Willard Street, Wilmington
Property tax rates, expressed as the total per $100 assessed value, come from the Delaware Economic Development Office Property Tax Report. Median home cost is from Sperling’s Best Places. Crime rates are from Sperling’s Best Places. (The numbers represent violent crime and property crime, respectively, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 representing a lower violent crime rate and 10 a higher rate.) Commute times are from Sperling’s Best Places. Ratings for arts and culture, shopping and dining, and nightlife are as follows: 5 outstanding, 4 excellent, 3 good, 2 fair, 1 poor.
New Castle County
Red Clay | Taxes: 2.5071 | Median home cost: $498,400 | Commute: 22 | Safety: 3-3 | Arts and culture: 4 | Shopping and dining: 4 | Nightlife: 2
It could be argued that 19807, with its suburban-fading-to-genteelly-rural vibe, is still the most desirable ZIP code in the state. The most exclusive golf and country clubs in Delaware call it home, as do high-end retailers. Established private schools like Tower Hill and Tatnall are a stone’s throw from many homes, but the public schools are steady performers. Galleries like Somerville Manning and The Station join heavies like the Delaware Museum of Natural History and Winterthur on the cultural front. A range of upscale housing, both new (Applecross) and established (Westover Hills), is available.
Hockessin (New Castle)
Red Clay | Taxes: 2.5071 | Median home cost: $345,800 | Commute: 30 | Safety: 4-4 | Arts and culture: 3 | Shopping and dining: 3 | Nightlife: 1
Also a highly desirable zip code, Hockessin offers diverse housing options, from town-home communities to McMansion subdivisions to established homes. Harvest Market feeds diet-conscious residents. The House of William & Merry, the iconic Back Burner and other good restaurants feed discriminating diners. Hockessin Corner houses terrific shops like Everything But The Kitchen Sink. Del. 41 speeds commuters into Wilmington. Dining and shopping options in Pike Creek are a short hop down Del. 7. You share the same solid Red Clay schools with Greenville residents.
Barley Mill Road, Wilmington
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Orchard Road, Newark
Appoquinimink | Taxes: 2.3321 | Median home cost: $206,600 | Commute: 35 | Safety: 2-2 | Arts and culture: 3 | Shopping and dining: 3 | Nightlife: 2
Annexation and natural growth sped a tripling of the population between 2000 and 2010— with another doubling projected for the next 10 years, so Middletown keeps a steady eye on future needs. Sprawling subdivisions like the emerging Village at Bayberry—with almost 2,000 new homes planned for 1,600 acres— surround a quaint downtown with plenty of salons, restaurants, gift shops, florists and the Everett Theatre and Gibby Center. Effort is focused, in fact, on keeping important town functions centered on Broad and Main (site of the annual Hummers Parade each New Year’s Day—arguably an important civic function of another kind). Still a small town? It may be fourth-largest in the state but, yes, you bet.
Christina | Taxes: 3.0401 | Median home cost: $180,200 | Commute: 24 | Safety: 7-5 | Arts and culture: 4 | Shopping and dining: 4 | Nightlife: 4
Living in a college town keeps you young, which may be part of the reason so many 55+ plus communities have sprung up around Newark. The city offers a full range of housing styles and prices, a Main Street and developing Elkton Road/South Main Street lined with charming shops and good restaurants, and a university that offers—to all—live theater, film series, lectures, readings, art exhibitions and top-notch athletics. That’s not to mention homegrown attractions like the Newark Arts Alliance and Chapel Street Players. Large, beautiful parks on the outskirts offer many kinds of outdoor recreation. Large and small employers abound. And the town loves a party: The annual restaurant week, Community Day, New Night Downtown Newark, a longstanding Memorial Day parade and public trick-or-treating are just the start of the fun.
Cass Street, Middletown
Main Street, Odessa
Colonial | Taxes: 2.9478 | Median home cost: $137,300 | Commute: 24 | Safety: 6-7 | Arts and culture: 4 | Shopping and dining: 3 | Nightlife: 2
There is historic New Castle—dozens of Colonial homes, the historic market green and courthouse, the residents’ obvious appreciation for local history—and then there is everything around it: a jumble of subdivisions. You want to be here because there is no place else like it. A roster of free summer concerts on riverfront Battery Park joins Separation Day festivities and Art on the Green as much-anticipated public events. Delaware Street offers a small handful of good places to eat. Living in old, often small homes is different, but it has its charms.
Brandywine | Taxes: 2.9768 | Median home cost: NA | Commute: NA | Safety: NA | Arts and culture: 3 | Shopping and dining: 3 | Nightlife: 2
Popular, populous North Wilmington has for decades been one of the most popular areas in the state. Good Brandywine district schools, shopping and dining on Philadelphia Pike, Naamans Road and Concord Pike, countless established and attractive subdivisions, and easy access to major roads and large employers make an unbeatable combination.
Appoquinimink | Taxes: 2.3932 | Median home cost: $198,000 | Commute: 35 | Safety: 2-2 | Arts and culture: 3 | Shopping and dining: 2 | Nightlife: 1
In a word: charming. If you live here, you like small towns and history. You’ll find nightlife and dining to be provided by one-and-the-same: Cantwell’s Tavern. Find more options in Middletown, a short hop away on Del. 299. Access to U.S. 13 and Del. 1 is instant.
Hercules Road, Greenville
Van Buren Street, Wilmington
Pike Creek Valley
Red Clay |Taxes: 2.5071
Christina | Taxes: 2.8113 | Median home cost: $222,900 | Commute: 28 | Safety: 7-6 | Arts and culture: 2 | Shopping and dining: 3 | Nightlife: 2
Long a destination for families in search of suburban convenience with a bucolic feel, Pike Creek offers the gamut of housing at a range of prices. Shopping and dining centers mainly on Limestone Road. Proximity to big parks like Middle Run and White Clay Creek keeps the active set outdoors. Newark and Wilmington are equally accessible. If you’re shopping for a home, mind where you look. The area is split between good schools in the Red Clay district and some poor performers in the Christina district.
Brandywine | Taxes: 4.2691 | Median home cost: $106,200
Christina | Taxes: 4.0946 | Median home cost: $106,200
Colonial | Taxes: 3.4866 | Median home cost: $106,200
Red Clay | Taxes: 3.7926 | Median home cost: $106,200 | Commute: 26 | Safety: 9-6 | Arts and culture: 5 | Shopping and dining: 5 | Nightlife: 3
On the downside, the only public high schools in the city are magnets and charters, so your child is getting bused to the burbs, which, given the high taxes, doesn’t seem fair, especially if the busing is to a school in a sub-par district. On the upside—and it is a large one—you have a choice of beautiful neighborhoods like The Highlands, the enclave of Midtown Brandywine, the ever-popular Trolley Square and the tight-knit Triangle. The downtown and Riverfront can supply all your entertainment needs, from symphony to The Grand Opera House to live modern music at World Cafe Live at the Queen to movies and IMAX at Penn Cinemas. How many cities of comparable size have a major art museum, a contemporary art center, and so many opera, theater and dance companies? Need we mention dining options from tiny Caribbean joints to the continental splendor of the Green Room? Yes, some neighborhoods need help, but you live in the employment and commercial center of the state, there are several beautiful parks and a burgeoning riverfront, and there are all the festivals and other public celebrations you could ever ask for.