50+ Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington (and Nearby!)
Wilmington is known not only for its incredible downtown along the Cape Fear River but also for the awesome beach towns nearby. There are so many fun things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina, on both the sea and shore.
While you most definitely can spend your time enjoying the beaches, we’ve listed some of the other fun attractions in Wilmington that you might want to explore!
They include the area’s wonderful restaurants, its breweries, the beaches (of course), and much more.
Our guide covers all of the above (and more), from Wilmington to each of its neighboring beach towns.
With so many activities awaiting, planning a trip to Wilmington can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve organized this guide into the following sections:
- Location Info (and Fun Facts)
- Where to Stay in Wilmington
- Things to Do throughout the Wilmington Area (Beaches, Tours, Indoor Activities, and More)
- Things to Do in Wilmington and Nearby
- Carolina Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
- Kure Beach
- Masonboro Island
You can continue reading about our Port City’s location or skip ahead to any of these sections that feature things to do in Wilmington and nearby!
Where is Wilmington, North Carolina?
Before sharing the best things to do in Wilmington, we think you should know a bit more about its location and a few fun facts about our Port City.
- Wilmington is located in New Hanover County, on the North Carolina coast.
- If you look at a map, you’ll notice that Wilmington is where I-40 ends and that the city lies along the Cape Fear River.
- Before it was Wilmington, Native Americans occupied much of the area for thousands of years.
- After the Tuscarora War between 1711 and 1715, more European settlers began arriving in North Carolina.
- In 1729, settlers established a town where Wilmington stands today, naming it “New Carthage.”
- Additional name changes to New Liverpool and New Town followed in the 1730s.
- In either 1739 or 1740, the town was given the name “Wilmington” in honor of Spencer Compton, who was the Earl of Wilmington.
- Wilmington grew into an important Port City because of its location along the Cape Fear River.
- Wilmington has been the scene of the first armed resistance against the British (1765), occupation by the British (1781) and the Union (1865), and a horrible coup attempt and riot (1898).
- The city’s history is recognized throughout Wilmington’s revitalized downtown and beyond. Visitors and residents alike view Wilmington as a thriving (and scenic) city and gateway to some of North Carolina’s most popular beach destinations.
- Today, Wilmington’s main industries include:
- Shipping (hence the nicknmame “Port City.”)
- Movie and tv production (hence the nickname “Wilmywood.”)
Where to Stay in Wilmington
You are definitely going to want to make it a weekend or more, so of course, we have some recommendations on where to stay in Wilmington!
- Hotels: If you want a beautiful hotel experience in the heart of downtown, here are two suggestions:
- January: First Day Hikes at Carolina Beach State Park to kick off the new year!
- February: The North Carolina Jazz Festival ususally celebrates for three days at Hotel Ballast.
- April: The NC Azalea Festival is one of the biggest spring events in North Carolina, not just in Wilmington. A series of parades, festive galas, historic home tours, and lush gardens await.
- May:Battleship North Carolina hosts its Memorial Day Observance, honoring those who gave their all for this country.
- July: The City of Wilmington’s Fourth of July Celebration lights up the city over the Cape Fear River.
- October:Riverfest is a huge event, with craft vendors, a kid’s play area, music on multiple stages, and Saturday night fireworks.
- November and December: One of the most festive collections of Christmas lights in North Carolina is Enchanted Airlie, here in Wilmington!
- November to March: College basketball is king and queen in North Carolina. The UNC-Wilmington Basketball Men and Women get started in late fall with their out-of-conference opponents before conference play begins.
- New Hanover County (east)
- Kure Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
- in Wilmington. Right along the riverfront, the views of the Battleship North Carolina are stunning when the sun rises. in Wrightsville Beach. Overlooking the channel and in a less populated area than downtown, it is easy to get to the beach and relax from one of their stunningly comfortable rooms.
Annual Events in Wilmington (and Nearby)
No matter when you visit Wilmington, there’s something fun going on. Here are a few annual events we think you should keep an eye out for.
Note that these events could be postponed or canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Things to Do in Wilmington (Throughout the Area)
Those events certainly deserve a spot on your calendar. These are things to do in Wilmington (and its surroundings) throughout much of the year!
Wilmington is the perfect gateway to amazing beaches, which we’ll cover in more detail below. There are more than a few that you can reach by boat (like Masonboro Island), which we’ll mention shortly.
In the meantime, here’s a quick list of beaches you can reach by car, all within an hour of Wilmington:
- (Surf City, Topsail Beach, and North Topsail)
- (and Caswell Beach)
- Ocean Isle Beach
- Sunset Beach
You can take a boat tour from just about anywhere in the Wilmington area. Several different types of excursions await, including romantic sunset cruises, eco-history tours, and Full Moon rides.
We’ve done a few of these and highly recommend a boat tour in Wilmington.
Here are a few boat tour companies in Wilmington and nearby:
- (Carolina Beach) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach) (Wilmington) (Wrightsville Beach)
The Wilmington area’s waters teem with fishing opportunities, from inshore and surf fishing to offshore charters. We will cover the piers you can fish from in each individual beach town shortly.
In the meantime, here are Wilmington-area fishing charters and their departure points:
- (Carolina Beach) (Multiple Locations) (Wrightsville Beach and More Locations) (Carolina Beach) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach) (Wrightsville Beach) (Multiple Locations) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach) (Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and More) (Wilmington) (Wrightsville Beach) (Wilmington) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and More) (Multiple Locations) (Wrightsville Beach) (Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and Wilmington) (Carolina Beach) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach)
Indoor Games and Entertainment
While we always cross our fingers for great weather, some days just aren’t meant for outdoor adventures.
Luckily, Wilmington and its surroundings have a great lineup of arcades, bowling alleys, trampoline parks, and escape rooms to keep you entertained.
- (127 S College Rd, Wilmington) (3907 Shipyard Blvd #6152, Wilmington) (7026 Market St, Wilmington) (103 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach) (6431 Market St, Wilmington) (2 N Front St, 2nd Floor, Wilmington) (830 Inspiration Drive, Wilmington) (130 N Front St, Suite 202 Wilmington)
- Hi-Tech Arcade (111 K Avenue, Kure Beach) (100 N Lake Park Blvd, 2nd Floor, Carolina Beach) (127 S College Rd. Wilmington)
Paddling (via kayak or SUP) is one of the most fun ways to get out on the water, especially in the Wilmington area.
A few of these outfitters offer tours, but that could change due to staffing and any other unforeseen circumstances.
