Peter Plockhoy's Unknown End

The founder of Zwaanendael imagined it as a utopia. His ultimate fate remains a mystery.


Published:

Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper

Perhaps Peter Plockhoy (ca. 1620-ca. 1670) should have considered it an omen when he saw the corpse of Oliver Cromwell dragged through London in 1660.

A Dutch utopian, Plockhoy spent three years in London, trying to drum up support for a colony in Delaware. That effort came to nothing, though Plockhoy later found backers in Amsterdam. In July 1663, he and 24 families arrived and settled near present-day Lewes, a place they called Zwaanendael, “Valley of the Swans.”

The settlement lasted a year. In 1664, English troops led by Col. Richard Carr seized Dutch-controlled Delaware and burned the Zwaanendael settlement to the ground. As demonstrated by the restoration of the English monarchy, England had lost its taste for counter-cultural ideas about living without kings or war.

“In Carr’s eyes, a bunch of weirdoes and seditious heretics, and his mission to root them out, was merely extending policies already enacted in England,” wrote historian Bart Plantenga. “To this end, he followed orders beyond any call of duty.”

Born in the port city of Zierikzee, Plockhoy came of age during the Eighty-Year War (1568-1648), during which the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) struggled to escape Spanish rule. Spain was a Catholic country, so the resistance also took an anti-Catholic form.

“Science, logic and pragmatism threatened traditional orthodoxies,” wrote Plantenga. “Rampages of iconoclasm—the smashing of Catholic images—by roving bands led by Protestant nobles and Calvinist exiles occurred in Zeeland and throughout Holland.”

Little seems to be known of Plockhoy’s family background. He was, however, a childhood friend of Galenus de Haan, the son of a Mennonite preacher. At the time, the Mennonites were split between bickering traditionalists and a progressive, anti-sectarian wing that styled itself as “collegiants.”

Collegiants advocated replacing most of organized religion with informal meetings at which people of various faiths would gather to sing Psalms, read scripture, and discuss both the Bible and contemporary issues. Plockhoy and his friend de Haan became enthusiastic Collegiants.

From Zierikzee, Plockhoy moved on to Amsterdam, where he worked as either a tinsmith or carpenter. But that was only his day job. Plockhoy also became a fixture in Amsterdam’s intellectual circles, where the hot topics of the day were improving the lot of the poor and improving civic virtue. That seems safe enough, but Plockhoy seems to have attracted controversy. Dutch historian Henk Looijesteijn cites “loose sexual morals,” as well as a public defense of polygamy.

According to Plantenga, Plockhoy responded affirmatively when a Collegiant discussion posed a theoretical question: “When a man by marriage is bound to a woman, may he sleep with his maid-servant without transgression?” Plockhoy simply noted that the Bible cited several examples of polygamy without criticism. Some agreed, but conservative backlash may have been responsible for Plockhoy’s decision to move to London in the late 1650s.

England was in its Commonwealth period. The last king, Charles I, had been beheaded in 1649, at the end of the English civil war, and a republic had been declared. The power of the state church had also been reduced, unleashing a wave of sects and religious experimenters. In such an environment, Plockhoy thought he might win official support for a proposal to found an idealistic community, somewhere removed from the sins of the world.

“Looking round-about me, where to make a beginning to rectifie those evils, I found no better object in Christendome then the Lord Protector,” wrote Plockhoy, referring to Cromwell, who had taken the reins of government after the king’s death. Plockhoy won several audiences with Cromwell, lobbying him to replace the Church of England with a Collegiant system.

Cromwell was apparently sympathetic, but died in 1658 without acting on any of Plockhoy’s ideas. When Charles II, son of Charles I, restored the monarchy two years later, his vengeance for the execution of his father extended to plucking Cromwell’s corpse from his grave for a posthumous “execution.” He posted Cromwell’s head on a spike at Westminster Hall.

Plockhoy subsequently published their correspondence in a pamphlet, “A Way Propounded to make the Poor in these and other Nations Happy.” He envisioned the poor, rather than struggle individually, living communally according to Christ’s tenets and avoiding sin. Receptivity to such ideas declined rapidly after the restoration, however. In 1661, Plockhoy returned to Amsterdam and began to lobby the managers of the Netherlands’ American colony.

