Wilmington, Delaware

Baltimore Sun reporter

Go here: Wilmington combines a rich history of European country living with the excitement of nightlife and entertainment. Visit the museums, public gardens, art galleries and the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park during the day, and at night enjoy quality seafood at one of several restaurants and bars, live theater, and slots and harness racing. On the Riverfront, a stretch of outlets, restaurants, museums and theaters running alongside Wilmington's Christina River, visitors can take a guided tour via river taxi; explore the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of a Swedish ship that brought European settlers to the banks of the Christina in 1638; watch the Wilmington Blue Rocks play baseball at Frawley Stadium; or see a show at the Delaware Theatre Company or the Grand Opera House. For serious shoppers, the Market Street Mall is six blocks of shops and restaurants anchored by Rodney Square and the Wilmington Public Library.

Stay here: Hotel du Pont, 11th and Market streets, 800-441-9019. For a memorable experience, stay at the hotel where Charles Lindbergh, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Katharine Hepburn were once guests. The 12-story Italian Renaissance hotel was built in 1913 and has 206 rooms and 11 suites, a grand ballroom, a dining room serving fine French cuisine and its 1,200-seat DuPont Theatre. Specials and packages are available starting at $169, but regular rates can top $300 per night.

Eat here: Deep Blue Bar and Grill, 111 W. 11th St., 302-777-2040. Deep Blue's trendy bar scene and upscale seafood menu are perfect for a chic night out downtown. It features live performances by local artists, an After Work Wednesdays Happy Hour and a raw bar with oysters on the half-shell, little neck clams, caviar, snapper ceviche and shrimp cocktail. Down the street from the Delaware Theatre Company, Grand Opera House, the Playhouse and Theatre N at Nemours, Deep Blue serves a three-course "pre-theatre" menu on theater nights that guarantees you'll make it to the show before the curtain rises. Dinner entrees are $24 to $32.

Don't miss this: The Winterthur Museum, 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52), 800-448-3883. Winterthur is the former home of Henry Francis du Pont, built in the early 20th century in the style of an 18th-century European country house. Both a working country estate and museum featuring period rooms and galleries of antiques and Americana, Winterthur offers tours, programs and exhibitions for all age groups. Its permanent collection includes 85,000 objects made or used in America between 1640 and 1860, from clothing and craftsmen's tools to metal works, ceramics and paintings. There are walks, talks and demonstrations in the estate's 60-acre garden, as well as photography workshops and "father and son outdoor fun" events. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children and $18 for students and seniors.

Get here: By car, take Interstate 95 north. Exit onto I-495 north toward Philadelphia. Take Exit 1 to merge onto North Dupont Parkway. Take a slight right at D Street and turn right onto North Church Street into Wilmington. The drive is 70 miles, about an hour and a half from Baltimore.

For more information: Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau's downtown visitors center, 302-652-4088.

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