Delaware, along with its capital city of Dover, was part of the Lower Counties in Pennsylvania until the Revolution. The small "First State" has easy access to and travel around and many worthy cities to visit. Even its largest cities, which guarantee the state's best dining and shopping for any taste, style, and budget, are often overlooked as a respite in a less congested environment.
The biggest cities go all out with festivals and events like farmers' markets, while the scenic boardwalks beckon for strolls with the best sights in the state. From beach cities to the state's historic centers and entertainment-laden streetscapes, these are some of Delaware's most underrated cities. Find your idyllic romantic escape or head out on a road trip around the small state, with fairly priced hotels and top-notch service everywhere you go.
Delaware's current capital was planned in 1717 and grew into a thriving grain-farming community in just 60 years by 1777. Safely located inland, Dover became the state's new capital after replacing New Castle on December 7, 1787. On this day, Delaware was also the first state in the nation to ratify the Constitution of the United States at Dover's Golden Fleece Tavern. Today, the centrally located capital is an under-the-radar destination with a rich heritage visible amid modern attractions to suit any taste. Dover has its share of interesting museums, like the immense agricultural museum, a lavish museum of American art, the Old State House, and the First State Heritage Park with a free "Stories of the Green" Tour.
Dover is the hub of state government and business, with the largest airport on the East Coast, the Dover Air Force Base, and its aircraft museum. Visit the superb Middle-Period Georgian home of the Woodburn Mansion to tour the Delaware Governor's Mansion from 1798. The vast 16,000 acres of marsh and wetlands of the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge provide a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Check out the vibrant festivals like the Lantern tours in April and the Dark Dover Tour in the fall. There are also casinos, the NASCAR race in Dover twice a year, and John Dickinson Plantation, with insights about the founding fathers, the Penman of the Revolution.
The state's fourth-largest city in New Castle County was settled by Quakers in 1688 and named after the Lenape word "hòkèsa." Hockessin hides some of the state's best treasures throughout its delightful streetscape. Explore the different neighborhoods and uncover unique discoveries in each. Start at the Well, a family-run coffee house and food market, to get a feel for the local lifestyle, relax over some delicious BBQ, and shop for kitchen essentials. Visit the state's incredible butterfly house within the Ashland Nature Center's natural preserve in Hockessin. The historic Mt. Cuba Center is a renowned gardening center with acres of gorgeous landscaping to set a picnic amidst Delaware's native plants.
History fans enjoy seeing the historic Wilmington and Western Railroad set scenically along Red Clay Creek, with fun events throughout the year. Hop on a memorable rolling museum ride-along during the fall, from the Greenbank Station to Hockessin and back, with a pitstop at the Mt. Cuba picnic grove. Hockessin is the state's top dining destination, including the most popular restaurant, Redfire Grill, which serves the Redfire Burger, a multiple-time winner of the Delaware Burger Battle. Stroll the beautiful city any season, with a downtown full of quaint shops, or take a dinner train to the Back Burner restaurant. The local foodies also stand behind the Back Burner, 2Fat Guys, the House of William and Merry, and Lettie's Kitchen.
The small seaside city of Lewes along Delaware Bay is a pleasant place to visit, with a particularly charming and uncrowded beach stretch. Here, the first Europeans debarked on the present-day state's shores. Lewes was founded in 1631 by the Dutch, who were engaged as whalers and traders. Since then, Lewes has remained an "under-the-radar" vacation destination, popular only among returning visitors who have experienced its resort charm, complete with fine-dining restaurants, boutiques, and hotels. Stroll through the historic streets lined with attractive English and Dutch architecture, to the brilliant beach scene, or to the splendid Cape Henlopen State Park bounding the town.
Visit the historic and family-friendly Lewes Beach and stop by the Hopkins Farm Creamery. Choose the Hotel Blue, the Inn at Canal Square, the Hotel Rodney, or one of the lovely B&Bs in town, and you will not be disappointed by a good night's rest. Seek heritage insights at the Zwaanendael Museum, stroll around many handsome homes, or embark on a boat ride along the waterways between scenic wharves. Marvel at the Ryves Holt House from 1665 before heading on a fresh produce hunt at the farmer's market. The historic coastal town also offers easy access to the Great Marsh Preserve wetlands.
