Children love to play and learn. Here in Delaware, opportunities to explore science, nature, the arts, sports and more are everywhere you look. Here are a few favorites.
The Arts Academy at The Grand
Learning to play a musical instrument is a grand gift to give your child—one that will last a lifetime. At The Arts Academy at The Grand Opera House, you’ll find a faculty of working musicians in a beautiful, friendly setting, and unique learning and performance opportunities. Qualified applicants may receive financial aid.
818 N. Market St., Wilmington 658-7897, thegrandwilmington.org
Brandywine River Museum
What child doesn’t love pictures? Show them famous book illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle at the Brandywine, and look for occasional Read-Aloud Tours.
1 Hoffman Mill Road, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-2700, brandywinemuseum.org
The zoo promises a wild time 364 days a year, with 150 animals and low admission fees. The zoo is home to bobcats, serval, ocelots, swift foxes, small monkeys, large snakes, birds, llamas, otters and more. Educational programs, both indoor and outdoor, are available for all ages, as well as spring break camps, summer camps and special public events. A partial list of 2011 events includes Earth Day on April 16, Wild Moms on May 8, Wild Dads on June 19, and American Celebration July 2-3.
1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, 571-7747 brandywinezoo.org
Biggs Museum of American Art
Children have three free opportunities to participate in art activities every month—Biggs Kids, Mini Masters and First Fridays—when young visitors are invited to use supplies provided by the museum to create works of art similar to those on display. The fun moves outdoors for the free Biggs Summer Movies on the Lawn. This year’s five classics will be “Charlotte’s Web,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Karate Kid,” “Back to the Future” and “Grease.” Take lawn chairs and a picnic dinner. (Dates TBA.)
406 Federal St., Dover, 674-2111 biggsmuseum.org
Coleman’s Tree Farm
The Coleman family knows all about family, tradition and fun, so they invite you to make a memory. Known for Christmas trees and U-pick pumpkins, Coleman’s also hosts events throughout the year. Visit the 330-acre farm for Woodside Farms’ ice cream on a hot summer day as you watch for peacocks and exotic ducks from your perch on the porch. Enjoy a hayride and bonfire after pumpkin-picking. And choose the perfect Christmas tree for your holidays. Don’t miss Santa’s arrival by helicopter, or take a ride for $30 (November 26-28, December 5, 11-12).
550 Silver Run Road, Middletown, 378-8949, colemanstreefarm.com
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Delaware Aerospace Education Foundation
The belief that wisdom begins with wonder is what drives the DASEF. The foundation offers hands-on activities that integrate the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and all activities at the LEED-certified Environmental Outpost align with state standards for public education. The telescope in the Mountjoy Observatory is perfect for public star gazing. And half-day, full-day and overnight programs give kids a chance to explore topics such as space, rocketry and robotics. Destination Exploration examines fossils and minerals on April 16, dinosaurs on April 26 and the planets on July 16. Don’t miss the Moon and Mars Overnight Academy July 10-15.
585 Big Oak Road, Smyrna, 659-5003, dasef.org
Delaware Art Museum
Homeschoolers, this is your place for learning about art. Students discuss works in the galleries, then supplement their educations through art-making activities and writing assignments. Classes are offered for students of all ages. Small groups ensure individual attention, and at $16 for a four-week session, the classes are a bargain. School tours are given regularly. And why not visit on a weekend? Kids love Howard Pyle’s pirate paintings, Deborah Butterfield’s “Big Red Horse” and the Kids’ Corner activity center.
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, 571-9590, delart.org
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Is there a budding artist in the family? DCCA offers New Ideas, New Art!, a multi-week Saturday program for younger children. Projects, built around changing themes, introduce young artists to a variety of materials and approaches. Teens will appreciate Comic Culture on May 14. The workshops will explore contemporary artists inspired by animated art forms such as anime and manga. Participants will learn how to bring their drawings to life using a variety of materials and techniques. DCCA also offers four sessions of summer camp, where campers work with professional instructors.
