A Gigantic Guide to Family Fun in Delaware
From classic activities to lesser-known spots, there’s something and some place everyone can enjoy.
Delaware is bordered by ocean and bay and full of rivers through remarkable environments. That’s a lot to explore. Here’s how.
Kayak and stand up paddleboard eco-tours, rentals and instruction and sailboat rentals and instruction.
Experienced guides can lead you into the many nooks of Little Assawoman Bay, but they’ll also take you to the Great Cypress Swamp and the bay behind Assateague Island, where lucky paddlers will spot wild ponies. Magical. Sailors will enjoy the spritely Hobie Wave catamarans, which are great starter boats for young salts.
36840 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-7999 • coastalkayak.com
The scenic beauty and wildlife spotting during sunset and nature tours on the Rehoboth Bay and Broadkill never disappoint. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to sailboard, certified instructors can help.
19470 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 260-9008 • delmarvaboardsportadventures.com
Choose a standup paddleboard or kayak. Either way, Quest Adventures can lead you on themed tours of the Delaware Bay that explore history, go in search of dolphins, and chase the sunset or sunrise. Save the Pint and Paddle tour up the Broadkill to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for the over-21 members of the family.
514 E. Savannah Road, Lewes, 745-2925 • questkayak.com
One of the best ways to spend a sunny summer afternoon is by floating down the Brandywine Creek—as evidenced by all the folks in your party and the others you’ll see while the area’s premier outfitter leads you on a canoe, kayak or tubing trips. Tours range from a short float to a 12-mile paddle.
2111 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 654-2227 • wildernesscanoetrips.com
Welcome to the Rock
Indoor climbing is perfect for birthday parties and other gatherings.
by Drew Ostroski
The Delaware Rock Gym is one of our all-time favorite places for birthday parties. It’s spacious, inexpensive—and it offers plenty of opportunity for rowdy rug rats to wear themselves out.
You simply need to bring your own party food (tip: have pizza delivered) and the indoor gym provides a person to harness the kids and belay during their climbs.
The rest is equally simple: Climb a little. Inhale pizza. Swill sugary drinks. Back to the rocks. Break to open gifts. Binge on cupcakes. Climb. Repeat.
Rather than having 10 screeching snot-goblins tweaking your last nerve in your back yard or basement, the rock climbing gym allows a parent to drive the kids up the wall. And the other parents love it because they can roll to the mall or a restaurant for a couple hours, guaranteed that their kids will sleep well that night.
While the little darlings are getting their climb on, parents root for the less-athletic kids who struggle to keep up with their lizard-like counterparts. Even other kids will chant for not-so-little Chet to apex on the short wall.
To this day, one of my favorite photos is of my son after he conquered the most difficult wall in front of all his pals. He is dangling from a rope like a giant spider from a thread—wearing the biggest smile you’ll ever see.
There is a reason for the proliferation of trampoline parks over the past few years—they are ridiculously fun. What they share in common: broad expanses of tramps, with banked trampolines on the ends and sides. Where they differ: Some offer special programs for toddlers. Some offer black-light After Dark nights. Some offer fitness programs or scaled-down American Ninja-style challenge courses. Others offer dodge ball courts or basketball nets that even the most inept amateur can slam. All offer a good time that is guaranteed to wear out the whole family.
30174 Foskey Lane, Delmar, (410) 896-2219; 510 Justison St., Wilmington, 397-8142 • altitudewilmington.com
200 Interchange Blvd., Newark, 709-1889 • launchde.com
211 Executive Drive, No. 3, Newark, 449-1252; 10 Conchester Road, Glen Mills, Pa., (484) 418-1500 • skyzone.com
32295 Lewes Georgetown Hwy., Lewes, 827-4453 • shellwebounce.com
MISCELLANEOUS ACTIVE FUN
With vertical routes, overhangs and a bouldering wall, the gym has something for everyone. Instructors will train you in belay so you can prevent your partners from falling, and there are classes, group events and parties to have.
