Winter settles into the streets and hills of Delaware like a whisper, its presence softly stirred into the atmosphere. It seems that just as those final vibrant leaves fall across the pavement, the snowflakes follow silently, decorating bare branches with something magically seasonal. No matter what you love about winter, be it the festive flicker of lights or the thrill of a slope covered in freshly fallen snow, you'll find it right here in the First State. Here's a look at Delaware's 15 best winter activities.
The frozen Wilmington Riverfront is truly a sight to behold and now you can enjoy it in a whole new way with the popular, newly-added ice skating rink. This riverfront rink is stockpiled with winter treats like concessions and a warming tent, not to mention the fact that it's surrounded by an abundance of tax-free shopping options, marvelous museums and a towering IMAX movie theatre. This option is a great way to get outside and stay fit without freezing. The breathtaking scenery surrounding the area is a bonus.
If the "activity" part of this piece appeals to you and you're planning an extended stay in the state, you might wish to consider joining the Wilmington Ski Club-the only club in the entire state that's dedicated to winter sports, namely skiing, but they also enjoy skating and hiking. Delaware houses a variety of exclusive clubs that are an excellent choice for spirited socialites. Don't let the winter weather keep you inside staring at four walls when you can enjoy an exhilarating ski session, or hike, or show for that matter, with fellow club members. Meetings occur on Wednesdays and trips take place on a variety of dates throughout the winter season.
Don't miss out on the enchantment winter brings when intertwined with the roar of the ocean and a boardwalk bedazzled in seasonal décor. As has been the tradition, the city of Rehoboth intends to erect a 30 to 45-foot evergreen right in the square. The tree will no doubt be surrounded by spectators, with its official lighting and sing-along. It's notable to mention that Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk is a dog friendly locale during the winter months, so feel free to bring your furry friend along for the ride. While you're there, don't miss out on shopping in the artsy, boutique stores of Penny Lane.
The Wilmington & Western Railroad has provided more than 50 years of excellence to transportation enthusiasts in the Delaware region. One of the many highlights to their train is the fact that it's all about the journey rather than the destination. When winter whips into Wilmington, the vintage locomotive pulls into the station adorned in holiday lights. Passengers can opt for a ride with the holly jolly Santa Claus or a solo excursion through the city and surrounding towns where a myriad of twinkling lights awaits. This train departs every hour on the hour from 5 p.m. in the evening until after 8 p.m.
Be sure to catch the extended hours and sales of Christiana Mall's winter shopping season, a delight that keeps shoppers coming back year after year. Newark's Christiana is revered as the best shopping experience in Delaware with just under 200 stores to choose from including major designer brands like Armani, Nordstrom, Michael Kors and Coach. This mall is accessible via several public transit options and it's large enough to get lost in for the day or weekend if you're an avid bargain hunter. All stores are tax-free for the public so whether you're shopping for gifts, décor or basic household items you're bound to save.
The 18th and 19th centuries create a picturesque scene in historic New Castle and the beauty afforded by the historic homes of Odessa is truly enhanced once the winter sky sets in. Feel free to peruse this destination at any given time this winter. Don't miss out on their annual Colonial Christmas, which features carriage rides through the glistening tour. This is an optimal place to find romance or simply rekindle your love of history.
Dig deep into the days and times of the Gothic Revival in an ornamental winter setting, the likes of which could rival anything you've ever seen in a snow globe. The Rockwood Museum and Garden features era oriented candlelight tours of their massive establishment entirely free from Wednesday through Sunday for all of December. Seventy-two acres of snow covered pathways surround the exterior of this idiosyncratic attraction.
If you're up for an offbeat wintertime activity, this entry is for you. Many people are unaware of the fact that in winter, it's 20 to 30 degrees hotter in a hot air balloon than it is outside. This default temperature makes for a breezy, comfortable ride-think a touch of fall in winter. From 10,000 feet in the air, Delaware is on display in all its winter beauty and if you've never seen a snowdrift or a cluster of frost covered trees from such a position, it truly is a winter activity like no other. Delaware is an excellent location for hot air ballooning. Not only does this state host the jaw-dropping annual hot air balloon festival, but it's also home to several flight companies making hot air aviation a possibility from multiple locations throughout the region.
The slippery slope at Bear Mountain in Glasgow Park is a local favorite for sledding. Just be sure to watch out below as this is now rumored to be the steepest sledding hill in the state. The park itself has recently been restored thanks to $10 million worth of upgrades. Fortunately, sledding here is still free. Be sure to check out the adjacent skate park, bark park and over 200 acres of snow dusted land along the way.
Seasonal cheer takes to the beachfront at this unique festival that lasts from November all the way through to January. Festival goers can enjoy everything associated with winter fun here, from ice skating to carnival rides, from Christmas villages to light shows to shopping extravaganzas. See their website for dates of events as they vary throughout the season.
The Concord Mall's got a best kept secret that only the locals are keen on. It's called Cafe Riviera and it's a tiny slice of Italy in Wilmington, Delaware. This hidden-in-plain-sight eatery serves delectable food daily but come Super Bowl Sunday, they go all out. Their Super Bowl buffet is a piping work of art at an overwhelming affordable price and the interior of the restaurant is much larger than you might expect from a mini mall cafe. The game is displayed on several screens on the first floor as well as the balcony.
The Hagley Museum's winter calendar is overflowing with annual events centered on the winter season. One of the most notable, of course, is the twilight tour of the du Pont family mansion, decorated in its entire seasonal splendor. Tours take place every half hour on the half hour and begin promptly at 4 p.m. Admission is a mere $10 at the door. Members can enjoy the exhibit free of charge.
The acclaimed Hagley Museum celebrates winter in a unique and extravagant way-by serving up game and proposing a toast. Their annual Golden Pheasants Game Dinner is complete with a silent auction and masterfully decorated train set to coincide with the hosting, roasting and hors d'oeuvres. If you're a fan of winter weather, you won't want to miss Jill McKenzie's in-depth discussion on how winter has affected Delaware over the course of history. Hagley does an excellent job of bringing science together with discovery and it happens again over cider at this decadent annual delight.
Whether you're seeking a holiday spectacle, hard-hitting drama or witty comedy, you'll find your take on the stage at the Candlelight Theater. This discreetly located performance art center has been serving up hot food and sizzling musicals since 1900. Its quaint structure affords an intimate and enjoyable atmosphere that takes the chill of the outside and replaces it with a warm welcome.
After a long day of tax-free shopping, sledding or skiing it's always fun to shake off that winter chill with a hot cup of cocoa and a nice book. Delaware is home to a few of the scattered Barnes and Noble bookstores remaining in the nation and they're conveniently situated within the state's most popular shopping sites. Be sure to take a breather at either the Barnes & Noble next to the Concord Mall or the one that's positioned inside of the Christiana Mall. Both stores feature a colossal selection of literary classics along with coffee, cocoa, concessions and a nice sized lounging area for leafing through the pages.