There is no shortage of amazing things to do in Wilmington, NC. We should know best since it is the closest thing we have to home as full-time travelers. Wilmington has something for everyone, whether you stay on land or water. Visitors flock from all over to experience the stunning North Carolina coast here. You can be as active and ocean-ready as you want when you visit Wilmington, or you can enjoy a completely relaxing trip lounging on the sand just dipping your toes in the water.
After several years of experience, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Wilmington, NC, fit for any time of the year. There are three main beaches in the Wilmington area to visit. Other beach destinations around Wilmington:. The beaches around Wilmington are a fantastic place to learn thanks to a shallow and gently sloping ocean floor.
The waves are typically smaller in the summer months and there is plenty of beach to prepare for your first time!
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The team at Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp can get you hooked up and on the waves good for all ages! Airlie Gardens is a acre botanical garden you can find on the way to Wrightsville Beach. If you want an easy day outside with your loved one, this is one of the most romantic things to do in Wilmington.
The gardens are filled with oaks, outdoor art, walking paths, and seasonal flowers. This makes it the perfect place to come on a beautiful sunny day for a picnic.
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Several events can be enjoyed on the grounds throughout the year, including an Oyster Roast and a whole summer concert series. For many who come to the coastal town, they have one thing on their mind — fishing.
There are many ways you can go fishing in the Wilmington area. However, before you start, make sure you have a fishing to do so legally. There are many ways you can try your hand at fishing; some include:. Being at the beach and having an excellent downtown area, Wilmington plays host to several festivals year-round.
Most of the ones we love are in the spring and summer, but there is something to do almost every weekend. Stand-up paddleboarding is one of the most fun things to do in Wilmington. Wrightsville Beach was my favorite beach to go to as a college student.
I find it a bit cleaner and less crowded than Carolina Beach — especially during the summer months though everywhere is busy in July and August. However, Kure on the other hand, remains more secluded though it is quite far from the city of Wilmington. Of course, you can travel to Wrightsville and lounge around, but Wrightsville SUP offers everyone the chance to try to stand up paddleboarding. We did, and it makes our summers that much more amazing.
Take a look at the best inflatable stand-up paddleboards.
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Or pre-purchase your own online on Amazon. Here are four great disc golf courses around Wilmington:. With its historic building and homes, Downtown Wilmington fully deserves to be appreciated, and exploring is a definite Wilmington thing to do. I love our historic waterfront. Another great thing to do in Wilmington is eat amazing fondue. They have several riverside dining options, which are excellent in the summertime. One of my favorite restaurants to go to is Little Dipper Fondue.
Little Dipper is a locally owned fondue restaurant with an intimate setting. They have great specials every day of the week, so make sure to check em out online first. I wish I knew the of bars downtown, but trust me when I say there are enough to have a good time.
Most of the bars are lined up on Front Street, but they go as far back as 3rd and some even further. There are rooftop bars, clubs, dive bars, breweries, beer halls, country bars, chill bars, and more.
Every Friday during the summertime, local bands and musicians perform on the riverwalk in Wilmington while the sun goes down. The Cotton Exchange is where you can find many boutique shops in Wilmington. The vendors sell a ton of antiques, locally made products, and art. If you like shopping for unique finds, this is one of the best things to do in Wilmington! Wilmington has become a craft beer and brewery mecca of the beach.
Some of my favorites are:. If you are looking for one of the best things to do in Wilmington when it rains is head to the Cameron Art Museum with the family. The museum frequently has interesting exhibitions, classes and workshops, and events throughout the year. The brand new Henrietta will take visitors out on a 1. Onboard is a bar and light snacks to enjoy while you relax on the beautiful river. A fun thing to do in Wilmington is take to the water and rent a jet ski for a few hours. Wrightsville Beach Bikes and Boards will get you all hooked up for a day with a cruiser.
For that, you will need a fat bike. A beer tour you can go on with your friends while you pedal around a city. Well, in Wilmington, they take these tours to a whole other level and get beer lovers out on the water with a Sea Legs Pedal Tour.
You pedal at your own pace while drinking, chatting, and taking in the views of Carolina Beach. Trips last 90 minutes and are captained. If you can time your visit for a Thursday night, there is a fun Fireworks Cruise Wilmington NC dating kisses of lasts 2 hours.
One of my absolute favorite things to do when I was in college and now was hit up dinner and a movie at Mayfaire Town Center. I know you can do this just about anywhere in the United States. Mayfaire is an upscale shopping center in Wilmington. The cinema now features reclining chairs and couches.
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Want to cool off without getting sandy at the beach? Jungle Rapids is an outdoor waterpark great for families looking for a fun time in Wilmington. They also have bowling, golf, go-karts, mini-golf, and a rock-climbing wall! Teams from all levels play in leagues, and the place can get pretty competitive on the nights with higher league play. There is also a fun bar with food in case you just want to watch.
One of the most unique things to do in Wilmington is tour a battleship! The Battleship is open every day of the year for visitors to come and visit and learn all about the ship that participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations during WWII. If you happen to be in town over the Halloween festivities, make sure to check out their spooky haunted ghost ship! Wilmington was, and still very much is a port town.
A lot of action happened in Wilmington in those years, particularly in the downtown area near the river. If you feel like stepping back in time you can get spooked on a Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington.
Once there, you will be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the coastal marshlands. I would recommend taking a cooler and some chairs for relaxation once there. One of the most fun things to do in Wilmington, NC for families is head to the aquarium. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is where kids and adults alike can visit and learn about marine life. Unlike some mega aquariums around the United States, the Fort Fisher aquarium is a real research center and not a cash cow.
The N. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a member of the accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They also have an awesome butterfly garden in the Spring and Summer.
While there are beach bars at both Carolina Beach, Wrightsville, and Kure, my absolute favorite place to enjoy the beach nightlife is at Carolina Beach. During the summer, a vivacious crowd can be found at the numerous bars around the island. Kure Beach is also lovely, but it is much quieter than Carolina. Carolina Beach State Park is one of my favorite places in Wilmington to watch the sunset every day.
We spent a month here in and spent almost every evening in the park. Besides sunsets, it also provides a good platform to fish from and launch your boat into the Cape Fear River. Besides that, we like to come here and enjoy a hike through the woods beneath the fantastic trees.
They have beautiful shaded campsites here for campers and RVs. Carolina Beach is also home to the Venus flytrap! If you like to do yoga and like to go to the beach, Wilmington is perfect. You can easily bring your own mat to the beach to practice yoga with the sound of the ocean waves. Or if you prefer an instructor and a class there are plenty of those too.