28 Best Things to Do in Wilmington, NC

Wilmington, NC

Welcome, dear reader! You've stumbled upon the hidden gem that is Wilmington, North Carolina.

Nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, this charming port city has been my home for several years now, and it's a love affair that grows stronger with each passing day.

I've cruised on the river at sunset, strolled on our enchanting beaches under the moonlight, traversed our historic downtown, and discovered countless hidden treasures.

Let me invite you to see the city through my eyes as I share with you some of the best things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina.

But be warned, you might just fall in love with Wilmington, just as I have.

🌟
About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Learn Maritime History at Majestic Battleship North Carolina

View of the docked Battleship North Carolina
Chansak Joe / Shutterstock.com

Imagine stepping onto the deck of a massive WWII battleship, feeling the weight of history beneath your feet - that's precisely what you get when you visit the legendary Battleship North Carolina.

As a military enthusiast, this majestic ship has been my regular haunt, and every visit feels equally thrilling.

Every chance I get, I make sure to set foot on this imposing vessel, soaking in its historic aura.

Being physically able, I have the advantage of exploring each corner of the ship, from the vast deck to the confined living quarters, kitchen, laundry room and even the newspaper/mail area.

It's awe-inspiring to witness the conditions our brave soldiers endured for months and sometimes years at a stretch.

As for accessibility, the deck is well equipped for visitors on wheelchairs, making it convenient for everyone to experience a bit of the battleship life.

However, the rest of the ship might pose a challenge due to the tight and curvy stairways.

Main guns of Battleship North Carolina
Chansak Joe / Shutterstock.com

The heat in summer can be quite intense, making the tour a bit taxing, but don't let that deter you.

The experience is worth every drop of sweat!

Visiting the Battleship North Carolina isn't just about exploring the ship; it's also about learning the history and gaining an appreciation for the sacrifices made by our servicemen.

And for those who enjoy a little shopping, the gift shop at the end of the tour offers some overpriced but interesting mementos to take back home.

Engine room in Battleship North Carolina
Andrii Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock.com

Appreciate Local Art at Eclipse Artisan Boutique

Every time I wander around my neighborhood, I always find myself drawn to the Eclipse Artisan Boutique.

Their unique collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry, and more is just too irresistible for a creative soul like mine.

The moment I step inside the boutique, I'm always greeted by their friendly and helpful staff.

I remember once when I arrived a bit early, they were kind enough to open the shop a few minutes earlier than usual.

Talk about excellent customer service!

Eclipse Artisan Boutique is more than just an artisan boutique; it's a haven for local and regional artisans.

Each item displayed is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of our local community.

Every time I visit, I'm always amazed by the variety of handmade gifts available.

From intricately designed jewelry to one-of-a-kind furniture, there's always something new and exciting to discover.

Oh, and did I mention that they share the same building with Blue Moon?

It's like hitting two birds with one stone!

After exploring the artistic treasures at Eclipse, I can easily hop over to Blue Moon to indulge in some retail therapy.

Unravel Local History at the Cape Fear Museum

Exterior of Cape Fear Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I'm always eager to learn something new about my splendid hometown, Wilmington, and often find myself drawn to the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.

It's the regional hub for both history and science and a place that never fails to amaze me with its rich collection of battle artifacts, kids' discovery gallery, and so much more.

On one of my regular visits, I remember being particularly moved by the staff's kindness.

Despite not needing a wheelchair myself, I saw them assisting a visitor with one.

Their readiness to help and the sense of care they exhibited was something that elevated my respect for this institution.

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science houses a variety of exhibitions, but what caught my eye during my recent visit was the display dedicated to Michael Jordan.

Education exhibit in Cape Fear Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Having grown up watching him play, it was quite a nostalgic experience for me.

The history of Wilmington is beautifully showcased throughout the museum and serves as a great educational resource.

I had the pleasure of revisiting the museum after they completed their recent renovations, and it was a joy to see the transformations unfold.

They've managed to not just maintain but enhance the charm and information quotient of this beloved museum.

A fox displayed in Cape Fear Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Savor the Aromas at Noni Bacca Winery

You wouldn't believe how excited I was when I first walked into Noni Bacca Winery!

I had heard so much about its fantastic selection of wines, and I was not disappointed.

