Delaware is a small state, but there are plenty of iconic places to visit. From the majestic mansions of the du Pont family to a replica of a historic ship, you will definitely want to get out and explore the sights of the First State. Here are some of the top picks for your next Delaware adventure.
Kalmar Nyckel – Wilmington
The Kalmar Nyckel was the first ship to bring European settlers to the Delaware coast in 1638. You can see the recreation of the 17th-century Dutch Pinnace vessel that carried the Swedish immigrants. They would go on to found New Sweden on the coast of Wilmington. Throughout the summer, the ship sets sail on the water, and it provides river cruises and pirate sails out of the port. During the winter, you can take a ship tour in the yard or learn more about its significance at the Copeland Maritime Center.
Old New Castle – New Castle
For another look at history, you will want to visit Old New Castle. This town was the landing point for William Penn in 1682. When you are traveling down the streets, the atmosphere feels like you have stepped back into time. You can find great examples of early American architecture, including Dutch, Federal, and Colonial buildings. Market Street still has cobblestones from the days gone by, and you can see interesting artifacts attached to some of the buildings.
If you happened to visit on the third Saturday in May, enjoy the festivities of Old New Castle Day, which celebrates the town’s heritage. This historic town is part of the First State National Park that includes the Old Sheriff’s House, New Castle Courthouse Museum, and the Green. A visit would not be complete without stopping into the New Castle Historical Society with its exhibits about the town. If you really want to complete the experience, Jessop’s Tavern dates back to 1674 and still serves up a hot meal for passing guests.
Barratt’s Chapel – Kent County
Built in 1780, the Chapel was the birthplace of the Methodist movement in America. Philip Barratt owned the land and wanted a spot for members to celebrate their religion. On November 14, 1784, the clergy performed the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion for the first time in America. Today, you can visit the state historical plaque that marks Barratt’s Chapel’s place in Delaware history. The building looks almost the same as it did on that fateful day in 1784. However, the Chapel has seen some upgrades over the years. Designated as a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church, all guests can visit the chapel and the Methodist museum during the week.
du Pont Mansions – Hagley, Nemours, and Winterthur
In Delaware, there are several places of significant importance to the du Pont family. Along the banks of the Brandywine, you can still visit the Hagley Museum and Library. In 1802, E.I. du Pont founded a gunpowder manufacturing plant. Visitors are allowed to explore the restored mills, workers’ housing, and the home of the du Pont family, known as Eleutherian Mills. Built in 1803, this Georgian-style mansion was home to over five generations of the du Pont family. The gardens have returned to the original nineteenth-century French appearance. If you are looking for a relaxing meal, the Belin House Restaurant is the former home of the company’s bookkeepers. You can enjoy menu selections from March through December. In the visitor center, exhibits outline the importance of explosives in the Brandywine Valley area. An interactive tour of the DuPont Company gives visitors a chance to learn about the history of the organization. Guests are allowed to park in the lot to catch a shuttle to the other two locations in the area.
The next stop is the Nemours Estate. It was a gift to Alfred I. du Pont’s second wife, and it consists of a 77-room mansion, rare French 18th-century furniture, and the most extensive formal French garden in North America. Some tours operate throughout the year. You can see a rare Louis XVI musical clock, a chair from Independence Hall, and paintings from the European masters. The landscaped grounds closely resemble the gardens of Versailles, including small pools, a carillon tower, and fountains. In the Chauffeur’s Garage, there is a collection of vintage automobiles once used on the estate.
Winterthur is another stop on the du Pont family tour. This mansion has been opened to the public for over 60 years by Henry Francis du Pont. Today, it is a premier museum that features over 90,000 objects made by Americans from 1640 to 1860. You can explore the 175 rooms in the house for an up-close look of how the du Pont family lived. There are also changing and permanent displays that showcase some of the unique pieces in the collection. Winterthur sits on a 1,000-acre preserve of woodlands and rolling meadows. Du Pont designed the landscaped grounds, and it showcases his love of nature. While you are there, don’t forget to visit the naturalistic garden where you can see many native plants and flowers. The museum opens up its collection for those wanting to study the history of American art and culture in the state.
Prime Hook – Milford
Finally, for a trip back to nature, you don’t want to miss Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. This park contains over 10,000 acres of wetlands. You can see many varieties of birds that are native to the area, and it is home to over 308 species of birds. There are other animals in the refuge, including native reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The endangered piping plovers and red knots make their home here. They are the first U.S. birds to be listed as a “threatened” species by the Audubon Society. Visitors come from all over the state to kayak, fish, and observe the wildlife that roam throughout the refuge.
Delaware features many iconic places that add to the cultural history of the state. If you are looking to experience the First State, make sure to add these locations to your next itinerary.