The Top 10 Things to Do in Wilmington, Delaware

Riverfront Bridge leading to DuPont Environmental Education Center, Wilmington
••• Jumping Rocks/UIG/Getty Images

Wilmington is Delaware's largest city and is centrally located halfway between Washington, D.C. and New York City. With convenient access to I-95, the Greater Wilmington area offers miles of country roads past historic villages, garden properties and scenic waterfronts. Visitors can learn about the legacy of the du Pont family by visiting the region's internationally acclaimed estates and museums. Wilmington is a great destination for a weekend or week-long getaway with a wide range attractions and events that appeal to the whole family. 

  • 01 of 10
    Hagley Mansion
    ••• Rachel Cooper

    The du Pont family had a huge impact on the Wilmington area. To learn all about their legacy, start your visit at the Hagley Museum, the site of the original gunpowder mills founded by E. I. du Pont in 1802. Located on 235 acres along the banks of the Brandywine River, the historic landmark is educational and offers stunning views. The grounds include indoor and outdoor exhibits. A shuttle bus is provided to the major interpretive areas. The Visitor Center documents the region's early history and tells the story of the du Pont family business, manufacturing gunpowder in the 19th and early 20th century. Tour the Eluetherian Mills and Garden, the first du Pont family home, and learn about the five generations of the family. Be sure to tour the Powder Yard which  includes demonstrations of the water-powered machinery and 19th century metal-working tools.  Annual events are fun too and include a variety of hands-on activities. Check out the Invention Convention, Victorine’s Valentine’s Day,  Maker Fest, Bike & Hike & Brews, Fireworks, Antique Car Show, Craft Fair, Hayrides, Twilight Tours, and the Holidays at the Hagley. 

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    Conseratory (Orangery) with plants atop water in marble pool, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
    ••• Barry Winiker/Getty Images

    Built in 1919, the 1,077-acre garden is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, and is the most renowned attraction in the Wilmington area. With 20 outdoor garden areas, four acres of indoor Conservatory gardens and 11,000 different types of plants, Longwood is a spectacular place to visit. You can attend classes and workshops, flower shows, gardening demonstrations, garden walks and other special events. The 30-minute Illuminated Fountain Performance set to music and "A Longwood Christmas" are not to be missed. Attend a theatrical performance at the Open Air Theatre or a concert any time of year. Seasonal events include the Orchid Extravaganza (winter), Spring Blooms (spring), Festival of Fountains (summer) and Chrysanthemum Festival (fall). Longwood Gardens is a popular attraction and tickets sell out during busy seasons. Advanced tickets are suggested. 

  • 03 of 10
    Winterthur
    ••• Winterthur. Rachel Cooper

    The 1,000-acre estate of Henry Francis du Pont is a spectacular historic property with a 175-room mansion. Home to four generations of the du Pont family from 1839 to 1969, Winterthur is known worldwide for its preeminent collection of American decorative arts, naturalistic garden, and research library for the study of American art and material culture.

    Take a narrated garden tram ride to discover garden highlights and the history of the estate. Take a house tour to see some of the finest antiques of early America and the spaces where the du Ponts entertained. Explore the roads and walking paths through the meadows to discover beautiful vistas and see more of the estate, including the old train station and barns. You may also customize your visit with a private tour tailored to your interests.

  • 04 of 10
    Boxwood Garden at Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington
    ••• John Greim/LOOP IMAGES/Getty Images

    The 300-acre estate of Alfred I. duPont, built in 1907, includes a 77-room mansion, the largest formal French gardens in North America, a Chauffeur's Garage housing a collection of vintage automobiles and acres of scenic woodlands, meadows and lawns. Shuttle buses run between the Visitor Center and Nemours Mansion, and also take visitors around the property with designated stops throughout the property. Visits are self-paced and self-guided. Interpretive staff members are onsite to answer questions. The estate is closed on Mondays. 