- (Wrightsville Beach) (Multiple Locations) (Wilmington) (Kure Beach) (Multiple Locations) (Carolina Beach and also, Topsail and Hammocks Beach State Park) (Carolina Beach) (Wrightsville Beach and Figure Eight Island) (Wrightsville Beach)
We suggest you call in advance and be patient, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of your planned adventure.
Things to Do in Wilmington
We now focus on things to do in Wilmington, starting with one of our favorite outdoor attractions!
300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington
Airlie Gardens is one of the best outdoor things to do in Wilmington, no matter when you visit!
The 67-acres of historic gardens make for a beautiful experience all year long with the huge oak trees with romantic Spanish moss serving as stunning backdrops for your photos.
Walk the paths through the different gardens, check out the bug zoo, or attend one of their seasonal events like the Airlie Oyster Roast! And don’t forget to come back at night in December for the holiday tradition of Enchanted Airlie.
More New Hanover County Parks
Airlie Gardens is managed by New Hanover County, which also maintains a few other parks:
- Arrowhead Park (300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington)
- Cape Fear Museum Park (814 Market St, Wilmington)
- Long Leaf Park (314 Pine Grove Dr, Wilmington)
Battleship North Carolina
1 Battleship Rd NE, Wilmington
Sitting across from the Riverwalk is the Battleship North Carolina, a memorial to all of the North Carolina ships and Carolinians who served during World War II. Attend the monthly Battleship 101 for an education and interactive experience or go on a self-guided tour of the ship.
Visiting Battleship North Carolina belongs on everyone’s NC Bucket List, including ours and yours, too!
503 Market St, Wilmington
Home to the only preserved slave quarters in the United States, Bellamy Mansion is a required visit for your inner history enthusiast.
Learn about the Bellamy family, the enslaved people at the mansion, and tour the 10,000 square-foot home and gardens, which were constructed in 1861.
Cameron Art Museum
3201 S 17th St, Wilmington
Looking for some indoor fun while at the beach? The Cameron Art Museum offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits to engage your mind.
With visiting and permanent exhibitions, there is always something interesting to see here!
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
814 Market St, Wilmington
Learn all about the region that surrounds Wilmington at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science! In addition to local history, you’ll find exhibits on space, music, and even rare memorabilia from local celebrity Michael Jordan!
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
116 Orange St, Wilmington
Head on over to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington for hours of hands-on fun! Walking in, you’ll first be greeted by the giant boat structure where children are encouraged to interact and learn about the ocean.
There are exhibits for all age groups, even toddlers. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor garden, and, if you hear some barking, it’s probably coming from the veterinarian’s office!
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
5320 Oleander Dr
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is open on weekends from Memorial Day to mid-September. This is one of the most fun-filled things to do in Wilmington, especially with kids!
Most people come for the water park, but you can also play laster tag, bowl, play arcade games, enjoy rock climbing, and enjoy much more!
Movie Location Tour
Wilmington’s second name is Wilmywood.
Why? Because so many movies and television shows were filmed here! Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, and Iron Man 3 are just some of the Hollywood films and tv shows filmed here.
Film lovers can take a self-guided tour to where these shows were filmed and experience their favorite shows for themselves!
Museum of the Bizarre
201 South Water St
Museum of the Bizarre is a great place, especially if you love science and oddities. Check out the Crystal Skull of Knowledge and Fort Fisher Mermaid, but there’s even more that awaits inside.
You can stick to the museum side or challenge yourself with a walk through the Lazer Vault Maze. Either way, we think you should add this to your list of things to do in Wilmington.
New Hanover County Arboretum
6206 Oleander Dr
The New Hanover County Arboretum is one of our favorite free things to do in Wilmington. Enjoy the seven acres of gardens here, which are lovely for a walk throughout the year.
If you’re traveling with kids, the Arboretum has an adorable garden with a playhouse, pipe organ, and sandbox.
Before you visit, don’t forget to check the Arboretum’s website to see exactly what flowers are in bloom!
10200 US-17, Wilmington
Poplar Grove is among the last remaining peanut plantations in the United States and one of the most memorable things to do in Wilmington. Its caretakers do a wonderful job of highlighting the entire history of the plantation, including the stories of its enslaved people.
Join Poplar Grove for a tour of the Manor House to learn about life on a coastal plantation or come out for a special event, like their Paranormal Tours!
The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden
3800 Canterbury Rd, Wilmington
Did you know that Venus flytraps only grow natively in Wilmington and the 60-mile radius around it? There are some pretty interesting reasons behind this, all of which you can learn at The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden!
See their Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and more while learning about the microclimate of Wilmington!
The park is also ADA accessible and sits on 39 acres of land protected by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and the landowners, the Oleander Company. The garden itself is less than an acre and visitors are encouraged to visit during the daytime.
More Wilmington Parks & Greenways
The City of Wilmington manages the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden and many more parks. Here are a few more you should know about:
- Arrowhead Park (720 Arnold Rd, Wilmington)
- Gary Shell Cross City Trail (City Wide, 15 Miles) (1739 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington)
- Halyburton Park (4099 S. 17th St, Wilmington)
- Long Leaf Park (314 Pine Grove Dr, Wilmington)
- Ogden Park (615 Ogden Park Dr, Wilmington)
- Riverfront Park (10 Cowan St, Wilmington)
Wilmington Railroad Museum
505 Nutt St, Wilmington
The Wilmington Railroad Museum is one of our favorite places to go to see model trains in person. With a children’s play area, huge model railroad displays, and a real steam engine and caboose, this is heaven on Earth for our little one.
Wilmington Railroad Museum Fun Fact: they actually broke the Guinness World Record in 2011 for the world’s longest model train!
At the heart of Wilmington is the Riverwalk, where the city meets the water. Here, you’ll find restaurants, shops, and beautiful views of the Cape Fear River.
Spanning 1.75 miles, the walking is easy, scenic, and one of the first things to do in Wilmington for visitors and residents alike!
Wilmington Sharks Baseball
2149 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington
The Wilmington Sharks are the city’s summer collegiate baseball team that plays in the Coastal Plain League. If you’re like us, you’ll find Minor League Baseball more fun to watch than the big leagues.
That’s partly because the players seem more approachable and down to earth.
Also, games are also more affordable, especially for Sharks games, which kick off in May!
Things to Do in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Carolina Beach)
We mentioned above that Wilmington is home to some fantastic beaches, but there are also so many wonderful things to do after you’ve had some fun in the sun.
Below, we are going to outline all of the fun things to do in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach beyond the sand!
