Delaware may be small, but there is no shortage of things to do in our nation’s second smallest state. If you’re looking for a fun family getaway over the holidays, Wilmington, Delaware is jam-packed with things to do.
They say that good things come in small packages, and Wilmington is no exception. We were able to hit up four area attractions during our weekend stay, all within a fifteen minute drive from our hotel.
Where to stay in Wilmington
Homewood Suites Wilmington-Brandywine Valley hosted us for our weekend stay, with a suite that featured every comfort we could possibly want. A warm greeting from reception was appreciated, especially since I was traveling alone with my overexcited and loquacious five-year-old.
Our suite came with two bedrooms, with en suite full baths, and a central kitchenette and seating area — spacious and perfect for giving large families ample privacy. Complimentary coffee, tea and hot cocoa is available all day, perfect for cozying up in the lounge in front of their oversized hearth. Your Homewood Suites stay also includes a hot breakfast, perfect for fueling families before a day of sightseeing!
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs, dragons and eggs, oh my! Kids are awestruck from the moment they enter the Delaware Museum of Natural History, with a giant squid suspended from the entryway ceiling. Children feel they’re walking on water, as they cross a simulated coral reef, seated below floor level with plexiglass inlaid for prime viewing.
Housing the second largest bird egg collection in North America, Delaware Museum of Natural History, while small, is filled to the brim with exhibits and nooks and crannies to explore. The museum’s Nature Nook provides hands-on activities, storytimes and live animal presentations for young children — little ones can easily spend an hour or more playing in the human-sized Bald Eagle nest, or hiding in the “Bear Cave” with bats (artificial, of course).
Service dogs are often brought into the Delaware Museum of Natural History to train walking over the subterranean coral reef — it’s not just kids who get nervous!
Winterthur Museum, Library and Gardens
Just five minutes’ drive from the Delaware Museum of Natural History is the sprawling Winterthur estate, childhood home of the late collector and horticulturist, Henry Francis du Pont. Families can easily spend an entire day at Winterthur, exploring the grounds, visiting exhibits in the museum and touring the main house.
I will say that the indoor areas at Winterthur are not particularly child-friendly, nor do they hold their interest. There is, however, a Touch It room where children are free to explore — everything from playing with old-style wooden toys (the Jacob’s Ladder was our favorite) to setting table service for tea — and is perfect for parents to take turns going on the house tour. If you’re visiting Winterthur with children, the gardens are where you’ll want to spend most of your time.
The Enchanted Woods feature delightful surprises down each path and at each turn — so much so, that it was tough convincing my 5 year-old to leave, despite temperatures in the 40s! Children are able to pretend they’re woodland faeries, exploring child-sized cottages, sipping make-believe tea in the Acorn Tearoom, and dancing along magical toadstools. While we visited in early winter, when most of the foliage had dropped leaves for the winter, once can only imagine how beautiful the gardens are in full bloom!
Nothing beats Christmas at Longwood Gardens! While technically in Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens is a short drive from Wilmington — and well worth it. Longwood Gardens goes all out for the holidays, with the property festooned with half a million lights, and a dazzling display of botanical gardens.
This year Longwood’s Conservatory had plenty of water features for kids to enjoy, with paintbrushes and rollers encouraging children to get hands-on, painting with water. Young children can occupy themselves with some water and fountain fun while parents delight in the beauty and artistry of the elaborate horticultural displays.
A perennial favorite of ours is the Garden Railway, with children exploring 400 feet of track to find Thomas (and his friends) and delight in the miniature landscape and replicas of Longwood Garden’s prominent buildings. After exploring the trains, make time to walk through the outdoor gardens, bedecked with lights of all colors and types — it really is breathtaking!
Longwood Gardens is located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, known as the Mushroom Capital of the World. Be sure to save your appetite and do dinner at Longwood, and make sure you try a cup (or bowl) of their signature mushroom soup.
We finished our weekend in Wilmington with a visit to Riverfront Rink, located in Riverfront Wilmington. Vestiges of the Riverfront’s industrial past remain, with shipping containers making up part of Riverfront Rink’s seating areas and concessions.
The outdoor rink sits on the bank of the Christina River, giving skaters a clear view of the water beyond. A tented warming room is the perfect place to take the chill off, or grab a chair by one of the fire pits and sip a hot chocolate from the concession. Our trip to the Riverfront Rink was both fun and peaceful, and I felt we could have spent half a day there (and my kiddo definitely did not want to leave)!
In the summer months the Riverfront Rink becomes Constitution Yards, an outdoor beer garden with sand pits and games.
Our weekend in Wilmington only begins to scratch the surface of what the area has to offer. For more information about the area, visit the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau.
***Accommodations and tickets to some activities were provided to me; all opinions are honest and my own.***