Into each life a little rain must fall, but oh, please, not during a precious weekend or week at the beach.
Should it shower—or you simply want to get out of the sun—the Mid-Atlantic coast has plenty of other charms besides sand and waves. We looked beyond the obvious, such as shopping (tax-free in Delaware), to come up with 27 diversions in and around Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, and Bethany Beach in Delaware as well as Ocean City in Maryland.
For Kids With a Lot of Energy
Bounce Off the Walls
Even on rainy days when it’s crowded, Shell We Bounce Trampoline Park has room to roam, with a climbing structure and game-rich arcade. The sea of trampolines is divided into dodge-ball and basketball areas, a foam pit, and a space set apart for little ones. The cafe serves packaged snacks, hot pretzels, pizza, and coffee. Admission $8 and up. 32295 Lewes-Georgetown Hwy. (Rt. 9), Lewes; 302-827-4453.
Enjoy Thrills and Spills
Unless there’s thunder and lightning, most outdoor recreation centers stay open when it’s wet. Jungle Jim’s Water Park, for example, has two miniature-golf courses, batting cages, and bumper boats plus a large water park with a lazy river. 36944 Country Club Rd., Rehoboth; 302-227-8444.
At Midway Speedway Park, four go-cart tracks are a prominent draw along with bumper boats, a climbing wall, and a water park. 18645 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth; 302-644-2042.
At Escape Rehoboth, groups have one hour to solve clues that lead to other clues that lead to breaking out of a locked room. Adults $20, students $15. 20245 Bay Vista Rd., Rehoboth; 302-344-6125.
At Escape Reality VRcade, visitors dabble in virtual-reality technology, playing full-immersion games, exploring faraway destinations, and working out escape-room puzzles. But it’s not cheap: It costs $1 a minute, though sometimes there are specials. 21 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth; 302-604-2739.
Learn to Steer a Tanker
For more than 50 years, the Lewes Historical Society has collected and preserved thousands of artifacts, documents, maps, and photos that are now housed in the Lewes History Museum, opened in 2017. Added just last year, the museum’s Children’s Discovery Center allows kids to take supplies from a replica of a general store and “cook” in the child-size Cape Henlopen Lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Other activities include navigating a tanker or a speedy patrol boat along the local waterways using an actual Delaware Bay and River Pilots’ simulator. Free. 101 Adams Ave., Lewes; 302-645-7670.
On Exhibit: Museums
Spend a Day at the “Beach”
Reopened last year after a renovation, the small Rehoboth Beach Museum is all about having fun by the sea, with permanent and changing exhibits of vintage bathing suits, postcards, photos, sand pails, surfboards, and archaeological artifacts. Free (donations encouraged). 511 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth; 302-227-7310.
Dive Into a 1798 Shipwreck
Built in 1932 to celebrate 300 years of Lewes’s history, beginning with Dutch settlers, Zwaanendael Museum is a charming replica of a 17th-century town hall in Holland. Catch a fascinating lecture about the 1798 shipwreck of the HMS DeBraak and the attempts to find its sunken treasure in the Delaware Bay. A tour takes you from the museum to a shed at Cape Henlopen State Park, where the recovered section of the British warship’s hull is stored and kept continually watered for preservation. Free admission; tour is $10. 102 Kings Hwy., Lewes; 302-645-1148.
Pay Homage to First Responders
The Lewes Life Saving Station exhibits the boats and tools, such as a life-car and a beach cart, once used by surfmen to rescue victims of coastal shipwrecks. Displays also tell the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service. Free. 2 Shipcarpenter St., Lewes; 302-645-7670.
Nighttime beach patrols and perilous rescues are likewise the focus at Delaware Seashore State Park’s Indian River Life Saving Station. The museum hosts many programs and special events. Adults $4, ages six to 12 $2, five and under free. 25039 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth; 302-227-6991.
Explore Native American Heritage
At the Nanticoke Indian Museum, the only Native American museum in Delaware, visitors can see arrowheads, pottery, and other objects; learn about Native American arts; and, thanks to presentations by Nanticoke volunteers, hear about their culture. Adults $3, ages 12 and under $1. 26673 John J. Williams Hwy., Millsboro; 302-945-7022.
Salute the Air Force
A 40-minute drive from Lewes may seem far, but Dover Air Force Base’s unusual Air Mobility Command Museum is worth the time. The plane that served as Air Force Two is striking, but the one you’ll long remember from your visit is a restored WWII aircraft that flew young paratroopers in-to enemy terrain on D-Day. Its low ceiling, which causes almost everyone to crouch, is a reminder of how uncomfortable, and frightening, the flights must have been. At this museum, the only one in the world dedicated to the movement of troops and supplies, the guides—all veterans—take visitors into some of the 30 aircraft, including that heartbreaking WWII C-47A Skytrain. Free. 1301 Heritage Rd., Dover; 302-677-5938.