Walk the Boardwalk
If you go to Carolina Beach and you don’t walk the boardwalk, were you even there? The oceanfront boardwalk is beautiful all year round and is the perfect spot to make memories.
With restaurants, shopping, and amusement rides there is plenty of fun to be had on the Boardwalk. And yes, waiting in line at Britt’s Donuts when it’s open during the busy season is a must; you won’t regret it!
Carolina Beach State Park
1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach
With nearly nine miles of trails that snake through different habitats, Carolina Beach State Park is definitely a fun thing to do while here! The trails are flat and easy and give a great representative look at the diverse ecosystems found in the Cape Fear region.
Also, Carolina Beach State Park is one of the best places for water access in Wilmington! Fish, kayak, rent a boat, or just enjoy the slapping sounds of the water from nearly anywhere.
This is definitely a unique feature that many of the state parks in North Carolina can’t claim!
Freeman Park Recreation Area
1800 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach
Only accessible via a four-wheel-drive vehicle, Freeman Park is a more adventurous thing to do in Carolina Beach. Make sure to apply for a day pass and enjoy a more natural setting for fishing, swimming, and searching for shells!
Freeman Park is also an excellent place to camp at Carolina Beach, so come with your tent and smores!
More Carolina Beach Parks
Freeman Recreation Area is a great spot on the sand, but here are a few more Carolina Beach Parks you should also know about:
- Carolina Beach Lake Park (400 S Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach)
- Island Greenway (Mike Chappell Park, 501 Dow Road South, Carolina Beach)
- Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park (1018 N Lake Park Blvd Carolina Beach)
- Mike Chappell Park (501 Dow Rd S, Carolina Beach)
More Things to Do in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Kure Beach)
Staying in Kure Beach is one of our favorite things to do in Wilmington. Does that count?
The vibe here is chill compared to Carolina Beach next door. Don’t sleep on Kure, though, because it’s also a gateway to some really interesting places.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site
The largest amphibious assault of the Civil War took place at Fort Fisher, which is a big reason why everyone should visit this historic site. The Visitor’s Center has incredible exhibits detailing the two Civil War battles that happened here.
It’s also a great starting point to learn about Wilmington’s place in history beyond the war.
Fort Fisher also serves as a wonderful outdoor recreational spot! There are six miles of beaches and walking trails that attract many divers who wish to explore many of the shipwrecks just off the coast.
A popular locale for birders and wildlife lovers as well, there are so many ways to explore Fort Fisher, and we rank it as one of our top things to do in Wilmington!
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
1000 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is an amazing State Parks site, home to five miles of beach, a mile-long trail, fishing, and off-roading. It’s also a great spot for a picnic, with more than 20 tables available on a first-come, first-served basis.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
One of the best things to do in Wilmington with kids is the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher! This location highlights the ecosystem of North Carolina, has a fun touch tank with horseshoe crabs and starfish, and a giant shark tank.
Our little one loves exploring both the indoor and outdoor activities at the NC Aquarium and asks to go every time we are in Wilmington.
Kure Beach Oceanfront Park
Home to Kure Beach’s largest public green space, the Kure Beach Oceanfront Park is a great place to enjoy the ocean away from the beach!
Located next to the Kure Beach Fishing Pier, there is an open-air pavilion that sets the stage for concerts and events, a walking path, and even a play space for children!
Kure Beach Fishing Pier
Speaking of the 711-foot pier, it is definitely one of the best attractions in Kure Beach! Whether you are looking to fish all day, charter a fishing excursion, or just check out what the catch of the day is, it’s a fun experience for all.
Just make sure you have a North Carolina fishing license before casting your reel!
Even More Things to Do in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Wrightsville Beach)
Wrightsville Beach sits north of the other beach towns, also north of Masonboro Island. You’ll find more upscale places to stay, but that doesn’t mean this place isn’t approachable.
Here are our favorite things to do in Wrightsville Beach.
Blockade Runner Sailing School
275 Waynick Blvd, Wrightsville Beach
The Blockade Runner Sailing School is an excellent option for sailing lessons, because why wouldn’t you want to sign up for that? Ages 13 and up are welcome to try sailing and no previous experience is required!
Try for an hour or go all-in with a two-day basic keelboat sailing certification course.
703 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach’s Crystal Pier stretches 475 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. The Oceanic Restaurant is here and you can also walk or fish from the pier for free.
Unless it’s closed for a private event, the Crystal Pier is open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Walk the John Nesbit Loop
The 2.5-mile John Nesbit Loop (known as “The Loop”) is one of the most popular things to do in Wrightsville Beach for locals and tourists alike! This paved path circles the Intracoastal Waterway and even passes by Wrightsville Beach Park.
If you are a runner or just looking to stay active on vacation, this is the perfect spot for you!
Johnnie Mercer’s Pier
23 E Salisbury St, Wrightsville Beach
Johnnie Mercer’s is North Carolina’s only concrete fishing pier. It’s also one of the longest fishing piers in the Cape Fear region.
First constructed in the 1930s, Johnnie Mercer’s has been rebuilt several times due to the devastating hurricanes that have hit the area. Today, the pier is filled with plenty of anglers and is open for the public to walk and enjoy.
Admission to the pier costs $2/adult and $1/child.
Wrightsville Beach Museum of History
Really want to dive deep into the history of the area?
The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History details the 100-year history of Wrightsville, including hurricanes and the rise of tourism in the 1920s and 30s, as well as detailed history and artifacts on the area’s surfing scene.
North Wrightsville & Shell Island
Looking for a more isolated beach experience? Lean in a little closer and we’ll tell you a secret.
On the northern end of Wrightsville Beach are Shell Island and a stretch of undisturbed shoreline. You can find this remote scenic space stretching from Shell Island Resort to the northern Wrightsville Inlet.
You may also have heard of the Wrightsville Beach Mailbox, where you can drop off a love letter!
Taking a boat tour to Masonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve should definitely be at the top of your list of things to do in Wilmington! Completely undeveloped with more than 5,600 acres of beach, salt marsh, and tidal flats, the wildlife viewing opportunities here are absolutely incredible.
Go shelling, search for dolphins and ghost crabs, or just enjoy the 8.4 miles of empty shoreline. This isolated beach is the perfect way to reconnect with the outdoors and what North Carolina must have looked like at one time in history.
Take the Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours Masonboro Shuttle to reach the island. Captain Joe will provide you with some history and interesting tidbits that you won’t find anywhere else!
WBST also has a ton of other options, including some fantastic educational tours for kids!
