Delaware Discovery Guide

Overview

The little state of Delaware was nicknamed the "Diamond State," by Thomas Jefferson, because he felt it was a real jewel in terms of its strategic location. Although only the second state in terms of its size (Rhode Island is smaller), it still has plenty of things to see. A lot of American history took place on this little state that offers some great tours.

Wilmington, the capitol of Delaware, was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. The stop is now called the Harriet Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park - named after the Underground Conductor and the stationmaster. The Park is part of the restored Riverwalk, which is a 1.2 mile lighted walkway that has been beautifully landscaped. At one end of the walkway you will find many of the Shipyard Stores - which offers discounts of up to 70% of their merchandise everyday. At the other end you will find the restored Amtrak station - making it very convenient to get to if you want to travel by rail.

If you have strong legs and want to see Amish country via bike, then there are some great bike trails for you. The good news is that the land is mostly flat and offers you trails of varying length - 15, 25, 50, 62 and even 100 mile loops in the beautiful Amish countryside. All of the loops start and end in the Legislative Mall area. It is an annual affair and takes place in early September. There are four food stops along the way and one is at the well-known Amish Schoolhouse with great Amish deserts like cookies, pies and muffins. The tour is also escorted by an Amish horse and buggy making it a great way to visit the Amish. Police are present and there are starting and end times for the tour - be sure to sign up in advance and register.

The largest salt marsh in the eastern United States is in a special reserve in Delaware called the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Reserve. With almost 16,000 acres of mostly unadulterated land and salt marsh, it provides an excellent place to see wildlife in its natural habitat. It is a great place for you and the many thousands of people that come every year to view the many birds and other wildlife that lives here - or passes through.

If you love the sea and the tall ships then you will not want to pass up the opportunity to sail for a few days on the Kalmar Nyckel, which leaves from Lewes. This recreation of an actual 17th century sailing ship provides dockside tours. Better yet, though, don't miss the opportunity of sailing with her on one and a half-hour cruises, and three hour cruises through the summer months. It is large enough to sail with 49 passengers and can take you and family out for a ride in the salt air - like the pirates of old on a ship with four masts and 100 feet high. You also have the privilege to participate in helping with the sails and other things. Everything on board is of authentic design - even her four operational cannons. If you are a teacher, and want to bring your class - you are welcome to attend the special tours that are available for your group.

In Dover, Delaware, you can see many aircraft on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum. It is part of the Dover Air Force Base, and has a lot of aircraft on the grounds of different types - many of which are transport aircraft. A flight simulator allows you to select the type of aircraft you want and then fly it through controls that are given you. You make the plane take off, fly it, and then land it again - unless you need some help.

If you are looking for fun in a theme park, you will need to visit the Blue Diamond Park in New Castle. This is the home of Delaware's only roller coaster and there are about 20 other exciting rides as well. Two miniature golf courses - 18 holes apiece - are also awaiting you and your family.

At one time Delaware had a lot of lighthouses along the shore. For some reason, Delaware's shores where considered to be some of the roughest waters on the Atlantic seaboard. You can tour some of these lighthouses that are still operating - but will need to check the schedule in advance. One of these, the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse at Lewes Harbor, faced probably the roughest seas of all - with waves that sometimes completely engulfed the 76-foot high lighthouse.

Winterthur is another must see place if you are near the Brandywine Valley. Built back in the 1950's, Henry Francis du Pont designed the Winterthur Museum and gardens to showcase his Americana collection and wanted to do so in one of the finest gardens in America. Built on a 1,000 acre estate, there is plenty here to see and enjoy for the naturalist - and the antique furniture lover. The gardens are more than 60 acres, balanced with the rolling meadows and woods that surround them. Children have the opportunity to wander around the Enchanted Forest, specially designed to attract them in this fantasy world. There is also a nationally renowned library here that serves as a center to study American art. Something is always going on here for families including carriage parades, racing, adult fairs, antique shows, and other activities take place providing something for everyone.

After seeing everything else, it would be a mistake to leave Delaware and not see some of the historic sights. New Castle is the place where the New Castle Historical Society has preserved three historical homes - the Amstel House, the Dutch House, and the Old Library Museum. Many historical figures of the past visited or lived in these homes - including George Washington and more than one governor. Surrounding these homes are beautiful gardens and inside are finely crafted American and European antiques.
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