2023...A blank slate. A chance to fill the pages of the next chapter of your life with something fresh, new and different. Enter Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, close to home, yet worlds away. A destination that is affordable, packed with options and can transport you to a countryside reminiscent of Downton Abbey.
Great food? Of course. Beautiful scenery? A given.
Maybe an outdoor happy hour or two? Sold.
Located in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, Wilmington, Delaware, named one of the 23 best places to go in the U.S. in 2023 by Condé Nast Traveler, celebrates its rich history, is brimming with culture and is home to several of the most magnificent gardens on the East Coast. The city's first-class dining and craft brewery scene is ever evolving, there's always something surprising at the region's performing arts venues, and Delaware continues to expand trails for walkers, hikers and bicyclists alike.
It's everything you need to plan the perfect getaway. Hide out for a weekend, a week or more and discover the beauty of Greater Wilmington & the Brandywine Valley.
Check out these 23 experiences you can only find throughout #VisitWilm!
1. Taste Wilmington’s Ever-Growing Food Scene
There’s no denying Greater Wilmington’s restaurant scene gets hotter by the minute! A slew of new eateries continues to pop up in the area, including The Quoin Restaurant inside the area's newest boutique hotel – The Quoin (pronounced “coin”) – located in the historic district of Market Street in the heart of downtown Wilmington. This 155-seat restaurant and bar brings the borders of Southern France and Northern Italy together with modern wood-fired fare. Not only does the hotel feature this restaurant, but also houses the area’s first rooftop bar and surprises its patrons with an underground speakeasy. Add in Bardea Steak, named one of the most anticipated openings of 2022 by Vogue Magazine, and The Chancery Market Food Hall & Bar featuring eight stalls of renowned chefs and dining experiences from around the world, and you have the makings a foodie destination just along Wilmington’s Market Street. . With these eateries and more coming soon… we’d say the flame just got a little hotter.
2. Learn from the Past and Take on the Future at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.
After the complete metamorphosis of the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science in 2021, the doors officially opened in spring 2022 proving that the wonders of science in the natural world perfectly spark creativity and curiosity for the littlest adventurers. This year, plan to explore how nature connects us, discover the diverse life of our dynamic Earth, and how to protect and care for the environment.
3. See a Water and Fire Extravaganza
Longwood Gardens, 2022 Winner of USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Best Botanical Garden, Holiday Lights, sits in the heart of the Brandywine Valley. Known for its incredible Conservatory, Festivals of Fountains and seasons of grandeur, Longwood continues to impress everyone who crosses its doorway. This year visit:
Winter Wonder – Beginning January 21 through March 26.
Spring Blooms – Beginning April 1 through May 7
Festival of Fountains – Beginning May 11 through September 24
Chrysanthemum Festival – Beginning September 30 through November 12
A Longwood Christmas – November – January 2024
4. Explore the Delaware Outdoor Trail
The Delaware Outdoor Trail is an easy-to-follow passport style system leading visitors through outdoor activities in four categories: walking/hiking, wildlife viewing, biking and water activities. Find more than 60 different activities in over 40 different locations statewide. Be sure to check off several activities on the list with visits to Greater Wilmington locations such as Ashland Nature Center, Brandywine Creek State Park and Bellevue State Park!
5. Visit Six Gardens within 12 Miles
Yes, you read that correctly! Greater Wilmington & the Brandywine Valley houses six incredible garden attractions just a few miles from one another, all with ties to the du Pont family - conveniently located within America’s Garden Capital. In this region, you will find over 30 public gardens and historic landscapes within 30 miles. See what’s in bloom all year long at Hagley Museum, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Center, Nemours Estate, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and Brandywine Museum of Art.
6. American Couturier meets Winterthur Museum
Fall 2023 will bring wonder and awe to Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library with their upcoming exhibition, Ann Lowe: American Couturier. Beginning September 9 and on view through January 7, 2024, comes the designs of Anne Lowe, a fashion designer referred to as “Society’s Best Kept Secret.” Lowe has designed couture-quality gowns for America’s most prominent debutantes, actresses and society brides – including one, Jacqueline Kennedy but has kept under the radar, with little to no recognition as an influencer of American fashion. Lowe’s recently emerging visibility as a designer stands in contrast to much of her career. She has blazed a path for others to follow her legacy and now fashionistas everywhere can visit for inspiration! The exhibition will feature 40 iconic gowns showing off her evolution as a designer from the 1920s to 1960s.
