As I planned my summer travel from Chicago for 2023, Wilmington, Delaware wasn’t necessarily on my top list of destinations. However, my recent visit to the area for three days was a great and unexpectedly charming experience.
In this blog post, I will share my three-day itinerary and explain why you should consider visiting this charming town.
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Table Of Contents
- Planning a Trip to Wilmington, Delaware
- A Brief History of Wilmington, Delaware
- A Three-Day Guide to Wilmington, Delaware
- More things to do in Wilmington, DE
Planning My Trip to Wilmington, Delaware
This summer, I had plans to visit my family in the DMV area for a weekend. However, my trip turned into an exciting week-long adventure through Washington D.C., Wilmington, and finally, Philadelphia. Out of all the other nearby cities, you may be curious about why I visited Wilmington, but the answer is quite simple. I have some amazing friends who reside there, and I had never visited before. Upon researching, I also discovered that it’s ranked as one of “The Best Places to Visit in the U.S.” for 2023. It was a perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and explore a new city—a win-win situation.
How to Travel to Wilmington, Delaware
Wilmington, Delaware, is situated between Philadelphia and Baltimore, Maryland. For my trip to Wilmington, I took the Northeast Regional train through Amtrak, since I was already in D.C. The train ride (which I almost missed) took about an hour and thirty minutes. It was a very enjoyable ride with maybe four total stops in between. We even had a fun train conductor who shared some incredible history of the places we were traveling to along the way. The train would continue on, stopping in other cities like Boston, Providence, and New York.
If you plan to visit Wilmington, you can choose to drive from a neighboring city or fly in from Philadelphia. However, do note that the drive from Philadelphia to Wilmington can take around 45 minutes to an hour due to heavy traffic between the two cities.
Where to Stay in Wilmington, Delaware
Wilmington has plenty of options for lodging. Depending on your plans, you can choose to stay downtown, by the Riverwalk, or even in the suburbs if you need a bit more space.
If you are looking for something with a bit more of a waterfront view, Wilmington has an offering of large, conference-style hotels as well that are located by the Riverwalk, should you be more interested in a room with a great view.
I was fortunate enough to stay with some really great friends that I knew from college. We also lived in Chicago around the same time for a few years so it was awesome to spend time with them. They lived a little bit on the outskirts of the central city of Wilmington. Their community was located near coffee shops, state parks, and more. If you are traveling with a large group, you may want to consider renting a place in the suburbs to accommodate all of your guests.
How to Get Around the City of Wilmington
Wilmington is very much a driving city. I highly recommend renting a car for your time there. Once you arrive at your particular destination, it’s easy to park and walk around. There is public transportation available as well, but if you’re not familiar with the area, driving may be your best option.
The compact nature of the city allows for quick and efficient transportation, with most destinations only 10 to 15 minutes away by car. This not only helps to keep transportation costs down but also allows for more time to explore the abundance of attractions in the area.
A Brief History of Wilmington, Delaware
Wilmington, Delaware has a fascinating history. The city was first settled by the Swedes in 1638, led by Peter Minuit who used to be the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam. It became the Colony of New Sweden and is the first permanent settlement in the Delaware Valley, where the first log cabins in America were built.
Wilmington is situated between the deep and slow-moving Christina River and the shallow and rapid Brandywine River. Its economy started with fur trading and agriculture, then expanded to include milling (grain, paper, and gunpowder).
Later, the city developed ship and railroad car manufacturing, as well as modern chemical and banking industries. With a population of just over 70,000, Wilmington is considered the urban hub. It is also known as the Corporate Capital of the World, as more than 66% of all Fortune 500 corporations are incorporated in Delaware. The area attracts many out-of-state shoppers due to Delaware’s zero percent sales tax. Additionally, Delaware has low lodging and rental taxes, with rates ranging from 8% to 10% and 2%, respectively, which are among the lowest in the country.
The Impact of the Dupont Family on Wilmington, Delaware
The duPont Family has had an incredible influence and significant role in the state of Delaware. The duPont family are of French descent and are the founders of explosive powders and textiles who later diversified their assets to become one of the largest companies for synthetic and polymers like nylon, Teflon, Mylar, neoprene, and more.
Through arts and culture centers like the Hagley Museum & Library, Nemours Estate, and Mt. Cuba Center — the influence of the duPont family continues to influence the greater Wilmington area. Their economic contributions, philanthropic endeavors, architectural legacy, and support for cultural and educational institutions have shaped the city’s identity and contributed to its growth and development over the years.
A Three-Day Guide to Wilmington, Delaware
For such a small city, there is a lot to eat, drink, and do in Wilmington. Depending on the season, you can experience a variety of events or seasonal activities. No matter what you’re into, there is something that the city has to offer that is perfect for you during your three-day stay on.
Day One: Spending time with the Local Residents
As I shared in the early part of my blog post, I have some friends in Wilmington who I had the pleasure of spending most of my time with. For the first day of my stay, I really embraced the local scene by hitting up some of their favorite spots in the city.
