New Castle County is situated in the northernmost portion of Delaware.
It’s the state’s smallest county, but also the most populous, having a bigger population than Kent and Sussex combined.
The county has a colorful history, having been under both the Swedish and Dutch empires in the 17th century.
In 1638, following a series of expeditions, the Swedes established the first settlement in the region, Fort Christina, in present-day Wilmington.
The Dutch forces then took control of the territory in 1655 but were eventually ousted by the Scots in in the 1660s.
Today, New Castle County is the state’s most economically developed county, with its county seat, Wilmington, having the lion’s share of urbanization.
Here are the best things to do in New Castle County:
Shop Fresh Produce at the New Castle Farmers Market
With over 70 vendors, the market has a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and international foods.
We went there on a Saturday morning, and the market was packed.
We weren’t looking for anything and just wanted to check out what the fuss is all about.
There were fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal bread, spices, and even hot, homemade food selections.
The flea market in the parking lot was also filled with unique knickknacks, antiques, vintage jewelry, and even furniture pieces.
I’m a big sweet tooth, and there was no shortage of freshly baked pastries and donuts inside the New Castle Farmers Market.
Try Jessops’ Tavern’s Shepherd’s Pie
The casual pub is housed in a circa-1674 Colonial-style building that gives it a rustic feel.
Sitting right at the heart of New Castle’s historic district, Jessop’s Tavern is designed to look like an 18th-century colonial tavern, complete with period costumes and décor.
The menu features traditional English and American dishes that pay tribute to the county’s colonial past, such as the New Sweden Meatloaf and the Olde English Fish and Chips.
I ordered the famous Shepherd’s Pie, which had layers of well-seasoned beef and house-made mashed potatoes slathered with special gravy.
Our group also had the “Hutspot” Dutch Pot Roast, which was slow-cooked in a flavorful stew and served with mashed potatoes.
They also have a rotating menu of local and imported draft beers and a wide selection of specialty wines.
Learn About Delaware's Role in the Founding of the Nation at the First State National Historical Park
The 1,100-acre park commemorates Delaware's role in the signing of the Constitution and includes several historic sites, including the Old Swedes Church, which dates back to 1698 and is one of the oldest churches in the country.
Also within the park is the John Dickinson Plantation, which was the childhood home of John Dickinson, who is widely regarded as one of the country’s founding fathers.
We joined a guided tour of the park and our knowledgeable guide shared stories about each of the sites we visited.
All in all, there are seven historic sites within the park, but we only managed to go to 6 as the Sherriff’s House was closed to visitors.
Taste Locally Brewed Craft Beers at Brick Works Brewing & Eats
Located on S Dupont Blvd, Smyrna is Brick Works Brewing & Eats.
The brewery produces a range of handcrafted beers made with locally sourced ingredients.
I’m a big fan of IPAs, while my dad enjoys his stout and lager, so we decided to try this place out.
Do note that they have a rotating draft list, so there’s a chance you won’t find the ones we ordered.
I tried the "Settle the Score IPA," which is I would describe as clean and bright, with hints of tropical, citrus fruits.
My dad had the “Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Stout”, which, we were told, was brewed with salt and chocolate to resemble the taste of chocolate-covered pretzels.
The restaurant also offers a menu of American pub classics, including burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
I wanted something light, so I opted for the Tuna Poke Salad, which was refreshing with the watermelon vinaigrette.
Know More About the DuPont Family at the Hagley Museum and Library
The National Historic Landmark is situated on the site of the original DuPont powder mills and showcases the history of the Dupont family, as well as early industrial technology innovations that influenced American history.
The 235-acre estate includes an indoor museum and vast grounds that include a Renaissance Revival garden.
We booked an Exclusive Experience with VIP Tour for our group of 6.
Our guide took us to the black powder yards, where we witnessed a demo of the black powder mill and a controlled black powder explosion.
We were also taken to the original DuPont family home, where memorabilia and personal effects of the family are displayed.
Savor Small-Batch Brews at Painted Stave Distilling
Located on W Commerce St, Smyrna is Painted Stave Distilling.
It boasts its handcrafted spirits that are locally brewed in small batches.
We had a mini tour of the distillery, where one of the staff was kind enough to tell us about their distilling process, from fermentation to bottling.
We then headed to the tasting room where we sampled the beers and paired them with some seasonal items on the food menu.
They also have a wide selection of seasonal handcrafted cocktails.
We ordered the Spring Flight, which included 4 samples of their best-selling cocktails Strawberry Basil Lemonade, Secret Garden, Blackberry Bramble, and Off the Island.
Enjoy Fresh Seafood at Crabby Dick's
Located on Clinton St, Delaware City is Crabby Dick’s.
The restaurant boasts a surf ‘n turf menu which includes fresh seafood dishes, such as crab cakes, shrimp, and oysters, as well as burgers and sandwiches.
It was a sunny Saturday morning, so we opted for outdoor patio seating.
Crabby Dick’s owes its roots to the local crabbing industry, which is why it’s one of the best crab restaurants in the city.
I had Rockfish with Crab Cake, while my mom ordered Shrimp and Crab Egg Rolls.
They also have a wide array of craft beers and cocktails to go with your food.
Witness a Columbiad Cannon’s Firepower at the Fort Delaware State Park
Located on Clinton St, Delaware City is the Fort Delaware State Park.