200 S. Madison St., Wilmington, call 656-6466 thedcca.org
Delaware Children’s Museum
If you haven’t visited the museum since it opened a year ago, by all means do so. The place is built for fun, with unique exhibits that educate and inspire kids in art, architecture, banking, the environment and more. Young visitors enjoy the Training Wheels exhibit, with its toddler-size train and a padded boat to help their wobbly legs gain confidence in a safe environment. Some may then want to stroll over to Studio D to express themselves through painting, sculpting, weaving and printmaking. The ECOnnect exhibit teaches kids about green technology. Enter the Ecohouse to see how natural energy sources can power a house and help the earth. The Power of Me exhibit lets kids understand the capabilities of their own bodies through a variety of fun physical and mental challenges. Or kids can reach for the Stratosphere, a 30-foot climbing structure that overlooks the lobby. Every child needs to learn about money. Bank on It is a creative exploration of the subject. The Delaware Children’s Museum gets children thinking. It’s a unique option for birthday parties, field trips, sleepovers and, of course, everyday fun. 550 Justison St., Wilmington, 654-2340 delawarechildrensmuseum.org
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Delaware Children’s Theatre
Families have been enjoying affordable, quality performances of classic shows at DCT for almost 40 years. And through open auditions, kids find their way onto the stage—some have even made it to Broadway. The century-old Theatre House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Delaware landmark. This month, don’t miss “Jesus Christ Superstar” April 3, April 9-10 and April 16-17. See “Winnie the Pooh Broadway Bound” May 15 and May 20-21. TheatreArts is a two-week summer camp (June 20-July 1) where kids can learn about theater techniques, auditioning, lighting, makeup, props, set design and more.
1014 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 655-1014 dechildrenstheatre.org
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Kids dig dinosaurs. They like digging for dinosaur bones, too. So check the Fossil Dig, where they’ll find life-size dinos and a whole lot more. Fascinating exhibits for curious kids include the Cave, an area for 2- to 10-year-olds where black lights reveal unique cave-dwelling creatures. Reptiles and Amphibians lets kids meet and greet the creatures with a museum educator. Weekly full- and half-day summer camps cover a wide array of interests. Special events for the family include Celebrate Earth on April 30, Turtle Travels June 17-Sept. 5 and Giants: African Dinosaurs Dec. 3-Feb. 26. There’s more, of course. And admission is only $1 on Tuesdays in August.
4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 658-9111, delmnh.org
The fourth generation of Fifer farmers grows fruit, sweet corn, flowers and more on its 2,400-acre spread. But it’s the festivals, school activities and birthday parties that kids love. Don’t miss the annual Strawberry Festival on May 21, Peach Ice Cream Day on Aug. 8, the Fifer Fall Festival Sept. 19-Oct. 29 and Cider Fest Nov. 26-Dec. 17.
1919 Allabands Mill Road, Wyoming, 697-2141, fiferorchards.com
Hagley Museum and Library
Every schoolkid in Delaware loves touring the old DuPont gunpowder mills during field trips to Hagley, but there’s so much more, such as learning about materials used in spaceships and race cars, about life in Colonial America, and about inventions past and present. Creek Kids programs include games, history, food and crafts. Bike and Hike Wednesdays (5 p.m.-8 p.m. June-Aug.) are great summer fun. Don’t miss the famous fireworks June 10 and June 17.
200 Hagley Road, Wilmington, 658-2400, hagley.org
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A trip to Linvilla Orchards is a treat any time of year. Pick your own produce, pumpkins or Christmas trees, in season. Take the kids for a hayride to Bunnyland April 9-10 and April 16-24. Linvilla’s famous Pumpkinland opens September 10. October means evening hayrides. There is also a selection of 40 types of homemade pies.