We started things off with rooftop drinks at The Quoin Hotel a boutique hotel. We enjoyed a round of carefully crafted cocktails on the rooftop. The crowd was lively for a weekday afternoon and the weather was absolutely beautiful. Service from the full team was friendly and quick which is always appreciated as well.
After our pre-dinner drinks, we made our way to Wilma’s which is only about a block or two from The Quion. Wilma’s is a New Orleans-inspired restaurant that offers duck pin bowling and creole eats all under one roof. Our table of three ordered another round of drinks to accompany our spread of Alligator Slides, Corn Bread Basket, French Quarter Creole, and Jail Island Salmon. Needless to say, we were full after our hearty meal.
After dinner, we made our way to my friend’s favorite local hangout, Maker’s Alley. Maker’s Alley is a large beer garden situated downtown. Again, we were visiting on a weeknight, but I can only imagine that this place is packed during the daytime, especially on the weekend. We closed the evening out sampling a favorite regional drink, the Orange Crush. It was refreshing, light, and the perfect summer drink. From there, my friends and called it a night as we prepped for a longer day two in Wilmington.
Day Two: Exploring the Past at Bellevue State Park and Delaware Art Museum
After enjoying delicious food and drinks the previous night, we decided it was important to go for a nice walk before beginning our day. My friends Rich, Jen, and I (along with their lovely dog Duffy) went to Bellevue State Park for an early morning walk. But before we started, we made a quick stop at Sleeping Bird Coffee Shop, a well-known place for locals to enjoy tea, coffee, and freshly baked treats.
Bellevue State Park is located in suburban Wilmington and is a former DuPont estate. William Dupont Jr. (1896-1965), the estate’s last owner and avid equestrian, transformed this land to include horse stables, indoor horse training facilities, and most notably a 1 ⅛ mile-long horse track. Today, the track is used by guests and encircles meadows, rentable pavilions, and a quaint pond perfect for fishing.
Before making our way to the museum we decided to do some shopping and grab some food in the area. Our first stop was Trolley Square Market, a literal hidden gem inside of a shopping plaza. The shop is filled with everything from apothecaries to plants, stationery, and more. We each grabbed a few cute items and proceeded on to a quick and satisfying lunch at Iron Hill Brewery.
After we wrapped up our morning at the park, we headed over to the Delaware Art Museum. The Delaware Art Museum is home to a large collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art, illustrations by Wilmington native Howard Pyle, urban landscapes by John Sloan, and a locally significant collection of American art spanning the 18th to 21st centuries. Some of my favorite exhibitions in the space were their Contemporary wing and the special INTO LIGHT Delaware exhibit.
Following our eventful afternoon, we decided to head back to the house for a quick nap, change of clothes, and dinner at Bardea. The restaurant, Bardea Food & Drink, is an Italian eatery that boasts an innovative menu crafted by a James Beard-nominated chef and could easily compete with high-end restaurants in any major city. Their tapas-style menu is perfect for trying out a few dishes. We sampled several dishes and everything was fantastic. My personal favorites were the Burrata Pop Tart, Crab Roll, Rigatoni, Culurgiones, and Nonna’s Meatball. Baredea is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Wilmington, Delaware, and worth a visit. Don’t hesitate to book your reservation today!
For drinks, I opted for wine, but my friend Rich is a fan of Manhattans and shared that the one at Bardea was one of his favorites. We also sampled a trio of Gelato for dessert. After another full meal, we decided to wrap up our evening and head back home to unwind for the day.
Day Three: Visit Nemours Estates and Explore Philadelphia Sports Teams
My friends are huge sports enthusiasts, particularly when it comes to the Philadelphia teams. During my stay in Wilmington, I had the pleasure of experiencing two things for the first time with them: visiting the Nemours Estates and attending a Phillies baseball game.
During our trip, we visited the Nemours Estates, which is a 77-room mansion with stunning grounds. The mansion boasts impressive amenities, such as a bowling alley, a water filtering machine, and ensuite bathrooms – all built in the 1920s, which was ahead of its time.
After our trip to the estates, we quickly made our way to Philadelphia for a Phillies baseball game against the Atlanta Braves. The weather was luckily on our side for the afternoon game. Jen and I had amazing seats and enjoyed a few beers and the delicious stadium Crab Fries. My mouth is watering from how good they were! The Phillies lost but we still had a good time!
After our trip to Philadelphia, we made our way back home for a chill evening of wine and homemade wood-fired pizza. It was a great way to wrap up the evening, the perfect way to end an exciting trip.
On the way out of Wilmington, my friends and I grabbed a hearty breakfast at Crio Forty Acres, which is located near the Delaware Art Museum. It was a super satisfying meal before I boarded my train for a 20-minute ride to Philadelphia, for my next few days of adventure on the East Coast.
More things to do in Wilmington, DE
Wilmington, Delaware has so much to offer, I only experienced a portion of what the city entails. If you are looking to save on your trip to the area, check out the Wilmington & Brandywine Valley Discount Pass allows you to save money and experience cultural attractions, family-friendly events, and more for free. For more information on how to plan your Wilmington, DE visit check out www.visitwilmingtonde.com or visit them on Instagram.
If you love rich history and unique attractions I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick yet captivating getaway on the East Coast.