Why Wilmington and New Castle are the perfect stops for a history lover’s vacation

Take the history buffs in your family to Delaware to learn all about the charming first state – the first to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787.

Steeped in our nation’s history, Delaware seems to celebrate a historic moment every year that you can be part of. Start exploring at First State National Historic Park as it is made up of sites across the state. the Courthouse of the new castle was built in 1732 and was the place where 13 delegates declared independence from Pennsylvania and England in June 1776. New Castle was the state capital of Delaware, but only until 1777, when in which it was moved to Dover so that it would not be easily accessible to the Delaware River and potential capture. The historic park also includes Dover Green; Brandywine Valley; Fort Christina; John Dickinson Plantation, including an exhibit detailing the site’s connection to the Underground Railroad; and Old Church of the Swedes, one of the oldest churches in the country still used as a place of worship. Part of the National Park Service, the park allows you to learn about Delaware’s colonial history up to the ratification of the US Constitution. It certainly helps explain why you find traces of Dutch, Swedes, Finns and English in the area and how they all interacted with Native Americans.

Photo courtesy of Greater Wilmington CVB

Delaware, as small as it is, excels in many areas. One is the collection of stellar museums, in particular the Winterthur Museum, which is currently showing a DC-related exhibit on the connection between Jacqueline Kennedy and Henry Francis du Pont. In 1961, when she became first lady and decided to create a White House worthy of a museum instead of a simple residence, she hired du Pont, an octogenarian collector from Delaware. You may have seen the TV show Tour of the White House which explored the new setting. In collaboration with renowned decorators, they have awakened an interest in preservation and interior design. There are several tour options, self-guided and guided, and you can stop at the pop-up store that sells items inspired by the restoration project.

Other museums worthy of your attention are the Delaware Museum of Art; the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame; Hagley Museum and Library; Contemporary Delaware; Rockwood Park and Museum; Delaware Museum of Nature and Science; and to make sure the little ones are occupied, the Delaware Children’s Museum.

delaware art museum
Photo courtesy of Delaware Museum of Art

Look to Wilmington for a central point for accommodations, perhaps staying in the historic Hotel du Pont. The 12-story Italian Renaissance building opened in 1913, after two and a half years of construction. French and Italian craftsmen showed their impressive skills in carving, gilding and painting. It was extended in 1918, including the theater now called The Playhouse on Rodney Square. Be sure to check out the European chandeliers, hand-carved wood, terrazzo floors, and 12-foot-tall walnut doors etched with peacocks and urns in the Gold Ballroom.

Cyclists should take the time to explore Delaware Bicycle Route 1, which runs south to north from the Maryland border at Fenwick Island to the Pennsylvania border north of Montchanin. It passes through beaches, farmland, state parks and cities.

As the highest elevation in the state is 447.85 feet above sea level, with an average elevation of 58 feet, it’s not a strenuous race. Parts of it are along or near the DuPont Expressway, the nation’s first divided highway, and several other routes are planned.

If you’re on the hunt for food while driving across the state, you can’t go wrong with the nostalgic family favorite Pizza Cave, a chain of 20 stores in Delaware and Maryland that began in 1960. Long known as a beach favorite, Grotto offers single-person pizzas and gluten-free options as well as salads, pastas and ice cream. . If you’re worried you’ve missed your friends and pets, check out their gift shop for ornaments, dog toys and bowls, clothes, and more.

In addition to its historical significance, Delaware is also known as the land of tax-free shopping, which means plenty of regular stores and outlets to visit, so leave room in your car when packing for your getaway. .

Where to eat

Banks Seafood Cuisine and Raw Barnext to the Riverwalk in Wilmington, is open for lunch, dinner, cocktails and late-night bites with an emphasis, obviously, on seafood. Harry’s Seafood Grill name in 2003 until chef David Leo Banks renamed the restaurant to his current eponymous restaurant. 101 S. Market Street, Wilmington

BBC Tavern and Grill seems to speak of the south even though it’s in the northern part of the state. Look for sweet potato fries, shrimp and grits, plus a heartfelt focus on local farms and fisheries that use organic techniques. A highlight is the restaurant’s proximity to the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, Delaware Museum of Art, Winterthur Museum and Gardens, and Longwood Gardens. 4019 Kennett Pk., Greenville

Where to stay

Auberge de Montchanin Village & Spa is a historic inn that was part of the Winterthur estate. It is named after Anne Alexandrine de Montchanin, grandmother of the founder of the DuPont gunpowder company. With 28 rooms decorated with period furniture, a spa, spectacular gardens, and a blacksmith-turned-restaurant, Krazy Kat’s, you probably don’t need to leave, but it has a great location. 528 Montchanin Road, Wilmington

The Terry House Bed & Breakfast dates back to 1860 and offers breakfast, classical music, and a location just blocks from the Delaware River. Each of the four bedrooms has a queen-size bed, TV, private bath, secure WiFi, and porches that run along the back of the house on the first and second stage. Payment is by cash or check only. 130 Delaware Street, New Castle


Many attractions such as estates, gardens, historic towns, restaurants and more in the Wilmington and Brandywine Valley area are included in one discounted pass. The Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport (until October 31 with certain blackout dates) gives you access to 12 of the best sites for one price ($49 for an individual or $99 for a family of two adults and up to three children aged 17 and less).

joseph biden station
Photo courtesy of Greater Wilmington CVB

Looking for Biden

Joe Biden is the first president whose home state is Delaware, and his family returns there frequently, to their homes near Rehoboth Beach and in Wilmington. You can tour the state like a Biden, or see a hint of him, in these places:

The Wonderful Independent Browseabout bookswhere you should be able to find books about and by the President and Jill Biden, calendars, mugs, toys, coloring books and coffee. 133 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach

Secret Service agents have been known to pick up takeout meals from Nicholas Pizzawho is located in Rehoboth for another summer but plans to move to Lewes. 71 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach

For the days when Biden is doing official things, you can still find traces of him in these places, where visitors often take photos:

Take a photo of you and your family in front of the building sign for the Biden Welcome Center on I-95. It was renamed in 2018. Biden Visitor Center, 530 John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, Newark

Biden was famous for traveling via Amtrak during the 36 years he served in the Senate. Wilmington Station (opened in 1908) and designed by Frank Furness and Allen Evans, was renamed Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Stationin 2011. 100 S. Franch Street, Wilmington

This story originally took place in our September issue . For more stories like this, subscribeto our monthly magazine.

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