520 Carson Drive, Bear, 838-5850 • derockgym.com
Download a passport, grab your GPS unit, then hit the road. The trail leads you to 72 locations, from historic places to state parks. Find the cache at each, mark your passport, then move on. Find them all, earn a reward. It’s way more fun than playing Pokémon Go.
Tiptoe across catwalks and scramble on rat lines through the trees of Lums Pond State Park. There are zip lines and other obstacles to test the guts and skills for adventurers who meet the height requirements. Courses last from one to three hours, and they will leave you exhilarated.
Lums Pond State Park, 1042 Howell School Road, Bear, (800) 971-8271 • goape.com
GO-KARTS AND WATER PARKS
They go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Here are a few places to slide, splash and spin out.
At River Safari Waterpark, the playground is called a sprayground. Get it? The giant waterslides are always a thrill. Float down the Lazy River. Smash and crash on the bumper boats. When you’ve had enough of the wet and wild, hit the kart track.
36944 Country Club Road, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8444 • funatjunglejims.com
The new slide and splash features just might make this the coolest state park in Delaware. Rent a tent site or cabin to make it a weekend full of endless fun.
Killens Pond State Park, 5025 Killens Pond Road, Felton, 284-4526 • destateparks.com
This indoor speedway features high-performance karts on a nine-turn, quarter-mile track. Kids must be 8 years old and 4 feet tall to race. Light makes might in a kart, but so does experience. You might take your youngster to school. Then again…
4060 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 656-5278 • midatlanticgp.com
Karting may get top billing, but Whitewater Mountain Water Park is a major draw. Play it cool in the pools, or let it slide in the big tube flume.
18645 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 644-2042 • midwayspeedwaypark.com
When you’ve tired of the salty ocean, Thunder Lagoon beckons with six long slides, big pools and a lazy river. Dry out with a round of Viking Mini-Golf or a few laps on the Thunder Lane go-kart slick track.
Viking Golf Amusements, 38960 Island St., Fenwick Island, 539-1644 (karts), 539-4027 (water park) • fenwickfun.com
Rubbin’ is Racin’
Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix is pure adrenaline.
by Danielle Bouchat-Friedman
Iused to scoff when people called NASCAR drivers athletes. How hard could it be to drive? I’m headed to Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix to find out—in a go-kart.
The smell of exhaust stings our noses as my partner and I registerer for a few laps in the gas-powered karts. We get fitted with head socks, helmets and neck braces, then a young man straps us into the karts. “It’s the fastest lap time that wins, not who pulls in first,” he tells us.
My head begins to spin. Is it from the burning rubber and smell of gasoline, the weight of the helmet or my adrenaline?
We’re off—all four drivers—for eight minutes of glory on the track. Plenty of counter steering is required to avoid bumping into the other drivers and the walls as you zip through the nine turns of the quarter-mile track. After a few minutes, my hands begin to cramp and my legs begin to shake—but I hang on.
When it’s all over, my partner places first with a best lap of 24.797 seconds. I place third with a 25.348 seconds.
And with jellied arms and knees, I now understand why NASCAR drivers need to be in such good shape.
Not many cities this size have a zoo, let alone one as remarkable as the Brandywine, which is notable for such mammals as its sloths and capybara. Predators like the serval are impressive animals, and who can get enough of the otters? The zoo plays its part in protecting giant Andean condors, and there are a whole bunch of reptiles. Every weekend brings a special event, and no one else parties like the zoo on holidays like Halloween.
1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, 571-7747 • brandywinezoo.org
Talking to the animals at Ashland Nature Center.//Mark Nardone
The trails at Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin lead along the Red Clay Creek bottom and through the woods and meadows to a bald hill top called the hawk watch. From there, serious birders and casual observers can contribute to counts of hawks, kestrels—even bald eagles—as they fly through on what happens to be one of two main migration routes. Peak viewing comes in August and September. You can see the whole parade depicted on the ceiling of the nature center, which offers programs such as live shows of reptiles, both local and more exotic. Delaware Nature Society’s properties include Coverdale Farm, also in the Red Clay Valley, the DuPont Environmental Education Center on the Wilmington Riverfront, and Abbott’s Mill in Milford, each with its own roster of camps, programs and special events such as the spectacular Harvest Moon Festival at Coverdale.
