Rehoboth and Dewey offer a quieter, more relaxed alternative to Ocean City, Maryland, but both towns have nightlife and shops that stay open past 5pm, which you won't find at Bethany, Lewes, or Fenwick Island. If the sandy beaches, good restaurants, and intriguing little shops don't interest you, maybe the outlets will.
The Rehoboth Art League, 12 Dodds Lane (tel. 302/227-8408), is nestled in the Henlopen Acres section of town amid 3 acres of gardens, walking paths, and an outdoor sculpture area. The facility includes three galleries, a teaching studio, and a restored cottage. It offers exhibits by local and national artists. Admission is free, except for some special events. Galleries open year-round, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from 1 to 4pm. It's closed January 1, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and December 25.
The Anna Hazzard Tent House, 17 Christian St., off Rehoboth Avenue (tel. 302/226-1119), is one of the original tiny tent buildings erected in the 19th century when Rehoboth was a summer retreat for Methodists. Admission is free, and it's open May through October, Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Especially for Kids
Funland, on the boardwalk between Delaware and Brooklyn avenues (tel. 302/227-1921; www.funlandrehoboth.com), has rides and games. The rides for the preschool set are varied enough to keep the youngsters busy for hours; rides for kids 8 and over or so are more limited. It's open from Mother's Day weekend to Labor Day, the arcade from 10am, the rides from 1pm. It closes when everybody's ready to go home.
About 1 1/2 miles north of town is Jungle Jim's Adventure Land, Route 1 and Country Club Road (tel. 302/227-8444), which offers go-carts, miniature golf, bumper boats, a rock-climbing wall, outdoor rides, and a water park with slides and rides. It's open weekends in May and September and daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10am to 11pm.
Pirate Adventures (tel. 302/539-5155) take off from the pier at Harpoon Hanna's, 142nd Street and the bay, seven times a day. There's treasure, sea chanteys, storytelling and other pirate stuff. Tickets are $18 for those 3 and over and $8 for baby pirates.
Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre (tel. 302/227-6766; www.rehobothchildrenstheatre.org) puts on shows for the kids at venues around the Rehoboth area, including the All Saints Episcopal Church, the Bay Center in Ruddertowne, and the Holiday Inn Express, in Bethany. Favorites such as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk are performed selected weeknights in summer. Curtain time is usually 7pm. The theater also offers morning acting workshops and an apprentice program. Call for reservations.
The Life-Saving Stations
Just south of Dewey and beside the Ocean City Inlet are two buildings that memorialize the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
The pumpkin-and-brown Indian River Life-Saving Station, on Route 1, south of Dewey (tel. 302/227-6991; www.destateparks.com/attractions/life-saving-station/index.asp), has been restored to its 1905 appearance. Built in 1876 as an Atlantic-coast outpost to look out for ships in distress, it was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, decommissioned in 1962, and restored in 1998. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its spare interior recalls the heroic rescuers who saved sailors from sinking ships. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children 6 to 12. Guided tours are available until a half-hour before closing. Or use your cellphone for an audio tour. From April through October, it's open daily from 8am to 4:30pm. Off-season, it's open select weekends 8:30am to 4pm. Call ahead.
In Ocean City, the white-and-red Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, at the Inlet end of the Boardwalk (tel. 410/289-4991; www.ocmuseum.org), recalls the men who saved 4,500 sailors off these shores. Artifacts include a restored surf rescue boat and a pictorial history of storms that have raged here. Other exhibits focus on O.C. history, including bathing suits and lifeguards. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children 6 to 12. Hours are June through September daily from 10am to 10pm, and May and October daily from 10am to 4pm. In April, it's open weekends 10am to 4pm. Call ahead for winter hours.
Sometimes you just need a little pampering. Rehoboth has become something of a spa resort, with plenty of places to choose from. Avenue Apothecary & Spa, 110A Rehoboth Ave. (tel. 302/227-5649; www.avenueinn.com), offers European facials, waxing, makeup, and hair and nail care. It has a spa shop as well. The Spa at the Bellmoor, 6 Christian St. (tel. 800/425-2355 or 302/227-5800; www.thebellmoor.com), offers massage, facials, body treatments, waxing, and nail care. The Spa by the Sea, 19266 Coastal Hwy. (tel. 302/227-8640; www.thespabythesea.com), offers traditional massage, facials, manicures, and other treatments.