Wilmington, DE, is a cozy city filled with historic homes and gardens, hip restaurants, and friendly people. It’s the most populous city in the small state, which gives it a welcoming small-town vibe. But this charming city located in the northeast corridor of the country is often dwarfed by its neighbors. I, too, am guilty of passing the Wilmington exit as I scuttled along the highway’s arteries to explore other destinations. But Wilmington is just a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C., and New York and about a 20-minute drive from Philadelphia International Airport, making it easily accessible from several directions.

Wilmington abounds with intrigue and historic charm. You could spend a few days making your way from one historic home and garden to the next or walking along the scenic Riverfront each night. But if you’re short on time and only have a long weekend to explore, this is how to spend 48 hours in Wilmington and the surrounding Brandywine Valley.

How to Spend 48 Hours in Wilmington, DE

FRIDAY

If you’re driving into town, stop by Brandywine Park to stretch your legs. The 178-acre park snakes along the Brandywine River, offering spectacular views of the waterway. While there, check out the Josephine Fountain, a stunning 19th-century fountain that can be the perfect backdrop for a cool selfie.

From there, head up the road to Pizza by Elizabeths for a slice or a scoop of ice cream. The pizza parlor is located in a bustling Brandywine shopping center, but the swanky decor belies its humble location. After lunch, head to the Hagley Museum and Library. Hagley is the site of the du Pont family’s gunpowder mill, ancestral home, and garden. The estate is a 235-acre, well-preserved time capsule offering insight into what life was like to work on a mill in the early 19th century. If you’re not interested in the business side of things, skip the mill demonstrations and hop on a shuttle bus to explore the home and gardens of one of America’s first dynastic families.

View of the downtown area in Wilmington, DE

Experience a blend of modern society and history as you stroll the streets of downtown Wilmington. 

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From there, make a short drive to the iconic HOTEL DU PONT, a five-star hotel with every amenity you can imagine. Check in, drop your bags and freshen up before dinner. When you’re ready to eat, head over to the Farmer & the Cow near downtown Wilmington’s Historic District. This casual dining spot has an entertaining and mouth-watering menu. Known for its burgers, options have whimsical names like the That’ll Do Pig (a burger with bacon, bacon mayo, bacon jam, and smoked Gruyere) or the That’s What Brie Said (a burger topped with bourbon pear, prosciutto, aged balsamic and Brie). Additional standout items include the truffle tots and the Korean BBQ Brussels sprouts. And don’t skip the over-the-top milkshakes with names like the You’re Killing Me Smalls, with marshmallow, graham cracker, and chocolate, or the Paul Rudd, with bacon, peanut butter, walnut, and caramel. SB TIP: Any of the shakes can be spiked for an added layer of fun.

SATURDAY

Grab a pastry or cup of coffee at Sleeping Bird Coffee before hitting the bricks for the day. This coffee-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar-café offers espresso and traditional breakfast pastries like scones and cinnamon rolls. They also serve heartier fare like breakfast sandwiches.

After you’re fueled up, head over to the Wilmington Riverfront and meander along the Riverwalk. This area is lined with restaurants and attractions along with a boardwalk-style walkway that hugs the Christina River. Try your hand at ax throwing, or down a cold brew at Constitution Yards. This hip beer garden is made from repurposed shipping containers alongside an outdoor space filled with picnic tables. You can also play a few rounds at Riverwalk Mini Golf. If you want to get moving, bike the Jack A. Markell or J.A.M. Trail, a 5.5-mile primarily flat trail that connects to the historic New Castle area. Finally, peruse the many offerings at the Riverfront Market.

Riverwalk near Christiana River

Get an up-close view of the Christina River as you walk along Wilmington’s Riverwalk.

"W" statue near the Riverwalk in Wilmington

You may even spot some public art installations during your stroll!

Patio with picnic tables at Constitution Yards

Sitting close to the Riverwalk, Constitution Yards offers cold beer and ax throwing.

Since this city is chock-full of historical gems at every bend, there’s even a homage to Underground Railroad crusaders Harriet Tubman and Delaware native Thomas Garrett. Across the street from the Riverfront Market is the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, which features a riveting statue that serves as a tribute to the two heroes.

You may be exhausted from a day of exploration, but before you head back to your hotel, have dinner and dessert at Drop Squad Kitchen. This vegan restaurant’s menu is loaded with an array of plant-based options — salads, sandwiches, soups, etc. If you prefer seafood, head over to Banks’ Seafood Kitchen and enjoy dinner on the Riverfront. This renowned establishment offers dinner with a view, and it’s kid-friendly too. The menu boasts delectable fish, shellfish, steamer pots and more — all fresh!

Statue in Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park in Wilmington

Pictured here is the statue that sits in Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, honoring the work of Underground Railroad heroes Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett.

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SUNDAY

Start your last day at Brew Ha Ha! in the Greenville area. This locally owned coffee outpost features uber-cute, mismatched furniture that somehow works well together. There are a few locations throughout the Brandywine Valley area, but this one is the closest to our last stop. After you’ve gotten your java fix, it’s time to explore the majesty of Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library.

Winterthur is the 175-room palatial du Pont family home and includes 1,000 acres of protected land and 60 acres of gardens designed by Henry Francis du Pont, the patriarch of the du Pont dynasty. The estate exudes an essence of opulence and baffling splendor. The home, library, and garden tours are great examples of not only the gilded extravagance of the chemical industry titan, but they also provide insight into the type of people the du Ponts were. You could spend an entire day exploring Winterthur, but if you’re eager to hit the road, opt for the garden tour. This way, you can ride the tram up to the house and walk down while enjoying the beautiful gardens.

Interior of Brew Ha Ha!

Before heading to your final Wilmington stop, get your caffeine fix at Brew Ha Ha!.

Young girl running through the garden at Winterthur

In addition to a museum filled with a collection of American art, Winterthur also offers a beautiful 1,000-acre garden.

To find even more amazing things to explore in Wilmington, check out visitwilmingtonde.com. Enjoy your travels!

All photography by Tykesha Burton.

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