore. Cape Henlopen State Park’s incredible natural beauty is on full display along the Walking Dunes Trail, which winds through the park and passes the Great Dune Overlook, where you’ll want to pause for a view of the ocean from your breezy perch 80 feet in the air.
Explore the Classic Rehoboth Boardwalk
There’s no place in Delaware quite like this: A breezy timber Boardwalk, stretching along the shoreline between the beach and the city’s center, lined with little shops and frequently filled with flip-flopping sunbathers. Up and down its festive length, the kids happily chew saltwater taffy while mom and dad enjoy salty french fries—drizzled with vinegar, Delaware style. Perpendicular to the Boardwalk is this old beach town’s main street—Rehoboth Avenue— home to some of the East Coast’s most exciting dining destinations and more than a few exclusive (and tax-free) boutiques.
Take the kids (and Yourself) on the Rides at Funland
It’s a rite of passage for many locals and travelers since 1962: Strolling up the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk together toward Funland, the old-school but perpetually cool mini amusement park just steps from the sand. Sounds of skeeball and fun-seeking families fill the air, laced with the irresistible aromas of salt-flecked fries and sugar-dusted funnel cakes. All through the neon-lit night, a happy buzz permeates the scene, creating something enduring and indelible that lasts forever in your memories of Delaware.
Discover Downtown Dover
Victorian homes line shady streets of the capital city, a place where echoes of the American Revolution still linger, and where historic sites inspire visions of another age. Take a tour of landmarks along The Green and around Legislative Hall then shop at the boutiques along Loockerman Street. Explore can’t-miss events: First Fridays (every month), colonial-accented Dover Days (May) and Amish Country Bike Tour (Sept.), or immerse yourself in military aviation history at the Air Mobility Command Museum.
Explore One of Delaware’s Trails of Discovery
Tap into some of Delaware’s best attractions: Explore the state by following Delaware’s “Trails of Discovery,” a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of your trip. First, pick one of four trails, based on your own interests: local craft beverages, historic sites, dining destinations or outdoor discoveries. Then, download your “passport” or app, and start your journey.
Birdwatch at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
It’s a sight like none other: Migrating birds quietly feed in the fields, then suddenly rise in unison, soaring overhead as they slip over the horizon. Recognized as one of the best birdwatching sites in the U.S., Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a crucial stop for migrating birds in spring and fall, and great flocks of snow geese overwinter here, but the refuge’s trails and waterside views give it a year-round appeal.
Sip Local Brews
Delaware is officially brew crazy: from off-centered ales to backyard hangouts there is a brew for every taste and a vibe for every vacation style, ranging from Wilmington Brew Works in the northern part of the state to Brick Works Brewing and Eats in central Delaware, to Big Oyster Brewery down at the beach. Keep tabs on some of the top spots (and events) with the DE on Tap mobile app.
Go “glamping” at Firefly Music Festival
They say it’s the best way to see the shows: Splurge for one of Firefly’s “glamping” sites, where you can immerse yourself in the music festival while still enjoying (most of) the comforts of home. There’s always the option of carving out your own campsite at the multi-day event, which pulls in some of the top names in contemporary music and features a variety of crowd-pleasing amenities and attractions between acts.
Spend a Day in Old New Castle
It seems like a land from another time: A picturesque Colonial-era village, tucked along the Delaware River and filled with quaint row homes—perfect for a sunny afternoon stroll, and ideal for exploring the offbeat shops and historic sites. Read House & Gardens takes travelers back to a different time, and the festivities of Separation Day deliver a dose of pageantry, food and fun in June.
Kayak (or Fish) on the Inland Bays
Some say it’s the state’s best-kept secret: Broad and peaceful inland bays, along the coast and perfectly suited to a day of fun on the water. From Dewey Beach all the way down to Fenwick Island, state parks and vendors offer an array of activities: jet-skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, kayaking and more. Explore tours and rentals from Coastal Kayak, Eco Bay Kayaking Adventures and Quest Kayak.
Step inside a regal Chateau Country mansion
They take you back to an age of refinement: Delaware mansions and gardens stand as some of the most opulent homes in the nation, and are ideal destinations for a day trip or a weekend of
sightseeing. Situated in one of the state’s most picturesque landscapes, each offers its own charm: Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library for its matchless collection of American antiques and naturalistic gardens; Hagley Museum for its historic DuPont Co. gunpowder mills; Nemours Estate for its formal French garden and fountains; and Mt. Cuba Center for its vistas of native greenery.
Explore historic Fort Delaware State Park
It stands in the middle of the river like an apparition from the past: A Civil War fort that once housed Confederate prisoners, but now stands open to visitors who can hear its story from costumed interpreters. Insider Tip: Known for “ghostly” activity, the fort has been featured on Ghost Hunters and other television shows.
Take a day to enjoy the Wilmington Riverfront
You could easily spend the whole day by the river, enjoying the restaurants, museums and other attractions springing up around the Christina Riverfront. Grab lunch at Banks’ Seafood Kitchen, explore the Delaware Children’s Museum, or catch a movie at the Penn Cinema IMAX theatre. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at the Constitution Yards Beer Garden as you stroll the Riverwalk, just a jaunt away from the full-court action at the Chase Fieldhouse and your choice of hotels with a view. Insider Tip: Nature lovers shouldn’t miss a hike through the DuPont Environmental Center along the Jack A. Markell Trail.