Clayton is a small town in rural Delaware that resides in both Kent and New Castle Counties.
The town of about 4,000 residents is located between Middletown to the north and Dover to the south. It’s just off US Route 13, which is the state’s largest north-south running highway.
Though the town itself is small and the surrounding area is largely agricultural, there are a variety of attractions within easy reach.
Museums, historical sites, and state parks are popular, as are gaming venues, auto racing, and scenic beaches.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Clayton that rank highly on many visitor’s itineraries.
1. Taste of New York
Though it’s only been open for slightly more than a year, Taste of New York in nearby Smyrna has already garnered a loyal following.
The restaurant’s founder previously worked in the restaurant biz in the Big Apple before settling in Delaware, and the menu is chock-full of traditional American fare.
Previous guests have commented on the restaurant’s authentic New York feel, as well as its eclectic menu that runs the gamut from Reuben sandwiches and steaks to oxtail soup and pasta.
Taste of New York is also known for its Maryland-style crab cakes that are made from fresh Delaware crabs when they’re in season.
2. Brick Works Brewing and Eats
Perhaps more than most other states, Delaware has a large proportion of locally owned and operated restaurants. In addition to serving home-style food, many of them offer tasty, locally-produced beer.
Brick Works Brewing and Eats in Smyrna is an area favorite that caters both to locals and the relaxed vacation crowd as well. In addition to their dining room, there’s a comfortable outdoor seating area that’s popular in the spring, summer, and early fall.
Their brews run the gamut from light and refreshing to dark and malty, and their menu items were created to pair well with a variety of beers.
3. Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village
Agriculture has always been a big driver of Delaware’s economy, and even these days, it employs a significant portion of the state’s workforce.
The Delaware Agricultural Museum is located on North DuPont Highway in Dover and includes thousands of items of memorabilia that relate to farming; many of them date back more than a century.
The museum’s outdoor portion includes historic buildings like a schoolhouse and barns, and there are some vintage tractors and farm implements on display as well.
The museum is open from 10 AM to 3 PM from Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is dirt-cheap.
4. John Dickinson House
Though he isn’t as well-known as other historical figures like George Washington and John Hancock, John Dickinson played significant roles in the founding of the country.
The John Dickinson House is located on Kitts Hummock Road in Dover. More than two centuries ago, it was the home of a man who was one of the framers of the Constitution.
Back then, Dickinson’s plantation mostly ran on slave labor. Visitors agree that it paints a fascinating historical contrast between a wealthy man fighting for his freedom from an oppressive colonial power, while still enslaving and exploiting others.
5. Cape Henlopen State Park
Southern Delaware is most often associated with its family-friendly beach resort towns and wide-open spaces. For many vacationers, those are the places that they spend the majority of their time.
Cape Henlopen State Park is located in Lewes, where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet. It offers guests a variety of activity options that have been known to keep visitors busy for days.
Swimming, surfing, and sunbathing are big park pastimes, and lifeguards are on duty between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
There’s also a disc golf course, basketball courts, and multi-use trails that wind their way through the park’s diverse environments.
6. Delmarva Peninsula
The Delmarva Peninsula is so named because it’s comprised of land from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. It’s one of the least developed coastal areas in the entire mid-Atlantic region.
The peninsula is nearly all flat farmland, but there are a number of quaint historic towns, state parks, and large expanses of pristine seashore that draw those who prefer to avoid the crowds often associated with the more commercial resorts.
Seafood restaurants abound, and microbreweries are popping up even in rural neighborhoods. Many visitors choose to drive through the area over a day or two before heading off to other areas.
7. Jungle Jim’s
Even those traveling with little ones can eventually tire of endless days spent on the beach. For those that do, a trip to Jungle Jim’s on Country Club Road in Rehoboth would be a great place to spend a few hours.
Jungle Jim’s is the area’s largest water park. Its amenities include slides, bumper boats, fountains, wave pools, and a lazy river that’s perfect for tubing.
If watersports aren’t your thing, fear not; there are multiple mini-golf courses, a video arcade, and batting cages as well. Jim’s is open during the late spring, summer, and early fall months.
