13 Best Things to Do in Charming New Castle, Delaware

When I first walked down Delaware Street in historic New Castle in early 2020, I thought I was stepping into Brigadoon, that mythical Scottish Highland village that comes to life every hundred years. New Castle, however, is perhaps the most uniquely American place – with four centuries of American history. Today, 21st century residents live and work in the city’s astonishingly preserved buildings – the real estate office, for example, was built in 1738 and the local tavern was originally built in 1674.

Here, you can explore history as you stroll through the 20 square blocks lined with restaurants, cafes, houses, and historic gardens. You cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty of the many well-preserved buildings from the Georgian, Federal and Victorian eras dating from the early 17th to the early 19th century. But you will not be the only ones to revel in the charms of the city; New Castle has been named in many lists of America’s 10 Most Beautiful Small Towns.

How long should you plan to explore New Castle? You can easily spend a pleasant weekend strolling around the city and sightseeing. You can also get a good idea of ​​the city and its history during a morning or afternoon stroll, with a coffee break or a meal (or, in good weather, a picnic in Battery Park). If you need a wheelchair or mobility aids, be aware that while all streets are flat, some are paved.

Pro tip: Different companies and organizations are in charge of different sites in the historic New Castle. Check with the appropriate people listed below to make sure buildings and other places you want to see are open when you are there:

  • Read House and Gardens: Delaware Historical Society (302) 322-8411
  • New Castle Courthouse: Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs, State of Delaware (302) 323-4453
  • Visitor Center, Amstel House, Dutch House, Old Library and Events: New Castle Historical Society (302) 322-2794
  • General Information: Visit Delaware (866-284-7483)

1. Take a guided tour

Guided walking tours of the architectural gems of Historic New Castle are scheduled to resume in Spring 2021; they will require reservations. There is also a self-guided audio tour of Historic New Castle that begins at Amstel House, which can be downloaded here.

2. Visit Battery Park

the new castle Battery park is on the Delaware waterfront. It owes its name to its artillery fortification against enemy ships in the 17th and 18th centuries. This historic park was where William Penn landed when he first came to America on October 27, 1682 (noted on a marker at the site; also see a statue of Penn on the New Castle Commons a few blocks away houses). The docks have become a major trading center in the New World, and when the water level of the Delaware River is low, you can still see the remains of port facilities from hundreds of years ago.

Pro tip: A walking and biking trail begins at Battery Park and runs approximately 2.5 km southwest along the Delaware River on a dike between the marsh and the river. The whole trip is approximately three miles. Read on for another, newer walking and biking route stretching north from New Castle to the Riverwalk in nearby Wilmington.

The Frenchtown Railroad Ticket Office in Battery Park was built in 1832 and moved to the park in the 1950s. The railroad was once a major reason for the growth of New Castle before the Civil War.

Greater Wilmington Convention and Tourism Office

3. Discover Packet Alley and The Strand

Package aisle stretches from The Strand to the Delaware River. In 1933, a historic landmark was placed at the intersection. Some famous people in the 1830s and 1940s were passengers in the stagecoaches and riverboats that loaded and unloaded here, including President Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett.

The Strand is only one block away, but it is arguably the grandest street in historic New Castle and has been for hundreds of years. A big fire swept the street in 1824, but a few notable 18th-century townhouses have fortunately survived.

On the Strand stands the Read House and Gardens, a national historic monument. The house was built in the last years of the 18th century and is an imposing example of the architecture of the Federal period. Visit the formal gardens, laid out in the 1840s.

4. Visit the courthouse

Built in 1732, the New Castle Courthouse served as the first court and capital of the state of Delaware and was the meeting place of the Delaware Colonial Assembly until 1777. Learn more about visiting the courthouse here.

5. Relax in the New Castle Green

The New Green Castle was designed in 1655 by Dutch Governor Petrus Stuyvesant as a gathering and market place for townspeople. Today this peaceful location (which was once the site of the city’s gallows and jail) is surrounded by some of New Castle’s most iconic and historic buildings.

The garden of the Amstel house.