There's just something about the place that emanates friendliness and comfort, starting from the owner, who has a knack for remembering her customers, down to the cozy chairs and bar.

My dog, Max, was also welcomed, which was a lovely surprise!

My first visit to Noni Bacca Winery involved a unique wine-tasting experience.

The sheer variety of wines was a delight for my taste buds.

I had the honor of picking out seven wines to taste, which was quite an exciting journey through delicate flavors and rich aromas.

And the employees! They were beyond sweet, always ensuring I was having a great time.

It wasn't long before I found myself attending two tastings and each time, my experiences were nothing short of amazing.

The wine was superb, and the company of the witty owner made the experience even more memorable.

It was great to engage in fun conversations and listen to some incredible music while sipping on delicious wine.

Have a Moment of Reflection at the New Hanover County Arboretum

An arched bridge at New Hanover County Arboretum
Coastal Girl / Shutterstock.com

Every now and then, you stumble upon a gem that you can't believe is right in your own backyard, and the New Hanover County Arboretum is just that place for me.

Imagine a tranquil escape, filled with the vibrant colors of countless flowers in bloom, the gentle ripple of koi gliding through an encompassing pond, and the echoing laughter of children exploring the play area.

It's not often that you find a place that welcomes anyone and everyone.

Whether you're an avid gardener seeking some expert advice, or just a nature lover looking for a peaceful stroll through well-kept grounds, the Arboretum has something for you.

Their enthusiasm for the Arboretum and their extensive knowledge of the various plants and gardens left a lasting impression on me.

One of the many things that make this place unique is the carefully curated blend of art and nature.

Scenic view of New Hanover County Arboretum
PatGallery / Shutterstock.com

As you wander through the gardens, you'd notice beautiful pieces of art tucked away in the most unexpected corners.

It adds an element of delightful surprise to every visit.

The Japanese garden and traditional tearoom are among my favorite spots.

Sitting there, with a warm cup of tea in hand, while feasting my eyes on the beautiful landscape, I can't help but feel a sense of serenity wash over me.

The best part? Admission to New Hanover County Arboretum is completely free.

Pink hibiscus flowers at New Hanover County Arboretum
PatGallery / Shutterstock.com

Immerse in the Natural Wonders of Masonboro Island Reserve

Every day, as the sun begins to dip below the horizon, there’s no other place I'd rather be than the tranquil shores of Masonboro Island Reserve.

It's my personal haven, a scenic escape from our vibrant city.

I often find myself making the quick trip to the island, with its sprawling shoreline and untouched landscapes making it feel like my very own private island.

Upon arrival, I set up a little picnic spot.

It's an ideal place for it, really.

The picnic blanket sits on the warm sand, surrounded by the seemingly endless views of water, sky, and sprawling greenery.

While enjoying the refreshments, I often indulge in seashell and sand dollar collecting, a simple pleasure that I've come to cherish.

Masonboro Island Reserve is not just my playground, but my dogs' as well.

They love to dash around, exploring the nooks and crannies of the island, though I always make sure to keep them in check, unlike some visitors.

Embark on a Spiritual Retreat at the Basilica of Saint Mary

Side view of the Basilica of Saint Mary
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One could hardly resist the magnetic pull of the beautiful Basilica of Saint Mary located in the heart of Wilmington.

With its high dome and barrel vaults that were designed in the early 1900s, the Spanish Baroque–style architecture is a sight to behold.

My Saturdays are often graced with the soothing ambiance of the vigil Mass at 5 pm.

There's something truly heartening about seeing the church rather full, with fellow parishioners gathered in prayer and reflection.

The inside of Basilica of Saint Mary is quite expansive, with its simple brickwork serving as the perfect backdrop for the stunning stained glass windows.

Those windows, let me tell you, are not just windows but a vibrant tapestry of colors that make you feel as if you're part of an ongoing spiritual spectacle.

Exterior of the Basilica of Saint Mary
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the regular Mass, they also offer a Spanish Mass at 12 noon on Sundays.

For those seeking to deepen their understanding of the faith, the church also offers Catholic retreats and bible study.

I had the privilege of experiencing one such retreat, and I can tell you it was a transformational experience.

One of the highlights of the church is the priest, originally from Colombia.

His homilies are so profound and thought-provoking that you can't help but feel that he truly is an instrument of God.

