I never knew there were so many fun things to do in Dover until we were lucky enough to visit for a weekend. But if you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we love traveling to new destinations. And this was was totally new to us. Other than knowing Delaware is known as the First State, I didn’t have a clue about the place. But things quickly changed after crossing the state line and driving around Dover and Kent County. We were amazed at the cool mix of history, food, and pride in the area demonstrated by the people we met. In case you’ve never been to this part of the US, I think you should take a look at Dover through our guide and make plans for an upcoming trip.
Cool Things to Do in Dover, Delaware
Learn about Dover’s History
Here’s a fun fact about Dover and the state of Delaware. Up until the Revolution, they were a part of Pennsylvania and was referred to as the Lower Counties. You can learn this and even more during a “Stories of the Green” Tour (FREE) of First State Heritage Park. Ask in advance to see if there are any seasonal tours going on. Lantern tours start in April and in the fall, check out the Dark Dover Tour. That’s where you’ll learn about the first-ever murder by mail and other haunts. You can also head out to the John Dickinson Plantation and learn about one of our founding fathers, better known as the Penman of the Revolution.
For more background on Dover, this book by Emil G. and Don O. Winslow covers the city’s first 250 years.
Meet Heroes at the Old State House
Walk through Dover’s Old State House and admire the beautiful and towering George Washington painting looks over the Senate Chamber on the second floor. Learn about Samuel Burris, a prominent Underground Railroad conductor who was captured for his deeds, but freed by an undercover abolitionist who bought him. Of course, there’s an exhibit dedicated to Mabel Lloyd RIdgely, a suffragist who fought for women’s rights throughout her life but also worked (successfully) to restore and preserve the Old State House.
Explore Dover’s Agricultural Roots, too!
Kent County has deep agricultural roots and you can learn about them and hang with baby chicks at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village. If you’re hungry and want an even more interactive experience, head out to Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming. Fall is a great time to head there (See Events), but there’s always something delicious coming out of their Country Store. I just hope you get to taste some of their hot apple cider.
Learn more about Fifer Orchards from someone who works there and who’s a true Delawarian!
Go Inside Famous Planes
Out toward Dover Air Force Base, you have to check out the Air Mobility Command Museum. Get up close and personal and feel the scope of massive planes like the C-5A Galaxy. Go inside the actual Air Force Two (VC-9C) that was used for Vice Presidents, First Ladies, and other top officials from 1975-2011.
The planes on display and exhibits are amazing, but the volunteers are the star of this show. These are active duty or retired veterans who’ve gone through a heavy vetting process to share the stories of these planes with you.
Listen to Victrolas
Once upon a time, music was produced via more mechanical means than pushing a button or tapping the screen of your device. That’s what you can learn about by walking around the Johnson Victrola Museum. Your guide will share the story of Eldridge Johnson, a native of Delaware and founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Listen to his creations, try not to get overwhelmed by the number of trademarks (including Nipper), and enjoy the story told by staff while strolling through this interesting museum in Downtown Dover.
Eat All the Food
Since we like eating when traveling, I think you might see where this is going. Here’s how you should plan your visits to Dover restaurants—eat all the food.
Start with stuffed pretzels, sandwiches, and baked goods at Spence’s Bazaar & Flea Market. If you want a sit-down breakfast, head out toward Dover Speedway and Dover Downs for a meal at Countrie Eatery. Order the Little Creek (Crab Cakes Benedict). Sussex Choice (Cream Chipped Beef), or anything else and you won’t go wrong at this award-winning spot. For lunch, grab a brisket sandwich from Abbot’s Grill at Brick Works (Website/Facebook) in Smyrna or at their Milford location. Enjoy the inspiring and deliciously executed menu created by Grey Fox Grille & Public House (Website/Facebook), as you dine in a cool, historic building.
Bonus Dover Restaurants
If you can still walk by this time, head over to Governor’s Cafe for some dessert or pretzels with cheese to go along with a huge selection of beers and spirits. We also loved the burgers at Restaurant 55 and can’t leave out the locally vetted 33 West Alehouse & Grill and McGlynns Pub. If you’ve spent some time in the city, what are your favorite places to eat in Dover?
Drink Local Beer
First off, we are IPA people and love Milton-based Dogfish Head, so hopefully, the folks there don’t ban us for saying this. When you’re in Dover, don’t drink Dogfish Head because you should first enjoy beers by Mispillion River Brewing or Fordham & Dominion. Don’t forget about Blue Earl or Brick Works Eating & Brewing that we mentioned in our Food section (above), too.
…and Scrapple Vodka
Thanks to the Amish presence in and around Dover, we saw scrapple advertised just about everywhere. Most people, including my northern-born wife, would order it on the side when given the chance. In case you don’t know, you can also drink said delicacy in spirit form, thanks to Painted Stave Distillery in Smyrna. If you’ve ever tried this awesomeness, what did you think?
Chill Out at Silver Lake Park
Silver Lake Park is a beautiful part of the city to explore. At Silver Lake Park, you’ve got 182 acres to enjoy. That includes walking trails, a playground, picnic shelters, and access to water during the warmer months. There are also tons of ducks and geese around, and Countrie Eaterie (See Food, above) typically lays out for folks to feed the birds. If you’re traveling with a baby or kids, that’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon!
Stay Somewhere Cozy and Fun
There are quite a few nice hotels in Dover and we were lucky enough to stay at Home 2 Suites, just outside of Downtown. This place is ideal for a lengthy stay, but also for those who are traveling for a weekend. We’d totally recommend it if you’re traveling with kids. Stretch your legs inside the spacious lobby and kick back and relax in the hotel’s quiet and cozy rooms. If you’re looking for another great place to stay, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino has tons of fun packed into a Four Diamond Hotel.
Keep Coming Back for Annual Events
We loved our time in Dover and can’t wait to keep coming back to check out their events that are nicely scattered throughout the year. Fall is a great time, especially when Fall Fest Saturdays at Fifer Orchards (U-Pick Apples, a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and more) are going on. In the summer, Firefly Music Festival brings in acts and people from all over the world and musical spectrum. Caroling on the Green and Ciderfest at Fifer’s are fun things to do in winter and don’t forget about the fun to be had at Dover Days each spring.
There’s also NASCAR races at Dover Speedway, Delaware Beer, Wine & Spirits Festival, and more fun things to do in Dover. Check Delaware’s Quaint Villages’ website for up-to-date events in the area.
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too
Personally, I think Dover is underrated. It’s a nice city that’s not too big but still filled with fun things to do. If you’re looking for a nice place to visit from the DC area and Coastal Virginia, it might be time for you to come and check out this cool town. We came from North Carolina, which was about 5-1/2 hours away, so it’s really not too far from a lot of places. Regardless of where you come from to visit Dover, we hope you enjoy your time there as we did.
This post is part of our series on USA Travel and Delaware Travel. Special thanks to Delaware’s Quaint Villages for providing us with complimentary accommodations, admission, and meals throughout our stay. All opinions within this article are our own.