137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, Pa., (610) 876-7116, linvilla.com
Spend an afternoon wandering the corn maze in summer, picking pumpkins in the fall and plucking strawberries in spring—and don’t miss the Strawberry Festival May 21. Kids love the strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake and strawberry snow cones.
34857 Lighthouse Road, Selbyville, 436-5589
Marshall Steam Museum
Hop on a miniature coal-fired Stanley Steamer locomotive, then take a ride back to the Victorian era on the grounds of Auburn Heights. Learn the history of steam technology and explore the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley Steamers—14 of them dating from 1901-1922—Packard cars, 1930s Lionel electric train displays, a Rausch & Lang electric car, and more.
Auburn Heights, 3000 Creek Road, Yorklyn, 239-2385, auburnheights.org
Who can resist a petting zoo? Meet all your favorite barnyard animals, then pick your own cherries, berries, grapes and apples, depending on the season. Spring brings the Easter Egg Hunt. Fall Festival Weekends in September and October mean corn mazes, hayrides, bonfires and more. Don’t miss the apple cider doughnuts.
1495 Appleton Road, Elkton, Md., (410) 398-1349, milburnorchards.com
Mt. Cuba Observatory
Touch the sky at Mt. Cuba. The observatory hosts school groups and scouts by reservation and offers public nights two Mondays per month. If it’s not clear enough to view through the 12-inch telescope, the dome can be programmed to show the night’s sky. Astronomy professor Judy Provencal of UD and her colleagues arrange free programs for children’s groups.
Greenville, 654-6407, mountcuba.org
The Music School of Delaware
The Music School offers instruction by nearly 100 highly trained musicians, so enroll your child in regular lessons or a summer program. Check out excellent performances by the Wilmington Youth Chorale and Delaware Children’s Chorus on April 13 and the Delaware Youth Symphony and Delaware Youth Orchestra on May 16.
10 S. Walnut St., Milford, 422-2043; 4101 Washington St., Wilmington, 762-1132, musicschoolofdelaware.org
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Plumpton Park Zoo
The charming zoo officially re-opens this spring. Learn about the new Zoo Keeper Camp in June and July for animal-loving kids. Watch the calendar for Easter egg hunts, a July 4 celebration, scavenger hunts, and more.
1416 Telegraph Road, Rising Sun, Md., (410) 658-6850, plumptonparkzoo.org
Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre
Elise and Steve Seyfried have been delighting folks with their two-actor plays for more than 20 years. Their scripts bring big, physical fun and dynamic dialogue to the stage at the Epworth United Methodist Church and other locations. One-week summer day camps offer kids an opportunity to get in on the act. In July, Film & TV Camp lets kids ages 9-14 experience film production as writers, directors, editors and performers. Create-A-Play Camp in August, for kids 7-12, lets them join in theater games, improvisations and an original play.
Wilmington Blue Rocks
Real minor league baseball is inexpensive, old-fashioned family fun. Children 14 and under can join the Blue Rocks Kids Club for a season pass and plenty of perks. Blue Rocks players serve as instructors during the 2011 Blue Rocks Baseball Camps July 13-15 and August 9-11. Space is limited, so reserve a spot soon. Don’t miss the first home game, April 15 at 7:05 p.m.
Frawley Stadium, 801 S. Shipyard Drive, Wilmington, 888-2015, bluerocks.com
Winterthur Museum, Library & Garden
You know the former home of Henry Francis duPont as the premier museum of American decorative arts, so you know that rare and breakable objects aren’t kid friendly. The Touch It Room, however, sure is. The 1750s parlor, 1830s general store and Colonial-era kitchen were designed for children to explore through play. On Terrific Tuesdays in July and August (11a.m.-3p.m.) kids are invited to learn about life long ago through crafts and games. On June 18, celebrate the 10th birthday of the Enchanted Woods children’s garden with a day of crafts, games, music, face-painting and ice cream from Woodside Farms.
5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, 888-4600, Winterthur.org