The major museums of Dover, as well as Legislative Hall and the state archives, have been designated the First State Heritage Park at Dover. A "park without boundaries," the various sites, nevertheless, have hours. Start your visit at the Green, where Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Most of Dover's historic sites, government buildings, and museums are located around or within walking distance of here. From Route 13, follow signs for the historic district and take State Street, which goes right through the center of the Green. Other attractions, along with Dover's hotels and motels, are concentrated east of the historic district, along Route 13, also known as DuPont Highway. You'll need a car to get around this strip, which is home to Dover Downs, the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village, and the Dover Air Force Base.
Delaware State Museums
Five of the state's museums are in Dover (the others are the Zwaanendael in Lewes and the New Castle Court House). The museums in Dover highlight the accomplishments of Delawareans since prehistoric times. Admission to all of these is free. Note: It is difficult to see all of these museums in 1 day at a relaxing pace. Go first to the museum you want to see the most.
Start at the Delaware State Visitor Center, 406 Federal St. (tel. 302/739-4266; http://history.delaware.gov), to get a map and see its own exhibits. (The Biggs Museum of American Art is here, too.) Nearby, the Green, the English-style town square at Bank Lane and State Street, was designed by William Penn more than 300 years ago, and soldiers gathered here to join the Revolutionary War troops of General Washington. Look for the sign remembering the Golden Fleece Tavern, where Delaware's legislators voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
At the Delaware Archaeology Museum, 316 S. Governors Ave. (tel. 302/739-4266), learn about the methodology of archaeology, look over artifacts from a Native American burial ground, and peruse pottery from digs -- all on view in a 1790 Presbyterian church that shares a free parking lot with the Johnson Victrola Museum. Open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 3:30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm.
Next door, the Museum of Small Town Life, 316 S. Governors Ave. (tel. 302/739-4266), housed in an 1880s Sunday school, offers visitors a chance to walk down Main Street as it was a century ago. Stop by the printing office, the drugstore, the woodworking shop, and the all-important general store. Open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 3:30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm.
The Johnson Victrola Museum, at New Street and Bank Lane (tel. 302/739-4266), is packed with old records and antique phonographs that pay tribute to the man who made the Victrola a must-have in the early 1900s. Eldridge R. Johnson, a Delaware boy who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company, invented a way to make the original phonograph (with the big horn) more compact and control its volume. His invention made the machine popular -- and made him a millionaire. Open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 3:30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm.
The State House Museum, on the Green (tel. 302/739-4266), dates to 1792. To mark the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, the Georgian-style Court House, with its 18th-century courtroom, legislative chambers, and deeds office where freed slaves filed their manumission papers, was restored to its original appearance. Although the state's General Assembly moved to the nearby Legislative Hall in 1933, the State House continues to be used for ceremonial events. Restoration had closed the museum as of this writing; call for hours (usually the same as the other museums.)
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.