8. Fenwick Island State Park
Despite its small size, Delaware has an impressive variety of state parks.
Fenwick Island State Park is located adjacent to Assawoman Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the state’s most popular destinations for surfers.
The park is known for its robust waves, and there are designated areas for surfers only.
Surf fishing is popular as well, especially during the fall when many game fish like striped bass make their annual run up the coast.
Fenwick Island is between Ocean City, Maryland, and Bethany Beach, Delaware, and is open daily from 9 AM until 5 PM during the peak summer season.
9. Zwaanendael Museum
More than three centuries ago, Dutch settlers established a colony in what’s now Delaware, making The First State one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America.
The Zwaanendael Museum is located on Kings Highway in Lewes. Its exhibits focus on the region’s military, maritime, and colonial histories, and most out of state visitors are surprised to learn what a fascinating past the small state has.
Items on display include relics and memorabilia from various shipwrecks in eras long past. There’s even a small art gallery on the second floor that highlights works by local and regional artists.
10. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
At more than 10,000 acres, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is one of the region’s largest tracts of protected land. It includes several varied habitats, like woodlands, marshlands, and grassy plains.
Prime Hook is a relatively short drive from Clayton and is the state’s premier stopover point for the hordes of migratory fowl that make annual trips between the north and south portions of the continent.
The refuge features a network of trails from which it’s common to see birds and other animals, especially in the low light morning and evening hours, when many of them are most active.
11. Dover International Speedway
Since it opened more than five decades ago, Dover International Speedway has been a regional racing icon. It’s now firmly planted on the national stage as well.
The track is a relatively short oval that features highly banked turns, which make for high average speeds. Throughout the year, there are a number of races in different classes.
Even for non-race fans, the atmosphere during events is electrifying, and many visitors choose to enjoy the party atmosphere outside the track without paying big bucks for a ticket to get inside.
Lodging can fill up quickly during peak times, so if that’s when you’ll be visiting, plan accordingly.
12. Air Mobility Command Museum
Dover Air Force Base is one of the largest military transportation hubs in the country. Though much of it is off-limits to visitors, it features an impressive museum that’s open to the public daily.
The Air Mobility Command Museum houses one of the largest collections of its kind in the country and is primarily focused on transport and aerial refueling aircraft.
The museum’s collection includes more than two dozen mothballed war-birds, both vintage and contemporary. Though admission isn’t cheap, it offers a truly unique opportunity to get up close and personal with impressive machines that are usually only seen from a distance.
13. Tanger Outlets
No retail sales tax means that visitors to Delaware can save gobs of dough on the stuff they’d buy in their home states anyway.
Not surprisingly, The First State is a regional retail powerhouse that draws shoppers from both near and far.
Tanger Outlets have been icons of the state’s retail scene for ages, and they’re anchored by nationally known brands like Gap, Eddie Bauer, and Nike.
Tanger has multiple locations in the southern part of the state, most of which are in Rehoboth Beach.
Though clothes are the outlet’s biggest sellers, they also offer sporting goods, books, toys, and electronics.
14. Rehoboth Beach Farmer’s Market
Though southern Delaware is all about sun, sand, and surf, it’s also home to one of the area’s largest farmer’s markets, which is a great place to visit early before spending a day on the beach.
Seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables are the market’s biggest draws, but its vendors also sell a variety of other products, including locally made arts and crafts, fresh baked goods, and prepared food items like salsa and honey.
The market is open on Tuesdays during the season from noon until 3 PM. It’s a great place to rub elbows with locals for those in the area for the first time.
15. Rehoboth Beach Museum
The Rehoboth Beach Museum has been open since the mid-‘70s and is managed by the local historical society.
It’s not the biggest museum in the world, but its exhibits include an impressive array of artifacts and memorabilia relating to the area’s history, culture, and economy.
Farming, fishing, and tourism are well represented, and there’s quite a bit on the settler era as well that dates back more than two centuries.
Admission is free, but visitors generally leave a few bucks per person to help finance the museum’s exhibits and upkeep.