Delaware, located just outside of Columbus, Ohio, is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. The growth has brought in some spectacular eateries and kitschy shops, creating one of central Ohio’s most lively historic downtown destinations. Known for the yearly Little Brown Jug harness race that takes place during the Delaware County Fair, visitors young and old descend on the town to cheer on their favorite horse and jockey. The internationally renowned Little Brown Jug, one of the jewels in the Triple Crown of Grand Circuit Harness Racing, brings in over 40,000 spectators and is the only such race of its kind still taking place at a local county fair.
People come to Delaware for many reasons; some arrive to enjoy the outdoor adventures at one of the many green spaces at local or state parks, others cruise the ale and wine trail, or experience some of Ohio’s historical stops.
Getting to Delaware is easy and it is just 23 miles from the John Glenn International Airport, making Delaware a premier central Ohio destination to explore for the weekend.
Things To Do In Delaware
Explore Two Of Ohio’s State Parks
Not many cities can boast of having access to two beautiful state parks, but Delaware wears its crown well. Alum Creek State Park is proud to have the largest inland coarse sandy beach, where sunbathers and swimmers can splash in the water or build a colossal sandcastle. Watersports, whether you like to go fast or slow, await the adventure seekers or laid-back paddlers. Are you feeling young at heart? Walk the Storybook Trail and be a kid again.
It is no surprise that people love Delaware State Park and all the fantastic shaded trails crisscrossing through the easy flat terrain. Boat lovers can rent a pontoon boat at the marina, where they can cruise the shoreline or fish for panfish on a lazy afternoon.
Pro Tip: Wear good sturdy shoes; even though the trails are improved, they are packed dirt and can have exposed tree roots.
Olentangy Indian Caverns
Ohio’s Native American history comes alive at the Olentangy Indian Caverns. You can see where the Wyandot tribe came to have tribal ceremonies in the “council chamber.” Various artifacts have been found to support this claim; arrowheads and stone implements can be viewed in the display room at the museum. There is no need to book ahead for a tour because from April–October, you can take a self-guided trip through the seven stations with an audio recording. The walking tour takes about 30 minutes, but you are free to explore as long as you like.
Pro Tip: A few things to know: You can only access the cavern via stairs, but wear close-toed shoes because they can be wet and muddy. Also bring a jacket because the cavern is a cool 54 degrees Fahrenheit year round, and take along some bug spray. I found out the mosquitoes are very friendly.
Catch A Movie At The Historic Strand Theater
The Strand is one of the 10 oldest continually operating movie theaters in America. In 1910, proprietor Henry Bieberson Jr. opened The Strand, and since that time, the theater has been welcoming guests with first-run movies. The Strand is a 501c3 designated entity and garners ongoing support from the Delaware community. So, come enjoy an evening in the beautifully restored theater, sit back in comfortable chairs with a bag of buttery-flavored popcorn and a fizzy soda.
Parking Tip: Since this is located in the historic downtown, there are a few things to know to find accessible parking. There is a city parking lot that is metered, located right across from The Strand. Meters are free after 5 p.m. Monday–Friday and all day on Saturday and Sunday. Street parking is free for the posted limit. Limits do not apply after 6 p.m. or on weekends.
Shop Historic Downtown Delaware
Stroll the friendly sidewalks along the downtown to find some specialty stores, vintage antiques, or create an artistic creation. You won’t lack places to peek into or shops to fill your shopping bag. Stone and Sparrow Apparel, a women-owned and operated shop, caters to shoppers with shabby chic and classic clothes. It’s one of my favorite stores, and I can’t come to town without at least window shopping there. Known as a “cute little shop,” Honey and Abernathy is a harvested and homespun destination where you can get a little something for yourself. Scented bath bombs, homemade candles, and things for the pantry are just a few items that will tempt you. Find that unique piece from days gone by at Sandusky Street Antiques, with thousands of things to look through, you might just be here for a bit. Before leaving downtown, get artsy at The Bare Bowl. I love to go and pick out a piece of unpainted bisque pottery, gather my colors of choice, known as the underglaze, and then paint a true one and only work of art. After completing the creation, leave your masterpiece behind where it is kiln fired.
Best Restaurants In Delaware
Grab a bite, a pint of ale, or a bottle of one of Ohio’s wines in Delaware’s epic dining scene. Whether you are indulging yourself in the historic Delaware downtown or on the outskirts, the eateries here will have your belly happy in no time.
Support A Local Coffee Shop
One thing that Delaware has is coffee shops. Not just the mainstream ones, either. It has the kitchy and unique local ones. The kind you walk into, and they warmly say, “Welcome, what can we make for you.” Coffeeology, a local pick that serves up some favorites in the middle of historic downtown, offers a killer iced hot chocolate that can be paired with a gluten-free cookie. Just down the street from Coffeeology, you will find Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery, which opens for the early morning crowd. While you come in for coffee, you might become distracted with the homemade baked goods — you’ll want to get some of both! Every coffee connoisseur has his or her own flavor, so pick the shop that calls your name and sit a spell with a cup of happiness.
Explore The Wine And Ale Trail
Delaware Wine & Ale Trail was created with something in mind for everyone. Whether your tastebuds crave a local craft beer, a hoppy IPA, or one of central Ohio’s wines, this wine and ale trail will keep everyone in your group smiling. Barley Hopsters is the pinnacle of the trail, with 750 different beers, 100 flavorful wines, and over 50 fun root beers to tempt your tastebuds.
Voted Delaware’s best winery the past four years, Blend of Seven Winery, brings friends together over delicious food and wines handcrafted onsite. You can find me here enjoying the patio on a lively weekend!
Pro-Tip: This Wine and Ale Trail can take you all over Delaware County. If you have time, pick up the book at the visitor center or one of the locations listed on the trail. The trail will take the whole day to visit all the destinations.
Eat a Hamburger Or Two
Hidden gems are my favorite finds, and I will never forget the day I found Hamburger Inn Diner. Admittedly, I had passed by this hamburger joint many times, but I decided to stop in one day, and it was like stepping back in time. According to local gossip, diner staff will tell you it is the oldest operating diner in Ohio. What you will find as you open the door is three u-shaped counters surrounded by stools, an open kitchen where cooks still call out the orders, and delicious food made fast. Serving up burgers from fresh ingredients that are never frozen keeps this place hopping with locals and out-of-town guests. Every time I go, I get one of its swiss mushroom burgers, paired with hand-cut fries, chocolate malt, and one of its famous grilled cinnamon rolls. It’s gluttony at its finest!
And if one hamburger place is not enough, you have to try Son of Thurman, home of the hamburgers you can not fit into your mouth! Family-owned since 1942, the fourth generation is keeping the legacy alive. What are the owners doing to keep it going? They continue to create some of the best and biggest burgers you have ever seen. The most well-known and biggest one is The Thurmonator. Coming in at 24 ounces, dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle and banana peppers, cheddar cheese, provolone, mounds of ham, sauteed mushrooms, and onions served with a pile of fresh hand-cut fries on the side, this monster will have you taking pictures to share on social media!
Pro Tip: Wear an elastic waistband when you come, because I promise, you will want room for expansion if you tackle The Thurmonator.