The 288-acre park is accessible only by ferry and features a Civil War-era fort that was used as a prison camp.
We booked our ferry and entrance tickets in advance, but you can also buy park tickets on-site.
Make sure to check the ferry schedule, though we were informed that the park operates rain or shine, and the ferries remain docked during rough weather conditions.
Luckily, we went on a sunny Sunday morning.
Our guide was wearing a full 1860s costume while leading us to the prisoner barracks sharing anecdotes about great escapes.
We were also treated to a cannon firing show, where a Columbiad cannon was loaded with real gunpowder.
Explore the Interactive Exhibits at the Delaware Children's Museum
The museum features a variety of interactive exhibits that encourage learning through play.
We took my nieces and nephews to the museum on our last day in the city.
There are 10 interactive exhibits in the museum, but the kids especially enjoyed the DCM Earth Balloon, which is a 19-foot inflatable globe.
A knowledgeable guide used the balloon as a visual aid in teaching the kids basic geography, map skills, and geology.
They also had fun at the "Bank on It" exhibit, where they learned the basics of money management and budgeting as well as the "Stratosphere" exhibit where they climbed the 30-foot diameter obstacle course.
One of the most popular exhibits is the "ECOnnect," which focuses on environmental science and sustainability.
Here, the kids learned about recycling, renewable energy sources, and the importance of conservation.
Go Fishing at White Clay Creek State Park
The park features over 37 miles of scenic walking and biking trails, where you can spot a variety of wildlife, including deer and foxes as well as colorful wildflowers.
It’s also a famous birdwatching spot, with over 200 species of birds calling the 3,600-acre nature preserve their home.
We went there on a Sunday morning complete with our fishing gear.
White Clay Creek is a catch-and-release spot for largemouth bass and bluegills.
A few minutes after throwing my first bait and I already caught a brown trout, while my dad was able to catch a rainbow trout.
If you’re not into fishing, there are pavilions and picnic areas with grills around the park for small gatherings and quick lunches.
Sample the Cake Pops at Sweet Melissa Bakery
The bakery features a full European-style coffee bar and a well-stocked display case filled with colorful pastries and cakes.
I read that this bakery is famous for its cake pops, but the cakes and cookies looked really inviting as well.
The kids loved the designs of the cake pops, so we ordered a dozen as well as a chocolate chip cookie, a cannoli, and a lava cake.
The cake pops are moist and the chocolate coating with sprinkles made them fun to eat.
I really enjoyed the lava cake, as the inside was perfectly runny, and I could tell it was made with high-quality dark chocolate.
Try Klondike Kate's Restaurant & Saloon’s Cheesesteak Egg Rolls
Sitting right in the heart of downtown Newark, the restaurant is housed in a circa-1880 building, with rustic decor that will take you back in time.
Kate’s offers classic American pub favorites as well as handcrafted cocktails.
We went there on a Monday night and chanced upon their weekly Quiz Night.
We were told that there are late-night specials throughout the week, and for that night, we were offered Captain Morgan mixed drinks.
I ordered The Whole Shebang for sharing, consisting of cheesesteak egg rolls, Bavarian pretzels, mozzarella sticks, and chicken quesadillas.
I also had the Bing Bong Burger, which is made with an all-beef grilled hot dog patty and their house-made chili.
Sample Creole Classics at Nora Lees
The restaurant boasts classic Creole dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and po’boys, made with fresh ingredients.
We ordered one of the most popular dishes on the menu, the Voodoo Crawfish Tails, which is made with juicy crawfish tails and onions sauteed in house-made spicy barbecue sauce.
We also had chicken and sausage gumbo, which is a hearty stew made with chicken, spicy sausage, and a special mix of spices.
Other must-try items include the Cajun Cheesesteak, the Shrimp Po’boy, and the Blackened Crab Cake.
I was craving something sweet after our lunch, so I decided to split a slice of Peanut Butter Tandy Cake with my mom.
Marvel at the Architecture of the Nemours Estate
The 200-acre country estate was built in the early 20th century by Alfred du Pont and features a stunning French chateau with 77 rooms.
The 4-story mansion spans a total of 47,000 square feet with ornate furnishings, rare art pieces, and stunning chandeliers.
We were led by our tour guide from room to room while sharing anecdotes about the DuPont family’s fortune during the 1920s.
We especially enjoyed walking around the beautifully manicured gardens with fountains, sculptures, and a reflecting pool.
The gold-plated statue looked like it was glowing under the sunlight, while the Boxwood Garden made us feel like we were at the Gardens of Versailles.
Find Amish Goods at the Dutch Country Farmers Market
The market brings together around 20 vendors that offer a variety of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and more.
Upon entering the market, I already had a whiff of cinnamon and freshly baked bread coming from A&R Bakery.
I had a sticky bun while my parents picked up some Amish Apple Dumplings.
We entered Danny Mertz Discount Décor and found a few trinkets that would go well in the barn we’re converting next summer.
We wanted to get a handmade reading nook chair from Dutch Home Furniture but decided against it.
Our final stop was the Pleasant Valley Dairy stall, which has an endless selection of cheeses and other dairy products.
New Castle County may be Delaware’s smallest county, but you surely won’t run out of things to do.
Its rich, multicultural history is evident in the local restaurants and family-owned shops.
So, whether you’re looking for a historical adventure or a gastronomic one, it’s worth trying the best things to do in New Castle County.