Choose Your Next Garden Adventure
7. Watch for Birds
When the American Birding Association relocated their national headquarters to Delaware City, Delaware in 2014, they made it clear they were moving to be within one of American’s richest birding areas. Every year, thousands of rare songbirds, shorebirds and raptors migrate along the eastern seashore of Delaware, stopping at one of the state’s many natural habitats and wildlife areas to refuel for the journey. From the DuPont Environmental Education Center’s city refuge to Ashland Nature Center’s suburban hideaway to the coastal waterways and shores of Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Greater Wilmington offers a birding friendly environment that welcomes all to come watch.
8. The Delaware Art Museum Presents...
The Delaware Art Museum, known for its Pre-Raphaelite collection and illustrations by Wilmington native Howard Pyle, is taking on a new exhibition this year. The exhibition will feature the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife and siblings, who led a progressive counterculture reinventing art for their fast-changing modern world. The Rossetti’s art comes together for the first time in the United States, right here in Wilmington, Delaware. The art will be on display from October 22, 2023 – January 28, 2024, at the Delaware Art Museum.
9. Get a National Park Stamp
Park enthusiasts and Junior Rangers can check another state off their lists with a visit to the First State National Historical Park in Delaware, part of the National Park Service. The park encompasses historical sites like the New Castle Court House Museum where the Delaware Assembly first voted for independence), Old Swedes Church (built by Swedish and Finish settlers in 1699, and the oldest church in America still used for worship), and the grounds along Beaver Valley Road (1,100 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas located along the Brandywine River). Three NPS stamps can be collected in all – First State Cancellation Stamp, National Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Stamp, and First State NHP Centennial Cancellation Stamp
10. Take a Historical Hike
Delaware is the only state that lies east of the Mason-Dixon Line. Discover the exact place where that historical line begins on the Tri-State Marker Trail. Take this 3.5-mile loop from the White Clay Creek State Park Nature Center to the Tri-State Marker – the point where Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland connect. About half of the trail is in Delaware. Continue another quarter mile, and you’ll find the Arc Corner Monument marking the place where the Arc of Delaware meets the Mason-Dixon Line – Delaware is the only state to have an arced or curved border.
11. Explore Greater Wilmington by Bike
In the Greater Wilmington area alone, you’ll find over 120 miles of paved walking and biking trails – including three major interconnected trails that are part of the East Coast Greenway connecting 15 states, and 450 cities and towns for 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. For cyclists looking for a serious challenge, register for the area’s Grand Prix race. This three-day event includes a Gran Fondo ride, with scenic views through the Brandywine Valley countryside made public only for this event.
12. Explore a Hidden Gem
Wilmington is chock full of surprising adventures. One hidden gem is the Brandywine Zoo, located just outside of downtown Wilmington by Brandywine Park. This zoo, small in nature but big in spirit, has been a staple in the area for more than 100 years. Open year-round, visitors and residents can explore and enjoy the animals in unique ways. From “Brew at the Zoo” on summer evenings to “Noon Year’s Eve” celebrations to rind in the new year the zoo is always keeping visitors on their toes. And, with the recent addition of the Madagascar exhibits the zoo has completed Phase Two of their reimagination.
13. Drive Four Scenic Byways
Drive along the coast. Drive through the hills. Drive through history.
On the scenic byways of Delaware and the Brandywine Valley, a drive can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway runs along Route 52 and Route 100 from the urban streets of downtown Wilmington to Delaware’s pastoral northern border. Red Clay Scenic Byway is made up of 28 secondary roads within the Red Clay watershed. Delaware’s Bayshore National Scenic Byway is two-lane Route 9 that winds its way through the largest coastal preserved marshland in the United States. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway traverses the State of Delaware and six landmarks that demonstrate the path Harriet and fellow escaping slaves took on their way to freedom in the north.
14. Press Your Luck at Slots, Table Games and Thoroughbred Racing
In season, the thoroughbreds race at Delaware Park four days a week. Afleet Alex and Kentucky Derby Winner Barbaro both won their debut races at this storied park. Before every race, you can visit the tree-lined horse paddock and watch from just a few feet away as jockeys mount potential Triple Crown contenders on their way to the track. Inside, the excitement heats up with over 2,300 slot machines, popular table games, year-round simulcast wagering, a 25-table Poker room, and Keno. Plus, Casino at Delaware Park offers full sports betting on all professional and college sports as well as an 18-hole championship public golf course.
15. See the Minor Side of Major League Sports
Taking the family to a major league sporting event may require a bank loan. So, why not catch some minor league action that’s packed with family fun and won’t hurt your plans for retirement? Greater Wilmington is home to two such teams… located on the Wilmington Riverfront are the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a perennial contender for the best Single-A baseball “good time” and the newly affiliated farm team of the Washington Nationals. Just across the river in the 2,500 square foot Chase Fieldhouse, you’ll find the Delaware Blue Coats, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers G-League affiliate. Both venues will get you up close and personal with the action as well as the players. Ticket policies and procedures for upcoming seasons will be updated as time goes on.
