Kent County Delaware sits in the middle of the state, along with Dover the state capital. Just the Delaware Bay separates it from New Jersey. And, if you’re planning an east coast road trip itinerary or happen to find yourself in the area, you just might be wondering about all the things to do in Dover Delaware and more broadly Kent County.
Delaware may be small but it’s got a lot to explore packed within its boundaries.
So, this guide will highlight some of the best Kent County Delaware activities to help you plan your visit to Dover and the rest of Delaware’s quaint villages.
12 Unique Things to Do in Kent County Delaware
To start, let’s get oriented. When you’re small in size geographically, it’s easy to be overlooked, so to speak. Dover, the state capital of Delaware, is in the heart of Kent County, which is only 3 hours south of New York City.
Kent County is home to Delaware’s Quaint Villages which includes towns like Dover, Smyrna, Bowers Beach, Harrington, Camden, and Milford.
East coast road trippers especially like to include New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. on their itinerary not realizing the history and gems they’re passing by in Delaware. For reference, Philadephia is barely 2 hours north of Dover and 2 hours to the east of Washington D.C.
And if you’re also hoping to see the estates, gardens, and scenic byways in Wilmington Delaware, they’re all just an hour or so away from Dover.
So, when you’re eyeing the map planning out a getaway to some of the country’s biggest cities, consider spending a few days getting to know one of the country’s smallest states.
1. Channel Your Inner Pilot at the Air Mobility Command Museum.
Located at Dover Air Force Base, the Air Mobility Command Museum has more than 30 types of aircraft that have served a range of purposes throughout history. But before you think this museum is just for aviation and history buffs, consider how powerful it is to be up close (and even possibly inside) massive military cargo planes to a fully restored C-47A Skytrain used to bomb the Normandy coasts on D-Day to a VC-9C aircraft that served as Air Force Two for over 3 decades.
Maybe it’s just the teacher in me, but when you’re actually sitting inside a D-Day bomber jet, the history comes alive more than it ever could by just reading it in the pages of a book!
Even better, the museum entry is free and offers veteran-led tours through the museum where you can hear first-hand accounts of how these planes have been flown and used. Not to mention, the informative displays detail key information about the time periods and the planes throughout the museum.
If you visit on the 3rd Saturday of every month between April and October, many of the museum’s aircraft are open to the public to walk through with guides.
But, no matter when you visit, I’m sure you’ll agree this is one of the best Delaware museums!
2. Go Birding at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
North of Dover in the town of Smyrna, the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects tidal salt flats that are important to migratory birds and other wildlife. As a result, it’s a fantastic spot to birdwatch and to see animals like deer, foxes, and turtles.
The refuge is open year-round for visitors to drive the 12-mile route through the wetlands and/or get out to walk along one of the 5 walking trails. A few of the trails even have towers where you can get your own birds-eye view of the habitat! Depending on the season, look for heron, egret, bald eagles, geese, and terns, to name a few.
3. Go Back to Colonial Times in Historic Dover.
Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution and with that comes great patriotic pride! In Downtown Dover, there are several places and activities where you can go back in history and learn more about what life was like at the start of the United States.
The historic downtown area itself is a compact set of pedestrian-friendly blocks surrounding First State Heritage Park. The small streets are lined with preserved period homes and buildings, with the oldest being the John Bell House dating back to the mid-18th century. The Delaware Archives building houses a Welcome Center where you can get more information about the historic area and any events happening.
4. Uncover History at the Delaware Public Archives.
This is the perfect spot to begin your exploration of historic Dover. Aside from the Welcome Center, the archives are a historical treasure with exhibitions, research collections, computers for ancestry research, and Saturday morning programs where an expert from the archives talks about specific historic time periods and cultural topics about Delaware and beyond.
When I visited, the archives had an interesting WW1 Trench Art Exhibit, which I’d honestly never heard of! Pieces of art are made from military equipment that’s been thrown away, sometimes by soldiers in the military themselves.
5. Learn Dover Delaware History on a Tour in First State Heritage Park.
Throughout the year, free guided tours through Dover’s historic district begin at the John Bell House. The tours are led by historical interpreters who are dressed in colonial clothes. Combine this with the compact, but well-preserved, historic district as a backdrop, and you’ll be transported back to the very start of the United States.
The themed walking tours last for about an hour and depart every hour between 10 am- 3 pm, Monday-Saturday. The area is a true historic center, perfect for walking.
