Delaware is synonymous with American history, and there is no shortage of historic sites to visit in the country’s second-smallest state. As you drive through the countryside and along the shore, you will find countless historical places to visit.
The state of Delaware is situated on the northeastern side of the U.S., and the state isn’t just about history. In addition to the many historical landmarks and beach spots, there are many other great places to visit.
Let’s dive in and explore some of the most popular landmarks in Delaware.
Famous Landmarks in Delaware
1. Hagley Museum
One of Delaware’s most famous families is the du Pont family, and they donated a few of the attractions on this list. One of the most popular is the Hagley Museum and Library, which is located in the unincorporated county of New Castle.
The Hagley Museum was purchased in 1801 by Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, a French immigrant who founded black powder mills in the area.
In fact, you can still see what remains of the black powder factory. The museum is situated on 235 acres along the Brandywine River.
The famous Hagley library has an important research collection that consists of archives, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and photographs that document the history of technology and business in the U.S.
Don’t miss touring the beautiful grounds and gardens, which feature several state- and national-ranked trees. Every week, there are many different events and activities at Hagley.
2. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
One of northern Delaware’s most popular attractions is the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library.
Originally, this estate was the private home of a prominent horticulturist and antique collector named Henry Francis du Pont, who lived from 1880-1969. At Winterthur, you can view one of the most robust Americana collections in the U.S. and other exhibits.
The mansion has 175 period-room displays, and many of them are open for tours. In those rooms, visitors can view more than 90,000 objects. The impressive home is surrounded by about 1,000 acres of lush gardens, woodlands, and ponds.
In addition to the amazing exhibits, families can also participate in regular entertaining and educational events at the museum.
For researchers, there is a graduate degree program and an extensive research library that has more than 800,000 images and manuscripts, along with over 87,000 rare books.
3. Dover Motor Speedway
The Dover Motor Speedway, also known as the “Monster Mile,” is one of Delaware’s most famous landmark attractions. For more than 52 years, NASCAR races have been taking place at the speedway every year.
Every holiday season, the speedway lights up with the Gift of Lights festival, when more than 60 scenes featuring three million lights are set up along the Woodlands camping area. The lights are in place from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day every year.
Do you want to experience race car driving for yourself? Sign up for driving experiences such as the Rusty Wallace experience, the NASCAR experience, or the Mario Andretti experience. Track tours are also available.
If you’re a serious racing fan, you can save money and get the best seats by buying season tickets. If you’re just visiting the area, single-day tickets are available. To make it a weekend, take advantage of the on-site camping offered.
4. Nemours Estate
In the Wilmington area, you can tour the spectacular Nemours Estate, which consists of an 18th-century mansion that was built in the French tradition.
The mansion has 77 rooms, and it’s surrounded by 200 beautifully manicured gardens. In fact, Nemours Estate has the largest French gardens in the U.S.
Inside the house, you will find an eclectic collection of French antiques, tapestries, and works of art. One such piece is an antique clock that was designed for Marie Antoinette, and she never received it. The mansion also has a coronation chair from the coronation of England’s King George VI.
Outside, you will find many different gardens, including the Boxwood Garden, the Colonnade, the Maze Garden, the Reflecting Pool, and Sunken Gardens, and the Temple of Love.
Don’t miss a tour of the chauffeur’s garage, which comes complete with a stunning collection of vintage vehicles.
5. Cape Henlopen State Park
While there are plenty of historic landmarks in Delaware, sometimes you want to unwind with a classic beach getaway.
For that type of excursion, head over to Cape Henlopen State Park, where you can find the perfect mixture of history, outdoor adventure, and beach fun.
You can camp directly on the beach and wake up early to explore the fascinating nature trails in the area. The site also has a museum, a seaside nature center, and the historic Fort Miles.
Cape Henlopen State Park can trace its roots back to 1682, and it was one of the country’s first public lands. While visiting the park, you can do all of the fun beach activities, and the family will love the boardwalk. Other things to do include kayaking, biking, and boating.
6. Brandywine Creek State Park
Located just three miles north of the city of Wilmington, Delaware, and bordered by Brandywine Creek, Brandywine Creek State Park is a stunning wilderness area that’s located on 933 acres.
At one time, the park was a part of Henry Francis du Pont’s dairy farm and estate. In the 1800s, the gray stone walls in the park were built to protect the farm, and they’re still standing.
Brandywine Creek State Park is famous for its nature reserves which include Freshwater Marsh, Tulip Tree Woods, and Flint Woods. At the nature center, school groups, scout groups, and other visitors can participate in guided nature walks, birding programs, crafts, hayrides, and more.
In addition to taking in the beautiful scenery at the park, visitors can also enjoy the bike trails, hiking trails, tubing, canoeing, bird-watching opportunities, and disc golf.
In the winter, the park is a popular destination for cross-country skiing and sledding. There are 14 miles of trails in the park, including the Greenway Trail and the Rocky Run Trail.
7. John Dickinson Plantation
John Dickinson was one of America’s founding fathers, and like many of those men, he operated a plantation that included indentured servants, farmers, and enslaved human beings.
The John Dickinson Plantation has the distinction of being the first museum in the U.S. that’s dedicated to telling the story of all the people who called it home.
When you visit this historic plantation, you get a glimpse into what life was like during that time as you tour the reconstructed farm buildings, the original brick home, and the living quarters of the enslaved people.
The main house was first constructed in 1739, and more wings were added to it more than a decade later. Some parts of the home were damaged during the Revolutionary War when it was raided by the British.
8. Air Mobility Command Museum
Where do old airplanes go when they’re no longer in use? It’s not like you can just stick them in the recycle bin. In many cases, these old birds become exhibits in museums, and that’s exactly what you can expect to find at the Air Mobility Command Museum located in Dover, Delaware.
At this museum, you can learn all about the history of refueling and airlift. The museum has a large collection of vintage aircraft that includes modern four-engine jets and World War II propellers.
While at the museum, take one of the tours to learn even more, and you can even try out a flight simulator. Be sure to take the time to talk to the museum volunteers. They are all military veterans or retired airplane restores, so they have plenty of fascinating stories to tell.
Fans of amusement parks won’t want to miss Funland, which is a small amusement park located in Rehoboth Beach.
The park has been owned by the Faschnacht family since 1962, and it currently has 19 rides. Many of the current rides have been in operation since the 1940s when the park first opened.
At Funland, you can also enjoy a video arcade and many games designed with the entire family in mind. While at Funland, you can stroll along the boardwalk while you enjoy a delicious sugary funnel cake.
10. Fort Delaware State Park
If you follow the Delaware River south out of Wilmington, you will find Fort Delaware State Park, a location that plays an important role in displaying and preserving part of American history. The fort is from the Civil War era, and it’s only accessible via a ferry.
Folklore says that the island the fort is located on, Pea Patch Island, got its name because a ship full of peas once ran aground and spilled all of its contents.
At one time, this fort housed Confederate prisoners of war. Many of the prisoners who were housed on the island were captured in the Battle of Gettysburg. Soldiers who died while at the fort are buried at Finns Point National Cemetary in nearby New Jersey.
At the fort, you can watch Civil War battle reenactments, watch an ancient cannon being fired, and enjoy viewing birds that include ibis, egrets, and herons.