After a painful recession, Delaware’s economy is on the mend. A combination of innovative economic reforms by state leaders and a resurgence in key local industries like finance and agriculture have the First State back on track. And there’s a new belle at the economic party, too: tourism. It seems as if Americans have finally discovered that there are plenty of worthy attractions packed into the second-smallest state’s slender frame. Here’s a look at five must-see Delaware destinations.
1. Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach is a quaint little town on Delaware’s southern shore. Unlike beach areas farther up Delaware’s coast, Rehoboth has an easterly orientation that exposes it to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. That makes for incredible wave action at the right times of year and ensures that a steady sea breeze keeps temperatures manageable almost year-round ” even when it’s stiflingly muggy just a few miles inland. Then again, tourist hotspots like Dogfish Head Brewery would draw crowds no matter what the weather.
Be warned, though: Rehoboth is wildly popular, swelling from an off-season population of a couple thousand to a summer high of more than 20,000. Pros visit just after Labor Day or before Memorial Day, when the weather is still summery but the crowds aren’t as thick.
2. Brandywine Zoo
The Brandywine Zoo might just be Delaware’s most family-friendly destination. With nearly 200 furry (and scaled) residents, from local favorites like bobcats and river otters to exotic beasts like tree sloths and Indian tigers, there’s something here for folks of all ages. Plus, there’s plenty of year-round programming for the kids ” meaning parents can leave them in zoo staff’s capable hands for a few hours and head off to one of the other attractions on this list.
3. Dover International Speedway
Get your gear on at Dover International Speedway! If there’s not a sanctioned NASCAR race going on when you visit, there’s still plenty to see at one of auto racing’s most hallowed sites. There’s a reason they call Dover the world’s fastest one mile oval.
4. Downtown/Riverfront Wilmington
If the Brandywine Zoo is Delaware’s most family-friendly attraction, the Wilmington Riverfront is its grown-up cousin. With dozens of high-end restaurants, lively bars and exciting dance clubs, downtown Wilmington is a veritable playground for visitors who like to let their hair down. Wilmington also has an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century architecture, so there’s plenty to see in daylight too.
5. Firefly Music Festival
The Firefly Music Festival bills itself as the East Coast’s premier music festival. Given all the great festivals that captivate East Coasters every year, not to mention the new ones that pop up every year, that’s a bit of a subjective boast. But Firefly has a strong case: The 2015 version boasted some of the biggest names in the business, from Paul McCartney and Kings of Leon to Modest Mouse and the Killers. One sure sign of just how massive and popular Firefly is: Hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg wasn’t even featured as a headliner. Tickets will set you back a pretty penny, but the lineup and serene location near Dover make it well worth your while.