For Adults Only
Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Three-hour walking tours offered by Eating Rehoboth visit well-known restaurants such as a(Muse.) and Back Porch Café as well as buzzy newcomers. There’s also a new tour on wheels: Guides, in vans, give guests the same experience but with a Coastal Highway itinerary. Whether by foot or van, all tours include the chance to try local beer and cocktails, appetizers, and an entrée, often presented with a chat by the chef or restaurant owner. Because alcohol is served, participants must be at least 21. Walking tours ($55) Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday; the van tour ($69) is Thursday. 888-908-7115.
Check Out What’s Brewing
The samplings are satisfying for sure, but even nondrinkers can appreciate a tour of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery & Distillery, a local business success story. CEO and founder Sam Calagione was named Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional at the 2017 James Beard Awards. Options include an in-depth tour, from 9:30 to 3:30, that walks through every step of the process and breaks for lunch at Dogfish’s Rehoboth restaurant ($45 plus lunch). There’s also a free daily 25-minute tour and an hourlong tour ($10). Or forget beer and tour the distillery to learn how Dogfish is making vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum ($15). Every tour features samples and lively guides. 6 Cannery Village Ctr., Milton; 888-836-4347.
For Nature Lovers
Spot Nesting Ospreys
From the observation deck of the DuPont Nature Center, you might see horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. Inside the educational facility are interactive exhibits about the Delaware Bay’s natural history and ecology plus tanks with live horseshoe crabs and terrapins. An osprey cam is trained on a nearby nest, and with another nature cam that can be directed remotely with a joy stick, you can zoom in on some of the other 130 species inhabiting pretty Mispillion Harbor. Free. 2992 Lighthouse Rd., Milford; 302-422-1329.
Learning From the Past
See Live Fish and an Old Fort
Cape Henlopen State Park has a small but interesting Seaside Nature Center that has a touch tank, five display tanks with local fish, and educational programs and activities. The park is also home to Fort Miles, which was important in the nation’s coastal defense from World War II through the early 1970s. These days, there’s a museum, guns large enough to have seats for climbing into, barracks to wander through, and a preserved World War II tower open for climbing and observation. Access to the museum is by guided tour or open house; $5. 15099 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes; 302-645-6852 (nature center), 302-644-5007 (Fort Miles).
Walk Through History
Whether you want an interesting history lesson, pirate tales, or ghost stories, the Lewes Historical Society offers scheduled walking tours that focus on the town’s founding and early Colonial years (Lewes’s claim to fame is being the first town in the first state), surviving a British bombardment during the War of 1812, and its historic architecture. Some tours include entry into the buildings on what’s called the Historic Campus. Like a small Williamsburg, the square contains nine historic structures—including an elegant townhouse built in 1785, a schoolhouse, a general store, and a Colonial-era farmhouse—all saved by citizens who recognized their value. Most tours are $10. 110 Shipcarpenter St., Lewes; 302-645-7670.
Ship to Ship
Get Out on the Water
It may be an idea more suited to a cloudy day than a rainy one, but even in a light drizzle, Cape Water Tours and Taxi has a full, varied schedule of mostly 90-minute tours of the area’s waterways, including the ten-mile Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. Learn about birds and waterfowl on an eco-tour, relax on a sunset cruise, or explore the East End Lighthouse. Some outings are narrated by historians or science educators; a few evening cruises have live music. You can bring snacks or a full picnic and drinks. The 54-foot vessel can also be booked for a group. From $22. 213 Anglers Rd., Lewes; 302-644-7334.
Captain Gi and her parrot, of the Pirates of Lewes, offer evening excursions for adults ($42) and daytime treasure-hunt adventures for kids ($35), who are provided with costumes plus a sword and eye patch to keep. They love firing up the water cannons to battle a scheming enemy on this recreation of a tall-masted pirate ship that sails, rain or shine, along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. 400 Anglers Rd., Lewes; 302-249-3538.
Go Aboard a Lightship
Tour the lightship Overfalls and you’ll enter the world of the Coast Guard sailors who served on this floating lighthouse between 1939 and 1972. There were not only challenges maintaining the equipment at sea and under extreme weather conditions, but challenges in living aboard. When visibility was less than two miles, for example, the foghorn gave a three-second warning every half minute. The deafening sound continued day and night for as long as visibility was poor. With only cotton balls to protect their ears, veterans of this ship—one of only a handful of lightships that have been saved, restored, and opened for tours—now have hearing aids, if they can hear at all. Adults $5, children 14 and under free. 219 Pilottown Rd. (on the canal), Lewes; 302-644-8050.
This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Washingtonian.