16. Sail the Kalmar Nyckel
The original Kalmar Nyckel carried Peter Minuit and 24 other settlers to found the colony of New Sweden (now Wilmington) in 1638. Today, adventurers can still sail the Christina River as those original settlers once did on this faithful re-creation of the original ship when she’s in her home port of Wilmington. Take the kids for a pirate sail or bring a bottle of wine for a peaceful afternoon on the water. Check their sailing schedule for openings here. The season begins this spring.
17. Take a Covered Bridge Road Trip
If a trip off the beaten path sounds up your alley, then there’s nothing like a leisurely drive through the backroads of the Brandywine Valley. The scenery is gorgeous year-round, and the region is home to three covered bridges, each with their own unique history. This short route connects all three with stops along the way at hidden treasures perfect for the adventurous wanderer.
18. Blow Off Some Steam – waiting on info from fashion exhibit
The Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights is less than five minutes from the center of Hockessin and is the perfect attraction to visit for the antique car lover in your life. This spring, pop into Marshall Steam to discover what was “trending” during the first half of the 20th century. In this special exhibition, the museum will showcase clothing and accessories from museums across the state. Explore style on the runway and the roadway from turn-of-the-century eveningwear and 1920s wool bathing attire to an original 1930s “flapper” dress, authentic auto dusters, and more. The exhibit opens in May and can be viewed Thursdays and Fridays (except major holidays) 1-4 pm and at all public events through November. Make a day of visiting this hidden gem!
19. Quench Your Thirst for Craft
Delaware has long been known as a hotbed for craft beer innovation thanks to Dogfish Head Brewing, but the local beer scene goes far beyond that. With somewhere around 15 breweries, distilleries and meaderies located in northern Delaware, an afternoon spent exploring them can start … anywhere you want. Visiting the Brandywine Zoo? Stop into Wilmington Brew Works! Checking out Wilmington’s Riverfront? Pop into Liquid Alchemy Beverages. Exploring through Newark? Check out Autumn Arch Beer Project. And, if you’re making your way through the steam powered locomotives of the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights don’t forget to stop in to Dew Point Brewing Company!
Several are within just a few miles of each other. So, wherever you are in your travels, you’re near the start of an afternoon tasting tour of Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley.
20. Learn About the Inventions We Use Everyday
The Hagley Museum and Library is known for housing the first du Pont ancestral home here in Delaware. But, did you know the museum is also known for housing the world’s second-largest collection of Patent Models? Patent models are representations of inventions that were part of the patent submission process for nearly 100 years. Now on display in the museum’s visitor center, see patent models up close and personal throughout the Nation of Inventors exhibition. Pieces from the collection are displayed on two floors, one of which features an area specifically for Women Inventors! From washing machines to duck blinds, the technology of our everyday appliances formed from a model. Learn more about this new exhibition here.
With the urge to travel coming back with a vengeance, it’s only fair that your furry family members get a chance to #VisitWilm too. From dog-friendly restaurants like Grain Craft Bar & Kitchen and hotels like The Westin Wilmington, to Spas and Services at Riverfront Pets and catching the Blue Rocks play at Frawley Stadium, your pups are going to continue to bark for joy whenever you mention a weekend getaway to Greater Wilmington!
22. Shop till You Drop… Tax-Free
Only five states in the country have no sales tax, and only one of those is in the Mid-Atlantic region. No sales tax means just that – no tax on clothes, no tax on computers and no tax on the dinner and drinks at the end of a long day of shopping. But no tax is just the first reason to spend some time shopping in Delaware. From recently renovated shopping centers to never-renovated antique shops, from mega malls to Main Street boutiques to museum shops, you’ll find just what you’re looking for … and things you never knew you needed.
23. Visit a Conde Nast Traveler Magazine “23 Best Places to Go in the U.S. for 2023” Destination
“Delaware may be best known for its breezy southern beaches—but up north, Wilmington is drawing attention for a wave of new restaurants transforming the city into a bona fide food destination.” - Regan Stephens of Conde Nast Traveler
Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley has continuously evolved to become a prime travel destination for the Mid-Atlantic region, similar to those larger cities surrounding it. Now known for James Beard nominated restaurants, award winning hotels, and of course du Pont mansions, gardens and estate properties rivaling those of the Biltmore Estate’s caliber, Wilmington has come alive and is thriving!
2023 is the perfect time to embark on a new adventure to visit Greater Wilmington & the Brandywine Valley and these 23 reasons to visit are just the beginning for the area, but we will leave that to you to discover...