12 Attractions in Smyrna, Delaware

Last Updated on March 3, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Smyrna is a quaint town in northern Delaware that offers visitors a variety of interesting attractions. Located just south of Wilmington along the Smyrna River, this historic community has plenty for tourists to see and do. From outdoor recreational activities to fascinating museums and cultural sites, Smyrna has something to appeal to all interests.

The downtown area features lovely 18th and 19th century buildings housing shops, restaurants and small museums waiting to be explored. Nature lovers will enjoy walking or biking on the many trails that wind through this part of Delaware. Families will find kid-friendly sites like the Smyrna Museum and Old State Fire School. Read on to discover 12 top attractions that showcase the very best of this charming Delaware town.

Biggs Museum of American Art

The Biggs Museum of American Art is one of Delaware’s premier art museums, with an impressive collection of works by Mid-Atlantic artists and sculptors spanning over 200 years. The core collection includes paintings from the Colonial era to the present, featuring landscapes of the Brandywine River Valley and other regional scenes. Sculptures and decorative pieces cover various movements like impressionism, modernism and pop art.

Special exhibitions change every few months, highlighting new acquisitions and works on loan. The museum itself is housed in an eye-catching building from 1700 that originally served as the town hall. Visitors can take a guided or self-guided tour of the galleries, watch an introductory video and do some hands-on art activities in the education wing. The museum store sells unique jewelry, crafts and books.

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

For outdoor enthusiasts, one of the top things to do in Smyrna is visiting Abbott’s Mill Nature Center. Operated by the Delaware Nature Society, this gorgeous park protects over 100 acres of meadows, woods and wetlands along the Smyrna River. A network of trails allows visitors to explore the local ecosystem, winding past wildflower fields, beaver ponds and stretches of undisturbed forest.

The nature center has educational exhibits inside focused on the flora and fauna found in the park. Seasonal programs take place here throughout the year, like birdwatching tours in spring and summer. Guests can also rent kayaks and canoes to paddle the river. With so much natural beauty, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is an exceptional spot to connect with nature while in Smyrna.

Smyrna Museum

To dig deeper into local history, the Smyrna Museum should be high up on any visitor’s must-see list. Operated by the Smyrna Historical Society, this endearing museum occupies two historic buildings in the heart of downtown. Permanent exhibits here explore different eras in Smyrna’s past using artifacts, photos and documents. Displays cover early Native American history, 18th century farming life and the town’s growth over 200 years.

Lots of the pieces relate to everyday items and activities to provide an intimate look into the past. Visitors will also find exhibits on prominent local figures like physician and abolitionist Dr. William Bassett and world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who trained in Smyrna. With free admission and special events like antique appraisals and guest lectures, the Smyrna Museum offers an illuminating experience for tourists interested in small town history.

Woodburn – The Governor’s House

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Woodburn is the oldest house still standing in Smyrna. Built around 1740 as a farmhouse, it was later expanded into a stately mansion. From 1822 to 1823, the home served as the governor’s house for Delaware governor John Collins. The interior features Federal and Georgian architectural details, with five fireplaces and ornamental woodwork throughout.

Managed as a house museum today by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the site allows visitors to tour the historic rooms to get a glimpse into early American life. Costumed interpreters and special events bring more vibrancy. The surrounding property has an heirloom garden, plum orchard and heritage breed animals like goats and chickens. For a thoroughly enriching experience, history buffs will relish an outing to Woodburn during their Smyrna travels.

Smyrna Opera House

As a center for arts and culture in the area, the Smyrna Opera House is a treasured local venue. Saved from demolition in the 1970s and carefully restored, this lovely performance space regularly arranges concerts, plays, lectures and movies. Many homegrown productions feature regional playwrights, actors and singers. Touring groups also perform here, including nationally acclaimed musicians and comedians.

For visitors interested in the lively arts scene around northern Delaware, catching a show at the Smyrna Opera House is an absolute must. The venue also runs tours during box office hours, allowing people to admire the soaring domed ceiling and glittering chandelier inside the theater. With diverse entertainment options almost nightly, the opera house promises memorable evenings out for Smyrna tourists.

Old State Fire School

Delve into the exciting world of firefighting at the Old State Fire School, part of the Delaware State Fire School complex. First built in the 1950s, these historic training facilities now operate as a free museum. Visitors can explore a retired fire engine house, watch demonstrations in the old drill tower and check out a fire safety trailer designed for school groups.