Restaurants in Wilmington
Since you are on North Carolina‘s coast, you are going to want to dig into some fresh seafood! From the famous seafood chowder at Michael’s to the Calabash-style fried fish at Jack Mackerel’s (pictured above left), there are plenty of delicious restaurants in Wilmington and all the nearby beach towns.
Here’s a quick breakdown of where we like to go:
- If you are looking for delicious eats in downtown Wilmington, you can’t go wrong with Front Street Brewery and Wake ‘N Bake donuts.
- Carolina Beach has the amazing Michael’s Seafood and the waterside Stoked Restaurant.
- Our go-tos in Wrightsville Beach are Poe’s Tavern and the Oceanic Restaurant.
- Of course, we can’t leave out Flaming Amy’s (pictured above right), with locations in Wilmington and Carolina Beach.
Breweries in Wilmington
If you’re parched and looking for a pint, don’t forget to check out some of our favorite Wilmington-area breweries!
We love the laid-back vibe at Wrightsville Beach Brewery (6201 Oleander Dr, Wilmington) and the oh-so-delicious pints at Flying Machine (3130 Randall Pkwy, Wilmington).
Here are a few more breweries that we enjoy:
- (319 Walnut St, Wilmington) (9 N Front St, Wilmington) (811 Harper Ave, Carolina Beach) (824 S Kerr Ave, Wilmington)
Ready for These Fun Things to Do in Wilmington?
You might first think of Wilmington as the gateway to beautiful beaches and delicious restaurants. While it definitely is both, we think you’ll find that there is also a lot of other stuff to do!
Whether you are looking to learn more about history, spend time outdoors, fish, or find kid-friendly attractions, Wilmington is the perfect vacation spot all year long!
We’ve laid out more than 50 things to do in Wilmington but would love to hear from you. What do you like doing in this area? Is there something that we should add?
Feel free to let us know here in the comments section or by email. You’re also welcome to share your photo adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
15 Incredible Day Trips from Wilmington, NC (+ Map!)
Wilmington, North Carolina is that perfect Southern city – not too big, not too small, with friendly locals around every corner. There are so many fun things to do just outside of the city and an endless number of great day trips from Wilmington NC.
While you’re in Wilmington be sure to check out Airlie Gardens, Wrightsville Beach, and if you’re a TV fan, the filming locations of One Tree Hill. While there are lots of things to do in the city, sometimes you need to get out and explore!
Most of these Wilmington day trips are within a two-hour drive or less but there are a couple of exceptions. You don’t want to spend more time in the car than you spend at your destination.
Day Trips from Wilmington NC – Map
To add this map to your Google Maps account, click the ‘Star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account, click the menu and add it to ‘Your Places’.
Small Towns Near Wilmington
There are tons of unique smaller beach towns that dot the coast of North Carolina. If you ask twenty different people in NC which is their favorite you might get 20 different answers.
You really should visit a few and see what makes each one special (these are some of the most charming coastal towns in the United States). Then it’s a lot harder to choose a favorite.
Another famous city from the big screen, Southport, was made popular by Nicholas Sparks in his romance novels. You can find multiple filming locations for “A Walk to Remember,” “Safe Haven,” and “Nights in Rodanthe” throughout the town.
It’s also an antique hunter’s treasure chest. You’ll find all kinds of cute antique stores in downtown Southport alongside the modern boutiques. Downtown Southport has some great art galleries to browse as well.
All the waterfront restaurants serving delicious fresh-caught seafood make it easy to fall in love with Beaufort. Sit out on one of the many decks enjoying a cocktail and gorgeous sunset over the water.
Take a food & bike tour with Hungry Town Tours and be led around the city by the husband and wife team that owns the company. They are incredibly sweet and know the area very well.
A great way to spend time in Beaufort is to kayak out to Shackleford Banks. This is only if you’re in tip-top shape though otherwise, your shoulders will not be happy the next day! You can also take a 20-minute ferry from Beaufort.
This was the capital of North Carolina until 1792 when it moved to Raleigh. New Bern has a very walkable downtown area and plenty of historic charm. You can visit Tryon Palace – North Carolina’s first state capital building.
You’ll also find the Birthplace of Pepsi Cola store where you can buy a fountain Pepsi, some merchandise, and learn the story of how Pepsi came out of this little corner Pharmacy.
Do a scavenger hunt for the painted bears at local businesses through the town. Each one is unique! Or you could head over to Union Point Park where you’ll have gorgeous views of the Neuse River.
Head to Emerald Isle for the perfect day on the beach. This one feels more remote and laid back than the other surrounding beaches. If you want to leave all your cares behind then head here.
Other than the beach you won’t find much else to do in this quiet little town. Of course, they do have some great restaurants to try like Caribsea and The Trading Post.
Here you’ll find quiet beaches, great fishing, and Britt’s Donut Shop. If you don’t get donuts here then you haven’t been to Carolina Beach. They have one thing on the menu – homemade glazed donuts.
Out at Fort Fisher, you’ll find an aquarium plus a place to drive out on the beach so you can surf fish. This does cost a bit but is worth it if you’ve never done it!
Fishing Tip: If you are going to fish, make sure you have your NC fishing license. Don’t be caught without it or you’ll face a hefty fine!
Outdoorsy Day Trips from Wilmington
Any of these day trips from Wilmington will get you out among the beautiful landscape of the North Carolina coast. There are tons of opportunities for outdoor exploration like hiking, boating, and more.
Croatan National Forest
There are a few hiking trails here where you can get up close and personal with the plants and wildlife of the area. You could see deer, black bear, or turkey though that’s uncommon. However, you could spot a venus fly trap or pitcher plant so keep an eye out for that.
Most people come here to go kayak fishing or take out their jon boat to see if they can catch some fish. There are a few different rivers and ponds in this park that are perfect for fishing.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the most iconic lighthouses along the North Carolina coast. You have to take your own boat or a ferry out to this barrier island so be sure to bring all the supplies you’ll need for the day.
Here some popular activities are surf fishing, birding, and people love driving on the beach here too. If you want to make it an overnight trip then you can even camp on this National Seashore. If you are there at night be sure to do some star gazing as this is a popular dark sky spot.
There is a Visitor’s Center at the lighthouse and you can climb the lighthouse to the top! Be sure to do this if you can – the views are incredible.
This state reserve is across the channel from Wrightsville and Carolina Beach. It is the longest stretch of an undisturbed barrier island ecosystem along the southern coastline. On the island, you’ll find salt marsh as well as tidal creek ecosystems.