PO Box 700, Hockessin, 239-2334 • delawarenaturesociety.org
15411 Abbott’s Pond Road, Milford, 422-0847 • delawarenaturesociety.org/AbbottsMillNatureCenter
3511 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, 239-2334 • delawarenaturesociety.org/AshlandNatureCenter
543 Way Road, Greenville, 239-2334 • delawarenaturesociety.org/CoverdaleFarmPreserve
1400 Delmarva Lane, Wilmington, 656-1490 • delawarenaturesociety.org/DuPontEnvironmentalEducationCenter
DOWN ON THE FARM
How many times have you read “Jamberry” to your kids? Now it’s time to get out and gather your own strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries will come into season soon, followed by cherries in the early summer, then peaches and apples. Spring and fall brings special parties to some local farms. Celebrate strawberries, peaches, ice cream, the harvest, Halloween and more. Some offer corn mazes, hay rides, petting and more. Time to find a farm.
1919 Allabands Mill Road, Camden Wyoming, 697-2141 • fiferorchards.com
1343 Bunker Hill Road, Middletown, 378-2754 • facebook.com/FilaskysProduce
33761 Road 268A, Lewes; 34857 Lighthouse Road, Selbyville, 524-8128 • mageefarms.com
1495 Appleton Road, Elkton, Md., (410) 398-1349 • milburnorchards.com
330 Ramsey Road, Wilmington, 477-1499, ramseysfarm.com (Fall only)
Ask for a table on the deck so you can keep a watchful eye on the kids as they climb the playsets and pop Ping-Pong balls toward unsuspecting diners. There’s no end of fun.
36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes, 644-7837 • crookewdhammockbrewery.com
What kid doesn’t love it—or the TV at nearly every table? Or the free balloons and popcorn? ’Nuff said.
Locations statewide • grottopizza.com
With an arcade full of video games and Skee-Ball, bowling lanes and laser tag, there’s enough to keep everyone entertained all day.
36450 Plaza Drive, Lewes, 864-6000 • iloveleftys.com
Palms trees, thatched roofs, picnic tables in the sand on Indian River—what could possibly go wrong? Boat in, or watch the boaters drift in and out all day while the kids play in the sand.
27344 Bay Road, Millsboro, 945-4500 • paradisegrillde.com
Of Beer and Babies
Why Constitution Yards is a godsend.
by Mark Nardone
My six-year-old and I are leaving Nature Detectives camp at the DuPont Environmental Education Center on a bluebird summer afternoon when, nearing Constitution Yards, he yells, “Dad! Beer garden! Let’s go to the beer garden!”
Apparently, we have started him young. And now that the fact is on print, I am preparing for a call from Child Protective Services. I am resigned to answering all charges as guilty.
Truth be told, Your Honor, I’d avoided the place for a long time, despite the fact that most of our parent peers had been there, and more than once. My self-righteous self didn’t believe a place built around the idea of imbibing was any place for little kids, even if it touted itself as family friendly. Taking the youngsters to a beer garden was selfish, at the least, if not totally irresponsible and immoral, a shove down the road to a lifetime of debauchery and iniquity.
And yet, when the text went out from the ringleader of the parent group on Monday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, I consulted my beloved. “We haven’t seen those guys in a while,” she said. “Why not?”
Within minutes of arriving, my worst fears evaporated. The kids built castles in the big sandboxes that dominate the central area, pretended they were bocce champs, and basically ran around blissfully unaware that they were disrupting everyone’s games of Baggo and badminton while we parents—not quite heedless, but close enough—hoisted a couple cold brews. The sun was shining. The breeze was cooling. Life was good.
Because if those kids ever touch a beer as teens, Child Protection will have a much better reason to come calling.
IT'S TIME FOR ICE CREAM
Say hello to members of one of the largest herds of dairy cows in the state while you enjoy ice cream made from the milk they provide—a few always moo right next to the takeout windows. After expressing your gratitude, have a seat at a picnic table while the kids have fun on the big lawn toys.
