Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Springtime in Delaware: What to do on a college student’s budget

MosaicCampus LifeSpringtime in Delaware: What to do on a college student’s budget

JOSHUA CILIBERTI
Associate News Editor





We’ve changed the clocks, everything is in bloom and the days are finally warming up. At long last, spring has sprung in Delaware.

I’ve been counting down the days until spring since about, well, the last day of summer. Sure, winter has its moments of joy and happiness, but who can argue that it beats the sunshine, greenery and overall “feel-good” nature of the warmer seasons? 

This year, disregarding my annual battle (a losing one, at that) against seasonal allergies, I have made it my mission to make the most of the new season. I want to experience spring beyond the all-too-well-known highlights of Rita’s first day of spring free water ice giveaway, spring break and the return of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies.

I want to experience springtime in Delaware. Not just geographically, but also in a way that compliments the unique people, places and culture that make the First State special.

As a born-and-raised Pennsylvanian who has spent only the past two-and-a-half years living in Newark, I certainly cannot claim to be an expert on all things Delaware.

However, I’ve researched what I think springtime in the Blue Hen State is all about – and I am proud to share my findings with you, bearing in mind a college student’s budget. 

Spend an afternoon exploring a new (old) small town 

When you think about the First State, its principal cities of Wilmington, Dover and Newark naturally come to mind first, as they are the three largest hubs in the state. However, if that’s where the thought ended, you would miss out on one of Delaware’s charms: its small towns. 

Just 20 minutes from campus on the banks of the Delaware River is historic New Castle, one of the oldest settlements in the nation.

Settled by the Dutch in the 1650s and later the landing spot of William Penn, the colonial-era downtown features dozens of restaurants, small shops and a boatload of history. 

As a National Landmark Historic Area, New Castle features an abundance of authentic historic structures, second in number only to Williamsburg, Virginia. 

Battery Park, with its panoramic views of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, is a must-see. And how can you resist dining at the famous Jessop’s Tavern, a Delaware icon that features a menu inspired by the area’s colonial past? Even the servers dress the part!

Explore the great outdoors at a Delaware state park

When the weather is nice, who doesn’t want to go outside and explore? Delaware offers 17 state parks, ranging from Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore at the beaches to White Clay Creek and Alapocas Run just miles from campus.

For a truly unique experience, I recommend heading down to Trap Pond in Laurel. The park offers canoe and kayak rentals beginning May 1, allowing you to paddle through a swamp of bald cypress trees at their most northern naturally-growing location. 

Stroll, dine and play along the Wilmington Riverfront

A few short minutes from Downtown Wilmington is an urban oasis alongside the Christina River, which flows from Chester County, Pennsylvania, to its mouth at the Delaware River. 

The Riverfront features a boardwalk, walking trail, miniature golf course, environmental center, children’s museum and numerous restaurants, including Taco Grande, Iron Hill Brewery, Timothy’s Riverfront Grill and, my personal favorite, Docklands Riverfront. If you stay for a meal, I highly recommend the skillet nachos!

The Chase Center on the Riverfront is also just a block away, hosting everything from conventions to trade shows.

Reconnect with yourself and nature at a botanical garden

Are you a lover of flora and fauna and, more importantly, have your spring allergies under control? If so, the First State has a few gardens for you. From Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin to the Nemours Estate in Wilmington, each botanical garden offers acres of greenery for guests to explore and relax in. 

Most gardens across Delaware open during the first week of April and feature native plants, vast meadows and plenty of opportunities to escape from reality. 

Even the university has a botanical garden on South Campus. Located steps from UDairy and the Fred Rust Ice Arena, it is the perfect place to stop by in between classes.

Writer’s note: nothing beats UDairy’s strawberry watermelon sorbet. That is a fact. 

Cheer your heart out with the Wilmington Blue Rocks

Play ball! Nothing says springtime like taking in a ballgame. Fortunately, Delaware has its own baseball team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, who play at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium. 

The Blue Rocks are Minor League Baseball’s High-A Affiliate of the Washington Nationals and host over 60 home games throughout the season. Most nights feature promotions or giveaways, with every Friday being fireworks night. 

The Blue Rocks opened their season at home April 5 against the Brooklyn Cyclones, with key matchups against the Aberdeen IronBirds, Jersey Shore Blue Claws and Hudson Valley Renegades occurring throughout the season. 

Be a part of history and ride the Woodland Ferry

Located in Sussex County, the Woodland Ferry is one of the oldest continuously-operating ferries in the United States. 

Crossing the Nanticoke River near Seaford and Laurel, passengers, bicyclists and vehicles alike can take a scenic ride on the Tina Fallon for an under five-minute journey completed by over 45,000 people each year. 

The Delaware Department of Transportation operates the ferry on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the spring. 

If you’re lucky enough to not have a Friday class or can get to the Nanticoke River before the ferry’s closing time, you will not regret it. This one is a Delaware classic.

Get a taste of summer at the Delaware beaches

Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany and Fenwick Island. Everyone has a favorite, but as someone who averages over 20 beach days per year, I would be crazy to say no to any of them. 

If you’re committed enough to escape the delicious boardwalk treats of Grotto Pizza, Candy Kitchen, Fisher’s Popcorn and Thrasher’s French Fries, I recommend going onto the beach itself. 

Sure, you can soak in the sun and play in the waves, but why not evoke that sense of discovery while the weather is still warming and check out one of Delaware’s World War II-era watchtowers? 

The 11 towers, which stand up to 80 feet tall, were used to spot enemy ships headed toward the Delaware Bay, ensuring cities upriver were safe. Today, the towers are accessible to the public and not only offer insight into the Cape Region’s past, but also allow you to get off the beaten path and visit beaches that are unique to the First State.

After a long day of exploring in the sun (and perhaps a ride or two on Funland’s Haunted Mansion, reopening May 11), check out the Starboard in Dewey Beach. The bar and restaurant is known statewide as a Delaware institution, making it the perfect ending point to a great spring day in the First State. 

Simply enjoy a day in your own backyard

As great as traveling and seeing new places are, sometimes the best thing to do is spend a day hanging out in your own town.

From nightlife at the Deer Park Tavern and Grotto Pizza to enjoying “Nacho Tuesday” while chatting with friends on the porch at Klondike Kate’s, there is something about springtime in college that is special. 

So set up those portable hammocks, grab a speaker and get that game of Spikeball going: Springtime in Delaware is finally here. 

And there is no place I would rather spend it. 

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