6. Tour the Old State House in Dover Delaware.
This building dates back to 1791 and to the earliest days of the United States itself! The Old State House originally was the home of Delaware’s state capitol and a courtroom on the main level. As you explore historic Dover and understand Delaware’s pride at being the first State to join the Union, you realize how important this building was and the many decisions and events that took place inside its walls that affected Delaware and the daily life of the new State’s citizens.
Today, the Old State House is open daily. It’s free and open to the public. Historically-dressed guides wait inside to tour visitors through the building and share their passion for this piece of Delaware and Colonial history.
7. Discover the Johnson Victrola Museum.
Have you ever visited a small, niche museum, not sure at all what to expect only to stumble upon a hidden gem? The Johnson Victrola Museum is that for Dover. If you listen to and/or love music, this museum is for you!
Visitors are treated to a guided tour all about the history of recorded sound. When I visited, the expert tour guide shared his knowledge, as well as a few jokes, all while playing music on phonographs from the earliest models up through their evolution. The visit was interactive, interesting, and of all the museums in Dover, a true standout from my visit.
The Johnson Victrola Museum is free to visit and is just a short walk from Dover’s historic square.
8. Wander among Delaware’s Quaint Villages.
Kent County’s charm comes from its small towns and quaint villages you discover along the way. The more you explore the more you find out what makes each place unique. So whether you’re having dinner at the Lemon Leaf Cafe in Smyrna or walking along the riverfront path with an ice cream cone in hand in Milford, each village has its own things to see, do, and try.
I’d be leaving something out if I didn’t share about my discovery in Milford. I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Causey Mansion, a Bed & Breakfast just off the main road that runs through downtown. The gardens surrounding the house are lush and purposefully wild, revealing fountains and statues as you walk. Inside, history is everywhere you look with each antique just waiting to tell its story.
9. Take in the Salty Sea Air in Bowers Beach.
Bowers Beach is a tiny village along Delaware Bay, about 25 minutes from Dover. As with Kent County’s other quaint villages, there are shops and a Maritime Museum telling the town’s story, which has been dictated by the bay.
You can walk along the beach or head to JPs on the Wharf for some fresh seafood. There’s a bar and a sitting area outside along the water channels that lead out into the open water. You can watch fishing boats come and go and relax as the sun sets.
If you’d like to get out onto the water, Captain’s Lady Charters offers fishing trips and even cruise charters if you’re with a larger group.
10. Go for a Farm Outing at Fifer Orchards.
When you’re done on the coast, head inland to explore Kent County’s farms and the surrounding Amish life. Fifer Orchards has been a family-run Delaware farm for 100 years! It offers everything from berry picking in the late spring and early summer months to apple picking, tractor rides, and fall festivals later in the year.
Their farm store is loaded with fresh produce and homemade goodies all from the surrounding orchards and fields. I loved the homemade peanut butter and cider doughnuts, along with the fresh strawberries and blueberries from the orchards.
Just watch out for horse and buggies on the road as you drive to the farm! 😉
11. Watch Live NASCAR in Delaware at Dover International Speedway.
I fully admit I’m much more of a history-buff than an avid NASCAR fan. However, no list of things to do in Dover Delaware would be complete without spotlighting Dover International Speedway. It’s a huge draw for visitors coming to this part of Delaware.
The Dover Delaware Monster mile NASCAR track hosts race weekends, events like the Firefly Music Festival, and even experiences that allow you to drive a car on the track. From where I was in the stands, the views up high seem to give the best vantage point. And if you’re staying at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, you just might get lucky and land a room with racetrack views.
12. Find Fun & Entertainment at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
And, speaking of luck, if you’d like to give yours a test, the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino has more than enough to keep you occupied. I’m too tight-fisted to do anything more than sweat when I see all those slot machines and poker tables. But, for those who enjoy a night or a weekend at the casino, it’s easy to see how this would be the perfect fit for fun and entertainment.
I stayed at the Dover Downs Hotel and loved how spacious the room and bathroom were. Even better, you’d never know there was a full casino in the building. The rooms were quiet and gave no hint of the nightlife happening a few floors down. A full breakfast buffet was also served at the hotel, which always makes for a great start in the morning.
Kent County Delaware and its quaint villages are such a fantastic mix of things to do. Whether you’re a nature-lover, history buff, NASCAR fan, or just looking to explore small-town shops and museums, there are so many fun things to do in Dover and beyond!
Would you like to visit Delaware and Kent County?
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