Located in Delaware, the first of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Wilmington is a small and unique city. It is also the land of the Du Pont family, one of the America’s wealthiest families, and the home of former Vice-President, Joe Biden.
What makes Wilmington even more distinctive in spite of its wealth, and its rich history and politics, is that it can be a pretty fun place to wind down and have a good time, and go on a tax-free shopping spree. Wilmington is a vibrant, eco-conscious, small town where people are particularly affable. It was an exemplary location to start to start A Dapper Chick’s journey across the U.S. – first stop in the First State!
The purpose of A Dapper Chick’s 52 Weeks Across America expedition is for Debbie, my queer best friend, and I to find LGBTQ-friendly cities across the United States. In Wilmington, designated queer neighborhoods or bars are not present. However, folks around town are welcoming and nice, and they seem to be indifferent towards sexual orientations. These residents pride themselves in their copious culture, their tight-knit community, and what the city has to offer, making it a perfect city to showcase in our quest for safe spaces.
Sheraton Suites – Photo by Debbie – Jean Lemonte
WHERE TO STAY
That ideal location? You know, the place that’s within walking distance to all of the hot spots? The neighborhood where most of the attractions are less than an $8 ride away? Well, that area is Downtown, the nonpareil refuge for a curious and adventurous mind. Just about a seven-minute drive from the Amtrak train station in Downtown, a shuttle service picked us up and escorted us to the site where we’d be residing throughout the journey.
For the duration of the trip, we stayed at the Sheraton Suites Downtown Wilmington. Through the revolving doors of the hotel’s entryway is a luxurious lobby with a rustic air, a warm atmosphere, and palette of earthy colors.
The stay was terrific. The hotel has some key attributes that I particularly fancied. The room, a consciously furnished, commodious space about the size of my studio apartment, totally exceeded my expectations. Given the inclusion of the word “Suites” in the hotel’s name, I guess I should have known better. Having 24-hour access to the Club Lounge was a boon. It offers complimentary breakfast and appetizers in the evening, and snacks and beverages are accessible all day. As someone who enjoys the privileges of a great workout, the gym and, most importantly, the lavish indoor pool were my favorite amenities.
DO NOT MISS
Surely, when touring an unfamiliar place, seeing its iconic sites and landmarks is imperative. There are plenty of things to do in this city, but a couple of these attractions that I would recommend not to miss are the Nemours Estate and the DuPont Environmental Education Center. For the art aficionados, a trip to the Delaware Contemporary is suggested. It’s quite the eye pleaser; a few of the displayed pieces will stimulate your mind.
Nemours Estate – Photo by Debbie-Jean Lemonte
Story has it, Alfred DuPont had it built the Nemours Estate for his wife. He presented the opulent home as a gift to her. (Quite the grand gesture, huh?!) The Estate is a masterpiece of elegance with a classic European approach – the closest I’ve ever felt to experiencing Europe and its architecture.
Inside of the massive structure, attendants are stationed at almost every section to provide information. The 23-carat gold ceiling and the resplendent vintage decor throughout the entirety of the house was overwhelming, to say the least (so much, I might want to be a millionaire, like so freaking, maybe). My favorite section of the mansion is the basement which served as a mantuary in the early 1900s. It hosts a gym, an office, two bowling alleys, a pool, a extravagant restroom, and more.
Note: Typically, the Nemours Estate only operates from May to December, but this past season it extended a bit.
The panoramic view of the natural beauty that surrounds the Environment Education Center is breathtaking. Located on the Wilmington Riverfront, the Center stands 4-stories tall and overlooks the Christina River and a boardwalk leading to a freshwater tidal marsh. A wildlife refuge that houses animals and plants — Bald Eagles, turtles, beavers, wild rice, hibiscus — sit on the property too.
DuPont Environmental Center – Photo by Debbie-Jean Lemonte
What I liked the most about the Environmental Education Center was the panoramic view of the natural beauty that surrounds it. Located on the Wilmington Riverfront, the Center stands 4-stories tall and overlooks the Christina River and a boardwalk leading to a freshwater tidal marsh. There’s also a wildlife refuge that houses Bald Eagles, turtles, beavers, wild rice, hibiscus, and other wildlife and plants.
NOM NOM TIME
When it comes to good food and hospitable service, Wilmington did not disappoint. Whether trying out new restaurants like La Fia or an established town favorite like Oyster House, the common denominator is soulful melt-in-your-mouth, can’t-stop-eating-it food. A popular signature dish in the city, one I never failed to eat daily, is Brussels sprouts and bacon; perhaps my favorite thing to eat besides fries.
La Fia & Oyster House- Photo by DJL
The ambiance at La Fia was alluring and romantic. From the menu, we ordered Crispy Fried Crab and Shrimp Croquettes served with curry aioli, pepper and lemon, and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts served with applewood smoked bacon. Both dishes were distinctive yet equally as appetizing paired with a glass of rose and some small talk.
The setting at Oyster House differed in that it was more like an rejuvenated seafood sports bar. Joined by Gaby of VisitWilm and Ebbie of the Trolley Angels, a group of gay men who hang out together and rule the streets of Trolley Square, the evening was lively. I excitedly listened as they talked about the popularity of “the mail man” (a local celebrity and her husband), the informal queer scene… All the while, I was savoring some, you guessed it, delicious Brussels sprouts.
NIGHT OUT IN TOWN
We sauntered into the World Cafe Live at the Queen for a free show where different artists performed various genres of music. Wednesday, dubbed Wilmo Wednesdays are generally gratuity and quite gleeful.
The nights were young and while searching for warmth and relaxed fun in the wintry and snowy darkness, we were lead to Hummingbird to Mars, a covert bar only identifiable by a small golden hummingbird on the locked doors. If it’s not too crowded, guests are allowed in to be transported back in time and submerged into a vintage, upscale, speakeasy-themed lounge.
Live at The Queens – Photo by Debbie-Jean Lemonte
Special Games at The Riverfront Rink – Photo by Debbie-Jean Lemonte
We all love to go out and enjoy a great night of fun in good company; Wilmington has plenty of options that’ll satisfy those needs. Debbie and I sure had a blast listening to live music, watching hockey games, imbibing spiked hot chocolate, having late night snacks, and conversing.
WEATHER & WEAR
We took this trip in the glacial temperatures of early January. Nonetheless, it was quite enjoyable. My tip to remain stylish while visiting in the winter is to pack on as many light layers as possible. Don’t forget to bring a scarf, appropriate accessories, and a warm coat. The trench coat I chose to wear came with a removable lining for cold weathers. Dress suitably for the season!
WHAT’S MY TAKE?
Honestly, I loved the time I spent in Wilmington. I’m sure I would do it again and perhaps experience it in a warmer climate. Although I did not know what to expect, and truthfully feared the worst heading there because of all of the increased racial tensions and anti-LGBTQ sentiment nowadays, I felt pretty safe in the city. We were forthright about our intentions to everyone who inquired about the trip and received no backlash. In fact, we received support and encouraging words. So, is Wilmington queer friendly? My answer is yes.
Looking to learn more about Visit Wilmington? Check out their websites for more things not to miss, places to stay, and more.
This trip was made possible with the sponsorship of Visit Wilmington, however these are my real opinions.