Many of the hands-on exhibits let kids try on real gear, operate a fire hose and inspect engine bays. Inside the school building, engaging displays cover fire service history in Delaware using antique equipment and artifacts. Guests can even take simulated emergency calls. Staffed by knowledgeable volunteers, this tucked-away museum offers enjoyable discoveries for kids of any age. Families visiting Smyrna will love learning about fire safety while having interactive fun at the Old State Fire School.

Smyrna Restoration Association

To see an entire district filled with historic homes and buildings, visitors should head to the Smyrna Restoration Association neighborhood next to Woodburn. Established in 1973, this was Delaware’s first official historic district containing over 70 structures from the 18th to 20th centuries. Notable sights include the Bratts Tavern from 1743, now a private home.

The Griffith-Cochran House operated as an Underground Railroad stop before the Civil War. Dozens of other private residences, churches and commercial buildings retain their old world charm through careful preservation. Maps for self-guided walking tours are available to pick up around town. History buffs could easily spend an entire afternoon strolling these peaceful streets while soaking up over 250 years of architectural history in downtown Smyrna.

Chambers House Museum

For an intimate look at Victorian life, travelers will want to visit the Chambers House Museum run by the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association. Built in 1890, this Queen Anne-style home has been impeccably restored with period décor and furnishings. Costumed guides lead tours through the first floor dining room, parlor and kitchen, explaining what household life was like for previous residents.

Changing exhibits highlight topics like mourning customs or the women’s suffrage movement using items from the museum collection. Outside, the Victorian garden grows heritage roses and other flowering plants popular during the late 1800s. Unique special events also happen here, like open house teas with hot cider and gingerbread. History lovers touring Smyrna will discover a perfectly-preserved time capsule inside the charming Chambers House Museum.

Smyrna Riverfront Parks

Nature is never far when exploring Smyrna, with scenic riverfront parks offering plenty of recreational opportunities. At the Northern Smyrna Boat Ramp Park, outdoor lovers will find hiking trails, a sizable fishing pier and boat launch leading into the Smyrna River. The adjacent Ponderosa Park has shady picnic spots along Marshall Mill Pond plus playground facilities.

Heading south, Bel Biv Devoe Park on Duck Creek contains more picnic shelters, sports fields, tennis courts and a dog park. Visitors can launch kayaks and canoes or cast lines for bass and catfish. These parks also accommodate weddings and community events with pavilions available to rent. For travelers seeking fresh air and outdoor diversion while in Smyrna, its riverfront green spaces guarantee pleasant times amid lovely natural scenery.

Falling Branch Brewery

Beer connoisseurs visiting Smyrna will want to schedule an outing to Falling Branch Brewery, a popular local microbrewery. Housed in a converted 1940s potato warehouse along the river, this tasting room has an industrial chic vibe with gleaming tanks visible in the production area. Sampler trays allow customers to try award-winning brews like their Smyrna Golden Ale and Red Clay Amber.

Food trucks park outside on weekends, while snacks like soft pretzels and house-made beer cheese can be ordered anytime. Tours provide an inside look at the entire brewing process. With plenty of outdoor seating and views over the river marshlands, Falling Branch Brewery makes an ideal spot for relaxing over craft beers in laid-back Smyrna surroundings. It also hosts themed events like trivia nights and live music showcases in the taproom and beer garden.

Freedom Trail Trolley Tour

To experience Smyrna’s most famous historical sites all in one go, visitors can book seats on the Freedom Trail Trolley Tour offered by the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association. This engaging 90-minute excursion hits major attractions around town via a colorful red trolley. Stops include Woodburn Governor’s House, Smyrna Museum, Bratts Tavern and the Belmont Hall historical property, with chances to disembark at each place.

Costumed storytellers also ride along, presenting theatrical skits bringing local characters like Governor Collins to life. Tours run Saturdays from May through October and require advance reservations. For tourists with limited time seeking to maximize their sightseeing hours, this handy trolley tour provides an entertaining overview of Smyrna’s most noteworthy landmarks and legacy.

Conclusion

With such a diverse array of attractions from museums and historic sites to craft breweries and scenic parks, Smyrna offers an appealing getaway destination for many travelers. Just a short drive from larger cities like Wilmington, this charming small town rewards visitors with glimpses into early American life, Victorian culture, nature walks through unspoiled wetlands and much more.

Foodies will relish the town’s unique eateries and drinkeries as well. Whether planning a day excursion or weekend escape, Smyrna guarantees rewarding experiences with this mix of history, scenery and hospitality waiting to be uncovered.

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