Brandywine Creek at the Brandywine © Djmaschek
Delaware is the second smallest state in the country, but its narrow borders hold significant diversity. During the American Civil War, the citizens of Delaware were split in their loyalties, and even today, the state seems to have two distinct identities, one taking its cue from the industrious North, the other following the relaxed pace of the South.
In northern Delaware, the rolling, wooded hills of the Brandywine Valley provide a captivating backdrop to the state's colonial history, refined elegance and industrial prominence. It was here that the du Pont family built its empire, harnessing the river for gunpowder mills in 1802.
But the du Pont legacy includes a commitment to the community as well. It lives on today in the mansions, gardens, museums, libraries, and parks established by the family over the years and now open for visitors to enjoy.
Wilmington is Delaware's largest city, which grew along with the du Ponts' fortunes. Wilmington, and nearby upmarket towns like Hockessin and Greenville, offer stylish shops and boutiques, trendy nightspots, historic pubs, and excellent restaurants (Mediterranean cuisine is a specialty, due to the city's large Italian community). Most residents of Wilmington and its surrounding areas identify with their northern neighbours. It is not unusual to hear them describe themselves as living not in Delaware but 'just south of Philadelphia'.
Central and southern Delaware, on the other hand, have a decidedly different flavour. Small towns are surrounded by farmland. Charming bed and breakfasts take the place of grand hotels. In Dover, the quiet state capital, visitors might see Amish buggies travelling alongside regular traffic. A strong connection with the environment is apparent, as outdoorsmen revel in waterfowl hunting and fishermen take advantage of the many inlets and tidal marshes that crisscross the region.
The sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean are popular destinations and cater to all tastes, from sleepy Bethany Beach with its large family homes, to livelier Rehoboth with its boardwalk and outlet shopping malls. Speaking of shopping, Delaware is sales-tax free, making it an exciting destination for bargain hunters.
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