18186 Dairy Farm Road, Lewes, 645-7163 • hopkinsfarmcreamery.com
You can visit the scoop shops in Greenwood and Dewey Beach, but why not go straight to the source? It’s a great chance to soak up a bit of farm life while enjoying everyone’s favorite dessert food.
4003 Seashore Hwy., Greenwood, 349-5110 • vanderwendefarmcreamery.com
What’s the most popular place in New Castle County after soccer on Saturdays? It just might be Woodside Farm Creamery, where plenty of kids are still kicking balls under the big oak out front while their parents gather in the shade to hear an ad hoc group of pickers and grinners strum and pluck their way through some bluegrass and other old-time music.
1310 Little Baltimore Road, Hockessin, 239-9847 • woodsidefarmcreamery.com
Playing pirate at the Copeland Maritime Center in Delaware.//Mark Nardone
Explore a model of a Swedish log house of the kind that Delaware’s first settlers lived in, roam the deck of a three-quarter scale model of the ship that brought those settlers to the nearby Rocks, and view models of traditional watercraft from around the world. In season, board the tall ship or take a sail. The volunteer crew demonstrates where the phrase “show you the ropes” comes from.
1124 E. Seventh St., Wilmington, 429-7447 • kalmarnyckel.org
Say all you want about “learning” at the museum—indeed, education is at the core of its mission—but the real activity is fun. Play pit crew on a model stock car, sail on the pirate ship, plant a garden, spend all afternoon on the art studio, dam the stream table to change water flow, climb the maze-like Stratosphere tower, build, build, build—the kids think it’s all play. Don’t let them in on the secret.
550 Justison St., Wilmington, 654-2340 • delawarechildrensmuseum.org
It’s all yo ho ho—and possibly a hidden bottle of supremely well-aged rum—at DiscoverSea, where proprietor-collector-raconteur Dale Clifton will regale you with tales of adventures while you browse a trove of 10,000 shipwreck artifacts. It’s a remarkable little place and a fascinating look at maritime culture of yore.
708 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-9366 • discoversea.com
The old one-room schoolhouse next door was once a magnificently cluttered trove of arrowheads, rocks and crystals, bugs and animal taxidermy that could keep anyone browsing for hours. The collection has long since moved to the more orderly science center, but it is as fascinating as ever. For a glimpse of colonial history, walk trails on the property to ancient ore pits where Scots and other settlers extracted iron. The big Archaeology & Heritage Festival happens May 6.
1115 Robert L. Melson Lane, Newark, 368-5703 • ironhillsciencecenter.org
Dinosaurs just never get old. Watch your youngster gawk when greeted by the massive Tyrannosaurus skull near the entrance, then again when encountering the entire skeleton, along with that of a Stegosaurus, deeper inside the museum. Other highlights include a diorama of animals on the African savannah and a walk over a coral reef. The trails outside are an education in the flora and fauna of an Eastern upland forest. And changing exhibitions keep everyone coming back. See The Zoo in You through May 6 to learn about all the microorganisms that call humans home. Weird. Icky. Cool.
4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 658-9111 • delmnh.org
In this beautifully restored 140-year-old building, learn about the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service through exhibits of equipment such as surfboats and breeches buoys fixed with Lyle guns. It shows a totally different, much more rugged side of beach life—long before there were resort towns.
25039 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6991 • destateparks.com
Splashing in the touch tank at the Seaside Nature Center in Lewes.//Mark Nardone
The good folks here thoughtfully cut the barbs off the rays so that children can reach into the shallow saltwater touch tank safely. With those rays they’ll also find whelks, horseshoe crabs and other denizens of the not-so-deep. After meeting them, wander through a hall of large tanks full of every kind of aquatic creature in our stretch of the ocean and bays. You’ll end up in the gift shop—of course—where you can buy bags of super-cool shark teeth and other novelties.
15099 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes, 645-6852 • destateparks.com
The first Sundays of June through November are Steamin’ Days at majestic Auburn Heights, home of the Marshall Steam Museum. The theme changes each month, from the history of auto racing in June to tools and how to use them in October. The garage full of Stanley Steam Cars is cool, but the real attraction is the Auburn Valley Railroad. Ride in miniature rail cars pulled by a 1 1/2-inch scale steam locomotive past a pond, through a tunnel and other features. It’s not unlike when your younger self fantasized about driving your little Lionel.
