Delaware’s Beautiful Parks
Delaware State Parks passes can be purchased here, and are $4 for an in-state vehicle and $8 out-of-state (with the exception of the seashore parks, which are $1 and $2 more). They can also be purchased at the park when you go.
Bellevue State Park, a former DuPont estate, includes Bellevue Hall, several playgrounds, lovely horses, a fishing pond, disk golf course, and a paved part of the Northern Delaware Greenway. Just a few miles away is Auburn Valley State Park, which runs along the Red Clay Creek. It houses the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley Steamer cars (which offer rides on “Steamin’ Days”) as well as a historic paper mill which lies undisturbed in the middle of the park.
White Clay Creek State Park encompasses a very large area that runs into Pennsylvania, providing ample opportunity to get lost if you’re not careful! (Yes, we know from experience.) Nearby Lums Pond State Park has Delaware’s largest freshwater pond, 17 miles of trails around the pond, a boathouse offering a variety of boats with which to explore, camping (reservations here), pavilions, a dog park, and a nature center with a few live animal exhibits. Our personal favorite activity is the Go-Ape Treetop Ropes course where you can get a workout and some awesome zipline rides across the pond.
Brandywine Park is not a state park but rather a free Wilmington park near the downtown area, and it is beautiful in late March/early April when the cherry trees bloom. Formal gardens stand near the creek, and the Brandywine Zoo is just across the street. The zoo is small, just a loop really, but the space offers a good home for the animals and is perfect for young children who may not yet have the stamina to enjoy all there is to see at a larger (and pricier) zoo like the Philadelphia zoo. Some other beautiful, free county parks include Glasgow Park (with numerous, modern playgrounds) and Carousel Park (with lovely playgrounds and horses as well).
Old New Castle and the Wilmington Riverfront
The historic town of New Castle, Delaware, established in 1651 and the landing place of William Penn, is just a few miles away from Wilmington. There are tons of Colonial and Dutch historical buildings, most of which are lived in or house businesses for people going about their daily lives. Jessop’s Tavern is one such building that is fun to visit. People dress up and celebrate Dutch, Swedish and English colonial history on Old New Castle Day, held on the third Saturday in May. The First State National Historical Park in the heart of Old New Castle includes the New Castle Courthouse Museum, the Old Sheriff’s House and the Green (which runs along the river and has picnic spots and playgrounds.) It is free, though parking may be metered.
There is a 5.5 mile trail that connects Old New Castle to the Wilmington Riverfront, which is mostly paved, and lovely. The waterfront includes numerous restaurants and hotels, as well as a paved nature walk out to a little patch of wetland with a high overlook and little boardwalk for bird viewing.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library and the Brandywine Valley
Winterthur offers various tours, exhibitions, and interactive programs for children and adults. It includes another former DuPont Home. Our favorite annual event is the fairy days that are held in May. Our girls like to dress up and enjoy the children’s garden and enchanted woods. There are thousands of acres of hilly meadows and woods, as well as gardens.
The Brandywine Valley, home of the Bidens, is a beautiful area to drive through, both in terms of the rolling forested hills (especially in the fall), and the beautiful homes throughout the area. Close by the area are Longwood Gardens (in PA), the Delaware Art Museum, and the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.
Pea Patch Island and Fort Delaware
Pea Patch Island/Fort Delaware – it is a fun ferry ride to this historic landmark in Delaware, which served as a Union prison during the civil war. Apparently we had a cannon pointed at Jersey in case they got out of hand. No hard feelings, Jersey friends. Now they have historic tours, people dressed in 19th century garb blacksmithing, laundering things by hand, etc. And to top it all off, they show you how to set off a cannon (though they don’t actually set it off, of course.) It is also a good place to see birds including ospreys, herons in the spring, and bald eagles.