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  • 05 of 10
    ••• Delaware Nature Society

    The DuPont Environmental Education Center is set on the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge, one of the few urban wildlife areas in the country. With 212 acres located on the Wilmington Riverfront, the refuge offers a unique and natural destination where you can walk and look for wildlife. The tidal marsh is home to bald eagles, ospreys, beavers, dragonflies, turtles, butterflies, wild rice, hibiscus, and other plants and wildlife.

    The site is open to the public year-round and features nature  programs for groups and individuals. The nature center features a 10-acre ornamental garden, a quarter-mile pond loop through a freshwater, tidal marsh and a four-story environmental center with panoramic views of the refuge, the Christina River and the Wilmington skyline. 

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    Riverfront on the Christina River, Wilmington, Delaware, USA
    ••• Jumping Rocks/UIG/Getty Images

    The Wilmington Riverfront is a great destination for dining, shopping and entertainment. In recent years, the scenic shoreline along the Christina River was converted into parkland and a spacious gathering areas for concerts, festivals, and community celebrations. Major attractions include the Delaware Children's Museum, Frawley Stadium, the Chase Center, City Theater Company, Penn Cinema IMAX, Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, OperaDelaware, Riverwalk Mini Golf, the Wilmington Riverboat Queen and much more. Riverfront restaurants include Big Fish Grill, Cosi, Del Pez Mexican Gastropub, Firestone, Harry's Seafood Grill, Iron Hill Brewery, Joe's Crab Shack, River Rock Kitchen, Timothy's and Ubon Thai Cuisine.

  • 07 of 10
    Delaware Museum of Art
    ••• Rachel Cooper

    The Delaware Art Museum is best known for its large collection of works by Wilmington native Howard Pyle and fellow American illustrators, a major collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art, urban landscapes by John Sloan and his circle, and a survey of American art from early 19th century through the present.

    Guided museum tours are available every weekend. Be sure to take a stroll through the outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden. During the summer months, the museum hosts a summer camp program for children ages 6-12, divided into two age groups with a focus on drawing, painting, ceramics, and more. 

  • 08 of 10
    New Castle Court House
    ••• Rachel Cooper

    Historic New Castle is a charming historic town whose roots date back to the 1600’s. It was briefly the capital of Delaware, the original Penn’s Landing, and was home to early settlers from the Netherlands, Great Britain and Sweden. Today, it is a great place to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for antiques, enjoy casual dining and walk along the riverfront park. You can tour Colonial-period homes such as Dutch House and Amstel House, or visit the Old New Castle Court House, or the picturesque Immanuel Episcopal Church on the Green.

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  • 09 of 10
    Historic Houses of Odessa
    ••• Rachel Cooper

    Known in the 18th-century as Cantwell’s Bridge, the small town of Odessa played a vital role in commercial life along the Appoquinimink Creek as a grain shipping port. Today, you can stroll along the tree-line streets, tour the beautifully restored historic houses, wander through the lushly landscaped gardens and dine at the historic Cantwell's Tavern. A 90-minute tour includes a guided walk through five historic properties and their gardens including the Corbit-Sharp House, Wilson-Warner House, Collins-Sharp House, Cantwell's Tavern, and Odessa Bank. Visit during the holiday season and step back in time to enjoy a candlelight tour and learn about 18th century traditions.  

  • 10 of 10
    Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, Delaware
    ••• Louise Heusinkveld/Getty Images

    Fort Delaware is part of The Delaware History Trail, dating back to 1859. Take a half mile ferry ride from Delaware City to Pea Patch Island to visit the Civil War fortress that was built to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia and housed Confederate prisoners of war.

    Today, you can enjoy hands-on history as interpreters take you back in time. Help the blacksmith hammer out new parts for a cannon or work with the laundress. Be on hand when the eight-inch Columbiad gun fires a live gunpowder charge. Hear the stories of escape attempts from Fort Delaware. The island is home to herons, egrets and ibis making this a great place for photography. Note the ferry is open May through September. Paranormal tours are especially popular in October.