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Delaware's Quaint Villages FAM Tour



I was invited to attend Kent County Tourism's recent FAM Tour along with tour operators and other travel writers from North Carolina to as far as Boston, and I happily represented the beautiful State of Delaware. Our hosts, Danielle and John, meticulously planned every detail with thoughtfulness and precision. 



The trip began at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, this AAA-rated four-diamond hotel is an exquisite destination for groups, meetings, and individual or family getaways. Dover Downs has something for everyone ~ restaurants to suit every palate, an indoor swimming pool, a luxurious spa, a concert venue, and, of course, a casino with a wide selection of the newest slot machines as well as table games and sports betting. My newly-renovated room was clean and spacious and included a super comfortable king-size bed with fluffy pillows, desk and chair, sitting chair, refrigerator, coffee maker with complimentary tea and coffee, and toiletries. The room overlooked Dover International Speedway which is adjacent to the property.


A room with a view ~ sunrise over Dover International Speedway


We were welcomed with a private cocktail party where we mingled and enjoyed delicious hors d'oeuvres and complimentary drinks.



Next we hopped on Dover Downs' shuttle bus for a private tour of the Speedway and Monster Mile ~



If you haven't seen Monster Mile from the vantage point of the track, it's difficult to grasp how steep it is at some points. As the shuttle bus entered Monster Mile, we could feel the bus tilting even at the lowest point....imagine driving at 175 mph at a 3-4' story incline...amazing! We were also given access to the VIP box where some of the more decorated drivers have autographed chairs. 


Greg Biffle #16

So fun!!

Speaking of winning, we had some free time after the cocktail party to try our luck in the casino. Our tour package included free slot play and most everyone in our group walked away a winner ~ Thank you Dover Downs! The evening ended with a private concert featuring the Neil Diamond Tribute Band in the cozy Fire & Ice Lounge, located in the casino.



Dover Downs Casino

Day 2 began with a delicious buffet breakfast in the Festival Buffet at Dover Downs. We then boarded a deluxe motor coach equipped with wifi, plush seating, a rest room, and water and snacks provided by our thoughtful hosts. Our first stop was the Air Mobility Command Museum located on the grounds of Dover Air Force Base. Although this was one of the destinations I was most looking forward to visiting, I wasn't prepared for how moving it is ~ definitely a must see for every American! Veterans volunteer to provide guided tours and admission to the museum is free. One could easily spend 3-4 hours exploring the museum and reading the history of each exhibit.





We were able to board the C-47A Skytrain, pictured above, which was rejected by other museums as "beyond salvage". It has been immaculately restored with visible bullet holes remaining and features a collection of memorabilia donated by crew members. Also on display is an actual flight list and a picture from a 46-year reunion at the Museum held in 1990 and attended by the C-47's D-Day pilot, aerial Engineer, and three 82nd Airborne Paratroopers. Open cockpit day is held on the 3rd Saturday of each month April-September.  



Of all the sights we took in during our 3-day tour, I was completely awestruck by the Sperry Ball Turret, pictured above, or more specifically, the Ball Turret Gunner. It's an image that I'm certain will remain with me forever. The ball turret is a plastic bubble that sits beneath the belly of the B-17. Ball Turret Gunners would curl up in a fetal position, and have to endure -50° temperatures. Worse, if the B-17 lost power and had to make an emergency landing without lowering the wheels, the gunner would have no way of escaping. The B-17 crews were volunteers, young men in their teens or early twenties, who could transfer from flying status to any other duty, but few did. Tough and fearless doesn't begin to describe these young men, they are all heroes. 



Another image that captured my heart was this photo that is on display inside the C-5 Galaxy Cargo Aircraft. It's a picture with every seat of the C-5 filled with troops on their way home. You could feel their excitement from their expressions and it was hard not to be brought to tears thinking about what they had endured and how they must have felt knowing they were headed home to their families. It's so easy to take our freedom for granted. We owe these incredibly brave men and women so much. 

John Dickinson Plantation

Our next stop was the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover which offers a glimpse into the home and lifestyle of one of our Founding Fathers, John Dickinson, who signed the Constitution. Admission here is free and tour guides are dressed in period costumes. Visitors are invited to make sachets from fresh herbs grown on the plantation including rose buds, mint, lavender, and orange peel, reminiscent of handmade sachets once crafted by the Plantation's workers to repel insects from linens and beds. A working loom in the home is still used today to make rugs. ~





A quick stop was to the Victrola Museum in Dover was on our morning itinerary. A vast collection of Victrolas are on display as well as a Grammy award which was designed to replicate a mini Victrola. Fun fact: Socks were put into the opening of the Victrola's megaphone to lower the volume which is where the phrase "Put a sock in it" originated. This museum also offers guided tours and admission is free.




