Despite its status as the second smallest state in the Union, Delaware played a large role in the founding of the United States. It was, after all, the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1787. The best place to delve into Delaware’s rich colonial history is at Wilmington’s Delaware History Museum. Here, rotating exhibits display toys, costumes, paintings, and everyday artifacts salvaged from the state’s pre-Revolutionary days.
Wilmington is also the historic home of Delaware’s most prominent family, the du Ponts. In 1802, E. I. du Pont founded a gunpowder factory on grounds that are now part of the Hagley Museum and Library. Today, curators gather in the museum’s restored mills and workers’ community to share vital pieces of American entrepreneurial history. Another du Pont property, Winterthur, is also located nearby. An opulently decorated mansion, the 175-room estate holds countless antiques for perusal.
Artistic enlightenment continues in Dover, the state’s capital. The Biggs Museum of American Art carries an impressive collection of American fine and decorative artworks, such as furniture crafted by early American cabinetmakers. The museum is part of First State Heritage Park, where the current Legislative Hall stands near the Old State House, built in 1791 as the state’s first capitol building. Not everything in Dover revolves around history, though. The capital is also home to Dover Downs, a popular horse track and casino.
Though Delaware lays claim to just a sliver of the East Coast, its beaches are worth a visit. Rehoboth and Bethany beaches draw tourists away from Ocean City with a more peaceful, low-key setting. Outdoor enthusiasts may also want to check out Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, the last remaining piece of the state’s age-old cypress swamps and an ideal place to explore by kayak.