It's a blessing to have him as part of our community.

Cycle through Halyburton Park

The crackling leaves beneath my feet reverberate with the music of nature as I meander around Halyburton Park.

Being a resident of Wilmington, North Carolina, I find this park a sanctuary that constantly draws me in.

The park boasts well-maintained trails, offering a perfect opportunity for a brisk walk or a leisurely bicycle ride.

As I tread the 1.3-mile asphalt track that circles the park, the beauty of the park leaves me spellbound.

Every visit becomes a new experience, thanks to the wide variety of gorgeous native species that inhabit the park.

One of the exciting features of this park is the water stand for dogs.

A sight that always warms my heart is seeing the furry visitors quenching their thirst on hot sunny days.

Halyburton Park is indeed pet friendly, making it a go-to spot for dog owners like me.

The playground, although smaller in comparison to the overall size of the park, provides an adequate play space for kids.

With two separate areas, it's never too crowded, and the nearby benches afford a peaceful spot for supervising adults.

And let's not forget the picturesque flower gardens that add a burst of colors to the landscape, creating an inviting environment for everyone.

See Various Plant and Animal Species at Airlie Gardens

Reflection ponds at Airlie Gardens
majicphotos / Shutterstock.com

There’s no doubt that Wilmington’s beach gets all the attention, but when I feel the need for a change of scenery, I head to Airlie Gardens.

It’s such a wholesome break from the beach, and the best part is it's suitable for all age groups.

My little niece loves the scavenger hunts they organize.

It's not just a fun activity but also a great way for kids to interact with nature.

The garden is an absolute delight to the senses.

The azaleas and various other species of plants paint a colorful canvas across the expansive landscape that spans over 70 acres.

When I’m at Airlie Gardens, I feel a sense of tranquility as I walk through the trails, with the chirping birds, the rustling leaves, and the serene freshwater lakes.

It’s such a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Tall trees at Airlie Gardens
Dawn Damico / Shutterstock.com

A stroll around the gardens typically takes about 1-2 hours, but trust me, you would want to spend more time there. It’s such a refreshing experience.

But don't forget to bring your own water as there aren’t any water fountains around.

And do wear comfortable shoes because there’s a lot to explore.

I usually carry a map with me to make sure I don’t miss out on anything.

What really fascinates me are the majestic trees. They stand tall as a testament to nature’s resilience, having survived hurricanes and logging.

I’m so glad these trees are protected and cared for. They truly add to the grandeur of the gardens

Pathway at Airlie Gardens
majicphotos / Shutterstock.com

Learn about Peculiar Plants at Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden

My favorite secret spot in Wilmington is the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden at Piney Ridge Nature Preserve.

Trust me, it's not as intimidating as it sounds.

In fact, it's an absolutely impressive garden that caters to some of the most unique and striking plants you'll ever come across.

Did you know that flytraps, the stars of this garden, are native only to Wilmington?

They don't grow naturally anywhere else in the world.

You can imagine my surprise when I learned that at the annual Flytrap Frolic, my first visit to this thriving garden.

There are also several varieties of carnivorous plants here, including the fascinating pitcher plants and sundews.

Hidden just down from the mall off of Independence, Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is a testament to the wonders of nature.

The short walk from the parking area to the gardens is like a trail through a greenway.

Then, as if by magic, it opens up to a wooden deck with a handicap-accessible viewing area and, below, the garden, accessible only by foot.

To truly appreciate the wonders of this place, remember to get close to the ground -- that's where these plants call home.

The Venus flytraps, for example, are literally everywhere, but you'd miss them if you stayed on the boardwalk.

Don't be shy to take the stone steps off the boardwalk for an up-close experience.

Have a Family Time at Long Leaf Park

Signage of Long Leaf Park
refrina / Shutterstock.com

Oh, the charm of Long Leaf Park, it is certainly a place to lose yourself in its beauty!

Nestled in the heart of Wilmington, North Carolina, there's something about this park that draws me back time and time again.

The trails are my favorite, stretching about a mile and a half, they offer a peaceful escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

These trails lead through a beautiful woodland that is home to so many different species of trees, some of which are centuries old.

Taking a walk along these paths, the sound of crunching leaves beneath my feet and the crisp, fresh air, it's simply therapeutic.

