Wilmington offers a magical holiday getaway just a short drive away from the DMV.
Delaware’s largest city invites one and all during the holiday season! A little over an hour away from Baltimore, Wilmington is the perfect stop for a day trip when you’re looking to embrace a little Christmas cheer. With holiday lights, themed events, and more, it’s a fantastic way for the entire family to prepare for the arrival of jolly St. Nicholas.
Table of Contents
- 1 Take a walk through the duPont family estates
- 2 Have a Longwood Christmas
- 3 Catch a seasonal play or performance
- 4 Go on a magical train ride on the Holiday Lights Express
- 5 Celebrate the Yuletide season at Winterthur
- 6 Enter the annual Gingerbread House contest at The Hagley
- 7 Check out the toy and scale model trains at Brandywine
- 8 Enjoy a delicious Christmas meal with friends and family
- 9 Combine history with the holidays
- 10 Get all of your Christmas shopping done tax free
- 11 Don’t miss the annual Wilmington Christmas Parade
- 12 Have a Dickensian Christmas at Historic New Castle
- 13 LOOKING FOR A HOTEL IN WILMINGTON DE? Check out A Few of our Favs!
Take a walk through the duPont family estates
Filled with Christmastime decor, this Wilmington tradition started in 1910 when Mr. and Mrs. duPont moved into their new mansion and would invite their state employees and their families for a holiday get together. The decor often reflected the architecture of the mansion, as well as their customs, and you can still see some of the original decorations today at Nemours Estate.
Have a Longwood Christmas
Every year, Longwood Gardens transforms into a magical wonderland for the holidays. Light displays, performances, floating floral designs – the whole works! You can spend hours walking through the enchanting gardens and its captivating Christmas lights.
Catch a seasonal play or performance
Watching a holiday themed show or performance is an annual holiday tradition for many families, and what better place to do it than in Wilmington? The First State Ballet Theatre, the Candlelight Theatre, and the Delaware Theatre Company are just a few of the places that schedule special holiday performances such as Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the Nutcracker, and more.
Go on a magical train ride on the Holiday Lights Express
Presented by Wilmington and Western Railroad, these hundred-year-old heated coaches are decorated beautifully every holiday season. This hour-long train ride takes passengers on a jolly journey through the Red Clay Valley where you can see the decorated yards of the trackside homes. They also have a Santa Claus Express where Santa and his elves visit children onboard.
Celebrate the Yuletide season at Winterthur
The former home of Henry Francis duPont now offers a one-of-a-kind holiday experience. While the displays are inspired by the traditions of the duPont family, there are also themes instilled every year. For example, in 2022, the theme is From Winterthur to the White House and includes trees inspired by those seen at the White House.
Enter the annual Gingerbread House contest at The Hagley
The Hagley Museum and Library comes together every year for Holidays at Hagleys. There are holiday home and garden tours, special evening twilight hours, an annual gingerbread house competition, and visits from Santa Claus himself among other things.
Check out the toy and scale model trains at Brandywine
The Brandywine Railroad has been a favorite holiday destination for many families for over fifty years. Perfect for kids and those who are kids at heart, this holiday train display has trains running on over 2,000 feet of track. The display is very intricate with over a thousand pieces comprising passenger and freight trains, locomotives, villages, farms, and even a carnival.
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Enjoy a delicious Christmas meal with friends and family
A lot of the cafes and restaurants in Wilmington introduce a special menu during the holidays and you can find everything from special Xmas treats to full-blown seven-course meals. For example, Deerfield offers a brunch with Santa on select Sundays and Chelsea Tavern has several different seasonal brews on tap.
Combine history with the holidays
Wilmington has a deep, rich history which is reflected in several of the city’s sites and attractions. You can have the best of both worlds by participating in a candle lighting ceremony at the Old Swedes Church or taking a look at the traditional holiday decorations at the Historic Houses of Odessa.
Get all of your Christmas shopping done tax free
Christmas shopping puts a dent in everyone’s pocket. You can save a couple of bucks by doing your holiday shopping in Wilmington and enjoying the tax-free benefits of the state. Downtown Wilmington has tons of local boutiques and retailers that sell one-of-a-kind items you can’t find anywhere else.
For example, Govatos Chocolates is a family-owned establishment that uses a recipe passed down from generation to generation. You could also get personalized styling services from Morgan’s of Delaware to get that perfect holiday outfit for your loved one – the options are endless.
Don’t miss the annual Wilmington Christmas Parade
The annual Wilmington Christmas Parade has been going on for over fifty years. Winding down the streets of downtown, the parade features Santa Claus and several of his friends like local celebrities and dignitaries, statewide pageant winners, marching and string bands from local schools, dance troupes, antique cars, floats, and more.
Have a Dickensian Christmas at Historic New Castle
The cobblestone streets of Historic New Castle come alive during the holidays with light displays, events, and town-wide celebrations all season long. You can go on tours of beautifully decorated notable homes, attend a service at the Newcastle Presbyterian Church, or even attend the annual ball hosted by The Arsenal.
LOOKING FOR A HOTEL IN WILMINGTON DE? Check out A Few of our Favs!
- Hotel Du Pont– Luxe hotel in downtown Wilmington
- The Westin Wilmington– right near Wilmington RiverWalk + pool
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Wilmington – #1 value on TripAdvisor + pool
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wilmington– Easy distance to most attractions
- Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington Brandywine– it has a pool!
- The Quoin Hotel: a lovely boutique hotel in downtown Wilmington