Wilmington is a unique city with year-round attractions tucked into the picturesque Brandywine Valley. It is known for its role as one of the 13 original colonies, its industrial history, and notable residents like the du Ponts – as well as its bucolic local environment. Located off the I-95 in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States, Wilmington is a lesser-known but growing destination for tourists.
Wilmington’s location makes it the perfect short vacation destination for residents of the Northeast. The weather of Wilmington and the rest of Delaware is very similar to that of the entire region; it can vary widely from season to season. It is hottest in June, July, and August, when temperatures are usually in the high-80s. The area is coldest in February, when temperatures sometimes dip below freezing. In the spring and fall, Wilmington is anywhere from a chilly 50 degrees to a balmy 70. Levels of precipitation in the area are relatively low, especially in late winter and early fall. However, it does snow throughout the winter.
Whether you choose to visit Wilmington in September or May, or anywhere in between, there will be many things for you to do. Continue reading for the pros and cons of visiting during every season.
As with most cold destinations, tourists are pretty rare in the winter. However, the cold weather should not deter you from visiting. Wilmington has many fascinating indoor activities to offer, from museums to train rides. If you are driving, winter may not be your best bet due to potentially icy roads, but there are many other ways to get to the city. Some such methods are Amtrak or the Delaware Express, which collectively cover much of the Northeast.
The biggest con of visiting during the winter is the cold weather; however, for a city like Wilmington, which is known primarily for its history, a winter trip can still be a great educational experience. The city is especially abuzz during the holiday season, with decorations and themed events. Daily temperatures rarely fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the snow that blankets the city during parts of the season adds to its charm. During this time, you will not encounter many other tourists; winter tends to be the least popular time to visit the city.
The pros of visiting Delaware during the winter include the snow, the holiday lights, and the themed celebrations hosted by local attractions. Hotel prices will also generally be lower during this time, due to lower demand. Fun winter activities in the city include the Wilmington & Western Railroad Ice Princess Express, which is perfect for families, and the unique gingerbread houses at Hagley Museum & Library.
During the springtime, the natural beauty of the local Wilmington landscape begins to peek through. This season is arguably the best time to visit Delaware; its gardens and beautiful public parks begin to bloom, and temperatures are very mild. Though the temperature is very moderate during this time — usually within the 50s to 70s — it can get windy and humid.
In the springtime, especially in later months, such as April and May, tourism in Wilmington begins to pick up. Spring is the perfect season to explore the outdoor activities Wilmington has to offer. However, this season has a relatively high level of precipitation, so you should come prepared for occasional showers and gray skies.
The cons of visiting during the spring are the rain and the wind, but those cannot compare to the beauty of the city bursting into bloom. Hotel rates increase a little during this time, but the city remains relatively quiet. Some of the best things to do during the springtime are to explore the planned green spaces of Wilmington, such as Brandywine Park, and to visit nearby estates, such as Nemours and Gibraltar. These outdoor destinations are full of elegant gardens and rolling meadows, making them perfect for an excursion. Brandywine Zoo is also an ideal destination for the spring, with its combination of indoor exhibits and outdoor walking time.
The most popular season for tourism to the Wilmington area. For most people, summer is the best time to visit the city. Tourism peaks massively in August, when temperatures are balmy and the streets of the city are alive with energy. Though temperatures can reach the high 80s and low 90s, the area remains at a fairly comfortable level for the summer. Precipitation levels are lower at this time than in the spring, so the risk of rain during an outdoor excursion is lower.
Unfortunately, this ideal temperature means more tourism and higher hotel rates. The popularity of the summer season is both a pro and a con; the influx of tourists gives the city a fresh, lively energy, but it also drives up costs. For those who wish to escape the warmer temperatures of the south, however, summer is the best time to visit.
The estates, gardens, and parks of Wilmington are somehow even more fantastic in summer. You can picnic at Bellevue Park, or relax on the banks of the Brandywine River. There are also many unique activities throughout the summer. Twenty of downtown Wilmington’s restaurants participate in Curbside Wilmington Happy Hour, where drinks flow freely and music pumps people up. In July, there’s also Opera Delaware’s Al Fresco Arias, where attendees can enjoy the vivid tones of opera underneath the stars. Another favorite event is the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, where artists from all over the world come to show off their skills in a free-to-the-public extravaganza. These events are arguably worth the higher prices that come with visiting Wilmington in the summer.
Tourism to Wilmington quiets down a little during the fall, but this time is one of the most beautiful. Fall in the Northeast always ushers in gorgeous red-and-orange explosions of color, set against the natural greenery of the countryside. All of Brandywine Valley turns into a picture-perfect postcard during this time of year. The weather remains very comfortable during the day, though it can get chilly in the evening. In November, when the city gets colder without the appeal of holiday charm, tourism reaches its lowest point of the year. However, early fall remains a relatively popular time to visit.
One of the biggest cons of the fall season in Wilmington is the high precipitation. The likelihood of rain is on par with that of springtime; make sure to pack a rain jacket if you visit during this time. Luckily, hotel rates go back down during the fall, which can be a major pro. If you are willing to put up with sporadic showers, fall is a very good time to visit this charming city.
In September, the city hosts Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week, where restaurants throughout the region exhibit their finest dishes. During the week, visitors can taste delicious three-course meals at some of Wilmington’s best restaurants for low prices. Fall is also when the Hagley Car Show occurs; it hosts more than 500 antique cars. Autumn is a great time to visit classic Wilmington attractions like Rodney Square and Rockford Tower. The Wilmington & Western Railroad also runs the popular Autumn Leaf Special, which brings visitors on a scenic train ride through the valley.
No matter what time you visit Wilmington, there is no shortage of things to do. From happy hour to a car show to themed train rides, Wilmington is the perfect place for a short jaunt to the East coast.