Dover, Delaware is a perfect day trip destination and these are the four must-see attractions to make it worht your while. But first, let’s talk about this little state.
Let’s be honest. I’ve driven through Delaware many times but the keyword there is through. When driving from Maryland to virtually any state north of us, we head up I-95, pass briefly through Delaware, and cross the large bridge into New Jersey. When we moved back to Maryland six years ago, I had plenty of intentions of exploring the surrounding area and states, including Delaware. After spending a few days in and around the Dover, Delaware area, I can tell you that it’s worth at least a day trip.
Here are some of my favorite things that I recently had the chance to experience on a fam trip to the quaint villages of Kent County, home of Dover, Delaware.
The Air Mobility Command Museum
My husband served in the air force for many years as a Loadmaster on a C-5 Galaxy cargo plane. Although he was based out of New York, he stopped many times at Dover Air Force Base before flying all over the world. The air force base is still there but for civilians like me, the real attraction is the neighboring Air Mobility Command Museum.
Our tour started with a retired USAF veteran taking us around the outdoor collection. Our first stop was the VC-9C shown below which served as the Vice President’s plane from the 1970s to the early 2000s. While the VP was on board, it was officially designated Air Force Two. Inside, you’ll get to see the seating and configuration (with photos of how it originally looked in the 1970s) along with telephones, computers, and even place settings that were used on board.
The only other plane open for touring that day was the exact plane I wanted to see. We toured the C-5 Galaxy just like my husband flew on in the early 1990s. This particular one had been used to carry and drop “an 86,000-lb Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from 20,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean.” But it’s the size that . makes the C5 so fascinating. To appreciate it, you have to go inside.
With both the nose and tail opening, the C-5 is used mainly for cargo, such as tanks and other heavy vehicles. That means that you better have someone that knows and understand weights and balancing loading that plane (that’s what my husband did!). And what you see below is just the cargo area. Upstairs was the cockpit, galley, and crew seating.
While there were only two planes open for us to tour, the museum will typically open as many planes as they have volunteers for on the third Saturday of each month during the warmer months of the year.
In addition to the outdoor area, the museum consists of an indoor space with aircraft from many eras on display (some allow you to board). One of my favorites was this C-47, a plane used to carry paratroopers into the air. This particular C-47 carried men over Normandy on June 6, 1944 for the D-Day invasion.
Even if you’re not a plane buff or a military buff, the sense of history at the Air Mobility Command Museum will leave you in awe.
Tues-Sun 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free admission and parking
Address: 1301 Heritage Rd, Dover AFB, DE 19902
John Dickinson Plantation
With Delaware being the first state, you can imagine that they’re proud of their part in American history and you’ll find that at the John Dickinson Plantation. If you’re not native to Delaware, you might not know that John Dickinson was a prominent lawyer and politician but he was most well known as one of the signed of the U.S. Constitution.
What made this visit to a historic mansion a little more lively were the details of how the inhabitants of the house might have been living during the month we were visiting. For example. John Dickinson owned a lot of farm land. When his workers were in the fields, they would kick up a lot of dirt and dust. With it being summer, the windows would have been open and so all the furniture would have been draped with dust covers like you see below.
We also had the chance to get hands-on with an activity in part of the house where we created a period-appropriate sachet. The mixtures of spearmint, peppermint, lavender, orange peel, and roses were not only intended to make clothing smell good but acted as an insect deterrent.
Tuesday – Saturday
10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
April-September Sundays 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Free admission and parking
Address: 340 Kitts Hummock Rd, Dover, DE 19901
Johnson Victrola Museum
When I posted on social media about my stop here in the historic district of Dover, Delaware, even local friends told me they hadn’t heard about the Johnson Victrola Museum. It’s a bit of a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of location but definitely worth the stop.
Our tour guide gave us a detailed history of the gramophone and how it evolved from Delaware native, E.R. Johnson’s Victor Talking Machine Company to the RCA Victor-Victrola company that so many know from their grandparents. And, yes, he played an actual 78 rpm record one one of their Victrolas. Back then, these phonographs had no volume control and the sound was projected wherever the amplifier was pointed. To mute the sound, owners would often literally “put a sock in it.” I KNOW, right?
And if the Victrola name still isn’t ringing a bell, maybe the dog who hears “his master’s voice” will look familiar. He was known as Nipper and there’s a whole section of the museum devoted to him.
Wednesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. & most holidays
Free admission and parking
Address: 375 S New St, Dover, DE 19901
First State Heritage Park & Old State House
Here’s where history gets interesting. You’ll find historically dressed tour guides ready to immerse you in the history they know and love. Our tour guide at the Old State House gave us an abridged version of the early lawmaking process.
Inside, we were shown where the lawmakers sat (both upstairs and downstairs) and were given copies showing the signatures that ratified the U.S. Constitution, something that Delaware was proudly the first to do. In fact, Delaware didn’t just ratify the Constitution. Their signatures proved that they did “fully, freely and entirely approve of, assent to, ratify, & confirm” the Constitution on December 7th, 1787. (Think of it like a bolding and italicizing their signatures and then adding a giant exclamation point!).
But my favorite part of the tour came when we walked over to the John Bell House on The Green. Instead of being led on a tour that highlights many tales from Dover’s history, we were given an extremely abridged version of some of the tales we might hear. I was fascinated of a true “death by chocolate” murder that’s directly related to a well-known Dover resident. If you’re a true crime fan, you’ll want to hear this!
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Sunday 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m
Free admission and limited street parking
Address:25 The Green, Dover, DE 19901
Heading to Dover, Delaware
The next time you’re heading north or south on I-95, veer less than an hour to your south and spend at least one day in Dover, Delaware discovering things you never knew you were there. And if you’re looking for more to do to make Kent County a destination, stay tuned for more Delaware coverage!
I was hosted by Delaware’s Quaint Villages for a Kent County Tourism Familiarization (FAM) Tour. All photos, thoughts, and opinions are my own.