You may see birds, fish, and sea turtles on your trip to the island. Many people love to come here to find seashells on the beach – also known as shelling. Please admire them but don’t touch or take them (it is bad for the ecosystem). This is another spot that can only be reached by kayak, boat, or ferry.
Lake Waccamaw State Park
There is an exhibit hall and interpretive programs at Lake Waccamaw all about the unique local ecosystems. You can walk around the lake on one of their trails or they have plenty of boat ramps to launch a kayak or small boat.
This is a smaller state park but there is plenty to see and do. If you don’t have a boat, then take a walk out on the 700-ft boardwalk to see if you can catch some fish.
Cape Fear River
There is all kinds of fun you can have along the Cape Fear River. Take a stroll along Wilmington’s downtown riverwalk. Book a scenic cruise with Cape Fear Riverboats – I love sunset cruises.
If you want to kayak on the Cape Fear and you haven’t brought your boats then head about two hours northwest to Lillington. Here you’ll find Cape Fear River Adventures where you can rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards.
Historic Day Trips
A few of these are located in Wilmington proper, but I couldn’t leave them out. This area is so full of history that you really shouldn’t miss it. Especially if you’re a history buff.
The town of Wilmington was incorporated in 1739 and became the hub of activity in the region because of the easy access for ships coming in from the sea. Wilmington continued to be an important city through the Civil War, WWII, and still today.
Fort Fisher was built in 1861 to protect the port of Wilmington from the Union forces. You’ll find part of the fort remaining that you can explore and a WWII-era bunker on the Basin Trail.
Grab your permit to drive out on the beach at the Visitor’s Center here. The most popular activity here is surf fishing.
Moores Creek National Battlefield
Moores Creek is where the first major victory for the Patriots took place during the Revolutionary War. You’ll find multiple monuments along a walking trail that passes over Moores Creek on the reconstructed bridge.
There is also a Visitor’s Center with educational exhibits and a picnic shelter in case you’d like to bring a meal. Many people love to go birding here, hiking, or there is great fishing in Moores Creek.
Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson
The town of Brunswick was founded in 1726 and was the first permanent settlement in the Cape Fear region. However, it didn’t last long.
In 1776 British soldiers came through a destroyed the town. During the Civil War, Fort Anderson was built over what was left of the town. This building was also doomed though. It was destroyed just after Fort Fisher fell to the Union army.
Today you can walk among the foundations of what was once Brunswick and you’ll see the walls of St. Philip’s Anglican Church. From the Civil War era, you can see artifacts and the mounds of earth from what was once Fort Anderson.
USS North Carolina
This restored WWII battleship sits along the Cape Fear River across from the Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington. It honors the North Carolinians that lost their lives in WWII and educates current and future generations on the sacrifices made.
You can visit 9 levels of this massive ship and get a glimpse into what sea life was like back then. The tour itself is self-guided and takes most people around 2 hours.
If you love history though then be sure to budget more time for this. Plus you might even see the alligator that regularly hangs out near the ship!
Unique Things to Do Near Wilmington
Here are a few things to do when you want a unique way to spend a day or an afternoon. These are all a short drive outside of Wilmington and are fun for all ages.
Sea Turtle Hospital
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center is located in Surf City and its mission is to protect all species of marine turtles. They rescue sick or injured turtles, nurse them back to health, and then release them back into the wild.
The Hospital is staffed by many volunteers and is open for tours for a small fee. You’ll learn about how they treat the turtles, their nesting program, and the story of the hospital.
If you’re passionate about sea turtles you can also adopt one of these adorable little creatures to help support the hospital’s operating costs.
Best Places to Visit near Wilmington
There is so much more to the Cape Fear region than the city of Wilmington.
Don’t get me wrong, the city is fantastic and you should visit and spend time there. However, there are lots of things to do outside the city that many people overlook!
Make the most of your trip and spend some time in the smaller communities. You won’t regret it.
Do you have any favorite day trips from Wilmington? Let us know in the comments!
Anna is a content creator for PaddlingSpace.com where you can find information on all things kayaking. She spends every possible moment in the outdoors with her husband and hiking buddy, Barley, her German Shepherd pup.
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Maybe include Poplar Grove and Abbey Nature Preserve. The two properties are side by side. History and walking/hiking
25 Best Things to Do in Wilmington, North Carolina
Plan a weekend trip to Wilmington, a beautiful coastal destination in North Carolina where you can stroll along the Riverwalk, visit great museums, restaurants, gardens, breakfast spots, wedding venues and historic attractions like the USS North Carolina. Best things to do in Wilmington, NC with kids include the Wilmington Railroad Museum, the Cape Fear Serpentarium and the Children’s Museum of Wilmington.
We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
The Riverwalk is a popular boardwalk in downtown Wilmington that runs along the Cape Fear River waterfront. Originally designed in the 1980s with the purpose of drawing more people to the historic area, the pedestrian pathway will eventually connect the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to the Isabel Holmes Bridge. The Riverwalk is one of the top Wilmington attractions.
Along the way, visitors are treated to beautiful views and many attractions. Some of the attractions located along Riverwalk include the USS North Carolina, the Cotton Exchange, and the historic 1914 Murchison Building.
In addition to the historic buildings, there are many restaurants and shops including boutique shops and souvenir shops. The Riverwalk is also well known for its weekly Wilmington’s Farmer’s Market.
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2. Wilmington’s Historic District
Wilmington’s Historic District begins at Water and Market Streets and continues for 230 blocks, making it one of the largest historic districts in the United States and one of the best things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina.
It features churches, gardens, homes, museums, shops, restaurants, and much more. Popular transportation methods for touring the moss-draped historic area include horse drawn carriages, riverboats, and trolley cars. There are guided tours as well as self-guided tours of the district that lies along Cape Fear River.
The historic district is home to more than 40 locally owned restaurants; some of these sit at the water’s edge and offer fresh local seafood. There are many music performances in the district, especially in the evening. The Riverwalk winds through the heart of downtown and affords beautiful views of the river.
Water and Market Streets, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 901-341-4030
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3. Bellamy Mansion Museum
Located in downtown Wilmington, the Bellamy Mansion Museum is one of North Carolina’s most extraordinary examples of antebellum architecture and one of the best things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Built for Dr. John Dillard Bellamy and his family, the magnificent 10,000-square-foot mansion features fine examples of Victorian architecture in the elegant main entrance framed by soaring columns and the handcrafted intricate details throughout the house.
