Delaware is a small state with fewer than 60 municipalities – that’s no surprise. With only three counties, many policies are the same from town to town, and the state seems to just be split in half. Slower Lower is where you live if you like the serenity of rural life, and Northern Delaware is where you’ll reside if you like the hustle and bustle of city living. Because of the similarity from town to town and the great divide between North and South, it’s hard to find a good list of “best places to live in Delaware” online. Many of the ones we’ve found include more ties than anything else, claiming that the weather is the same, the unemployment is the same, and therefore the towns are the same.
Those of us who live in Delaware know that each city, small town, and really small town are unique and have their own strengths, and that the “best place to live in Delaware” really depend more on what you’re looking for in your hometown, rather than an arbitrary ranking based on what statisticians THINK you’d like to have. So, we’ve done our Best Of list a little differently – based on what’s important to YOU.
1. Best Large Town - Dover
Not only is Dover a beautiful city with a tremendous history behind it, but it's got a low commute time (just about 20 minutes), a low unemployment rate (7% and shrinking YOY) and proximity to nearly anything you would want to do in Delaware. Just a few miles from the beaches if you want to spend time relaxing by the water, or stick around Dover itself and attend any of the races - horse or car - at the Dover Speedway or Dover Downs.
2. Best Small Town - Milford
Milford is another town with a ton of amenities - the Downtown area is always busy with community events, and it's a lovely place to be in all seasons. The schools in Milford are excellent as well.
3. Best Really Small Town - Henlopen Acres
Henlopen Acres has a year-round population of just 122 - we don't take the phrase "really small town" lightly. Even though (or perhaps, because) it's tiny, it has the highest "livability" rating when you consider amenities, crime rates, education, housing and employment. The one downside is that it's expensive - some of the highest property costs in Delaware. However, if you're ready to splurge and settle down in a beautiful, waterfront town - Henlopen Acres is your next neighborhood.
4. Best for Schools - Wilmington
There's no question that Wilmington has the highest concentration of all-star schools. Between the public charter schools such as Odyssey,Kuumba, Calloway School of Arts and Conrad School of Science, you won't have to look any further to find a good fit for education. The Charter School of Wilmington is the #1 ranked school in Delaware, and the Delaware Military Academy is highly regarded as well. And that's just considering public schools - private schools such as Padua Academy and St Mark's High School are also top picks.
5. Best for Millenials - Newark
It's no surprise that Newark gets our nod as the best place in the state for Millenials, as it's largely a college town. Mostly affordable housing prices and proximity to major cities, plus a large population of twentysomethings make Newark the place to settle down right out of college, while you're starting your life.
6. Best for Retirees - Greenville
Greenville is a small town just outside of Wilmington that's become a hot spot for retiring Delawareans. With excellent access to doctors, plenty of amenities, a small-town feel and close proximity to recreation centers and golf courses, it makes sense that nearly 25% of the towns residents are over 65 years old. The property values are amongst the highest in the state (and so is the income - making Greenville the 2nd richest town in Delaware) but many residents find the peaceful, well-maintained neighborhoods to be worth the higher price tags.
7. Best for Families - Middletown
Middletown is a growing, amenity rich town with great schools, which makes it perfect for young families. Middletown was recently recognized by the state for its commitment to resident health and wellbeing, and has built up the town's healthcare facilities, retail and restaurants quite a bit in recent years.
8. Best for Foodies - Laurel
We've talked about Laurel's great taco shops in a previous article, but they do deserve mention again. Tacos Chabelita and Tacos La Placita are as authentic as you can get in the Delmarva penninsula. Abbott's on Broad Creek makes seasonal, fresh dishes that are to die for, and South Fork Deli is perfect for lunch every day of the week. There are so many great places to eat in and around Laurel that a foodie will never get bored.
9. Best for Artists - Arden
Arden is a small utopian village founded in 1900 to be a place for artists to build community. To this day, Arden Village (and the other Ardens - Ardentown and Ardencroft) are tight-knit communities determined to keep the original spirit of Arden alive. Be warned - it's hard to get in. All of the properties in Arden are leased, rather than sold.
10. Best for Nature-Lovers - Lewes
Between the Canalfront and Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes is the place to be if you love to spend time in nature. You'll never run out of things to do along the water and in the State Park, and you're just south of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Beyond that, Lewes is a beautiful town, and permanent residents love the small town feel and great number of amenities.
11. Most Exciting - Dewey Beach
Dewey Beach is the party town of Delaware - there's no questioning that! With a hot nightlife scene, a decent year-round population and an event calendar that guarantees you'll never be bored, it's easy to see why we think Dewey Beach is the most exciting place to live in Delaware.
Honorable Mention - Hockessin
Hockessin was a close 2nd in a few of the above categories (schools, families, best small town) so we decided to make it an honorable mention. It does have a high median home price and a high median annual income compared to the rest of the state, making it tough to afford unless you've got one of those high paying jobs. There's hardly any crime in Hockessin, and it's got some of the best public schools in the state. Plus, with plenty of shopping and that New Castle County proximity to major cities, there's always plenty to do.