The park has a play area that is a hit among the kids.

My young one loves to swing high on the swings and slide down the slides, giggling with glee.

The playground is always full of life, with children running around, adults chatting on the benches, and dogs wagging their tails at the dog park.

But wait, when it's game time, Long Leaf Park truly comes alive.

The lighted baseball fields and tennis courts are always buzzing with activity.

Whether it's an intense baseball match under the floodlights or a friendly game of tennis, the park has something for every sports enthusiast.

Oh, and the picnic shelters!

They're the perfect spots to unwind, enjoy a packed lunch, and soak in the serenity of the park.

I've spent countless afternoons under these shelters, enjoying a good book or simply watching the world go by.

Discover the City's Past at the Wilmington Railroad Museum

Exterior of the Wilmington Railroad Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's nothing like the nostalgic charm of the Wilmington Railroad Museum right here in our own backyard.

The museum is a delightful blend of history, memorabilia, and a dose of fun with model trains and a full-scale steam engine.

My last visit was an absolute delight, filled with fascinating insights into the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

I remember being enchanted by the intricately detailed scale models, every little piece contributing to a grand story of a time long gone.

The building itself is beautifully preserved a fraction of it serving as a quaint little shop filled with souvenirs to carry back home.

One thing that grabbed my attention was the small theatre showcasing a short but captivating historical video.

It was a beautiful prelude to the museum tour, setting the perfect context to appreciate the displays.

A walk among the display cases following that felt like a journey through time.

Being a model train enthusiast, I was thrilled to see the interactive HO layout.

It was big, detailed, and lively with movement and sound.

There were interaction pedals at the layouts, which were quite impressive.

I could see the younger visitors gleefully operating them, their excitement adding to the charm of the place.

Wilmington Railroad Museum also has a small play area, making it a fantastic spot for kids.

I've seen the joy on their faces when they step on the pedals and start the trains or when they play with the train sets.

Two real trains parked outside offer visitors a chance to step inside, adding to the overall experience.

Play Ball Games at Empie Park

You know it's going to be a good day when you wake up early, eager to spend a sun-drenched Saturday at Empie Park.

The moment you step into the park, you're greeted by 19 tennis courts that stretch as far as the eye can see.

You can almost hear the thwack of tennis balls from the previous weekend!

No doubt, it's a tennis lover's paradise, but that's not all this park offers.

I remember starting my day at the bocce ball courts last weekend, surrounded by the soft chattering of other early risers.

Horseshoe stations were brimming with lively competitions, and bikers zipped by on the greenway connected to the park.

Despite being a Saturday, the park was full, but not overwhelmingly so.

There’s always that lovely sense of community without the feeling of being crowded.

One of the highlights of Empie Park is the dog park.

It's a great spot for our four-legged friends to stretch their legs, with plenty of shade, running water, and lots of water bowls.

My dogs absolutely loved it there!

It might be a tad smaller than other dog parks, but it's maintained so well that it doesn't really matter.

The playground is always buzzing with children, their laughter echoing across the park.

The picnic shelters are spacious and always inviting.

They're a perfect spot to sit down with a sandwich and watch the world go by.

Step Back in Time at the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens

Exterior of the Burgwin-Wright House
Burgwinwrighthouse, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've spent countless afternoons exploring the historic landmarks in my hometown, and the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens is by far one of my favorites.

Tucked away in the heart of downtown Wilmington, it offers a charmingly antique retreat.

The moment you step through the gate, you are transported back into the 18th century, complete with period furnishings and beautifully terraced gardens that seem to tell stories of a bygone era.

Julia, one of the extremely knowledgeable tour guides, has a delightful way of bringing the past to life.

With her vivid narratives, you almost feel as if you are part of the colonial family history that she passionately shares.

It's quite fascinating how she takes time to cater to personal interests and inquiries, making history more relatable and enjoyable.

Every inch of this historic site is steeped in rich heritage.

From the original building materials to the family heirlooms and antique furniture, you're essentially walking through a live museum.

As an architecture aficionado, I could spend hours admiring the intricate detailing and the undeniable craftsmanship that has withstood the test of time.

But what sets the Burgwin-Wright House apart is not just the house itself but the lush gardens that surround it.

The terraced gardens, with their blooming flowers and chirping birds, are the perfect complement to the classic architecture and transport you to a different era.