The abode is surrounded by a beautifully manicured Victorian garden with winding oyster-shell paths and 150-year-old magnolia trees. Now serving as a museum of history and the design arts, the mansion provides visitors with an opportunity to take a stroll through history on daily guided tours and visit one of the country’s last remaining and perfectly preserved urban slave quarters.
The Museum also offers dynamic educational and cultural programs throughout the year and is open Tuesday through Sunday.
503 Market Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-251-3700
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4. Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, North Carolina
Airlie Gardens, a 67-acre public garden, was established in 1901 for the Pembroke Jones family and has been enchanting visitors for the past 100 years.
Originally created as a private and authentic Southern garden that was named after an ancient Airlie Oak, Airlie Gardens represent the vision of landscape architect Rudolf Topel who remodeled the landscape into a spectacular public garden in 1999. If you are wondering what to do in Wilmington NC with kids, this is a great place to visit.
Airlie Gardens feature striking combinations of formal and informal gardens, a world-renowned collection of over 100,000 azaleas and camellias, walking trails with beautiful views of Bradley Creek, historic structures and sculptures, and more than 10 acres of freshwater lakes.
Relax in the Pergola Garden and enjoy continuous year-round blooms in displays around the 468-year-old Airlie Oak. More North Carolina destinations, beaches and lighthouses
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5. New Hanover County Arboretum
The New Hanover County Arboretum is a seven-acre arboretum located on the grounds of the New Hanover County Cooperative Extension Service.
Established in 1989, the arboretum currently features over 30 gardens consisting of verdant lawns, flowering plants and bushes, and one of the largest water gardens in North Carolina, which is home to hundreds of multi-colored koi and catfish. Among the gardens, visitors will find a herb garden, a rose garden, a bog garden, a children’s garden, an aquatic garden, and a landscaped Japanese garden.
The gardens have more than 4,000 varieties of native and naturalized plants. The arboretum also serves as a horticultural laboratory and education center and provides opportunities for all levels of ability to enjoy gardening. The New Hanover County Arboretum is free of charge.
6206 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-798-7660
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6. USS North Carolina Battleship
Work began on the USS North Carolina in 1937. Launched in 1940, the ship was so fast and carried so many powerful guns that the North Carolina was given the nickname of “Showboat.”
The USS North Carolina took part in nearly every major battle in the Pacific Ocean during World War II and won more battle stars than any other battleship in that same time period. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and arrived in Wilmington in 1961.
It became a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The battleship hosts many programs and events.
One Battleship Road NE, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-251-5797
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7. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina
Founded in 1898, the Cape Fear Museum is the oldest history museum in the state and is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history, science, and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear.
The museum has a collection of more than fifty-two thousand artifacts collected from regions around the city of Wilmington and displayed in a variety of educational exhibitions and programs.
The Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery on the first floor of the Museum explores the region’s ecosystems while the bones of a Giant Ground Sloth and a locally built Simmons Sea-skiff boat are on display in the lobby.
The museum also hosts temporary and traveling exhibits including Make it Work, a presentation of simple machines and maritime work. The Cape Fear Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.
814 Market St, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-798-4370
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8. Things to Do in Wilmington: Cameron Art Museum
Established in 1964, the Cameron Art Museum is located in historic downtown Wilmington and presents a permanent collection of works by international and local artists across a range of disciplines. It also features several rotating exhibitions of contemporary historical significance on an annual basis.
The museum is set on the historic site of the pivotal Civil War Battle of Forks Road and is surrounded by Confederate revetments built during the battle that saw the fall of Fort Fisher and marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Every year the museum commemorates the lives lost during this fight with a re-enactment of the battle, artillery demonstrations, workshops, and lectures.
The museum also offers a range of educational art programs and classes for adults and youth, including educator-guided access to the museum’s exhibitions and non-circulating art library that houses over 2000 monographs and publications.
3201 South 17th Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-395-5999
9. Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens
The Burgwin-Wright House is a spectacular example of Georgian architecture, and it open to the public as a museum house. Built circa 1770, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has several distinct features, including rooms furnished with antiques from the 18th and 19th century and an array of rare objects that enhance the unique experience for visitors.
The house is surrounded by magnificent gardens that offer visitors a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, complete with orchards of figs and pomegranates, a manicured rose garden, and a fragrant kitchen garden full of herbs. The property also boasts a stand-alone kitchen house with an immense hearth and period cooking utensils, which can be explored on self-guided or docent-led tours. The Burgwin-Wright House is also available for private events and portrait photography.
224 Market Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, Phone: 910-762-0570
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10. Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden
If you’re looking for a unique and one-of-a-kind attraction to visit in Wilmington, look no further than the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden. Managed by the City of Wilmington in partnership with North Carolina’s Coastal Land Trust, the Carnivorous Plant Garden is located within the Pine Ridge Nature Preserve and is named after the “Flytrap Man”, Stanley Rehder, who was celebrated for his tireless efforts to protect the carnivorous plants you’ll see in the garden today. These plants are quite special because they only naturally grow in a 70-mile radius around Wilmington, and as such deserve protection and appreciation. The garden is open year-round, but the best time to visit is in the spring as this is when the park truly comes to vibrant life. There are concrete walking trails to take guests around the garden, and several wooden observation decks situated around the area as well.
3800 Canterbury Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, Phone: 910-341-7852
11. Masonboro Island Reserve
Masonboro Island is an 8.4-mile long barrier island situated five miles southeast of Wilmington with a rich estuarine system and diverse range of natural habitats.
The island is the largest undisturbed barrier island along the southern part of the North Carolina coast and is home to an array of different ecosystems, from salt marshes and maritime forests to tidal flats, ocean beaches, and rolling grasslands, which in turn attract a plethora of birds and wildlife.
The pristine beaches serve as nesting sites for loggerhead and green sea turtles, while the nutrient-rich waters of Masonboro Sound are a vital marine nursery area for a variety of fish, including mullet, pompano, summer flounder, and bluefish. Masonboro Island can only be reached by boat, and it has a network of walking trails that allow visitors to explore the island. Primitive camping is also allowed on the island for a maximum of two days.
12. Wilmington Railroad Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina
The Wilmington Railroad Museum is dedicated to presenting and preserving the history of railroading in the Southeastern United States with a particular focus on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and it provides an educational and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Established in 1979, the museum features a variety of informative and interactive exhibits for all ages, from a life-size caboose, boxcar, and a century-old steam locomotive to operating scale model trains and a Thomas the Tank Train play area for children.