Greater Wilmington Convention and Tourism Office

6. See the historic homes of New Castle

The Dutch house is the oldest house in New Castle. It was built between 1690 and 1700 and is filled with period furniture.

The Amstel House is a former Georgian mansion built in the 1730s. It is widely regarded as Delaware’s first grand mansion. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house marked the city’s first official preservation effort in 1931. Amstel House is also a milestone on the popular haunted house tour which takes place in October.

7. Appreciate the churches of New Castle (and a striking graveyard)

Founded in 1657 as a Dutch Reformed or Calvinist place of worship, the New Castle Presbyterian Church was one of seven to organize America’s first rectory in 1706. The church was restored after WWII to its original style.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church on the Green is one of the oldest episcopal parishes in the United States. It was founded in 1689 and the construction of the church was not completed until 1708. Don’t miss the cemetery: the stones tell the story of some of the first settlers of the new country.

8. Keep up with your exercise program

Run, walk, jog or bike the long awaited 8 miles Jack A. Markell Trail which connects downtown New Castle to the Wilmington River. The off-road path is paved and mostly flat, with a section of boardwalk through a marsh near Wilmington.

Aerial view of New Castle from a drone.

Greater Wilmington Convention and Tourism Office

9. See (or navigate) on a replica of a ship

The Kalmar Nyckel, usually moored along the Wilmington River, is a life-size replica of a 17th-century, three-masted, square-rigged, cannon-armed merchant ship. The ship offers crossings from May to October, with day sails, pirate sails and a Halloween Ghost Ship sail. Check the moorings at New Castle.

10. Check out these special events in the historic new castle

Depending on when you visit, you may enjoy one or more special New Castle events, including

For more information as well as the specific dates and times of any of these events, contact the New Castle Historical Society.

11. Eat well

Jessop’s Tavern offers comfort food from the colonial era with daily specials as well as microbreweries on tap.

Nora Lee’s French Quarter Bistro specializes in New Orleans Cajun cuisine including crayfish bisque, chicken sausage okra and jambalaya salad.

Café Nouveau Château is the perfect place for French toast and waffles; the crab sandwich is recommended.

Pizza and restaurant Porto-Fino is located in a mall near Delaware and 8th Street; Discover the Greek salad.

12. Buy the new castle

2nd act gallery is an art and antiques collective located in the old New Castle Opera House. It is generally open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

An 8-minute drive from the historic part of town via Delaware Street (or a 45-minute walk) is the famous Farmers market at New Castle. There is an Amish section with soft pretzels, meat, and even chocolate coated bacon (Note: Amish section is closed on Sundays, but most other stores are open.)

Barbara winard

13. Stay in town

Maison Terry Bed and Breakfasts is in a circa 1860 federal townhouse on Delaware Street, with adjoining gardens at Battery Park on the Delaware River. Children over 10 are welcome.

The David Finney Inn apartments on Delaware Street – part of the Haunted House Tour – are available on Airbnb. Choose from smaller David Finney Inn Apt. 2, which sleeps four, and larger David Finney Inn Apt. 4, who sleeps 6.

For a blowout, stay stylish Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, a 1913 landmark one mile from the Amtrak station and just six miles from the historic New Castle.

Professional advice

History will come to life as you imagine the first inhabitants of historic New Castle, but for those who need more inspiration, check out the New Community History and Archeology program. Castle online. Portraits of the rich and powerful in New Castle history. Note: Not everyone was rich and powerful, of course.

Getting to the new castle

Driving from New York via I-95 and over the Delaware Memorial Bridge takes approximately two hours. The To that the train crosses New Jersey from Penn Station in New York to the Wilmington Amtrak station, also in about two hours. From there you can take a taxi or Uber to New Castle – the journey takes about 10 minutes.

Explore nearby sites

Delaware being such a small state, it doesn’t take long to reach other places of interest in 30 minutes, including Wilmington river bank; Brandywine Zoo; Delaware Museum of Art; Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library; Hagley Museum; Manor and Gardens of Nemours; and Longwood Gardens (just over the border into Pennsylvania). Check the days and hours of operation before you go and also consider:

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