3000 Creek Road, Yorklyn, 239-2385 • auburnheights.org
The Red Clay Valley is greening for the season, making this a terrific time to see it from the inside of a vintage coach. The WWRR is step back to a time when travel was a far more genteel experience, as docents dressed as proper Victorian ladies, the conductors are other enthusiastic volunteers gladly explain. The ride takes you past granite cliffs and over narrow bridges before a brief stop in Ashland or Hockessin before the return trip. When the leaves turn in fall, the ride is a totally different experience. Beware the gift shop—just try denying anything to a train-stoked kid. And who doesn’t want a birthday party in the caboose?
2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, 998-1930 • wwrr.com
The Best Beach for Kids—Ever
In praise of a tranquil bay.
by Mark Nardone
Iforesaw exactly how it would go.
As an ankle-snapper wave approached the beach, my two-year-old ran toward the surf, squealing with delight. My betrothed, fearing the worst, called for help. I sauntered toward the sea’s edge, triangulating the point and moment of impact. The plan: I would arrive two seconds before the wave gently knocked Sonny down at my feet, and I would let the wave wash over him for the briefest of moments while he—fearless in the water, despite his tender age—would learn a modicum of respect for the ocean.
The logistics were spot on. My approach, however, was not. What I could not foresee was that Sonny would come up laughing, none the wiser about the ocean’s power, and that I would be threatened with divorce.
And so it was that, when friends told us about Lewes Beach, we migrated away from Cape Henlopen.
This did not thrill me. I like waves—the bigger, the better. Lewes Beach, situated on the bay in the wave shadow of the cape, held all the thrill of a wading pool.
Which is exactly why it is perfect for youngsters. There is no surf to speak of, no more than bit of wind chop on the breeziest of days. The incoming tide doesn’t swallow the beach, and an extreme low tide often leaves the bottom exposed for yards, giving little ones plenty of room to roam. There are things to see, such as the Cape May Lewes Ferry and Kalmar Nyckel sailing by all day long. The Lions Club snack shack and Dairy Queen are a short walk across the beach, should you run out of drinks and snacks. The price of parking is fair (get there before 10 a.m. on weekends to nab a spot). And unlike at some municipal beaches, you are still permitted to throw balls and toss Frisbees and fly kites.
Best of all, there are kids everywhere, and they make friends as only kids can. Which means you’ll end up making friends, too.
Take the littles to Biggs Kids on the first Saturday of every month for a special tour of the galleries and a staff-led crafting project. It’s free.
406 Federal St., Dover, 674-2111 • biggsmuseum.org
Among special programs are monthly Read-Aloud tours. Kids hear a story, then get a chance to see it come to life through the museum.
1 Hoffman’s Mill Road., Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-2700 • brandywine.org
It’s called Glory of Stories here, but the idea is the same: Hear a classic tale, see related works from the collection. Explore the interactive Kids’ Corner to spark everyone’s creativity.
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, 571-9590 • delart.org
For 40 years, this institution has been many a local kids introduction to the world of live theater. And it has launched past players such as Johnny Gallagher and Aubrey Plaza into the world of big time entertainment. This season concludes with Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.,” starting April 28.
1014 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 803-4184 • dechildrenstheatre.org
This hidden gem features magic in an intimate Victorian-style theater where the featured guest has a trick for every volunteer in the audience, no matter his or her age.
35715 Atlantic Ave., Millville, 829-1071 • dptmagic.com
Family performers have featured drummers, tumblers, bagpipers, lazer shows, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s family performances and more, either on the main stage or in the baby grand, and they are all thrilling.
818 N. Market St., Wilmington, 652-5577 • thegrandwilmington.org
There is always something to learn during regular events like Invention Convention and Science Saturdays, as well as a full roster of holiday programming. But the spectacular stretch of Brandywine it calls home is also one of the most beautiful places in the state for a family stroll.
