Towns that Have It All
Arts, shopping, dining and an overall cool vibe.
Rocking at the popular Bellefonte Cafe. // Photo by Joe del Tufo
One of Wilmington’s earliest and most significant suburbs, Bellefonte is a town with lots of character and a colorful vibe.
Wedged between the sprawl of the Philadelphia Pike and the hustle of I-495, Bellefonte often gets overlooked or, worse yet, lumped together with everything north of 41st Street in Wilmington. That sensitivity about borders stems from a sense of independence. Bellefonte was incorporated in 1915 after the merger of three separate communities—Montrose, Montrose Terrace Addition and Bellefonte Heights—so residents feel as if they’re part of something more than an amorphous suburb.
The architecture contributes to the sense of individuality. A mix of small bungalows, cape cods and plain brick structures graces its 24 tree-lined streets. A five-member town commission oversees daily operations and a planning board reviews zoning. Major services are handled by New Castle County, while the town provides trash removal, plowing, street lights and routine maintenance.
Brandywine Boulevard is Bellefonte’s main street and central business district. It is easily accessible by foot to all residents. Once home to a trolley line that linked Bellefonte and Wilmington, it is now home to a vibrant mix of businesses, including art galleries, resale shops, specialty boutiques, a caterer and a café. There’s even a law office, a chair caning business and an old-fashioned barber shop. These businesses form the backbone of Bellefonte’s economy.
One of those businesses is Eclectica, a specialty store which is a bit like Bellefonte itself: quirky but congenial. The shop features gifts, jewelry and home decor, as well as kitschy fun and vintage goodies. Artopia is another unique shop that carries locally crafted gifts and fine art—in addition to offering reflexology, massage and Reiki. Bellefonte Arts showcases the work of local artists while offering one-of-a-kind gifts at reasonable prices. Reimagined Wares and Nicole Kristiana Studio round out the arts scene. Joining Bellefonte Vintage is resale and consignment shop Dizzy Dames, which opened last year. Then there’s Bellefonte Café, a popular hangout known for good food, local entertainment and a funky vibe.
NEWARK: NOT JUST FOR STUDENTS
Georgian architecture, high-caliber arts, stimulating lectures and the athletic prowess of the Fightin’ Blue Hens—much of life in Newark centers on the University of Delaware.
Newark followed the typical path of agriculture-based development until a small preparatory academy moved there from New London, Pennsylvania, in 1765. The town and school grew together slowly until the academy evolved into the city’s largest landowner and one of its largest employers.
Today the university provides a wealth of cultural and educational opportunities open to all. There are world-class lecturers, first-rate music and theater, and exhibits in its three museums—and the university waives tuition for degree candidates over 60.
Mile-long Main Street is home to scores of shops, boutiques and restaurants. Style meets whimsy at eco-friendly Grassroots, Heart and Home, and fashion-forward Bloom Boutique. The Days of Knights features unique items for the fantasy fan. Nostalgia buffs will enjoy rummaging through the ever-changing inventory of collectibles at Aunt Margaret’s Antique Mall. The Ski Bum and two bicycle shops feed the need of local outdoor enthusiasts.
The restaurant scene is a melting pot of delights. Foodies can enjoy traditional Middle Eastern fare amid the Moroccan decor of Ali Baba, or they can grab Vietnamese-style hoagies at Banh-Mi Boy. Taverna and Caffé Gelato offer the finest traditions of Italian food, while classic American fare gets dished up at the iconic settings of Klondike Kate’s, Deer Park and Stone Balloon. Café 67 at Newark Natural Foods offers a quick stop for a healthy meal.
Newark lays claim to an equally vibrant homegrown arts scene. The city boasts its own symphony orchestra. The Newark Arts Alliance offers classes and provides local artists with the opportunity to show and sell their work. And there is always good theater at Chapel Street Players.
Nearby White Clay Creek State Park features 37 miles of hiking and biking trails, along with fishing and a nature center. A network of multi-use trails through town links all.
Housing runs the gamut, from quaint neighborhoods bordering the campus to a smattering of historic homes to well-established, affordable subdivisions.
You’ll see the neighbors out and about during the annual restaurant week, Community Day, A New Night Downtown, the Memorial Day parade and trick-or-treating on Main Street.
Photo by Joe del Tufo
Dover delivers big-town amenities with small-town charm. The state capital boasts two university campuses, historic sites galore and 10 nationally recognized museums, including the quirky Johnson Victrola Museum and the Biggs Museum of American Art. There is a lively arts scene, with music and film at the Schwartz Center for the Arts and drama at the Kent County Theatre Guild. Much shopping, dining and entertainment takes place at Dover Downs, yet downtown Dover remains vital, with specialty shops like Bel Boutique and eateries like 33 West Alehouse and Grill. The city core retains many beautiful Victorian homes.
Photo by Joe del Tufo
Milford begs to be explored. The Mispillion Riverwalk beckons users to bike or walk through the city. History buffs learn about Milford’s past lives at the Milford Museum and Abbott’s Mill. Walnut Street invites shoppers to discover gourmet confections at Sugar Bee Boutique, caramel popcorn at DelMarVa Popcorn and Nut Co. and the ultimate in pet pampering at Fur Baby. There are galleries galore and the Riverfront Theater, where the Second Street Players perform. Bonus: Bayhealth’s Milford Memorial hospital is expanding. Find neighborhoods of ramblers alongside water-front Victorians.
The Nation’s Summer Capital isn’t just for summer anymore. There are plenty of wow-factor boutiques downtown, as well as 110 brand-name stores at Tanger Outlets. The restaurants are legendary. Culture gets its due through the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, the venerable Rehoboth Art League and the Clear Space Theatre Company. Browseabout Books remains a hub for community involvement, as do events like the annual Sea Witch Festival and Christmas tree lighting, the yearly chocolate festival, and the film and jazz festivals. Bonus for families: Local kids attend excellent Cape Henlopen schools.