Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Dover, DE

  • Published 2023/01/06

Situated on the St. Jones River in the east-central portion of Delaware, Dover is filled with rich history and culture.

It’s the county seat of Kent County, with a population of 36,047 as of the 2010 census.

The city is known for its historical sites, amazing recreational activities, beautiful natural areas, and vibrant historic downtown.

It was named after Dover Kent in England by William Penn, an English writer and Quaker proprietor of the three lower counties on the Delaware River.

Penn founded the area as a court town in 1683, officially incorporated in 1717, becoming the capital state of Delaware.

Today, Dover boasts a progressive economy primarily because of its low cost of living, big manufacturing companies, and impressive tourist attractions.

The city offers both fun and learning activities without the need to break the bank.

Here are the free things to do in Dover, Delaware:

Drop by the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries

Public archives building at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries

Rosemarie Mosteller /

It can be overwhelming to finally arrive in Dover, but one of your first stops should be the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries.

The visitor center offers extensive information in the form of pamphlets about the local attractions, activities, and events.

Here, you’d be able to plan your travel in the city and how to get around, especially those that don’t require spending a dime.

There’s also a Public Archive with exhibits showcasing the history and culture of Dover, such as digital archives, historical records, paintings, photographs, and more.

Interior of public archives at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries

Rosemarie Mosteller /

Visiting the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries is like hitting two birds with one stone.

You get a travel itinerary and learn more about the city’s history and heritage.

Drop by the visitor center at M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard North adjacent to the Legislative Hall.

Celebrate Like a Local at the Dover Days Festival

Dover celebrates the Dover Days Festival with various free activities on the first weekend of May of each year.

The annual festival commemorates the culture and heritage of the city, as well as the State of Delaware.

Activities include a grand parade, arts and crafts, traditional Maypole Dancing, historical reenactments, a car show, a pet parade, a carnival, and more.

It’s one of Delaware’s largest and longest-running festivals, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Started in 1934, the festival takes place in downtown Dover and is also filled with live music and local food artisans.

If you’re in Dover in May, celebrate the Dover Days Festival like a local!

Hike up the Isaacs Branch Greenway Path

A tranquil wooded paved path that spans 3.3 miles, the Isaacs Branch Greenway Path is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

The trail is one of the three paths that make up the St. Jones River Greenway, offering beautiful green foliage and shady trees.

It’s the path pedestrians and cyclists take to avoid the traffic and noise of the city, as well as to breathe fresh air.

Hikers also love hiking the trail for exercise and to simply find refuge in the beauty of nature.

The fall foliage is also gorgeous at the Isaacs Branch Greenway Path during the fall season, so don’t miss the trail while in town.

Its trailhead is along Highway 13 across the southern end of the Capital City Trail.

See the Old-World Architecture of the Old State House

Exterior of the Old State House

Nagel Photography /

The Old State House was built in the Middle Georgian architectural style, which was prevalent in the late 1700s.

The two-story, five-bay brick structure, constructed in 1791, served as the State Capitol and Kent County Court House.

It was remodeled in 1873, reflecting Victorian architecture, but was restored to its original look in 1976 with extensive renovations in 2007.

In 1971, it was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Interior of the Old State House

Nagel Photography /

Today, the Old State House serves as a museum with exhibits showcasing the history of Dover and the previous government system of Delaware.

The house is open to the public with self-guided tours.

The Old State House is located on The Green.

House of representatives chamber in the Old State House

Nagel Photography /

Admire the Public Art in Downtown Dover

The local art scene in the city makes up Downtown Dover more exciting and inviting!

Anytime you visit the city, take strolls around downtown to see the beautiful art in the area.

At the Mitten & Winters Building on Loockerman Street, check out the Backyard Birds mural, which represents the species of birds found in Delaware.

There’s also a Greetings from Dover mural on the Family Dollar building located on the same street.

You can also see 15 painted electrical boxes scattered downtown, representing the city’s and state’s history and theme.

The vibrant Downtown Dover also houses art galleries and shops, where you can support local artists by buying their pieces.

Get Closer to Nature at Fork Branch Nature Preserve

Nature in Dover masks the state capital’s hustle and bustle with gorgeous mature upland forests and coastal plain pond wetlands.

At Fork Branch Nature Preserve, you can enjoy nature by taking scenic strolls and experiencing the preserve’s natural areas with migratory and resident birds.

Species of birds include the Pileated Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, Scarlet Tanager, and Prothonotary Warbler.

Most parts of the forest have mature trees older than 150 years.

The 236-acre Fork Branch Nature Preserve is a breath of fresh air while in town.

See its natural beauty off Kenton Road.

Read a Book at Dover Public Library

Exterior of the Dover Public Library

Nagel Photography /

Travelers who can’t let a day pass without reading a book should head to Dover Public Library for an hour or two of reading session.

The library has a wide selection of books for kids, teens, and adults in different genres, as well as online resources such as e-Media and online magazines.

There are plenty of rooms for reading with large windows, which lets natural sunlight in, making the reading nooks more comfortable.

Interior of the Dover Public Library

Nagel Photography /

You can spend an hour or two here, or if you need to research something, this is your best bet.

