Delaware’s state slogan is “Endless Discoveries,” so it’s no wonder the state is full of amazing secrets. Hidden gems usually end up being the most memorable spots to visit! After settling into your Delaware vacation rental, head out to explore the many underrated and overlooked spots that you won’t find in most travel guides. Venture off the beaten path and find something new and exciting at one of these 10 secret spots in Delaware.
1. Winterthur’s Enchanted Woods
Winterthur is the premier museum of American decorative arts. Scholars from around the world travel to visit its research library, and its 60-acre naturalistic garden is considered among the country’s best. But did you know that magical fairies have taken over the Enchanted Woods and created a magic landscape? Watch your children discover the magic of this three-acre fairy tale garden. Actually, from the Tulip Tree House to the Faerie Cottage, there’s plenty for children of all ages to explore. All you have to do is bring your imagination!
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2. Goodstay Gardens
Goodstay Gardens in Wilmington date back to the 1700’s and are among one of the oldest in the state. These picturesque gardens, with their stone walls, boxwood hedges and tall trees look almost like a movie set. In fact, this secret garden might remind you of the movie, The Secret Garden. Planned in the Tudor style, there are six partitioned “outdoor rooms” to explore, but the main attractions are a knot garden, rose, iris, lilacs, azaleas, peonies and the turkey rock garden, where turkeys used to roost.
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3. The Biggs Museum of American Art
The Biggs Museum is one of the best displays of American fine and decorative arts on the east coast. The permanent collections feature American paintings, sculptures, furniture, and one of the finest collections of regional silver in the country. There are also changing exhibitions throughout the year which relate to historical and contemporary art topics. Whether it’s your first visit or your hundredth, there’s always something new to explore.
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4. Lavender Fields
There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh lavender, and at the legendary Lavender Fields, you can surround yourself with beautiful, rolling acres of the purple flower. This historic five-acre farm is Delaware’s premier lavender farm and also offers bath, body, and culinary products to take home as a great souvenir. If you visit during June, Lavender Fields will be celebrating the beginning of lavender harvest season by hosting its annual Lavender Festival. Admission is free, and you can stroll through the lavender fields and attend one of the many demonstrations by the Lavender Fields staff. Check nearby Milton for a cozy vacation rental.
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5. The Lightship Overfalls
Delaware locals pass by the Lightship all the time but forget that it’s a great place to visit! At this floating museum in Dewes, you’ll learn about the history of the Lightship program and all of the stories behind the Overfalls’ legendary career. It’s one of only 17 remaining lightships out of a total of 179 built from 1820 to 1953. What’s a lightship? A lighthouse the floats! All aboard!
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6. C.R. Hummingbird to Mars
This little speakeasy was recently featured in USA Today’s list of hidden bars and restaurants in every state. It’s not quite as “hidden” as it used to be, but you still need a password to get in. It’s only open if the lantern is lit next to Catherine Rooney’s in Wilmington’s Trolley Square. Just stop in the back of Rooney’s on 16th Street, and press the intercom. Featuring prohibition era cocktails and live jazz music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights you’ll travel back in time!
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7. Marian Coffin Gardens at Gibraltar
These beautiful gardens are hidden behind a stone wall on one of Wilmington’s busiest streets. While small, many say it rivals the gardens found at Winterthur Country Estate (number 1 on this list). This urban oasis winds its way past Italian statues and a water garden on the way to the Gibraltar Estate’s popular tea house. The grounds of Gibraltar are free to enter and are open to the public from dawn until dusk, so don’t let the forbidding stone walls fool you!
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8. Blackbird Creek Reserve
If you’re looking for a little more action than strolling a garden or two, check out Blackbird Creek Reserve in Townsend. This little-known tract of public land boasts several miles of trails through uplands and along the marsh, and is perfect for a canoe ride or picnic. Keep your eyes peeled, because you might spot a bald eagle, osprey, river otter, whitetail deer, wild turkey, or great blue heron during your visit. There’s also an outdoor classroom and public programs if you’d like to get more involved!
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9. 3 Palms Zoo
Not like your normal zoo, 3 Palms Zoo is a non-profit rescue and education center. In fact, this little animal sanctuary is the only one of its kind in Delaware. During your visit, you’ll see exotic, wild, domestic, and agricultural animals. You’ll even get the chance to feed and pet animals such as llamas, goats, ducks, sheep, donkey, pigs, and mini pigs. The grand attraction is Delaware’s only Alligator, named after our favorite Peter Pan crocodile, Tick-Tock.
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10. Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge
Book your vacation rental in Wilmington, because here’s another great hidden gem! The Russell W. Peterson Refuge is the first urban wildlife refuge in the area, and it’s a wonderful escape from the busy city. Located along Wilmington’s Riverfront, you’ll get a firsthand look at the vegetation that flourishes in the marsh and wildlife that call this wetland their home. What used to be an industrial wasteland is now a thriving destination for fun, food, and shopping!
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