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Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington, was an industrial powerhouse by the latter years of the 19th century, mostly manufacturing iron ships and gunpowder. During the first half of the 20th century, its rapidly expanding industrial base was stimulated by the two World Wars, with highways and local roads upgraded, and interstate travel becoming more common. Wilmington’s Amtrak station became a hub for connections with Pennsylvania, New Jersey and ultimately, New York. Nowadays, the road systems encourage travel by car, and the city has a good number of interesting sights, nine historic districts, parks and a fashionable riverfront entertainment district.
Who to book with
Avis, Enterprise, Hertz and Budget are all represented in and around Wilmington Amtrak Station, as well as in other Wilmington locations. The most convenient way to ensure the car of your choice is to book in advance online, thus saving you time and money.
Best time to go
Wilmington’s weather presents hot, humid summers, cool winters and rain all year round. Wintertime is best avoided for its occasional, unpredictably heavy snowstorms, and August can be uncomfortably hot. The city holds several annual events and festivals, including the June-held St Antony’s Italian Festival in Little Italy, all of which cause increases in vehicle and accommodation rental rates
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your rental vehicle, the following documents must be shown:
- An International Driving Permit or a current UK driver’s licence
- Your passport or comparable valid photo identification
- The credit card used for the initial online reservation
- A printed copy of your confirmed reservation
For current information, visit our FAQ page.
The most convenient and most economical way to get around town is by rental car, as bus services are slow and taxis are expensive. The commercial centre of town can become congested at rush hours, as can the commuter routes from the many suburban communities. Interstates 95, 495 and 295 give access to surrounding towns and the rural countryside, as well as along the Delaware River and to the Pennsylvania state line. Inner city parking is available at the large multi-storey and underground car parks at Central Plaza, Compton Village and close by the river.
Our Guide to driving in the USA gives practical information and useful tips.
Getting to Wilmington by car is straightforward due to its location on several interstate highways, with Interstate 95 the most useful, running through the city and linking with the northeast and nationwide, and Interstate 295 running to New Jersey. The centre of Wilmington, its shopping area and the newly developed riverfront entertainment district are best explored on foot. The two alternatives are the hourly DART buses or travel by taxi, but the bus service is slow and taxis can prove to be expensive. The best means of transport within the city for visitors is self-drive with a hire car.
Located on Front Street, Wilmington’s Amtrak train station is served by two rail companies, Amtrak and SEPTA. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service runs from Boston and Washington DC in the south and from New York and Philadelphia to the north. Amtrak also offers long-distance trains to Florida and Chicago, and the SEPTA commuter rail service links Wilmington with Philadelphia and Newark, as well as nearby towns. Wilmington has no metro or central overground rail network.
DART First State provides 40 public bus routes across the city and into its suburbs, as well as summer routes to Reheboth Beach and other resort towns along the Atlantic coastline. The city’s bus service is aimed mainly at commuters, runs hourly and is considered somewhat slow, but is extremely cheap to use, with fixed route tickets costing just £0.15.
Taxi companies in Wilmington are reliable, although rates for specific journeys vary. There’s a taxi stand at the train station, but booking in advance by phone is usual for everyday journeys. Compared to bus travel, taxis are pricey, but journeys take a fraction of the time.
Wilmington is an ideal base for touring America’s most historic region, with Washington, Philadelphia, and the settlers’ towns in Pennsylvania easily accessed via interstate. Even New York is just 126 miles away and perfect for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. Within a shorter drive are coastal Charlestown, Philadelphia itself, Sugartown and Germantown with its revolutionary war history, and Rocks State Park is famed for its massive outcrops and boulders overlooking Deer Creek Valley.
Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway - Running from Wilmington to the state border with Pennsylvania, Route 52 takes just over an hour to drive. You’ll find historic estates set in rolling hills, exquisite Longwood Gardens, the famed Brandywine River Museum and the Delaware Art Museum with its artworks by known American artists.
Red Clay Valley Scenic Drive - This rural idyll comprises a network of 27 minor roads leading to and around Red Clay Creek, valleys, rolling hills and ridges, the Ashleigh Nature Center and Butterfly Garden, and the Mount Cuba Center with its rare Appalachian Piedmont plants.
Delaware Coast - A drive along Delaware’s stunning Atlantic coastline from historic Lewes to Fenwick Island takes you through three state parks and the seaside resorts of Reheboth Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island itself. Refreshingly underdeveloped, the resorts ooze Victorian charm.