Picked as the #2 attraction in Wilmington by the editors of 10Best, the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library houses a massive collection of more than 85,000 pieces of American decorative art and furniture from 1640 to 1860, displayed on the magnificent country estate of collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont. Sitting on a 1,000-acre preserve of meadows and woodlands, the mansion contains 175 antique-furnished rooms in which du Pont grandly entertained family, friends, and various aristocratic superheroes. As you take a spin around the first floor, don't miss the Touch-It Room, where visitors toy around with hands-on displays of a parlor, kitchen, and general store.
• "Victorian Lawn Party" on Sunday, July 17, at noon. • "Old Time Autos" on Sunday, August 14, at noon. • "Trains, Trains, Trains!" on Saturday, September 3 or Sunday, September 4, both days at noon. • "Goblins, Ghosts & Ghouls" on Saturday, October 22 or Sunday, October 23, both days at noon.
The area’s only living history museum with a focus on the New Republic Era from 1790 to 1830, Greenbank Mills and Philips Farm pulls the wool away from visitors’ eyes to reveal the development of grain and textile milling in America. Two breeds of sheep, leicester longwools and delane merinos, call Greenbank home, and visitors can follow sheepish locks from shearing through dyeing, as textile transmogrifiers spin them into gossamer strands destined for warm winter shawls and giant webs designed to ensnare skateboarders. Or guests can delve into Greenbank's 300-year history as a working mill by grinding grain by hand into floury heaps of summer snow.
Nestled inside a former railroad-car factory, the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts took shape in 1979, led by a small group of artists and art patrons. The DCCA moved to a permanent location in 2000—one with 35,000 square feet of space, seven galleries, and individual studios for 26 artists—but still clings to its original mission of building public appreciation for contemporary art through exhibitions and educational programs.
Although the center is a noncollecting museum, it does feature roughly 30 exhibits each year from regional, national, and international artists. These shifting collections explore relevant societal themes such as the public obsession with celebrity, the flippant nature of consumerism, and the effects urban metropolises have on how humans relate to nature and each other. The exhibits can use any variety of media, and the studio artists embrace this same freedom by using everything from paints to video in their works.
To engage visitors outside the gallery spaces, the DCCA hosts educational programs for adults as well as exploratory classes for children, which help wee ones create their own relevant, meaningful pieces. Tours allow groups to learn more about the exhibits while an informed guide tries to recite every single anagram of Delaware.
The American Visionary Art Museum devotes its space to original work by self-taught artists who honed their craft—often unintentionally—while operating on the outskirts of the formal art world. As temporary exhibitions explore a particular artist or theme in depth, the permanent collection displays thousands of powerful and often whimsical items, such as Wayne Kusy’s Lusitania, a detailed toothpick replica of the doomed vessel, or the haunting Applewood Figure, an emaciated sculpture said to wince whenever someone eats a piece of fruit. The museum spreads its arresting pieces throughout three historical buildings, including the expansive main building, which boasts a reflective mirrored-mosaic exterior and neighbors the Tall Sculpture Barn, an ex-whiskey warehouse fully equipped with 45-foot ceilings for large-scale projects. A wildflower garden—complete with meditation chapel—and a sculpture plaza featuring a 55-foot whirligig beckon visitors to the museum's outdoor space, where envious clouds shape themselves into crude versions of Pietà. Completing any trip, the museum's Sideshow gift shop stuffs shopping bags with an ever-rotating collection of eclectic artwork, jewelry, toys, and more.
The Baltimore Museum of Industry highlights the workers and small businesspeople whose contributions during the Industrial Revolution and beyond helped build the country’s framework. Visitors can take a gander at the museum’s 100,000-object collection—including an 1850s shipyard bell and an 1820s Acorn printing press—and romp through bygone eras, dropping by sites including the recently renovated 1865 Platt Oyster Cannery and a reproduction of the 1910 pharmacy where Noxzema was invented. Just beyond the interior walls lies the last operating steam tugboat in the nation, the coal-fired SS Baltimore, as well as the 1937 Mini-Mariner, a prototype for the WWII flying boat bomber, two pieces of aquatic history more inspirational than a sailor's duffle filled with Popeye quotes.