It's a peaceful sanctuary right in the middle of the bustling city.

Experience the Paranormal at Wilmington Riverwalk

View of the sunset from Wilmington Riverwalk
tony740607 / Shutterstock.com

If you're ever in Wilmington, you can't miss a visit to the scenic Wilmington Riverwalk.

It's like an open secret that keeps drawing me back.

The ghost tour is an absolute delight; it was so surreal when our guide and I discovered we share the same birthday!

It felt like I was a part of the stories and legends that he was sharing.

You can't help but marvel at the amazing architecture of the houses and buildings along the Riverwalk.

Each structure is a silent testament to the city's rich history.

I must admit I have a habit of doing a bit of research on the historical background of the area before heading out, and it adds a whole new dimension to my experience.

Wilmington Riverwalk is particularly vibrant in the evenings.

Shops at Wilmington Riverwalk
William Hunton / Shutterstock.com

It's like the place comes alive after 5, with the hum of people exploring, shopping, and enjoying the food variety.

From a wide variety of cuisine to some amazing dessert places, the options are mouthwatering.

And oh, how can I forget the serene afternoons!

There is a certain tranquility in the air as you take a leisurely stroll or just park yourself on a bench to read a book or gaze into the water.

The Riverwalk is so well-maintained and clean it's a pleasure to just sit and soak in the beauty.

While it may not be the most thrilling place around, the Wilmington Riverwalk has a charm of its own.

My Afternoons at Ogden Park

There's a certain charm to afternoons spent at Ogden Park.

As soon as you step foot, you're greeted by the sight of ball fields buzzing with life, a serene pond reflecting the sky, a bustling skate park, and an off-leash dog zone that makes your pets' tails wag with excitement.

And that’s just the start!

Ogden Park is an ode to the great outdoors, with mature Crepe Myrtles adding a touch of southern elegance.

The BBQ and picnic areas make for perfect family outing spots, and the fresh air just adds to the beautiful experience.

One of my favorite routines is taking my dogs to the off-leash zone.

They absolutely love running freely, socializing with other dogs, and the occasionally chasing of squirrels that dart up the trees.

There's something so satisfying about seeing them explore their surroundings without restraint.

Post their playtime, we usually head home, but not before a walk around the beautiful lake.

The lake at Ogden Park is quite a sight, teeming with fish and ducks.

Walking alongside it, with the sunlight glinting off the water, is a calm I look forward to every day.

However, the narrow parts around the lake can get a bit challenging, especially when slower walkers don't move aside.

With the dogs, it becomes a bit tricky, and we usually have to wait until the path widens to pass them.

A small inconvenience, but the overall beauty and tranquility of the park more than make up for it.

If you're a skating enthusiast, the skate park is worth a visit.

Get Inspired at Bellamy Mansion Museum

Exterior of the Bellamy Mansion Museum
JSvideos / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I crave a dash of rich historical lore in the hustle and bustle of my city life, I find myself drawn to the grandeur of the Bellamy Mansion Museum.

This stunning antebellum-style home, complete with a Victorian garden and restored slave quarters, fills me with a sense of nostalgia each time I step through its imposing gates.

I often opt for the self-guided tour, occasionally even challenging the intermittent breaks in the commentary with my local knowledge.

The mansion, in its quiet elegance, is an art lover's dream.

The rooms, though some of them are empty, often display paintings that are up for grabs.

And the sight of the impressive piano never fails to inspire me.

The history of the house, particularly the chapters that relate to slavery, are sobering.

While the house doesn't offer a comprehensive account of that era, the restored slave quarters provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who once inhabited them.

It’s a delicate, respectful handling of a painful past.

Entrance door of the Bellamy Mansion Museum
Dawn Damico / Shutterstock.com

One of the things I love about the house is its proximity to the river.

After a tour, I never miss the chance to saunter over to the river for some sightseeing or to grab a bite at a nearby eatery.

The location of  Bellamy Mansion Museum, along with its free parking, is just another reason why it’s my go-to local historical site.

I'd advise any first-time visitors to wear comfortable shoes and bring water, especially if they plan to visit during the heat of the summer.

The mansion is beautiful, with many steps to climb and air conditioning that offers a welcome reprieve from the heat.

