Wilmington is a city that lies on the site of Fort Christina, the first Swedish settlement in North America. As you will see, the city is synonymous with the DuPont family (the saviors of General Motors in its early years) that built their initial gunpowder fortune in Wilmington.
It is impossible to go farther than a couple of steps in the city without coming across a landmark associated with the family. It is also where the US President-elect Joe Biden grew up in. So, without further ado, here are the 25 best things to do in Wilmington, Delaware.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Wilmington (DE)
1. The Delaware Contemporary
Originally the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, the Delaware contemporary has over 40 years of history bringing some of the finest exhibits to Delaware. Some of its past exhibitions include Through the Looking Glass, the Response Gallery, and the museum has a storied history of supporting up and coming artists.
The Delaware Contemporary is therefore one of the few places where you can marvel at the works of young artists. It also runs amazing public education programs such as clay workshops, figure drawing classes, and professional development programs. The exhibitions and educational programs combine to make the Delaware Contemporary an essential part of the community.
2. Hagley Museum and Library
You can find the first du Pont family home in the US on the site of this expansive museum located on the banks of the Brandywine Creek. The museum celebrates American enterprise by showcasing indoor and outdoor exhibitions across its 235-acre estate. Some of the main attractions include the Powder Yard where the first Du Pont powders were created, and the Du Pont Home and Garden.
You can also find the world’s largest private collection of patent models at the site of the Hagley Museum. It is easy to see why the museum recommends you set aside 2-3 hours to visit it when you consider the sheer size of the site and the number of things to see.
3. Nemours Mansion and Garden
The Nemours Mansion is one of the most imposing structures in Delaware. It was built by Alfred Du Pont for his second wife, Alicia, and takes its name from a town in France from where his great-great-grandfather hailed.
The gardens of this 3000-acre property are filled with sculptures made by some of the most renowned sculptors of their time and are dominated by the one-acre pool and its 157 jets that shoot water 12 feet into the air. The entire “Long Walk” from the mansion to the pool is reflected in the pool when the jets are turned off and this is a must-visit site if you are ever in Wilmington.
4. Brandywine Creek
A tributary of the Christina River, the Brandywine Creek flows through Wilmington and is recognized as a Pennsylvania scenic river. You will find some of Wilmington’s most popular attractions, and sites along the creek, and you will even find the site of the Brandywine battlefield further upstream in Pennsylvania.
The site of the New Sweden colony, the historic significance of the creek can be fully appreciated when you consider that close to 30 National Register of Historic Places sites can be found alongside it.
5. Delaware Art Museum
The Delaware Art Museum was established in 1912 in honor of Howard Pyle and showcases one of the finest collections of pre-Raphaelite art in the US. Its 12,000 works of art spanning exhibitions such as American Illustration and British Pre-Raphaelites were collected mainly through the efforts of the American philanthropist Helen Farr Sloan.
It also runs engaging temporary exhibits such as Seeing Essential Workers through A New Lens. The museum also offers public education programs across a wide range of areas from ceramics to writing. Be sure to check out the Copeland Sculpture Garden when you are there as well.
6. Brandywine Zoo
As its name suggests, the Brandywine Zoo is located in the Brandywine Creek State Park. As you can expect from any zoo you will find animals such as the red panda, the green tree python, and the scarlet ibis. However, its dedication to the conservation of wildlife can be seen in the numerous wildlife monitoring programs and studies into different species.
Your children will also absolutely love the summer camps that the Brandywine Zoo offers. The zoo is going through extensive changes so make sure you check it out before they are done to experience the before and after picture.
7. Delaware Children’s Museum
The Delaware Children’s Museum is Delaware’s only children-centric museum. It is 37,000 square feet of interactive fun that allows children of all ages to learn about subjects such as STEM, financial management, and architecture in an engaging manner. It is the ultimate treat for your little ones and they will absolutely love the experience – just be prepared to spend an entire day there!
The museum also offers a 19-foot inflatable air balloon that helps teach students about the world around them and it can be booked for classes or other events. Naturally, the museum attracts a lot of field trips from schools and other institutions so it also offers several field trip programs such as Taking Shape and Water Wise.
8. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
The childhood home of Henry Francis Du Pont, the Winterthur was opened to the public almost 60 years ago. This imposing mansion takes its name from the Swiss city of the same name, from where the son-in-law of Eleuthera Irenee Du Pont came from. Not only can you browse through the incredible 90,000 works of art displayed at the mansion, but there are also some amazing temporary exhibitions offered at the museum.
