Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The beach part, you already know. You got your surf, your sunburn, your sand in the bathing suit. But how about life beyond the pail? Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, those laid-back siblings on the Delaware shore, offer way more than a day at the beach. When it's time for a break from jarring Speedo sightings, these twins chill like a frozen margarita. Lewes is quaint and quiet, with antiques shops and galleries. Hip Rehoboth embraces gays, straights and families alike in the "nation's summer capital." Info: Lewes Chamber of Commerce, 302-645-8073, www.leweschamber.com; Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Chamber of Commerce, 302-227-2233, www.beach-fun.com.
-- Jackie Spinner
1. NASSAU VALLEY VINEYARDS. This little vineyard off Route 1 in Lewes is a lush place to pack a lunch and picnic amid the grapevines. As Delaware's first and only winery, Nassau Valley takes seriously its responsibility for educating the vino-challenged, and the free self-guided tour concludes in the tasting room. Free tour and tastings. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Look for the signs off Route 1 just beyond Lewes, 302-645-9463.
2. ZWAANENDAEL MUSEUM. The history of Delaware's early settlers is packed into a reproduction of an old Dutch town hall, built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the First State's first European immigrants. The museum houses settler artifacts and details the British bombardment of Lewes in the War of 1812. Free. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Savannah Road and Kings Highway in Lewes, 302-645-1148.
3. REHOBOTH AFTER DARK. Rehoboth's lively gay scene gets the credit for the hopping night life, a grown-up version of the college party spectacle in neighboring Dewey. Best bets are on Rehoboth and Baltimore avenues. Start off with happy hour at Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.) or Iguana Grill (52 Baltimore Ave.). If karaoke is your thing (and honey, please don't feel the need to share that), catch wannabe crooners at the Purple Parrot (247 Rehoboth Ave.). Get your groove on at Cloud Nine (234 Rehoboth Ave.) or settle in for a night of jazz and blues at Sydney's (25 Christian St.). For nothing-fancy beer drinking, a mostly straight crowd gathers at Sir Guys Pub (243 Rehoboth Ave.), and the leather boys head to the Double L Bar (622 Rehoboth Ave.).
4. CAPE HENLOPEN STATE PARK AND SEASHORE CENTER. This 4,000-acre outdoor playground will keep you occupied for days, with swimming, surf fishing, nature trails, a World War II observation tower you can climb, softball fields and the worthy Seaside Nature Center. Here, too, are some of the best-guarded beaches in the area, including popular Gordon's Pond. $5 per car; free for pedestrians. Open 8 a.m. to sunset; Nature Center open seasonally, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. 42 Cape Henlopen Dr. in Lewes, 302-645-6852, www.destateparks.com/chsp/chsp.htm.
5. CAPE MAY-LEWES FERRY. Take a cruise (of sorts) to New Jersey, where the oldest seashore resort in the United States is just 80 minutes from Lewes by ferry. Cape May has an ample offering of shops, art galleries, eateries and Victorian architecture. Wanna swim? You're going to have to pay to use the beach, because Jersey is just stingy like that. Fares and schedule vary by date. During the summer, foot passengers pay $15 one way or $18 with a shuttle pass. 43 Henlopen Dr., 302-644-6030, http://www.capemaylewesferry.com/.
6. DOGFISH HEAD. This place rocks. There's live music on weekends and the modestly priced food is some of the tastiest in Rehoboth, consistently fresh and seasoned by wood-fire grilling that imparts a light, smoky flavor to the fish and pizza. Blackened catfish is wrapped in a black bean tortilla and rolled with mixed greens, marinated onions and sweet tomato salsa ($11). The salsa also finds its way to a marinated tuna steak served on black bread ($11). But the best reason to visit Dogfish is its homemade beer and rums. The Shelter Pale Ale is a good place to start. (Tip: Print out the super-secret coupon at www.dogfish.com/food/coupon.cfm.) 320 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-2739.
7. SEASHORE STRIDERS. This local running club offers fantastic weekend races to help work off that bucket of fries. Its summer 10K races are held almost every weekend, along courses that are flat and fast through the streets of Rehoboth or Lewes. The club also hosts a biathlon and some longer distances throughout the season. Preregistration costs $12 and guarantees you a nifty T-shirt. Sign up on race day for $15. 302-644-8952, www.seashorestriders.com.
8. AVENUE INN. Rehoboth has no shortage of accommodations in all price ranges and levels of comfort. But the Avenue Inn has to be one of the gems, often overlooked because it does not sit right on the ocean. There's something to be said about a place that manages to pull off a pineapple-themed decor and remain understated in its elegance. And it's hard to beat such creature comforts as free chocolate chip cookies in the lobby and an indoor pool and a spa on the premises. Summer rates from $149 to $325. 33 Wilmington Ave, 302-226-2900, http://www.avenueinn.com/. For a tighter budget, the Crosswinds Motel offers modest accommodations about six blocks from the beach. From $55 to $175. 312 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-7997, www.beach-net.com/crosswindsmotel. In Lewes, check out the pricey but loaded 22-room waterfront Inn at Canal Square in the historic downtown area. In the summer, rooms range from $210 to $250 a night. 122 Market St., 888-644-1911, http://www.theinnatcanalsquare.com/.
9. REHOBOTH BEACH BANDSTAND. With waves crashing at your back and the sounds of Dixieland at your front, the whole family can enjoy free alfresco concerts at this central gathering point in Rehoboth. The bandstand is located at the end of Rehoboth Avenue, where the commercial strip meets the boardwalk. Featured acts this summer have included bands, a vaudeville show, a barbershop choir, swing dancers and an organist. Free programs generally begin at 8 p.m. 302-227-6181,http://www.beach-net.com/.
10. REHOBOTH BOARDWALK. This mile-long boardwalk is a feast of indulgences. Don't go home without grabbing a slice of Grotto Pizza or a bucket of Thrasher's french fries, twice-cooked in peanut oil and never, ever served with the K-word. After a day in the sun, the symphonic harmony that is the Rehoboth crowd meanders up and down the weathered planks. Shun the arcades, the mini-golf, the beach bars and the tacky souvenir shops and spend one glorious night just people-watching.