Signage of the Bellamy Mansion Museum
Dawn Damico / Shutterstock.com

Take a Stroll Through History at Latimer House

Coming home after a long day, I often find solace in taking a leisurely stroll around the historic Latimer House.

The house is more than just a building; it's a doorway to another era.

I remember the first time I stepped into the house, the air conditioning had gone out.

But even in the uncomfortable heat, I was captivated by the grandeur of the house.

I was eager to see the top levels, which unfortunately was not possible that day. But that didn’t dull my interest.

The rest of the house was grand enough to keep me hooked.

I've always been fascinated by history, and the Latimer House has always held a special place in my heart because of its authenticity.

The furnishings are so genuine, it's like stepping back in time.

The historians on-site are both informative and accommodating.

I recall one time when a curious 6-year-old joined the tour.

The historian modified the tour to cater to the child's curiosity.

And even though it was speeded up, I still found it as enlightening as ever.

The tour of  Latimer House lasts less than an hour, but the memories last forever.

Have a Picnic at Greenfield Park

The waters of Greenfield Park
Buckeye Sailboat / Shutterstock.com

Ever since I moved here, I have been absolutely enchanted by Greenfield Park.

This stunning sanctuary, affectionately known as our little neighborhood's 'Eden,' makes the perfect backdrop for my daily walks and spontaneous photography sessions.

The sprawling four-mile path around the lake is my favorite route to embrace the day, as the charming bridges and gazebos elegantly constructed around the circuit offer captivating views of the park's residents.

A word of caution, though.

While the lake beckons with its serene beauty, swimming is strictly prohibited.

It's home to a host of alligators, turtles, and even some poisonous snakes!

The park is not just about its lake and pathways.

The cypress trees, dressed in Spanish moss, add an ethereal beauty that never fails to take my breath away.

It's not just me who's enamored by the park's charm, though.

It serves as a haven for a wide variety of migratory birds.

Paved trail at Greenfield Park
Zach Rudisin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you time your visit just right - say an hour before sunset - you can witness a spectacular sight of birds returning to roost, their silhouettes dancing against the setting sun.

Greenfield Park is also a delight for those who enjoy picnics and outdoor activities.

Children find themselves drawn to the playground, while others indulge in paddle boating or cycling.

As for me, I find kayaking amidst the cypress trees a truly magical experience.

On any given day, you're likely to spot squirrels scampering around, turtles basking in the sun, or hawks soaring overhead.

The sight of cranes, herring, and other smaller birds adds to the allure of the park.

And let's not forget the gorgeous flower gardens that burst into a riot of colors, almost begging to be captured in a photograph.

Wander around Wilmington Downtown

Buildings along Wilmington Downtown
Bennekom / Shutterstock.com

There's no place quite like home, and for me, that home is Wilmington Downtown. You can't help but appreciate the local charm and vibrant energy that radiates throughout the heart of the city.

The Wilmington Downtown area is always buzzing with activities and rich with history that never fails to fascinate.

One of the most exciting times to be in downtown is during the Azalea Festival, which takes place every year around mid-April.

I remember this year's festival vividly, it was the weekend of April 9th.

Wilmington Downtown was alive with various vendors displaying their goods and live entertainment that entertained us throughout the day.

The best part was witnessing the breathtaking sunset from my balcony – a view that never gets old, no matter how many times I see it.

The weekend got even better when the surprise firework show lit up the Saturday night sky.

I had a fantastic view from my place, but I heard the folks staying at the Hotel Ballast had an even better one.

Catch a Concert at Wilmington's Riverfront Park

Picture this: Strolling downtown on a weekend afternoon, you discover a lively hub of activity at Wilmington's vibrant Riverfront Park.

Nestled by the riverside, the park is anything but ordinary.

It's an electrifying destination for concerts, food trucks, and amazing views of the Cape Fear River.

If you're craving a fun day out, this gem of a place should be on your radar.

The concerts at Riverfront Park are simply magical.

I've had the chance to enjoy a few, and each time was a unique experience that left me eager for the next.

Last September, I attended a concert featuring 311, Iya Terra, and Iration.

The atmosphere was phenomenal, the crowd was lively, and the event staff were genuinely friendly and helpful.

The mini-vacation away from the daily grind, right here in Wilmington, was just what I needed.

