The First State’s eclectic lineup of venues that welcome group gatherings include a historic mansion, picturesque wineries and several museums, including those with impressive art collections and one that highlights Delaware’s farming days of yore.
Following are some details about these great facilities for off-site events in Wilmington, Kent County and Delaware’s southern shore.
The Delaware Contemporary, an art museum located in a refurbished warehouse space, has seven galleries and features nearly 30 exhibitions every year.
“The galleries are open for all of our events and make a fun, unique space for a cocktail hour,” said Meagan Mika, director of special events.
The museum’s other event spaces include the lobby, which is available for rentals after business hours and can accommodate up to 200 people for a seated dinner or 300 guests for a reception, and the auditorium, which is available during business hours for a presentation or meeting for up to 150 people.
“Our auditorium features the largest video wall in Wilmington and is included in all event rentals,” Mika said.
Events here are catered by one of six preferred caterers, as well as Rolling Revolution Food Truck Event Co.
“We always have a scavenger hunt available for no additional fee, and we can organize guided tours, visits to our artists’ studios or hands-on activities with a professional teaching artist,” Mika added.
Tilton Mansion, a member of the National Register of Historic Places that’s located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, is home to the University and Whist Club.
“Our meeting and private dining rooms, banquet facility and ballroom are available to non-members for rental,” said the venue’s director of marketing, Stacey Inglis. “As a private city-dining club, we offer a fully staffed kitchen and we do all of the catering.”
Among the venue’s event facilities are several dining rooms that accommodate up to 45 people, the Governor’s Room, which offers meeting space for 16 people, the Dickinson Room, which is perfect for classroom-style sales meetings for up to 76 people, and the recently renovated ballroom, which accommodates 170 people banquet-style.
“The ballroom is fitted with a wireless projector system and a separate camera allowing for Skype meetings and teleconferencing,” Inglis said.
In addition, the ballroom has a 70-inch television screen with wireless adapters for meeting presentations.
Interested groups can also enjoy a tour of the mansion and grounds to learn about its history.
The Delaware Art Museum, founded over 100 years ago and housing 19th and 20th century American art as well as the largest collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art in the world outside the United Kingdom, is a “magnificent location for meetings and events,” according to Cynthia Smith, group tour and rental marketing manager.
“We also have the only sculpture garden in the state of Delaware,” she said. “Our four art studios provide groups with special opportunities to create art as part of a tour or as a teambuilding exercise.”
Popular and unusual guided tours include “Love, Lies and Oil Paint,” including an optional hand-embellished stationery workshop, and a treasure hunt in the British Pre-Raphaelite galleries, during which attendees will find answers to clues in paintings and receive a take-home “treasure” at the end.
Among the museum’s fun teambuilding activities are “Drawing in the Round,” which has participants work on individual drawings that are swapped throughout the activity, resulting in sharpened collaborative thinking skills and flexibility, and “Community Sculpture,” during which team members sculpt clay elements to contribute to one large sculpture.
“The piece will be fired at the museum and can be used as a physical reminder back in the office of a productive and creative day with coworkers,” Smith said.
Event spaces at the museum include Catherine A. Fusco Hall, which accommodates 250 people for a cocktail reception and 150 people seated, and The Labyrinth, a circular one-way path in a former reservoir that serves as a serene location for a cocktail party or picnic dinner for up to 300 people.
At Biggs Museum of American Art, which overlooks the legislative mall in historic downtown Dover, visitors are greeted by a contemporary sculpture called Aloft.
The recently renovated museum’s first floor, formerly the State of Delaware visitor center, now provides a unique space for temporary exhibits and a special children’s educational studio. The second and third floors house the museum’s permanent collection of fine and decorative arts spanning from the 1700s to present day.
According to Marketing and Membership Manager Stephanie Adams, the museum is ideal for intimate receptions with up to 150 people and seated meals for 70.
“We can accommodate everything from cocktail receptions to business meetings,” she added. “We offer wonderful meeting spaces throughout the museum galleries. The most popular spaces are the galleries on our first floor, and including the lobby, sculpture atrium and our Child HELP Foundation Gallery. These galleries always offer something new and exciting to view and the children’s space features brightly colored walls but can easily be repurposed for business meetings and private events.”
Group tours of feature exhibitions and the permanent collection can be arranged in advance to coincide with facility rentals, and attendees are welcome to wander the galleries on self-guided tours before, after or during an event.
Also located in Kent County is Harvest Ridge Winery, where history mingles with fine wines.
The winery, according to Tasting Room Manager Kristina Coldiron, is home to two noteworthy historic items: the 47th Witness Stone, which was laid by Mason and Dixon when they were surveying the land to separate the “north” from the “south,” and a Crown Stone, which was laid between 1763 and 1767 by Lord Calvert and William Penn when they were dividing Maryland and Pennsylvania before Delaware existed.
“We accommodate all types of private events, everything from larger fundraisers and holiday parties to smaller events including corporate teambuilding activities,” Coldiron said.
Among the event spaces here is a banquet hall, which has views of the vineyard and direct access to an outdoor patio, and can accommodate up to 150 people seated.
“We also have a small event space in our production building that seats up to 25 people and comes with a private bathroom and bar,” said Coldiron. “This space has direct access to the courtyard and our winery production area, and staff may accompany guests on a tour of our production facility.”
Groups can choose to work with a caterer, host a potluck-style event or hire food trucks for the occasion, and if the event is outdoors, they are welcome to bring lawn games to play in the courtyard.
At Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, groups will find educational exhibits about rural life and farming in the 1890s and early 1900s, as well as several interesting hosts.
“We have a mini pot-belly pig named Lulu and several chickens for our visitors to pet and feed,” said Director Di Rafter.
The museum, which recently unveiled a model railroad exhibit, hosts functions for 10 to 200 people.
“We have both formal and informal spaces, and indoor and outdoor space, and our 1890s village is situated along Silver Lake,” Rafter said. “We can also give customized guided tours with enough notice.”
Representing Southern Delaware, which features the beach communities of Rehoboth Beach, Milton and Bethany Beach, is the popular Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes.
“We are the first winery on the peninsula, founded in 1993,” said Peggy Raley-Ward, owner of the winery. “I had to change Delaware law to allow the winery to exist. By changing that law it opened the door for all alcohol production in the state, including breweries and distilleries.”
Nassau Valley, a bona fide trendsetter, offers tours and tastings, and also accommodates group events for up to 350 people.
The 8,400-square-foot Grand Cru Hall is the newest in the winery’s lineup of event spaces, which also includes the 3,600-square-foot Claret Hall and the outdoor Bacchus Grove setting.
“With 18 different caterers to choose from, a wide array of meal options exist, from simple wine-and-food pairings to five-course dinners,” Raley-Ward said.