Heading to the Delaware beaches this weekend? Here's what you need to know ahead of time
Celebrating the end of July with a trip to the Delaware beaches?
Before you get out on the road, you should know what to expect on your trip – and we've got you covered.
Anyone planning a beach visit the weekend of July 30 can check out this guide to help answer questions ranging from the restaurant and bar scene to the latest weather forecast.
Here's what you need to know.
Should you bring a mask with you?
Since late May, Delaware has removed all social distancing restrictions and functionally made masks optional for everyone – vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Visitors will notice that the boardwalks, restaurants and shops looks almost like a pre-pandemic vacation scene, with many going mask-free and some people still choosing to wear masks in crowds or in stores. The state is also still encouraging anyone who is unvaccinated to continue wearing face coverings.
However, a recent surge of cases from the delta variant of COVID-19 may prompt the state to reconsider these guidelines.
This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in counties with "substantial" or "high" levels of transmission. In Delaware, only Sussex County has reached the threshold for "substantial" spread.
It's unclear if this new recommendation will lead to any changes in Delaware's statewide policies or policies in Sussex County.
"We’re reviewing updates to the CDC guidance, and will provide any updates as necessary," said Jon Starkey, spokesperson for Gov. John Carney. "The governor and his public health team will continue to encourage all eligible Delawareans to get the vaccine. That’s the best way to reduce spread of COVID-19, and to protect yourself and those around you from infection and serious illness."
What to expect in DE restaurants and bars
Resort towns all along the Delaware coast have been reporting record numbers of visitors this summer – and that's showing up in the busy restaurants and bars.
These business owners' biggest piece of advice? Have patience.
With many restaurants short-staffed, you may experience slightly longer waits or notice that servers are covering more tables than normal. Many predict that this staffing challenge may show up more as August rolls around and college students return to school.
The widespread staffing challenge means some restaurants have changed their hours or suspended certain services altogether. You may want to make early reservations, follow your favorite spots on social media or call ahead to stay updated.
There are also no more capacity limits or social distancing requirements in restaurants.
As a reminder, Delaware businesses – including restaurants and bars – can still choose to require masks or social distancing for their employees and customers even though the statewide mask mandate has been lifted.
Something else visitors will notice: People no longer have to be seated at bars, and dance floors can open without a plan pre-approved by the state Division of Public Health.
Outdoor dining remains popular, and several restaurants have added seating in parking lots, sidewalks or additional patios and decks.
Parking and transportation at Delaware beaches
All resort towns from Lewes to Fenwick Island have their seasonal parking rules in place.
Parking is free after 4 p.m. every Monday in Rehoboth Beach.
Lewes has several free non-metered parking lots listed on its website, as well as metered lots and spaces on side streets.
When visiting Delaware State Parks like Cape Henlopen, parking is included in the entrance fee.
In Dewey Beach, parking is free in all permit-only and metered spaces Monday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. only. All other days and times, you must pay to park on public streets.
Fenwick Island and South Bethany mostly require permits to park, but Fenwick offers free parking on its side streets after 4 p.m.
In Bethany Beach, all spaces are either metered or require a permit through Sept. 15.
Many of these towns and cities offer payment through the ParkMobile app.
For more about parking (or State Park fees), visit each beach town's website:
Want to forget about parking and take a bus to the beach? Parking is free at the park and rides in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
These routes to the local beach areas and boardwalks are now available, as well as the 305 Beach Connection from Wilmington to Rehoboth Beach.
The cost to ride the bus is $2 per trip, $4 for a daily pass, $16 for a seven-day pass or $60 for a 30-day pass. Information will be updated on DART's website, and people can download an app to purchase rides or keep track of schedules.
If traveling around Bethany Beach, the town also offers a trolley with a single route that runs from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and costs only 25 cents per trip.
Weekend weather at the beaches
Sunny and mostly rain-free weather seems to be in the beach forecast this weekend.
Ending the week strong, Friday should reach 84 with sunny skies, according to the National Weather Service forecast for Rehoboth Beach. The evening will be mostly clear with temperatures dipping down to 67.
Saturday then cools off with a high near 76 and a mostly sunny forecast. A few clouds may roll in Saturday night, but the chance of showers doesn't come until 2 a.m., so beachgoers can still enjoy the cooler evening with a low around 69.
The better chance of showers arrives on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. The weather service predicts a 40% chance of precipitation and partly sunny skies during the day.
Reporters Brandon Holveck and Jeff Neiburgcontributed to this report.
Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from the inland towns to the beaches. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at email@example.com or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.