Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have developed a much greater appreciation of day-long or weekend getaway trips. There are so many gems that fly under the radar, no doubt because of glitzy metropolises or dreamy landscapes of French Polynesian islands that tend to dominate the travel blog sphere.
Old New Castle in Delaware is definitely one of those small destinations that isn't on the top of travel lists, but should be! Less than an hour from Philadelphia, it's a mini northeastern Colonial Williamsburg that is the perfect day trip for those in the region.
The town is known for being where William Penn (founder of the eponymously named Pennsylvania) landed, and was a little bit of a social hotspot back in the Hamilton-days of yore. Today, it is a place filled with stunning architecture and a few museums for history and art lovers.
WHAT TO DO:
Go for a scenic stroll:
Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but there is nothing better than a walk with a coffee and beautiful buildings galore. During the holidays, the doors were all decked out with wreaths and other fir decor which added such a festive touch to everything. You can also walk down to the water and walk out on a small pier.
The Old Courthouse Museum:
Learn more about the history of Old New Castle with a tour of the courthouse. Our guide was incredibly informative, and it was a really lovely way to spend a quick 45 minutes. Plus, the building is so stately and stunning -- a far cry from the courthouses in Wilmington today.
The Read House and Gardens:
A tour that covers three different families in three different time periods. The tour is relatively short -- again only 45 minutes or so -- and includes walking through an absolutely stunning garden.
The Amstel House:
Another old house tour and just as interesting! The Amstel House was *the* top house of the town and was graced by George Washington -- who even has a plaque in the floor to memorialize the spot!
The Dutch House:
The Dutch House rounds out the trifecta of old houses that tell the story of this town. This tour also includes details about how houses change over the passage of two centuries -- it's so interesting to think about how houses evolve!
WHAT TO EAT:
Jessop's Tavern calls itself the oldest bar in the state (though I do see that is contested!) so of course I had to stop in for a bite! The ambience was amazing -- I felt like Felicity from the American Girl Dolls when sitting for my meal. The servers were dressed in period appropriate garb as well.
The sweet potato fries with caramel sauce was amazing . . . and I have already worked on a copycat recipe. My entree was okay -- nothing too special. However, what was truly fantastic was the beer and spirits list. I don't even like beer but had to try something from one of the two large binders, and I was so happy I did! My waitress suggested a "sour" beer which tasted like kombucha, but with maybe a little bit more of an alcoholic punch. Perfect!
The Mercury Cafe and Teahouse:
The Mercury Cafe and Teahouse is a new café with vegan and vegetarian options. My hubby would be pure carnivore if he could, so we only stopped in to grab a coffee for me. The exterior is a beautiful old townhouse and inside is a cute but modern space with white subway tiles along the walls and a counter with emerald green sides and a butcher's block top. It's a great little stop!
A NOLA-inspired restaurant offering Cajun staples like jambalaya, crawfish, and even alligator sausage! Though I did not get to eat here, Nora Lee's has gotten consistently high reviews -- ranging from 4 stars on Yelp and Trip Advisor to 5 stars on Facebook and Google reviews.
The Booth House Tavern:
This place looked delicious! I am dying to go back and try the food offerings -- which include slightly more upscale fare like rack of lamb and sea bass. Plus, I noted lobster corn dogs because who doesn't love both lobster and corn dogs?!