200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, 658-2400 • hagley.org
Emerging botanists, gardeners, arborists and naturalists will delight in lectures and tours made just for them, and they’ll be knocked out by the fountain show. But the real spectacle is the stunning childrens garden in the Conservatory. It is filled with hidden delight.
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 388-1000 • longwoodgardens.org
Not only can everyone take lessons and see regular performances, but the annual open house with instrument petting zoo is an evening full of fun for all.
23 N. Walnut St., Milford, 422-2043; 4101 Washington St., Wilmington, 762-1132 • musicschoolofdelaware.org
There was a time when every school kid in the state visited The Playhouse for such classics as Peter Pan. The recent season brought favorite characters such as the Shopkins and Skipyjohn Jones. You never know what will play next.
1007 N. Market St., Wilmington, 888-0200 • www.thegrandwilmington.org
For nearly four decades, the two actors of this delightfully tiny troupe have tackled every character in their plays. This summer brings “Cinderella,” “Aladdin” and “Androcles and the Lion.”
19285 Holland Glade Road, Rehoboth Beach, 227-6766 • rehobothchildrenstheatre.org
Instructor Bill Currier introduces babies to music with their parents, gets toddlers involved and teaches guitar to little ones through sessions of various lengths at locations across northern Delaware.
850 Mount Lebanon Road, Wilmington, (610) 490-0695 • wekidsrock.com
What’s this amid the towering oaks of Winterthur? It’s a magic garden where wee ones can explore the Tulip Tree House and Faerie Cottage. They may meet a wood sprite or two.
5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 888-4600 • winterthur.org
There is nothing like pro-level basketball without pro-level prices—unless it’s kids in a free-throw duel between periods. The NBA G League action is hot, and the arena (the Bob Carpenter Center at UD this year, set to move to a new fieldhouse on the Wilmington Riverfront for the 2018-19 season) is full of fun stuff for kids: Velcro walls, bounce houses and more. The break dancers alone are worth the price of admission.
300 MLK Jr. Blvd., No. 200, Wilmington, 504-7587 • delaware.gleague.nba.com
The home opener—April 6 against Lynchburg—is always a joyous occassion, the surest sign of spring. But look for the open house before that (management keeps it hush hush until the final days), when you can meet the players and Rocky Bluewinkle himself and play games to win Blue Rocks hats, balls, bobbleheads and other prizes. There are fireworks on Friday nights and giveways all season long. Call it good ol’-fashioned fun.
801 Shipyard Drive, Wilmington, 888-2015 • milb.com
You can watch great teams compete in several sports, but there’s no question that Fightin’ Blue Hens football is among the best family entertainment there is—even more so since part of the parking area was transformed into a midway-like area with games for the kids and the UD Creamery truck. Inside the stadium, the antics of mascot YoUDee keep everyone laughing.
A middle-aged musician shows kids how to do it right.
by Brandon Holveck
Exposing children to music at a young age has been shown to accelerate brain development, improving their ability to process sound and perceive speech, speeding language development and sharpening reading skill.
The emphasis of We Kids Rock is not on getting smarter, however, but on having a good time. “A lot of parents like it as much as their kids, because they see their kids react to it,” says founder Bill Currier.
Currier, a professional musician for more than 25 years, founded We Kids Rock family music lessons in 2007 to make children’s music “as listenable as possible” and to help kids and parents have fun while learning. Since then, Currier has led classes in Wilmington, Newark and beyond with his charming vocals, rhythmic guitar, original music and other kid favorites.
Most families in the program also listen to We Kids Rock CDs, which feature Currier’s songs fleshed out with a full band. Currier says the students sometimes know the words better than he does.
Playing to a raucous crowd of eight one- and two-year-olds and their parents on a recent evening, Currier led the group through songs such as “Pony Boy” and “Socks and Shoes” before pulling out drums, egg shakers and plastic toy instruments for a grand finale.
This is no mere babysitting service. The parents sang and danced as enthusiastically as their children, and the children followed Currier’s instructions throughout most of the 45-minute session. Even I held down an egg shaker ostinato.
“You could be having the worst day of your life, but you can’t help but smile when you’re around the kids,” Currier says.