The museum hosts several family-friendly events throughout the year, including Red Caboose parties and the arrival of the Polar Express, and offers guided group tours of up to 10 people.
505 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-763-2634
13. Empie Park
For easy to access outdoor recreation in Wilmington, Empie Park is the place to be. Open to the public, the park is located in between Wrightsville and Park Avenues and along Independence Boulevard. It provides access to the Wilmington Cross City Trail, making it a fantastic way to explore a portion of Wilmington holistically and actively, as visitors can walk, bike, or jog along a well-maintained paved trail that wraps around the park’s perimeter. Empie Park is also home to a 1,4000 square foot clubhouse, 18 tennis courts, care of the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex, a public basketball court, and a baseball field. There is also a dog park that dog-lovers can visit to meet some of the city’s cutest four-legged inhabitants in Empie Park, as well as a modern playground with an exciting climbing wall, zipline, firepoles, and swinging bridges to traverse.
3405 Park Avenue, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, Phone: 910-341-7852
14. Things to Do in Wilmington, NC: Poplar Grove Plantation
Poplar Grove Plantation is one of the oldest peanut plantations in the state of North Carolina and has been open to the public as a museum since 1980.
Built by Joseph Mumford Foy in the 1850s, the plantation is located on Topsail Sound Plank Road in Scotts Hill and is dedicated to preserving and conserving the homestead of a successful farming family and showcasing the workings of a typical 19th century working community.
The current Manor House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is surrounded by 835 acres of landscaped gardens, both of which can be explored on guided tours through the property.
Poplar Grove Plantation is also home to a farmers market and an animal sanctuary, and it plays host to several festivals throughout the year.
10200 US-17, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-686-9518
15. Children’s Museum of Wilmington
The Children’s Museum of Wilmington celebrates the joys of childhood by creating magical and playful experiences that stimulate the imagination, curiosity, and a love of learning. Located on Orange Street in historic downtown Wilmington, the museum features playful, hands-on exhibits and child-directed displays that encourage children to explore and learn more about science, art, and culture. If you are looking for fun things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina with kids, this is a great place to visit.
Interactive exhibits include the Toothasaurus Dental Exhibit where children can familiarize themselves with a dental environment; Magnetic Minds Science Research Center, which allows children to take part in facilitated science projects; and Ports of Call, which introduces and explains the ports of North Carolina to children.
116 Orange St, Wilmington, NC 28401, Phone: 910-254-3534
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16. Latimer House, Wilmington, NC
Located on South Third Street, the Latimer House is a historic house museum and home of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. Built in 1852 in the Italianate style by local merchant Zebulon Latimer, the four-story house contains 14 rooms and is perfectly symmetrical.
In 1963, the Historical Society acquired the house, which then began operating as a museum. Inside the house there are more than 600 historic items such as jewelry, pieces of furniture, and much more. Some of the rooms even feature original marble fireplaces and stunning chandeliers.
Outside, visitors can admire the beautiful formal gardens. Trained docents lead guided tours throughout the establishment, and the house hosts many events.
126 South Third Street, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-762-0492
17. Halyburton Park
Halyburton Park is a nature reserve that features a community building, playground areas, picnic shelters, and a 1.3-mile trail used by bicyclists and walkers.
The park offers a wide variety of nature programs for all age groups: Little Explorers is for children aged two to five; Eco Explorers is for two age groups, five to seven and eight to ten; and a number of family programs.
The park also offers group programs like school field trips. The Halyburton Events Center is a community events building where yoga and Pilates classes are held; the building can accommodate groups for birthday parties, business meetings, and weddings.
4099 South 17th Street, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-341-0075
18. Legion Stadium
Legion Stadium is a 6,000-seat stadium with 3,500 seats in the grandstand and 2,500 visitor seats. Built in 1930, it underwent several renovations, the most recent refurbishing taking place in 2011. It is the home of the Wilmington Hammerheads, who belong to the United Soccer League.
Other facilities of the stadium include concessions in the grandstand, a beer garden, a merchandise booth, a press box with public address, a VIP Tent, and home and visitor field houses. The main field is covered in Vamont Bermuda, a type of artificial turf, and there are four acres of paved parking for visitors.
2149 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington, NC 28412, Phone: 910-341-4604
19. Tregembo Animal Park, Wilmington, North Carolina
Closed for the season, this attraction will reopen in 2016.
Tregembo Animal Park is a family-run zoo located on Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington. Opened in 1952 by George and June Tregembo, the zoo began with just a few species but grew tremendously over the years. Today it is home to more than 100 species of animals from all over the world.
In business for more than 60 years, Tregembo Animal Park is the oldest zoo in South Eastern North Carolina, and animals that live there include amphibians, birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles.
Some of the popular mammals are bears, giraffes, lions, monkeys, sloths, tigers, and zebras. The zoo’s mini museum displays ancient artifacts, dinosaur bones, fossils, and other compelling items.
5811 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-392-3604
20. Noni Bacca Winery
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife duo, Toni and Ken Incorvaia, the Noni Bacca Winery is an award-winning winery that was originally opened in Buffalo, New York, but later relocated to Wilmington. The winery finds its roots in Toni and Ken’s European families who came to America from Bulgaria and Sicily respectively, bringing with them their old-world traditions of wine making. Today, the winery produces over 60 different varieties of wine, through which the winery has earned 179 international medals of excellence since 2009. The tasting room of Noni Bacca Winery is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, with adjusted hours from Friday to Sunday, and offers close to 50 varieties of internationally acclaimed wines to sample.
420 Eastwood Road, State 108, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, Phone: 910-397-7617
21. Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Wilmington, North Carolina
The Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts is one of the most important and oldest theaters in the United States. Opened in 1858, it is an old-world arts venue that features two stages for dance and music performance, films, and theater productions. If you are looking for date ideas in Wilmington, watch a performance at at this unique venue.
The center is operated by the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, which maintains the interior of the building and supervises its use. The center produces hundreds of events every year including ballet performances, concerts, film festivals, lectures, recitals, and more.
It is home to many performing companies such as Cape Fear Theatre Arts, Opera House Theatre, Thalian Association, and Willis Richardson Players.
310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-632-2285
22. Sea Turtle Camp
Sea Turtle Camp is a marine biology summer camp for all ages that allows visitors to enter the world of the sea turtle and help make a difference in the environment.
This life-enriching program offers a variety of exciting hands-on, get-your-feet-wet educational experiences from teen summer camps to adult retreats in beautiful places like southeastern North Carolina, tropical Costa Rica, and picturesque Hawaii.
