Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city, is an incredibly accessible tourist spot, both for its central location and the dozens of free attractions it offers.
From some of the country’s best urban parks and art museums to wildlife reserves and music festivals, there is no shortage of activities here that will not break the bank. Even most of the attractions on our list of The 12 Best Things to Do in Wilmington are low-cost.
No matter the occasion, there will be a free activity for you and your family. Continue reading for a list of the most highly-recommended free activities in Wilmington, Delaware.
Delaware State Park Concert Series
All summer long, state parks across Delaware echo with the tunes of live music performances. Locals and tourists alike pack onto lush park meadows for the concerts, lounging on picnic blankets and lawn chairs. Food trucks, beer, and water are all available at each concert; their sales benefit the preservation of Delaware’s parks. The popular summer concerts offer a lineup of local artists, like Diamond Swing Jazz, Howl Train, and the John Bickel Trio.
Though park entry fees are still in effect, Wilmington state parks have none, so attending one – or more – of these concerts in the city is completely cost-free. They take place from 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Monday and Wednesday evenings throughout the summer, and the official musical lineup and further details can be found here.
The Delaware Contemporary
A popular art exhibition space along the Wilmington Riverfront, the Delaware Contemporary is one of the best free attractions on this list. With seven galleries, 26 artist studios, an auditorium, classrooms, and a gift shop, the Delaware Contemporary is always bustling. Each year, this museum presents almost 25 different exhibits by locally, nationally, and internationally recognized modern artists. The Delaware Contemporary aims to “infuse contemporary art and creativity into [their] community,” and it does so with its accessible and dynamic exhibitions.
Past exhibitions have included Mesophotic Sanctuary, an immersive exploration of underwater imagination, Smile, a portraiture series, and Close to Home, an investigation of the melding of domestic life and the natural world. Open Thursday through Sunday from 12pm to 5pm, this museum is a must-visit destination for art lovers.
Art Loop Wilmington
A beloved Wilmington tradition with 31 years of history, the Art Loop is the ultimate exploration of the city’s artistic and cultural activity. Held the first Friday of every month, this free event brings together the entire community for a celebration of creativity throughout downtown Wilmington and its surrounding areas. The loop includes art galleries, studios, museums, as well as live entertainment and refreshment.
Regularly participating establishments include the Delaware Contemporary, the Redding Gallery, Howard Pyle Studio, the Delaware College of Art and Design, and countless more institutions. During the event, participants can admire the work of various artists, meet featured creatives, enjoy food and drinks, and meet other art enthusiasts – for no cost at all.
The Mezzanine Gallery is dedicated to the work of native Delaware artists, in all artistic mediums and disciplines. The gallery presents solo art exhibits, by new and established artists chosen by the Delaware Division of the Arts. The Division is dedicated to cultivating art in the state in order to improve the quality of life, and it runs numerous other programs geared towards this mission.
The Mezzanine is tucked into the Carvel State Office Building, and it is open every weekday from 8:00am to 4:30pm. Anyone may visit for free. The gallery also organizes receptions for its featured artists, where the public can discuss the work with its creator. Currently on show at the Mezzanine Gallery is the work of Kiara Florez, a painter who is exploring spiritual thinking and the imaginary world through bold colors and human figures.
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival
The largest free music festival on the East Coast, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is an annual favorite. Usually held in June over the course of three days, the festival draws some of the best jazz performers in the country. Now in its 35th year, it was originally created to honor Wilmington resident Clifford Brown, whose short musical career left a large jazz legacy. The event is held in Rodney Square, a central part of downtown Wilmington.
The live music is accompanied by food trucks, vendors, and festival merch shops. Other than the concerts, the festival also hosts various events like a film screening of a Clifford Brown documentary and a Jazz Art Exhibition. Past performers have included Grammy-award-winning artists and world-renowned musicians. Whether or not you are a fan of jazz, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival offers days of free summer fun.