The small cityscape southwest of Wilmington in New Castle County is home to a great downtown area with an exciting Main Street, a destination in itself. It is a stroll-worthy thoroughfare with attractions, shopping galore, and leeway into the University of Delaware campus. Enjoy the youthful vibe at many cafes and bars, with many student-geared amenities at relevant price points, like the Christiana Mall. The college town also has parks for any nature venture that offer unique natural sights and activities.
Head to the picturesque White Clay Creek State Park for a scenic picnic just a few minutes away, or hike and enjoy a game of disc golf at Carpenter State Park. Glasgow Park has running trails as well as play areas for children. Don't miss the hidden gem of the Newark Reservoir, a naturally rich area for relaxing strolls. Enjoy a comfortable stay with modern amenities at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Newark-Wilmington South or the Embassy Suites Newark Wilmington South. You will have easy access to all the hotspots, allowing you to navigate the small city smoothly.
This small city receives all the good love it deserves, with people flocking from all along the east coast during the summer. Shamefully, the streetscape is omitted and forgotten during other seasons. Rehoboth Beach offers an ideal family getaway with easy access and many worthwhile attractions. First, there is the idyllic boardwalk with perfect views year-round and many hotspots to stop at on a cold winter's day. Come in October, and you will be in for a treat at the popular Sea Witch Halloween Festival. It is an annual tradition to have fun and mingle with other spooky fans.
Stroll along the crowd-less beach anytime for views and a close-bound picnic, and sprawl out guilt-free in the summer to not get up for days. The beach is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, but a lesser-known city means more opportunities to find a private spot. The Rehoboth Beach Farmers' Market is a check-out-worthy affair every Tuesday, just off the boardwalk, with great food and shops. The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel is a top-rated hotel with quick access to everything, while the Bellmoor Inn and Spa is great for couples to receive the pampering of a lifetime. There are also the cozy Oceanus Motel and the Beach View Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, both with great views and prices.
Seaford boasts a scenically and historically enviable location at the head of the Nanticoke River. The ancestors of the Nanticoke Indians lived along the river for over 6,000 years, while the first Europeans were noted in the area in 1608 with Captain John Smith, who ventured into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The friction between the Nanticoke Indians and the English settlers halted the city's development. Once the conflicts were resolved, the Seaford area began flourishing, first as part of Dorchester County in the Province of Maryland. The city, mostly settled by the British, is now home to a diverse, growing population, with new quality businesses that meet the demand.
Seaford has several residential developments, a modern hospital, a great school system, and fine churches. Enjoy delectable authentic cuisine at the renowned Hong Kong restaurant, and find over 500 retail stores in this stable and diversified economy. There are various recreational programs, while the East Coast's most pristine river and recreational beaches mean numerous volunteer opportunities to upkeep the healthy environment. Seaford is truly a quirky little city that will embrace you with a vibrant history on a visit. The Official City Seal depicting the history of the city and the state of Delaware was designed by Gary R. Blake, a Seaford Police Department patrolman, in 1961.
Feel special in the state's second-largest city, with under 71,000 residents that will go all out for you with thrilling sights and exciting attractions. Find Wilmington along the Christina and Delaware rivers, with a lovely Riverwalk for strolls amidst shopping and dining with views. The city is a hotbed of arts, culture, and restaurants, as well as many museums and family-friendly attractions like awesome craft breweries. Set your base at the charming Hotel du Pont, which has an old-world feel, modern amenities, and a beautiful view from the rooms.
Take an art stroll through the Delaware Art Museum and visit the André Harvey Studio. The families on a stroll along the scenic waterfront rejoice to find the Delaware Children's Museum, an indoor trampoline park, and an outdoor ice skating rink in the wintertime. Visit the nearby Iron Hill Brewery or watch the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team in action. Stroll through the Nemours Mansion & Gardens, Bellevue State Park, and the Wilmington and Western Railroad for a taste of history.
Come to Delaware for a crowd-less holiday, a romantic trip, or a weekend getaway with a close-knit group. Take a stroll through these underrated major cities, taking in the sights and pictures with unobstructed views. You can access the state's most-demanded attractions without waiting in line. The small state also has several state parks where you can seek nature at every turn.
Choose any of these underrated Delaware cities, and you'll be amazed at how much history and discoveries await you. Feel free from the punishing walls, pushing, and sights of the typical megalopolis and return home "one state older," wiser, and refreshed.