Awhile back I asked several posters what they thought of a day trip to Wilmington, Delaware from Baltimore, MD (I'm car-less). In the end, I decided to go...this past Saturday I had free time, an urge to do something different, so off I went on Amtrak.
As it turned out, the Tall Ships were in the Train Station Riverfront (Christina River). There was music playing and lots of people selling food, soft drinks, lemonade...this area (maybe only during special events) had a Baltimore Inner-Harbor-like feel but smaller. I was disappointed not to get a very good look at the Tall Ships, which seemed to have their sails down in port, if the Ships I saw were indeed of the Tall variety.
Then I walked over to Market St. from French St. and up Market St. until I arrived at the Delaware History Museum. I was saddened by and somewhat anxious about the number of places boarded up and the desolation of the streets...I only saw lone souls here and there walking around. I saw two walking police patrols which somewhat reassured me, though. I'll say though the urban decay was amongst the most striking I've seen in America to date.
The Delaware History Museum ($4 admission closes at 4pm on weekdays and Saturday, closed on Sunday) was an interactive museum that discussed Delaware's founding...from the native Lenni Lenape to colonization by Sweden, Holland and England to the Delaware's role in the American Revolution and the Civil War up to present-day Delaware. The museum was a delightful (fun!) way to learn about the First State and was worth the whole trip for me.
In summary, my thoughts were that Wilmington has untapped potential. With good planning (a few cafés, a local arts facility, some charming restos) the city core could definitely become a day trip for northeast corridor dwellers/visitors. Public transit serves Wilmington Impressively well; SEPTA trains has a few runs there on weekends from Philly, Amtrak has runs near-hourly from NY, Philly, Balto and Washington; the First State's DART buses seemed to come more frequently than in many cities I've been in .
Unless I missed something special, though, in my opinion, the city core still needs a tremendous amount of work. I would not recommend going for those who are looking for glamour, excitement, nonstop entertainment, architechtural wonders, picturesque quaintness. Nor would I recommend driving hundreds of miles to see Wilmington for now.
For a day-trip from nearby cities, for those who like getting off the beaten-track, you may wish to have a look-see. So you know, Wilmington's a large town/small city/distant Philly exurb (suburb?). If you do go, I would recommend taking a taxi to the Delaware History Museum (walk if you like; I did it but did not feel entirely safe with all the boarded-up fronts and relative absence of people on the streets), peeking at the Christina River, and then continuing on to nearby historic New Castle or Philly (for those without a car, DART runs to one and SEPTA runs to the other). Winterthur and the Brandywine Valley are supposed to be lovely for those with a car. The Delaware History Museum might not be everyone's cup of tea but I think would be fun for kids and some grown-ups (lots of buttons to push and interactive videos) and certainly for those interested in American history arcana. (I had a blast; there were more videos I wanted to see at closing time!)
Anyhow, the above is my 2 cents.
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