Dover Public Library was established in 2009 and is nestled on Loockerman Plaza.

Play Frisbee at Dover Park

On a nice morning or afternoon in the city, Frisbee enthusiasts can enjoy a game at Dover Park.

The park offers a 9-hole disc golf course, which features some challenging lanes.

If you have your disc with you, head to the 28-acre park and spend a few hours playing and having a peaceful time closer to nature.

There are also other sports fields at the park, which are used by athletes for practice and friendly games.

Dover Park is located on White Oak Road.

Attend the Spring & Summer Concert Series on The Green

If you’re in town around June or July, you should check out downtown Dover’s historic The Green, which holds the Spring & Summer Concert Series.

Enjoy a free live music series and experience one of Dover’s most popular events during the spring and summer.

Bring your own lawn chair or blanket, as well as a picnic to share with friends and family while enjoying the concert.

The Spring & Summer Concert Series is ideal for those who want to chill out with music.

The Green is located in downtown Dover on South Governors Avenue.

Cast Your Fishing Line at Silver Lake Park

The waters of Silver Lake Park

Lillian’s Photos /

If you’re into fishing, Silver Lake Park is the best place to cast your fishing line.

The City of Dover Parks and Recreation Department will only ask for your fishing license, and you’re good to go.

Enjoy catching some striped bass, largemouth bass, crappie, carp, catfish, white perch, bluegill, and more.

A metal bench at Silver Lake Park

Phil D. Malmstrom /

The 182-acre park’s lake is the source of the St. Jones River, which flows to Delaware Bay.

You can also see other wildlife, including birds, geese, turtles, ducks, squirrels, and more.

Silver Lake Park is at Washington Street.

Catch a Dover Sunset at Schutte Park

Nothing beats a gorgeous sunset over the beautiful Dover skyline at Schutte Park.

The 71-acre park features sports fields, where you can see the sunset against the backdrop of the wooded area, forging a nice silhouette.

You can enjoy scenic walks through the wooded trails while waiting for the sun to kiss the horizon.

If you’re here with kids, you can let them play at the playground or take them to the woods for a walk.

Schutte Park is on Electric Avenue.

Get a Glimpse of History at the John Dickinson House

Exterior of the John Dickinson House

Max.vanbalgooy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Constructed on a 13,000-acre plantation in 1739, the John Dickinson House boasts an Early Georgian architectural style.

It was the homestead of John Dickinson, who is known as the Penman of the Revolution and one of the Unites States’ founding fathers.

Also known as Poplar Hall, the house and its entire property are filled with history, which you can learn in at least an hour of the tour.

There is a lot of information to learn at the John Dickinson House, as well as the other buildings on the plantation where the slaves lived.

Interior of the John Dickinson House

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the barn close to the parking lot, there will be a short orientation clip about the property, which is useful during the tour.

In 1966, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The John Dickinson House is located on Kitts Hummock Road.

Have a Picnic at Tidbury Creek County Park

Have a picnic with your family at Tidbury Creek County Park.

The park features covered picnic tables with grills for barbecues.

If you have small kids, there’s a nice playground adjacent to the picnic area where they can enjoy themselves.

There’s also a fish pond and a half-mile walking trail to explore while enjoying the park’s relaxing ambiance.

If you have dogs, you can take them to the park’s dedicated off-leash fenced areas for small and large dogs.

Tidbury Creek County Park is a perfect spot for the entire family visiting Dover!

You can find it on South State Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Dover’s neighboring places are equally inviting, with rich culture and heritage.

These attractions are only a few minutes away from the city:

Observe the Horseshoe Crabs at Pickering Beach

Horsehoe crabs and birds at Pickering Beach

Matthew Yonker /

At the end of Pickering Beach Road in Dover, you’ll find a horseshoe crab sanctuary, which spawns during the early summer season.

The horseshoe crabs at Pickering Beach gather on the shoreline during their seasonal migration, providing rich marine life to the ecosystem.

It’s one of the most popular spots for visiting families, especially since the kids will love watching these marine creatures’ movements.

Horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crustaceans, but they are not toxic or poisonous.

They are edible, but not all of their parts, which is interesting.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to see their migration at Pickering Beach!

You can find the beach along Delaware Bay, 14 minutes from Dover.

Get Your Beach Fix in Slaughter Beach

Daytime view of Slaughter Beach

Foolish Productions /

One of the best destinations in Delaware for satisfying your beach fix is Slaughter Beach, which is only a 30-minute drive from Dover.

This small-town charm is called the Jewel of Delaware Bay, offering a pristine, peaceful, relaxing atmosphere and natural beauty.

You will find the beach with few people, away from the typical modern metropolis, which is perfect for those who want solitude.

Birds at Slaughter Beach

Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll also see lots of horseshoe crabs on the shoreline, which are prevalent during their migration in the summer.

Slaughter Beach is located in the town of the same name.

The public beach has no lifeguards, so travel with caution.

Final Thoughts

Packed with rich history, culture, and heritage, Dover is one of the state’s crowning jewels.

With its gorgeous parks, museums, vibrant downtown area, and natural beauty, o it offers an amazing experience for travelers.

Enjoy an awesome adventure without breaking your budget with these free things to do in Dover, Delaware!

© All rights reserved.