Then, there was the time I watched a performance by Harry Connick Jr and his band.

The energy pulsating through the crowd was tangible.

Connick's masterful performances on multiple instruments, coupled with his humorous banter, made for a truly unforgettable evening.

The venue was perfect for such an uplifting musical journey.

And let's not forget the food!

One of my favorite food truck experiences at the park was when Poor Piggy's BBQ served up their mouthwatering BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich with crispy shoestring fries.

They even threw in an extra stack of napkins, knowing full well one wouldn't be enough to tackle their delicious, saucy creation.

Learn about Black Beard at Poplar Grove Plantation

Exterior of the Poplar Grove Plantation mansion
The Beehive Design Co / Shutterstock.com

There's something undeniably captivating about stepping onto the grounds of Poplar Grove Plantation.

One can't help but feel a shiver of excitement as they walk the same paths once tread by historic figures like Black Beard.

Every visit to Poplar Grove Plantation is like peeling back another layer of history, uncovering stories from a time long gone.

The first thing that always strikes me is the beauty of the waterfront.

Its calm, serene ambiance offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

My son recently joined me on a visit here for his school field trip.

Seeing his wide-eyed wonder as he explored these historic grounds of Poplar Grove Plantation was a joy to behold.

Although he wished there were more animals to see up close, he enjoyed the history lessons and the games they played. It was indeed a fun and educational experience for the young lad.

And then, of course, there's the Halloween Ghost Walk, an event that I look forward to every year.

Many might not believe it, but I’ve experienced the presence of ghosts here. It always adds an extra layer of thrill to the journey back in time.

Appreciate Art at Cameron Art Museum

Exterior of the Cameron Art Museum
Edward Orde, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I often find myself seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at the Cameron Art Museum.

A treasure chest of local and international artistry nestled within nature's embrace.

As soon as I stepped foot onto the museum grounds, I was greeted by the friendly security staff, who recommended some must-see exhibits.

I was captivated by the way history and art intertwined, with each piece telling a unique story.

The exhibits manage to cater to a wide range of tastes, showcasing the beauty and diversity of art from around the globe.

Cameron Art Museum isn’t just about the art, though, it’s a full experience.

After spending a good amount of time perusing the art, I usually make my way to the museum's cozy cafe. It's the perfect spot to sit back and contemplate the art.

Entrance to the Cameron Art Museum
Starjelly3201, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've just seen it while savoring some tasty libations and chef treats.

The cafe somehow manages to balance a casual ambiance with an air of sophistication.

Before leaving, I always make it a point to visit the gift shop.

It's filled with cute, artsy souvenirs that serve as tangible memories of the museum's charm.

Have a Family Fun Time at Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park

When I say that Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is the perfect spot to create unforgettable family memories, I mean every word.

It's an all-in-one amusement park nestled right here in our city, offering a bounty of fun activities ranging from a water park to a go-kart course, laser tag, mini-golf, and a jungle gym of epic proportions.

If there's one thing I've learned from our many visits, it's that Jungle Rapids is a kids' paradise.

I remember once when we had to leave mid-fun because of a thunderstorm, but even that came with a silver lining.

You see, their policy is to suspend all activities during a thunderstorm, and if it's still not safe to resume after an hour, they give you a rain check for another day.

Another fun spot is the go-kart course.

Believe me, it's not just for the kids.

We, adults, have as much fun - if not more! And the mini-golf area? It's perfectly designed with a nice balance of challenge and fun.

Just be sure to keep an eye on your little ones in the jungle gym; while it's loads of fun, safety should always come first.

But the highlight is undoubtedly the water park.

It may be a bit pricey, but the variety of slides and pools for all age groups is worth it.

From the exciting wave pool to the basketball hoop in the water, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

The lifeguards do a fantastic job, always alert and quick to intervene when they see something unsafe.

However, I must admit the food, especially the pizza, could use some work.

And it's not the most affordable.

But then again, you don't really go to an amusement park for gourmet meals, do you?

As for the arcade, it's decent enough, albeit a bit pricey.

But, the joy on my son's face as he zoomed around the gocart track - that was priceless!

Before I forget, if you're planning on spending the day, lockers are available for rent.

They accept various forms of payment, including Apple Pay, cash, and cards.

One of the best parts?

Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park has this massive indoor play park for kids 8 years old and under.

Watching my son play there, laughing, and teaching the younger kids different things is one of my favorite parts of the whole experience.

Cross the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge

Daytime view of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge
Chansak Joe / Shutterstock.com

Every day, as I make my way across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, I can't help but marvel at the grandeur of this historic structure.

This is more than just a bridge for us; it's a piece of our city's history, a symbol of our heritage, and a concrete testament to our progress.

I often find myself lost in the mesmerizing views it offers of historic Wilmington.

This isn't just a route to get from one place to another, it's a journey steeped in nostalgia.

It's where Jason Aldean's music has echoed and where countless movies have been filmed.

Even on the most mundane days, crossing Cape Fear Memorial Bridge feels like being on a movie set.

Structure of Cape Fear Memorial Bridge
Darwin Brandis / Shutterstock.com

And don't even get me started on the sunsets here!

When the sun sets, painting the waters of Cape Fear River in hues of gold and orange, and the old steel structure of the bridge turns into a silhouette, it's a sight to behold.

Discover Childhood Joys at The Children's Museum of Wilmington

I've had the pleasure of living near The Children's Museum of Wilmington for a number of years now.

This place is genuinely a treasure trove for kids aged between 1 to 10.

A must-go spot for any family living in or visiting Wilmington, where children have the opportunity to learn through immersive, hands-on exhibits.

One of my favorite parts is the outdoor playground - it's a space where my kids can let loose and play in the open air after exploring the museum's indoor attractions.

There are also party rooms available which I find perfect for birthdays or any child-centered events.

The exhibits here are diverse and engaging. I remember the first time I took my daughter, she was mesmerized by the grocery shopping experience.

She loved scanning the toy groceries and pretending to be a cashier.

Now, she's a little older and the virtual reality headset has become her go-to activity.

Each visit to The Children's Museum of Wilmington offers something new to my kids, and they never seem to tire of it.

We have spent countless afternoons here, and we never manage to get through everything.

The museum is massive, we usually spend around two hours and only see about half of what's on offer.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Get Up Close with Aquatic Life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

A clam at North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Sarr Cat, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're looking for a place to explore the vibrant marine life of our region, I highly recommend visiting the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

This aquarium is more than just a place to view aquatic creatures, it's an interactive experience that appeals to both young and old.

Having visited the aquarium several times with my little ones aged 5, 4, and 2, I can vouch for the fact that it's an enjoyable and educational experience for kids.

From touching sting rays and horseshoe crabs to watching otters pile up together for a nap, there's always something interesting happening.

One of the most unforgettable experiences was seeing a seahorse give birth right in front of our eyes!

Though the visit to North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher only takes about 1-2 hours, it's packed with captivating sights and live programs.

You may also want to plan your visit with a bit of flexibility in mind.

The first time we visited, they were sold out until a later time, so it's a good idea to book your tickets in advance.

Also, note that on certain days, the restaurant outside may be closed, in which case, packing a few snacks might come in handy.

Jog at Brunswick Nature Park

There's no place quite like Brunswick Nature Park.

It's my favorite spot to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse myself in the great outdoors.

With a variety of trails, there's something for everyone.

I personally love the hiking trails - they're easy to follow, with just enough elevation changes to make the walk interesting.

The surrounding scenery is simply breathtaking, a beautiful medley of woodland and greenery that's sure to relax and rejuvenate you.

One thing I have to mention is the bike trails.

They're a little on the skinny side and scattered with roots, which make them perfect for mountain biking.

It's not just about speed here; the routes have plenty of curves and short hills that really test your agility and endurance.

I've found myself squeezing in a workout without even realizing it!

It's not all about the trails, though.

Brunswick Nature Park itself is well-maintained and there's plenty of shade under the trees.

A word of advice, though - don't forget to bring some bug spray, especially in the warmer months.

Final Thoughts

Wilmington, North Carolina, truly is a treasure trove of diverse experiences, each of which has a unique story to tell.

From the historical Battleship North Carolina and the captivating Cape Fear Museum to the serene beauty of Airlie Gardens and New Hanover County Arboretum, there's something here for everyone.

It's this blend of history, nature, culture, and fun that makes Wilmington such a rewarding place to live in and explore.

💌
Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
✍️
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.