He got lucky. New Netherland had never attracted many farmers because earlier immigrants had preferred fur trading. So the magistrates of Amsterdam agreed to fund a colony “to work at farming, fishing, handicrafts, etc.” Plockhoy and his followers sailed in May 1663 aboard the ship St. Jacob.

It wasn’t quite utopia after all. The natives never attacked, but their reception of the newcomers was cool enough that Plockhoy eventually agreed to post sentries. The colony wrote a criminal code.

“Plockhoy also discovered, to his disillusionment, that he had to coerce others into rotating decision-making responsibilities and new tasks,” wrote Plantenga. Still, Zwaanendael survived.

Then came the English. England had long disliked having a Dutch colony located between New England and its southern colonies, so in August 1664, an English squadron seized New Amsterdam, which subsequently became New York. A month later, Carr’s detachment—small, but big enough to intimidate Zwaanendael—arrived to announce that the settlement would be burned.

“Some historians maintain that several settlers were slain, others driven into the wilderness,” wrote Plantenga. “As (Peter) Stuyvesant notes in his diaries, they had ‘demanded good treatment which, however, they did not obtain.’”

The fate of Plockhoy, who completely missed that omen in London, is unknown. 

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Website »

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cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

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March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
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Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

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From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

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TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

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NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

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Thursdays  Storytime at the Brandywine Zoo, 10:30 am. - 11:15 am Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story Time may include a craft, activity, or live animal...

Cost: Adults $7, Seniors $5, Kids $5; free for under 3yrs and for Zoo members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
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Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

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Start your Sunday on the water with our delicious brunch cruise. Enjoy a mouth-watering brunch buffet, then begin a two-hour cruise along the beautiful Christina River out to the Delaware, complete...

Cost: $45 for Adults, $22,50 for Children 15 and Under

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Mingle with friends and enjoy live music on the terrace or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights...

Cost: Museum Admission is Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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Start your weekend early on the Queen! Enjoy all the sights of our River Cruise from the ship’s deck with a summer cocktail! Our Happy Hour Cruises take you down the Christina and provide weekly...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890

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Book your party of 10+ people on The Patio & receive 10% off for everyone in your group, in addition to a reserved table! Offer available only when prearranged. The Patio at Market Kitchen...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Market Kitchen & Bar at the Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Laura Story is a GRAMMY award-winning singer/ songwriter and bestselling author who has received Billboard Music Awards, multiple GMA Dove Awards, and an RIAA Gold Certification for her massive No....

Cost: $26-$38

Where:
The Grand Opera House
818 N. Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: MARKINC.org
Telephone: 302-584-6461
Contact Name: Melissa Weisenfels
Website »

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The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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Plein Air, an exhibition of local landscape paintings by Jim Rehak, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 3-31, 2019. The artist will host a free opening reception on Friday, May 3 from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

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Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Every Friday | 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Read a story fromFairy Tales to Nursery Rhymes, explore art, and create. Ages 2+. Family Friendly.  

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentemere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

The Milton Farmers’ Market is held each Friday from April 19th until October 4th  (except September 27th) from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at 6 Village Center Boulevard, Milton, DE  19968.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grounds of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Village Center Boulevard
Milton, DE  19968
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Sponsor: Milton Farmers' Market
Contact Name: KA Jordan
Website »

More information

Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Overfalls Foundation Benefit and Auctions will be held on Friday, May 24, 6-9PM, at the Virden Center in Lewes. There will be great food and drink and also live music by local band 33-1/3...

Cost: $50-$55

Where:
Virden Center
1155 College Drive
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: The Overfalls Foundation
Telephone: 412-384-0600
Contact Name: Victoria Kosko
Website »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The 12th annual Artisans Fair will feature unique handcrafted art objects. Artisans will exhibit both inside and outside, showing textiles, fine art, glass, jewelry, photography, woodworking,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
120 Atlantic Ave.
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
View map »


Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

Every Sat. & Sun.: Creature Features, Noon- 12:30pm, www.brandywinezoo.org (302) 571-7747 Stop by our Creature Feature for a close encounter with one of our zoo education animals. Meet a scaled,...

Cost: Adults $ 5, Seniors $4, Kids $3; free for under 3yrs and for members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

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