Things to do on a budget this winter in Delaware


Just 96 miles long and less than 35 miles across, the small Mid-Atlantic state of Delaware is a popular destination with travellers thanks to its miles of pristine beaches, charming coastal towns and bucolic countryside. Easily navigable owing to its size, you can certainly pack in plenty of things to see and do while you’re here. Despite its modest scale, the state’s art and foodie scenes punch above its weight, while beach boutiques offer ample opportunities for retail therapy.

Tidbury Park near the Delaware city of Dover (Photo: Jeffrey via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Winter in Delaware is particularly atmospheric, with many of its cute colonial villages entering into the spirit with various holiday-themed events and activities. Museums, too, rise to the occasion with winter exhibitions and other special events enticing you indoors to escape the harsher seasonal climes. Here’s our pick of the best you’ll find when it comes winter fun and adventure in Delaware.

Enjoy a hot air balloon ride

There are few more atmospheric times to embark on a hot air balloon adventure than during a crisp winter’s day. Delmarva Balloon Rides are an acclaimed company that run balloon rides over Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware for groups of anywhere between 2 and 10 people. During the hour-long rides you’ll sail gently through the skies, floating over corn fields, rivers, and treetops (grab a leaf if you can), and there’s even the chance to spot wild animals like deer and birds along the way, too. The magical experience ends with a post flight toast with champagne or sparkling cider along with a fascinating narrated story about the history of ballooning.

(Photo: Delmarva Balloon Rides)

Catch a light show on the Wilmington riverfront

Every winter a small stretch of the scenic Wilmington Riverwalk, is transformed into a temporary ice skating rink that can accommodate up to 350 skaters at any one time. This year, instead of ice skating, the venue is playing host to an incredible Winter in Wilmington Drive-Thru Light Show that will see the boardwalk transformed into a sea of colours, all set against stunning ocean views.

LOCATION Wilmington Downtown Riverwalk DATES 27 November – 3 January

Watch wreaths being placed on soldiers’ graves

The Greater Harrington Society has three museums filled with local artifacts detailing the story of the area, its citizens and its growth. These buildings include a church from 1875, a working 1950’s soda fountain, a train tower from the 1920’s, and how area’s citizens have impacted local, national, and even international events. At exactly 12pm on December 19 this year the museum will stage its annual Wreaths Across America event, placing wreaths on the graves of fallen local veterans during the holiday season.

LOCATION Greater Harrington Society, Harrington HOURS Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon-Sat

(Photo: Greater Harrington Society)

Learn how to make a holiday wreath

This winter Rockwood Park & Museum in Wilmington invites arts and crafts enthusiasts to come and learn how to design a beautiful wreath with which to decorate your homes for the holiday season. Hosted by an experienced instructor, attendees at the one-day outdoor workshop are asked to bring garden gloves and wire cutters to help with the job at hand and ensure you come away with a creation fit to adorn your pad for the cosy months ahead.

LOCATION Rockwood Park & Museum, Wilmington DATES 13 December 2020

Go sledding at Bear Mountain

Delaware is home to a huge number of top class sledding hills and among the most popular can be found in Glasgow Regional Park close to the city of Newark. Nicknamed “Bear Mountain”, it is said to be one of the biggest sledding hills anywhere in the state, featuring broad slopes that are ideal for hurtling down aboard either a sled or tube. The park is also home to a skating rink and a historic carousel with 36 hand-carved woodland creatures.

LOCATION Glasgow Park, Newark

(Photo: John Verive via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Attend a magical Winter festival

Since 2016 Winter WonderFest, Delaware’s biggest holiday fundraiser event, has captivated revellers with its seasonal activities, rides and games. This year the event will be reimagined as an entirely stay-in-your-car experience titled The WonderFest Express: A Journey to the North Pole. Most of the usual attractions won’t be open, but the Light Spectacular will provide a visually stunning show with a climactic finale in the shape of a Santa’s Workshop performance complete with Santa presiding over a number of elves hard at work.

LOCATION Hudson Fields, Milton DATES 21 November-31 December 2020

Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be fitting a stop at The Hagley Museum in Wilmington into their extremely busy schedule in early December where for one day only they’ll be making appearances and posing for selfies. Children will be invited to write their holiday wish list in advance and drop them into a bucket, while elves will be on hand to give out individually wrapped cookies to good girls and boys.

LOCATION The Hagley Museum, Wilmington DATES 5 December

(Photo: TravelingOtter via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peruse local art at a fundraising festival

A major fundraising event, each year over 20 artists display and sell limited edition prints, original watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels, sculpture, fine jewellery and mosaics at the three-day Hockessin Art Festival, with proceeds going to benefit the Wilmington & Western Railroad, Be sure to catch the Festival Express departing from the Hockessin Memorial Hall every hour on the Saturday and Sunday.

LOCATION Hockessin Memorial Hall, Hockessin DATES February 2021

Explore a national wildlife refuge

Situated on the west shore of the Delaware Bay, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge serves as an important stopover site for migratory birds as they travel up and down the Atlantic Flyway. It provides protected breeding habitat for several threatened and endangered species, while a wide number of fish, reptile, amphibian, and mammal species can also be found here. Winter sees an abundance of wildlife spotting opportunities, with December the prime time for catching sight of eagles and other wintering birds including waterfowl. The new year is when red tailed and marsh hawks are commonly observed, while February sees large flocks of ducks and geese take to the marshes.

LOCATION Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Milton HOURS Mon-Fri 7.30am-4pm Sat-Sun 9am-4pm

(Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Discover diverse wetland habitats

Another great outdoor winter attraction (so long as you wrap up warm) is Lums Pond State Park. Home to the largest freshwater pond in Delaware, the park is a haven for nature lovers and features hugely diverse habitats, particularly along the pond’s edge. Visitors can also hire a variety of boats to take onto the water, and back on land there are also several bike trails for all skill levels.

LOCATION Lums Pond State Park, Bear 19 December 2020

By Paul Joseph