The massive complex adjoins the Brandywine Creek State Park, and the Wilmington Country Club, making it a staple of Wilmington. The compound also offers various programs that supplement all levels of education from pre-school to higher education.
9. Bellevue State Park
This State Park offers a lot of options for visitors. Its centerpiece is definitely the Bellevue Mansion, the former home of the Du Pont Family but you can also simply visit the pond for some fishing or to just sit beside it. You can also hike the woods or run the 1 1/8 mile track that once saw the finest displays of equestrian.
If you just want a small gathering of family and friends, you will find few better spots for a tight-knit picnic. If all this wasn’t enough, the park hosts live concerts throughout the whole summer. Therefore, whatever your interests are, you will find something to do at Bellevue State Park.
10. Delaware Museum of National History
Located next to the Bellevue State Park, the Delaware Museum of Natural History boasts mammal, birds, and mollusk collections. It also offers some extremely popular programs such as Virtual School and Group Programs as well as Mobile Museum Outreach Programs. Its flagship program however is the STEM program for middle school students that involve 30 – 45 minute workshops.
It also awards the Du Pont Trophy that celebrates the most stunning artistic representations of existing collections. Head over to the Delaware Museum of National History for a truly immersive experience!
11. Wilmington and Western Railroad
The Wilmington and Western Railroad will take you on a scenic train tour across the original 10-mile route. This ride will take you on a tour of endless historic landmarks and give you a glimpse into a bygone era. Mt. Cuba, Ashland, and Yorklyn are just some of the historic places you will come across during the route.
So settle in for a family and friends trip in the afternoon or a romantic dinner in the evening and let yourself be taken back in time. We are not sure if there is anything in Wilmington that tops this experience.
12. Mt Cuba Center
The Mt Cuba Center is a botanical garden that highlights native plants. This Du Pont estate turned garden showcases the incredible diversity and beauty of plants native to the Eastern US. Taking its virtual tour online will leave you counting the days before you actually visit the garden.
It is easy to see why it was voted as the Best Botanical Garden in North America by USA Today. The garden also offers some of the best gardening classes and is heavily involved in conservation initiatives. You are unlikely to leave the garden after marveling at the 1000 species of native plants threatened by extinction without being motivated to take action.
13. Delaware Memorial Bridge
The Delaware Memorial Bridge is a scenic twin suspension bridge that connects Wilmington with New Jersey. Its first span opened in 1951 but the high amount of traffic led to the construction of the second span that was opened in 1968.
Following the construction of the first span, the Veterans’ Memorial Park was created in 1955 to honor the men and women of Delaware and New Jersey that lost their lives during WWII and the Korean War. Its centerpiece is the Memorial Wall that lists the names of the 15,000 soldiers from the area that lost their lives in the two wars.
14. Brandywine Creek State Park
Brandywine Creek State Park is a park located on the banks of the Brandywine River. It is the best place for you to try your hand at fishing or kayaking and cannoning along the creek. Otherwise, you can simply run along the Brandywine trail that runs along the scenic creek and marvel at its beauty.
The 933-acre park also contains the Tulip Three Woods and the Flint Woods Nature preserves that are both a sight to behold. Make sure you also head over to the Hawk Watch Nature Viewing site to catch a glimpse at hawks and other birds in their natural habitat.
15. Ashland Nature Center
The Ashland Nature Center is the headquarters of the Delaware Nature Society and encompasses 130-acres of woodlands. You can also find the Red Clay Creek and 4-miles of scenic trails to immerse yourself in, at the site.
Some of the main attractions in and around the center include Hawk Watch, Butterfly House, and Bird Banding Station. The vast nature of the area can’t be fully explored within a day so it may be a good idea to book your overnight stay at the lodge conveniently located within the park.
16. Penns Woods Winery
This family-run Pennsylvania winery provides visitors some of the best wines Pennsylvania has to offer. We definitely wouldn’t judge you for making the 15-minute drive from Wilmington to enjoy one of their wine tastings or to just pick up a bottle of your favorite wine.
Having put Pennsylvania wines on the world map, it truly lives up to its “Think Globally, Drink Locally” mantra. You might even consider joining Penn Woods Winery’s elegant wine club which comes with invites to exclusive tasting events and other membership benefits!
