Cooler weather may drive many indoors, but for those adventurers who head outside a world of unique experiences abound! Many tried-and-true “parkies” (read: park enthusiasts) swear by this time of year as truly magical. The silence, the stillness, the unexpected. Below are just a few of our favorite unique winter activities in Delaware State Parks.
Winter plunges us into darkness at earlier hours – and it’s perfect for stargazing! Unlike 9pm sunsets in the summer months, you won’t need to take a mid-day nap to get incredible views of the night sky. Lower humidity reduces haziness and glare, too, for brighter, more crisp views. In the winter months, the constellations Orion, Cetus, Perseus and Taurus dominate the night sky. While our parks close to the public at dusk, many parks offer winter stargazing educational programming. Or, if you’re staying in one of our campgrounds, cabins or cottages, you’ll have 24-hour access! New to finding your way through the night sky? We recommend Stellarium Mobile to help you navigate and learn more about celestial features. Both the free and paid versions of the app are user friendly, informative and available for Android or Apple users.
Not all birds head to the tropics for winter – in fact, many make the Delmarva peninsula their winter retreat! Snow Geese populate fallow fields and waterfowl, like Green-Winged Teals and Buffleheads, are prolific in waterways. On the smaller side, Dark-Eyed Juncos and Pine Siskins, Grosbeaks and Purple Finches make appearances in the winter months. If you’re new to birding, don’t worry – this is the perfect time of year to start. The bare tree limbs make spotting and identifying easier than ever! Learn more about birding in Delaware, here.
Sunset & Moonrise
Little known fact : winter sunsets are actually more vibrant than their summertime counterparts! The colors we see in our skies are caused by a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering – portions of the visible light spectrum being reflected back into space by particulate matter (aerosols, molecules, etc.) and causing only some colors to reach our eyes. In winter, the air is cool and dry and doesn’t hold as many particulates as air does in summer. Fewer particulates means less filtering – and far more colors reaching our eyes!
Take advantage of this phenomenon and our shorter days by enjoying earlier nights! Catch breathtaking sunsets before dinner and view the moonrise, too.
Snow is a special treat on the Delmarva Peninsula – our proximity to the ocean makes it less likely than our northern neighbors. But when we DO have a measurable snow, explore your favorite parks in a whole new way. Enjoy cross-country skiing or snowshoeing! If you’re lucky enough to have access to a hill in our very-flat state, take the opportunity to try snowboarding or downhill skiing. Find a trail with ideal conditions, here.
A hefty mug of hot coffee, layers of warm clothes and the cool winter air on your skin. Hiking in winter is a joy! Trails have an entirely different atmosphere in winter: summer insects are gone, crowds are thinned, and the expansiveness of the environment is on full view with the tree canopy devoid of leaves! Pick your next hike.
Museums & Nature Centers
Still not convinced about heading outdoors? We have plenty of INDOOR opportunities for you, too! As part of our mission to steward the natural and cultural resources of our state, Delaware State Parks maintains multiple museums and historic homes which are open to the public. Whether you’re visiting the world’s largest collection of steam cars at Auburn Valley State Park, the Delaware Folk Art Collection at Blue Ball Barn, or a World War II-era fortification perched atop a sand dune at Cape Henlopen State Park – there are many places to explore and keep warm this winter! History isn’t for you? That’s okay – we have Nature and Visitor’s Centers, too, each with a unique theme and features.
The days may be short, but the adventures don’t stop at Delaware State Parks. Come explore with us this season.
(Oh, and P.S. – Delaware State Park entrance is free from December 1 til March 1 each year.)