Southern Delaware is home to some of DC’s favorite beach destinations. With five family-friendly destinations to choose from, it can be hard to narrow the choices and pick which beach town is just right for your family. From kid-friendly eats to rainy day fun, we rounded up the best family activities in each destination to help you make the best choice. Once you settle on your home base, be sure to check out our guides to near-by Reboboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island for more fun things to see and do in Southern Delaware. For more information on Lewes, read on.
If you’re looking for a road-trip that will make your kids smarter, head to the historic town of Lewes in Delaware which holds the title of “The First Town in the First State.” Lewes was colonized by the Dutch in 1631 and has played many roles in history since. It was bombed by the British Royal Navy in 1812 (the cannonball can still be seen at the maritime museum) and it was an important stop on the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War. Today, you can visit many of these historic sites for an educational adventure. Or spend the day at one of the bay beaches where you can skip the waves and let the littles splash in calm waters. Read on for the best things to see, do (and eat!) in family-friendly Lewes, DE.
photo: Meghan Yudes Meyers
Where to Play
You’ll find bay-front beaches and a charming canal running through this town. If you want to see the ocean, you’ll need to head to Cape Henlopen, a state park just outside town limits ($10 out-of-state car entrance fee). You can borrow a bike (totally free!) to go on two-hour loop that includes peddling through the Fort Miles historic area and a stop to climb tower 7, The Observatory. Bikes are rented Wed.-Sun. from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. with the last rental starting at 2 p.m. Bikes are loaned for 2 hrs. at a time, so if you’re not an early bird, plan on swinging by around 12 p.m. when the first rentals begin to return. Be sure to pop in the Visitor’s Center when you grab a bike; there is a touch tank that features horseshoe crabs.
If you’re spending any length of time in the area, you may want to consider a day trip to Cape May which is just an 85 minute ride across the bay by ferry. If you do decide to hop onboard, be sure to check out the Cape May County Park & Zoo which is just a short drive from the ferry terminal.
Lewes is home to many historical sites and museums. One of the most kid-friendly ways to dive into history is aboard the Overfalls, a permanently moored lightship. What is a lightship, you may ask? It serves the same functions as a lighthouse (providing light at night and a horn during foggy weather) and this particular ship — the last of its kind to be built — spent most of its service hours off the coast of Connecticut. It was donated to the town of Lewes to be used as a floating museum; today you can tour the boat seasonally (Labor Day-Memorial Day) or take a virtual tour.
Rainy Day Fun
Lefty’s Alley & Eats sits behind the Wawa on Rt. 9 and offers hours of entertainment beyond bowling. There are two floors dedicated to laser tag, a giant arcade, ax throwing and an onsite restaurant. If you’re looking for something to bring back to your hotel room to keep the kids entertained, head to Puzzles for an assortment of family-friendly games and, well, puzzles.
Where to Eat
Heirloom’s beautifully plated dishes are so exceptional they have been nominated twice for the coveted James Beard Award and while the lack of a children’s menu (and steep prices) might make this Victorian house a no-go for a night out with small children, we strongly recommend their take out for a grown up treat (let the kids have Grotto Pizza that night!). For a family-friendly night on the town hit Crooked Hammock, a brewery restaurant with a kid-friendly backyard that sits on the edge of Lewes as you head toward Rehoboth Beach. Keep the kids entertained with an onsite playground and outdoor games like ping pong and tetherball while you wait for your order. You’ll find elevated bar fare, like Shrimp Street Corn and Sticky Lager Grilled Chicken, listed for entrees and kid classics like hot dogs and chicken fingers on the Children’s Menu.
Where to Stay
The Hyatt House Lewes/Rehoboth Beach is a relatively new hotel that sits off the main drag on Rt. 9 and is convenient to both towns as well as popular dining along Rt. 9. This pet-friendly hotel features apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes and an indoor pool making it a family-friendly option for those traveling with young children and fur kids. For a quaint downtown experience, check out the Hotel Rodney. Boutiques and fine dining are just steps away and the Delaware Bay Beaches are within walking distance.
For more information: lewes.com
—Meghan Yudes Meyers