For more than two centuries, Kent County’s claim to fame has been as the center of state government.
But Delaware’s capital region has also gained a reputation as a dynamic visitor destination.
Kent County has more than 30 hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds, most in Dover, Milford, Harrington and Smyrna.
To keep pace with the increase in tourists and business travelers, the number of options, from small family-owned operations to nationally renowned names in economy and luxury, continues to grow.
Since 2007 the number of hotel rooms in Kent County increased from 1,700 to nearly 3,000, says Cindy Small, executive director of the Kent County & Greater Dover Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Accommodations in Kent range from the two-guestroom Cowgill’s Corner B&B to the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, which, in 2007, more than doubled its number of rooms to 500, making it the state’s largest hotel.
Recent additions in Dover are the Residence Inn by Marriott, Country Inn & Suites, Mainstay Suites, Sleep Inn and Hilton Garden Inn. A new Best Western recently opened in Smyrna. Together, these properties account for more than 500 additional rooms and suites.
Much of Kent County’s growth in terms of tourists is fueled by good old-fashioned horsepower.
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From mid-April through late October, live harness racing at Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway attracts a constant flow of equine enthusiasts from neighboring states. Simulcast harness and thoroughbred racing keep them coming back year-round.
At Dover International Speedway the horsepower is generated by the race cars that take on the track known as “The Monster Mile.”
In May, Dover International holds a NASCAR triple-header: the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Craftsman Truck Series.
In September, the track will celebrate its 40th year of hosting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Each of these two NASCAR-centric weekends brings more than 250,000 visitors to Kent.
“Kent County’s tourist peaks occur when NASCAR comes to town,” Small says. “NASCAR is not only Kent County’s largest attraction, it’s Delaware’s largest attraction.”
The Dover Downs and Harrington casinos have more than 5,000 machines between them, 500 of which were added last summer at Dover Downs as part of the property’s recent $50-plus million expansion.
The slots casinos give travelers heading north on U.S. 13 added incentive to stop over in Kent County instead of driving all the way to Atlantic City, says George Fiorile, vice president and general manager at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
Expanded dining, shopping, entertainment and recreation opportunities at Harrington and Dover Downs (which also has an on-site Topper’s Spa Salon) help coax visitors to stick around.
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Ann Watkins, owner of the MicroTel Inn & Suites in Dover and two AmericInns in Harrington and Milford, attributes the county’s promotion of its ecotourism and cultural offerings as well as special events at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington as helping to build the local tourism industry. Many accommodations offer special deals for mid-week and multi-night stays.
Over the past five years, the county has also increased its effort to attract more corporate business, including small meetings, conventions and retreats.
The Kent County and Greater Dover Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau was recently awarded two grants to move forward with this and other tourism stimulation efforts.
One of the grants is dedicated to support the bureau’s continued pursuit of the corporate segment of the market by targeting meeting planners from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.
The other grant is focused on promoting the county as a destination for military, family and other reunions. Small says the bureau has launched a task force to explore the best ways to encourage reunion bookings.
Sports-oriented visitors, especially youth tournaments, offer additional marketing opportunities, Small says.
Page 4: Hotels-Motels | Bed & Breakfast Inns | Camping
Rates are based on double occupancy. Ranges reflect weekday, weekend and seasonal variations.
Many offer group, corporate, senior and other discounts for specific organizations as well as package combinations with local attractions.
* Denotes meeting and conference facilities are available.
Best Western Galaxy Inn
1700 E. Lebanon Road, 735-4700
Rates range from $79-$99
222 S. Dupont Hwy., 674-3300
1654 N. Dupont Hwy., 736-1204
Country Inn & Suites*
764 Dover Leipsic Road, 677-0505
Days Inn Dover Downtown
272 N. Dupont Hwy., 674-8002
Dover Budget Inn
1426 N. Dupont Hwy., 734-4433
Dover Downs Hotel & Casino*
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., 674-4600
428 N. Dupont Hwy., 674-4011
Fairfield Inn and Suites
655 N. Dupont Hwy., 677-0900
1568 N. Dupont Hwy., 736-3500
Hilton Garden Inn
1706 N. Dupont Hwy., 674-3784
561 S. Dupont Hwy., 678-8900
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites*
1780 N. Dupont Hwy., 678-0600
201 Stover Blvd., 678-8383
Microtel Inn & Suites
1703 Lebanon Road, 674-3800
640 S. Dupont Hwy., 734-8120
Residence Inn by Marriott
600 Jefferic Blvd., 677-0777
Sheraton Hotel Dover*
1570 N. Dupont Hwy., 678-8500
Super 8 Dover
348 S. Dupont Hwy., 734-5701
Super 8 Harrington
17010 S. Dupont Hwy., 398-4206
AmericInn of Milford*
699 N. Dupont Blvd., 839-5000
Milford Super 8
729 Bay Road, 422-2777
Best Western Smyrna*
Gateway North Plaza
190 Stadium St., 659-3635
Cowgill’s Corner B&B
7299 Bayside Drive, 734-5743
A working farm with sheep, llama and cattle. Accommodates guests traveling with horses and dogs. $100-$150
Little Creek Inn B&B
2623 N. Little Creek Road, 730-1300
Farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places. $150-$195
State Street Inn Bed & Breakfast
228 N. State St., 734-2294
The Towers B&B and Marshall House B&B
101 N.W. Front St., 422-3814
Adults-only getaway in a historic home.
Killens Pond State Park and Waterpark
5025 Killens Pond Road, 284-4526
Camping cabins: $54 for residents, $65- $75 non-residents; campground $25-$29
G & R Recreation Area & Campground
4075 Gun & Rod Club Road, 398-8108
$90 for cottages, $25 for campground