Why? You want some of the best tax-free shopping in the country or you’re on way between Washington, DC and points north on I-95. You won’t find very many non-Delawareans in the First State, and when you do find them they tend to be at outlets and shopping malls. The one exception is the Delaware shore, nicknamed “the nation’s summer capital” due to its proximity to Washington, DC and the number of Washingtonians flocking to the beaches during the summer months.
Where? There are three areas in Delaware that tend to attract visitors: the shore, shopping centers near the border with Pennsylvania, and the city of Wilmington. The Delaware shore starts with the historic town of Lewes (home of the ill-fated first colony in the first state), followed to the south by Cape Henlopen (state park with WWII sites), Rehoboth (bustling beach town, gay and family friendly with an awesome boardwalk), Dewey (college beach town), Bethany (smaller and quieter with a small boardwalk), and lastly Fenwick. Rehoboth is home to multiple outlet shopping centers, all tax-free, which draw a crowd from the entire region, including New Jersey residents coming over on the Cape May-Lewes ferry. Up north, Wilmington occasionally brings in attractions or shows that don’t make it to Philadelphia and tax-free shopping centers cluster near the border with Pennsylvania.
When? Summer months at the shore are the peak tourist season, and many attractions will close for the winter. Northern Delaware attractions are open year round, with weather being most comfortable in the spring and fall months.
How much? Prices in Delaware are comparable to most of the mid-Atlantic region, although slightly cheaper due to the lack of big cities and tourists. All shopping is TAX FREE which can save you a bundle. Driving between Baltimore and Philadelphia will cost you $4 on I-95 to pass through Delaware. Driving down to the beach from Northern Delaware will run you $3 in tolls. What they don’t collect in shopping taxes, Delaware makes up for in tolls!
How long? Delaware is the second smallest state in the US, meaning you can drive across the state the long way in about 2 hours. For a shopping trip, allot the better part of a day to get your money’s worth. A beach visit can give you a taste of the state in just a long-weekend.
Why I love it? You can’t get lost in Delaware! It’s small enough that if you get lost, you just drive until you see a sign that says “Welcome to (Maryland or Pennsylvania)” and then you turn around. That was how I navigated the state in the pre-GPS days and I was never lost for more than half an hour. Mostly though, it’s the tax-free shopping. The first five years I lived in California I did all my shopping in Delaware during summer and Christmas breaks.