My Grudge Against Wilmington

Is Wilmington worth slowing down for?

I will always hold a grudge against Wilmington, Delaware, which I was reminded of as I drove through Wilmington on the way to Philly this weekend.  After fifteen years, I should let it go, but I haven’t yet.

I was a college student spending a week with a friend in Baltimore.  One day when she had to work, she suggested I take the Amtrak to a nearby city.  Always up for an adventure, I agreed.  At the station, I narrowed my choices to Washington, Philadelphia, and Wilmington.  I had recently been to DC, so I crossed that off the list.  I had never been to Delaware (and wondered how long it would be before I had the chance again), so I selected Wilmington.

Arriving in Delaware on Amtrak, I exited to streets filled with banks, credit card companies, and not much else.  Wilmington’s city center is a witness relocation program for 15-story nondescript suburban office towers which belong in Lisle or Las Colinas, not in a downtown.  Street life was non-existent, save white-shirted office workers droning about.  McDonald’s was one of the better-known dining options.

I gravitated to the Hotel du Pont, perhaps one of the reasons I went to Delaware in the first place.  I thought a city with a hotel this famous must have some grand qualities, but once I walked around the property, it was back to the boring streets.  I did find one “tourist attraction,” the Kalmar Nyckel, a tall ship which brought Swedish settlers to America generations ago.  I discovered it at its dock in an uninspiring part of the city just outside of downtown.  Less than an hour later, I was back in the city wondering (again) what I had been thinking that morning.

I am not bored easily, and I had intended to spend the day in Wilmington, but I took the 2:00 train back to Baltimore, as the city had nothing else for me to conquer.  The real attraction, Winterthur Gardens, seemed too far away, unreachable in the Wilmington burbs.  I bet if I had visited Wintherthur, my view of Wilmington would be different, but I missed that opportunity.  For me, the worst part about visiting Wilmington was the opportunity cost.  I missed the opportunity to visit historical, tourist-friendly Philadelphia, just to say I had been to Delaware.  For years, I have described Wilmington as America’s most boring city.  It took fourteen more years before I would reach Philly.

I am sure Wilmington may have changed, but a drive through this past weekend revealed the same skyline and the same memories of, well, not much at all.  One day, I may stop again in Wilmington.  I may visit Winterthur, perhaps in the spring when all is abloom.  Perhaps then I will change my tune and fall in love with the credit-card capital of America, but until then, dear Wilmington, I will still hold a grudge.

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