Programs include patrolling Caribbean beaches for nesting leatherback and green sea turtles, volunteering at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, scuba diving North Carolina’s shipwrecks, and helping with ongoing Hawaiian sea turtle research.
This multi-dimensional marine biology program aims to give every participant a life-changing experience.
7213 Ogden Business Lane, Suite 214, Wilmington, NC, Phone: 910-686-4611
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23. Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
Have fun under the sun at what is arguably the best water park in the entirety of eastern North Carolina at the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. Jungle Rapid’s water park features a crazy selection of adrenaline-pumping water slides and other water-based attractions for the family to enjoy. As the park is so large and jampacked with activities, guests can opt to rent 6-person or 10-person cabanas for the duration of their visit. In addition to the water park, Jungle Rapids also has a dry park with an arcade, a laser tag arena, a mini-golf course, a mini-bowling alley, a rock-climbing wall, a bumper car zone, and even a go-kart track. For young children, there is a kid’s jungle available to keep them entertained for hours on end. Guests to Jungle Rapids can avail of a variety of packages, with the most recommended being their All-In Package which even comes with snacks and beverages.
5320 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, Phone: 910-791-0666
24. Museum of the Bizarre
“If it’s strange, weird, unusual, or a collectible oddity, you’ll see it here.” This is the slogan that greets guests to the Museum of the Bizarre, the one and only unique and curious odditorium museum in this part of North Carolina. A science museum at heart, the Museum of the Bizarre is a great place to visit for brave science enthusiasts no matter what their age. The collections and exhibits are family-friendly with some notable items on display being the Fort Fisher Mermaid, the Big Foot Imprint, Houdini’s Ouija Board, the Chupacabra Hand, and the Unicorn Horn. In addition to their interactive exhibits, the Museum of the Bizarre also has a Mirror Maze and Laser Vault to navigate and explore. Visitors can choose from various packages that allow them access to all section of the museum or just certain areas and is open daily. Children under three years of age may enter for free.
201 South Water Street, Wilmington, North Carolina 28401, Phone: 910-399-2641
25. Wilmington Brewing Company
Spend a great afternoon in a relaxing and laid-back atmosphere with a fantastic craft beer in hand at the Wilmington Brewing Company. Owned and run by the husband-and-wife duo of John and Michelle Savard, the Wilmington Brewing Company has the same passion and love for craft beer culture that their Wilmington-native founders do. Their family-friendly taproom is open seven days a week from 12 pm to 9pm and welcomes locals and guests alike to sample their selection of incredible craft beers. Come and try draft beers like the Tropical Lightning IPA, the Grapefruit Gose, or the Whitlow’s Belgian Wit, or bring home growlers of offerings like the Effit Lime Hard Seltzer or the Lemur Party Milkshake. Some offerings are only available like the can like the Jorts Party Juice IPA and the Dinosaur Parade Session IPA, making them perfect to take home and to try from the comfort of your own home.
824 S Kerr Avenue, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, Phone: 910-392-3315
25 Best Things to Do in Wilmington, North Carolina
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Attraction Spotlight: Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens in Wilmington
The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina, is part of the National Historic District and one of three homes that has survived the colonial era. Operated as a museum house, The Burgwin-Wright home is the only one of these three residences that is open to the public. The Burgwin-Wright home was built in 1770 and is one of the oldest homes in North Carolina. The original owner was John Burgwin, a wealthy plantation owner and merchant from England.
The architecture is Georgian and features three stories with multiple shaded porches, pillar columns, and immaculate gardens at the back of the property surrounded by a wrought iron fence.
Shortly after construction was completed, the revolutionary War lead to the home being occupied by Lord Cornwallis in 1781. Over the next two hundred years, the home would change hands several times and be purchased by many several wealthy and notable Wilmington families including Burgwin’s business partner Charles Jewke, and Charles’ wife Anne Grainger Wright.
In the 1930’s The National Society of Colonial Dames of North Carolina purchased the home and used it as their headquarters. The society had a mission of preserving the historic homes and landmarks in North Carolina and the Burgwin-Wright Home was the prime location, on Market Street in Downtown Wilmington.
The NSCDA-NC opened the home to the public as a museum in 1951 and have completed numerous renovations to keep the property preserved and also landscaped the gardens that border Market Street behind and surrounding the property.
The attraction at the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens is the Property itself. Visitors are transported back to colonial times when touring the home. Bedrooms are still adorned with ornate fireplaces for heating, every room is furnished with antiques from the 18 th and early 19 th century that came from North Carolina. The site was also once the home of the town’s city jail and many supernatural enthusiasts have deemed the property as being haunted!
Outside of the home, visitors will find a cookhouse that was used for preparing meals. Traditionally, all meals were cooked by slaves outside of the home so that the heat and smells would not permeate through the house. Residents of the home and guests would then be served in the formal dining room which visitors can see set up as though dinner were about to be had.
The gardens are divided into both useful and ornate styles with a herb and vegetable garden being near the cookhouse. Visitors can also take a leisurely self-guided stroll through the orchards where a variety of fruit trees including fig and pomegranates grow as well as a two-terraced garden featuring Italian Cypress, Ferns, and hyacinths. There is also an aromatic rose garden with dozens of rare heirloom roses, live oaks, Spanish moss, and many other plants native to the area and abundant during Colonia and pre-industrialized times. Another unique garden is the Physic garden where medicinal herbs are grown that were used in holistic remedies during the 18 th and 19 th centuries. The gardens are open to the public and free of charge.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, February through December (last updated March 2017) and guided tours are available hourly. There is an admission charge for tours of the home. Docents of the museum will provide historical information while dressed in period costumes and educate visitors on the history of the home, the NSCDA-NC and the lore surrounding the home.
There are many special events that are held at the Burgwin-Wright home and Gardens that are open to the community and public throughout the year. More information about these events can be accessed through the events calendar. Past events have included local author book signing and presentations, history lectures and presentations, Founder’s Days Celebrations, open hearth cooking demonstrations and many other educational panels and symposiums.
Private events can also be held on the property in the gardens and courtyards. Weddings and portrait photography sessions are very popular and there are 7 different areas on 4 levels to ensure privacy and intimacy for your special events. Outdoor lighting can be arranged as well as use of the catering kitchen and restrooms however the interior of the home and museum will not be accessible.
There is also a special room available for meeting and small parties. The Florence Kidder Room is equipped with a projector and screen and is where many of the special events and educational seminars at the museum take place.
224 Market Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, 28401, Phone: 910-762-4523
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