Enchanted woods. Parasaurolophus bones. Giant kid-sized mazes. Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley of Delaware offer endless opportunities for families to explore, play and discover amazing things together. And the best part is that it’s so close to the D.C.! Whether you go for a long weekend, or a week-long stay, you’ll find exciting things in various parts of Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, from museums and gardens to family-friendly attractions that will keep everyone entertained and moving. Here are some spots you won’t want to skip.
Photo: Les Kipp
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Start your adventure at Nemours Estate, where you’ll feel like you’ve just magically stepped into Europe. And yes, it’s perfectly child friendly. All the DuPont estates are! Modeled after Versailles, Nemours is a designers dream with its mansion, fountains, artwork, and the largest formal French garden in North America. Nemours Estate has 77 rooms including a bowling alley and ice-making area that kids will think is so cool! Car lovers will want to head straight to the Chauffeur’s Garage housing a collection of vintage automobiles once used on the Estate. As you enter the mansion, a friendly and knowledgeable butler will welcome you and give you a fun scavenger hunt to start. The Estate closed in January, for winter, but will re-open in May.
Delaware Children’s Museum
The Wilmington Riverfront is home to an abundance of entertainment for any family. The Delaware Children’s Museum teaches science and technology as children (and brave guardians!) walk, climb and crawl through its 30-foot-high spherical maze. With spectacular exhibits by one of the nation’s foremost museum designers, there’s something exciting for every age—from toddlers to preteens, and parents to grandparents. The DCM is Delaware’s first and only kid-centric museum, teaching math, science and technology through hands-on exhibits. The Museum features 37,000 square feet of interactive fun, with age appropriate experiences.
Pay a visit to the Kalmar Nyckel an authentic replica of the tall ship that brought the first settlers to the U.S. more than 375 years ago. The tall ship serves as a floating classroom and an inspirational platform for educational outreach. It offers people of all ages a variety of sea- and land-based learning and recreational experiences. If you’re lucky, you might even see it, it a replica, sailing in the ocean!
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur is a true American treasure. Regarded as one of America’s most beautiful historic homes and mansions, you’ll marvel at du Pont’s magnificently decorated 175-room former home. It also has a 60-acre garden and its research library serves scholars from around the world. As with other DuPont estates, children’s touches surround it! Your kids will be amazed when they stumble upon the Enchanted Woods, a fairy-tale garden of troll bridges, giant bird nests and a Tulip Tree House, all seamlessly woven into the beautiful natural landscape. Pack a picnic, and sit back to spy chipmunks, birds, and other wildlife. Listen for frogs by the Reflecting Pool, visit the koi in the Glade, check out the Azalea Woods, and play hide-and-seek in the Pinetum. Children are also welcome inside the house! Enthusiastic docents offer introductory tours and time traveler tours for kids aged 4 and up!
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Up the road from Winterthur, the Delaware Museum of Natural History hosts Delaware’s only permanent dinosaur collection, along with rotating exhibits that feature everything from creepy crawlies to wooly mammoths. Investigate nature and science indoors and outside, with natural history exhibits, STEAM trail, meadow, pollinator garden, Science in Action and Investigation Labs, and more. They even have habitats from around the globe.
Photo: Longwood Gardens
If you’ve never been to Longwood Gardens, get ready to explore one of the great gardens of the world! It has a 4-acre Conservatory, outdoor gardens spanning 1,077 acres, and 86 acres of beauty in the Meadow Garden. Longwood Gardens are a living expression of all that founder, Pierre S. du Pont, found inspiring, meaningful, and beautiful. From the intricate fountain systems to the meticulous gardens to the architectural grandeur, awe-inspiring discoveries await at every turn. Kids will love exploring these amazing gardens. Not only can they run around among the beautiful flowers but there are also so many hidden gems to discover. Three tree houses are positioned throughout the gardens, each with a different theme. The Children’s Corner is an outdoor space specifically designed to be a spatial and tactile learning experience inspired by honeybees. There is a bee-themed labyrinth and a Flower Fountain for splashing and cooling down. But, the absolute favorite for kids is the Indoor Children’s Garden. The garden is tucked inside the main entrance of the conservatory, and it’s always buzzing with activity. There are fountains, a rain wall, and children of all ages enjoy painting with water, sneaking down the hidden staircase, and playing in the kid-friendly plant displays.
Sheraton Suites Wilmington Downtown
If you’re just too tired to drive home, the Sheraton Suites Wilmington Downtown is ideal for families. The full service, all suites hotel located right in the heart of downtown Wilmington, is walking distance to many of the city’s major sites. The family-friendly hotel offers large,newly renovated suites in Wilmington where you will always find a warm greeting and enjoyable stay at a