17. Altitude Trampoline
Altitude trampoline in Wilmington is the 21st member of the popular trampoline chain and offers endless fun to adults and children alike. Half of the 40,000 feet compound is filled with trampolines where you can jump your worries away. It also offers other activities such as dodgeball, basketball dunking lanes, and group fitness.
If you want your children to have the time of their lives while you do some shopping, catch a movie, or frequent one of the abundant dining options that are available, there is no better alternative in the area.
18. DuPont Environmental Education Center
Located at the banks of the Christina River, the DuPont Environmental Education Center is also a part of the Delaware Nature Society. It is housed in a state-of-the-art facility encompassing 13,500 square feet and showcases many species of amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, and native plants
It even offers an incredible variety of programs such as the RENEW and Green by Nature. A bike trail connecting the education center to the historic New Castle county opened in 2018, which makes for the perfect activity for adventure seekers!
19. Salem Oak Vineyards
Like Penns Woods Winery, the Salem Oak Vineyards is a small winery near Wilmington that also punches above its weight despite its small size. In fact, it was recognized as Best of Salem County in 2019 and Best Fruit Wine in New Jersey in 2018.
Enjoy happy hour in the Winery or pick up your bottle to go – whatever you choose, you won’t leave Salem Oak disappointed. For the ultimate luxury, book out the vineyard for your event, and the guests will have a night to remember. You might even want to consider joining their wine club for the exclusive benefits.
20. Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation brings one of the most intriguing activities to Wilmington. It offers unique educational and outreach programs on a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, a 17th-century ship famed for carrying settlers to New Sweden.
Today, visitors of all ages can board the ship and revel in stories of adventure and pirates expertly brought to life by the crew, go on a scavenger hunt, or even set sail on the recreation of this historic ship. However, please be aware, that the ship only surfaces in good weather conditions so it is a good idea to check the local weather to see when you might be able to visit it.
21. Rockford Tower
The main attraction of Rockford Park, the Rockford Tower was built in 1902 at the highest point of the city (330 meters above sea level). This 115-meter water tower and observatory had the capacity of holding half a million gallons of water and was built from fieldstone.
You can visit the observation deck to see some of the most stunning views of the Wilmington skyline or to learn about the tower and Wilmington in one of their historic presentations.
22. Rodney Square
Rodney Square has been regarded as the central landmark of downtown Wilmington for almost a century and is a true testament to the influence and wealth of the DuPont family. The sheer will and tenacity of the DuPont family to build their headquarters, and to develop its surrounding area led to what is now Rodney Square.
Some of the most notable sites in Rodney Square include the DuPont Building, the Nemours Building, and the Wilmington Institute Free Library. You can also find a horseback statue of Caesar Rodney who rode from Dover to Philadelphia in 1776 to cast the tie-breaking vote of Delaware’s delegation, thereby ensuring Delaware’s support for the Declaration of Independence.
23. Wilmington Riverwalk
The Wilmington Riverwalk is one of the chicest areas of Wilmington. Stretching across two miles, the riverside street is home to hundreds of cafes, boutique stores, and art galleries. You can watch the sun slowly set over the Cape Fear River, join one of the narrated tours or enjoy some fishing at Conlon Pier.
The area is undergoing extensive remodeling with a rooftop hotel and more retail space under construction so it will continue to merge the current with Wilmington’s history for the foreseeable future. Make sure you also make time for one of the vast number of tours on offer.
24. Grand Opera House
The main cultural attraction of Wilmington, the Grand Opera House offers a wide range of shows from Broadway to stand-up comedy. Whether you want to immerse yourself into high society culture or simply want to have a laugh with your friends, one of the 80 shows at the Grand Opera House will surely draw your attention.
Settling in for a show at a venue with almost a 150-year-old history of hosting the likes of Ethel Barrymore and Buffalo Bill Cody will certainly give you an overwhelming feeling.
25. Big Fish Grill on the Riverfront
This new addition to the riverfront has already become a staple of the Wilmington community. After a long stroll down the river walk, there are not many better places to settle in for a nice dinner other than Big Fish Grill.
Offering a Surf and Turf style menu, the restaurant prides itself on providing high-quality food and outstanding service without breaking your wallet. Make sure that you look at their wine list for the perfect option to pair with your dinner. If you are pinched for time, simply take your food to go.