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Travel with a Teen to Wilmington, Delaware

12/15/2016 04:02 pm ET

My husband has been logging long hours at work for some time, so we jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a family vacation over Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I took ill with a virus turned sinus infection, so we didn't get to do quite as much as we had hoped, but we got a good sense of Wilmington and surrounding areas, and it proved to be a family pleasing destination.

We spent four nights at the classy HOTEL DUPONT, and we loved our room and the ambiance of this boutique hotel. Very spacious, with an elegant, sprawling bathroom, our room presented like a one bedroom apartment, minus a kitchen. We had two very comfortable queens beds and a pullout sofa, and there was more than ample room to relax and watch the flat screen television or perch in an arm chair and read or hook up your computer (my son had his laptop) at the desk. While there is a mini bar, there was no refrigerator -- but we were able to request one, which they supplied at no charge. Room service and breakfast at The Green Room (their upscale, signature restaurant) were on the pricey, if not spectacular side, but convenient. We did not dine there for dinner, so can't comment on that. They do feature special menus for holidays, including Christmas and New Years. There was no tea or coffee maker in the room, which would have been appreciated. The hotel offers provides convenient valet parking, and free high speed WiFi. There is a 24 hour accessible fitness center, as well as a business center and gift shop.

The clubby, yet modern, lobby, adorned with a festive Christmas tree, is lovely, and the staff was helpful and welcoming. There are over 200 ample guest rooms and suites, and facilities for conferences, special affairs, weddings and events. There is also DuPont Theatre, now known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square....which didn't feature any performances at the time of our visit.

We would definitely stay here again if visiting Wilmington. The hotel is well-maintained and an accessible location to drive to nearby attractions.

We visited LONGWOOD GARDENS to see A Longwood Christmas one evening, and the lights were just glorious. This is an absolute must see at holiday time. According to their website,"The sounds of the season resonate throughout our indoor and outdoor Gardens during our musically-inspired display." And, it was a sparkling sight to behold, plus there are organ sing-alongs, strolling carolers, and performances in the garden. There are also three fire pits at the Hour Glass Lake Pavilion, Peirce-du Pont House Plaza, and Dogwood Plaza. They are available every night from 4:30-10:00 pm throughout A Longwood Christmas, weather permitting.

A Longwood Christmas is on view through January 8th, and you need to purchase tickets in advance. As you might imagine, it is extremely popular. Throughout the rest of the year, they offer a full calendar of performances, events, family programs, workshops and more.

Wilmington & Western Railroad's SANTA CLAUS EXPRESS was scheduled for us on this trip, but we were unable to make it. It looks like super fun, and is a big attraction for families, particularly those with younger kids. It sells out every year! Santa rides the train and greets everyone on board, and gives all children a chocolate treat. He also poses for pictures with your child during this 1½-hour round-trip to Ashland. The railroad is now in it's 50th year of tourist service.

One of the highlights of this trip for all of us was a visit to the AMERICAN HELICOPTER MUSEUM & EDUCATION CENTER. There is a colorful, inviting play area making it suitable for very young children, and while compact in size, the Museum is quite engaging and interactive for all ages. My son was able to enter a number of the vehicles, and they have a terrific simulator, that he impressively didn't crash. There was a docent on hand who eagerly took us around on a tour after we watched a brief film, and he shared his tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm. There are helicopters inside and outside, with lots of photo opportunities.

Their website states, "The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center's mission is to preserve rotary-wing aviation history, ed society on helicopters and their missions & inspire future generations. We will collect, preserve, research, publish and exhibit the objects, artifacts and documents relating to the origins and development of rotary-wing aircraft. We accomplish this through an active schedule of delaware-helicopter-museum-seth delaware-seth-helicopter-museum-2public educational programs, exhibitions, events, air shows, workshops and publications designed to teach the principles of flight, celebrate the pioneers of aviation and encourage and inspire future generations of engineers, scientists, innovators, pilots, mechanics and inventors!"

Over 35,000 people visit annually and the impressive museum regularly hosts corporate meetings, birthday parties, wedding and even offers helicopter rides. They welcome volunteers and donations. We would absolutely love to return one day.

The AIR MOBILITY COMMAND MUSEUM was a real treat for my son. As their website explains, "During WWII, the 4146 Base Unit was involved in secret rocket development at what was then known as Dover Army Airfield. The building complex where these military secret operations took place was Hangar 1301. From the 1950s to the 1970s, various fighter squadrons called the hangar home. In the 1990s after restoration and placement on the National Register of Historic Places, Hangar 1301 was given new life as the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum."

Admission and parking are free, and group tours may be arranged. There is much eye candy here for the aviation fan. The museum houses over 30 aircraft including cargo haulers, fighters, helicopters, a presidential aircraft, and even a bomber.

They offer school tours, special events, and also welcome volunteers and donations, whether financial or an aircraft.

While we didn't make it to BRANDYWINE ZOO this trip, I would definitely recommend a visit. Located on only 12 acres, the Brandywine Zoo features animals from the tropical and temperate areas of North and South America, Asia and Africa. The animals, in natural settings, range from more common species to the highly endangered. They offer a host of special family events and programs.

I wouldn't say that Wilmington is a shopper's paradise but for those who enjoy getting a bit of a deal, like me. you might appreciate it all the more because there is no sales tax in the state. A friend even told me that someone she knows traveled to Delaware to visit the Apple Store in the mall to purchase her son a computer and save the tax. I've always been a fan of boutique specialty shops with more unique merchandise than you often find at malls, so we visited Greenville Crossing where I happily discovered the WILMINGTON COUNTRY STORE. It not only had nice fashions, but I scored some Hanukkah gifts for my son, most notably a plush German Shepard that doubles as a footstool. He's gonna love it!

MID-ATLANTIC GRAND PRIX INDOOR KARTING was a must visit for us. My son simply adores go-karts, and he could have spent hours racing around here.

There are other attractions that might be of interest including Winterthur, Wagley Museum, Nemours Mansion, Museum of Natural History and Delaware Children's Museum. Plenty to do on future visits.

For details on the area, visit www.VisitWilmingtonDe.com.

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