Dupont Environmental Education Center
Also featured on our list of the 12 Best Things to Do in Wilmington, the Dupont Environmental Education Center deserves another feature. Located on the banks of the Christina River, right by downtown Wilmington, this Environmental Education Center serves as a wildlife refuge, conservation teaching center, and nature exhibition. The Center works with Wilmington residents to promote local conservation efforts, and provides locals and tourists alike with a glimpse into the biodiversity of the state’s wildlife.
During a visit to the DEEC, you will be able to explore their 10-acre garden, learn from interactive nature exhibits, stroll through paths in the wildlife refuge, and more. It is closed on Mondays, but it is open from 12:00pm to 5:00pm for the rest of the week, and until 4:00pm on Sundays.
Named one of the best riverfronts in the whole United States, the Wilmington Riverwalk is a free activity you won’t want to miss. Visitors can spend a whole day on the riverfront, with its countless activities, from shopping to eating to simply taking in the sights. The walkway winds along the bank of the Christina River, where the hustle and bustle of downtown juxtapose with the tranquil calm of the river. Some popular attractions along the Riverwalk include Riverfront Market, the perfect place to stop for a bite of food, the Riverboat Queen, a dining cruise, and the Delaware Children’s Museum.
The wooden walkway is also home to quirky local artwork and birdhouses modeled after some of the state’s most historic homes. The 1.3-mile path is one of the most beautiful destinations in Wilmington, and exploring the area is a great way to spend the day on a budget.
One of the earliest parks in Wilmington, Brandywine Park also happens to be the largest urban park in Delaware. One of its biggest claims to fame is that it was designed with the help of Frederick Law Olmstead, the “father of landscape architecture,” who also designed Central Park in New York City. The park’s 178 acres are an homage to the natural, bucolic beauty of the Brandywine Valley. Located throughout its wilderness and meadows are walking trails, athletic fields, gardens, playgrounds, and bodies of water. It boasts two formal gardens, a rose garden, and a cherry blossom garden.
This peaceful area is the perfect retreat from the constant bustle of the city. You can come here to enjoy a picnic, jog on a trail, or smell the flowers of its gardens. Whatever you choose to do, Brandywine Park is free for you to visit. (It’s also home to Brandywine Zoo, one of our highly-recommended Wilmington attractions, but you have to pay a small fee for entry).
Rockford Park & Tower
The stately stone Rockford Tower is a monument to the history and industry of Wilmington. Built as a water tower in the late 19th century, it was meant to provide water for the influx of people that had come to Delaware because of growing industry. Coincidentally, too, it was built in Rockford Park, a public green space designed to give the working class some respite from their crowded living conditions. Now, the tower, which was built using rocks from the Brandywine area, is one of the highest points in Wilmington – you can see the whole city from the observation deck.
The historic park is open every day from 8:00am to sunset, and admission is free. However, the tower is only open on Sunday afternoons. Entry to both is free.
The lively Trolley Square is one of Wilmington’s most hip areas. It is known for its extremely urban feel, its vibrant nightlife, and its selection of cafés, restaurants, and bars. The area is the perfect place to spend an evening out on the town, and to see exactly how Wilmington locals like to party. In addition, Trolley Square is home to the Delaware Avenue Farmers’ Market, where you can spend a morning exploring and tasting local farmers’ hauls. On weekends, the area often has live music and other entertainment.
Walking around Trolley Square is a great activity at all times of the day, and especially in the evening. Full of interesting architecture and quirky restaurants, have a quick (and free) stroll around the area before dinner.
Home of the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Rodney Square is even more well known for its distinguished Wilmingtonian history. It is home to important city institutions and gorgeous architecture; it is one of the most stately areas of downtown Wilmington. It was built in the early 1900s by John Jacob Raskob, a DuPont executive, with the intention of making it a new civic gathering place. The buildings surrounding it include the Wilmington Public Library, an award-winning Beaux-Arts-style building, and the Wilmington Tower, a brutalist structure designed by prominent architect I.M. Pei.
The square acts as the heart of civic and community gatherings in the city. Its landscaped lawns, stone walkways, fountains, and statues, serve as a monument to Wilmington’s past. The square itself is named after one of the founding fathers, Caesar Rodney. Make sure to visit this square, not only because it is free to enter, but because it has such an important and beautiful function in the city.