We then toured First State Heritage Park and Old State House. Admission is free to these attractions as well and tour guides are dressed in period costume.


Old State House Courtroom 

Monument commemorating the day Delaware became the First State

Charming courtyard tucked away in downtown historic Dover

We enjoyed a scenic stroll to the Grey Fox Grille where we were greeted during our lunch by Dover's Mayor, Robin Christiansen. Our buffet lunch was delicious {try the Chicken Salad, it's delish}.




It was time to hop back onto the bus for a driving tour of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna where we were lucky enough to spot several Bald Eagles and Blue Herons. Just a stone's throw from Bombay Hook is Historic Bellmont Hall, a Georgian-style mansion built in 1773 by Thomas Collins, a Delaware politician. ~



Time to head back to the hotel to freshen up before our farm-to-table and libations dine-around at Fifer Orchards. As we drove through the Amish countryside, we passed many Amish homes and a horse and buggy riding along the side of the road.



Once at Fifer's, we quickly hopped on the wagon for a tractor-driven tour through the orchards--my inner country girl could hardly contain herself---soooo much fun!



A fantastic fresh-from-the-farm buffet catered by La Baguette Bakery was beautifully presented and included chicken with peaches, carrot salad, mini crab cakes, quinoa salad, lima beans, scrapple, freshly baked assorted pies and bread and OMG! cruffins. If you haven't tried cruffins, they are a cross between a croissant and a muffin, the light buttery pastry is rolled up {picture a cinnamon roll} and covered in sugar. Definitely worth both a trip to Fifer Orchards...and yes, even worth the calories. Representatives from local breweries, distilleries, and Harvest Ridge Winery offered samplings of their most popular libations. A crowd favorite was Harvest Ridge Winery's Blue Hen Blue, a grape and blueberry wine...velvety smooth and delightful...a perfect way to cap off a picture-perfect day.



After checking out of the hotel the following morning we were off to a buffet breakfast at Rudy's Family Restaurant in Harrington {yep, eating again☺}. Rudy's is a favorite among the locals, known for their home cooking and affordable prices. 


Delaware State Fair ~ Courtesy Kent County Tourism

We were then whisked away for a driving tour of Harrington State Fairgrounds, a volunteer supported non-profit community based organization dedicated to educating and promoting Delaware's agricultural heritage, and home to the Delaware State Fair. The 10-day Fair is held every July and this year it celebrates its 99th anniversary with concert performances by Toby Keith, Brett Eldridge and many others. A new attraction to the Fairgrounds is bumper cars on ice {how fun do they sound?}. Delaware is only one of two States that offer this very popular attraction. 




We squeezed in a stop at the Harrington Railroad Museum and nearby John Deere Museum. 


country John Deere Museum
Check out the phone number "729"

Our tour concluded with an afternoon in Milford, located in Kent and Sussex Counties on the Mispillion River. Its tranquil, small town charm epitomizes "Delaware's Quaint Villages" and offers something for every visitor including shopping, kayaking, an Artists' Studio, art classes at the Art League, a serene River Walk, and a museum filled with an eclectic collection of treasures donated by Delawareans. We enjoyed a boxed lunch at our leisure sponsored by the Hilton Garden Inn {thanks, Wendy!}.




Navy uniform on display at Milford Museum, amazed at the tiny size of the jacket

Although I've lived in the adjacent County for a few years, I had not yet visited many of Delaware's Quaint Villages which are rich in history, old-fashioned hospitality, and the ideal mix of modern and colonial charm. A big thanks to all of the tour sponsors including Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Hampton Inn by Hilton, Home 2 Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Downtown Dover, and First State Heritage Park. Special thanks to Wendie, Danielle, John, and the Kent County Tourism team for all of their work in coordinating every detail to perfection.




If you are a travel writer or tour operator and have a chance to attend a Kent County Tourism FAM tour, don't miss it. If you love discovering charming towns rich in history and natural beauty, be sure to visit Delaware's Quaint Villages. For more information and to view the Official Visitor's Guide, visit www.VisitDelawareVillages.com





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