55 FUN Things To Do In Wilmington, NC

There is no shortage of amazing things to do in Wilmington, North Carolina. Visitors can enjoy a spooky ghost walking tour, visit a local distillery, catch some waves at the beach, or cruise down the Cape Fear River in this historic port town. It’s one of my favorite destinations in North Carolina, and we should know best since it is the closest thing we have to a home as full-time travelers. Wilmington has something for everyone, whether you love the 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 visiting Wilmington or enjoy a relaxing trip lounging on the sand just dipping your toes in the water. One thing is sure: when you visit Wilmington, you’ll breathe in that fresh ocean air, and life will instantly feel more complete.

It’s my favorite place in North Carolina to enjoy a little saltwater on the face and get kissed by the sun. After several years living here, I wanted to share some of my favorite activities fit for any time of the year.

Best Things to Do in Wilmington, NC

Go to the Beach!

Cameron And Natasha On Masonboro Island
Enjoying the beach in Wilmington!

Well, I can’t start this Wilmington travel guide without mentioning that you need to visit the beach while here. Let’s be honest; it’s probably the main reason you travel to Wilmington!

There are three main beaches in the Wilmington area to visit.

Carolina Beach At Sunset
Sunset at Carolina Beach
  • Wrightsville Beach: The most conveniently located beach to most of Wilmington, and what many consider the best beach in Wilmington. Located at the end of Causeway Drive and is home to awesome landmarks like Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier. Wrightsville Beach has the most “upscale” vibe out of any of the beaches and is where you will find some of the higher-end hotels and restaurants in the area. It’s a fabulous beach to enjoy year-round.
  • Carolina Beach: Carolina Beach is separated by Snows Cut Bridge from Wilmington and is on an “island.” Carolina Beach is about a 30-minute from Market Street in Wilmington, down College Road. It sits along the Cape Fear River and is home to Carolina Beach State Park. Carolina Beach feels much more of a kitschy beach town, but I honestly love the whole ambiance of it much more than Wrightsville. It has great beach bars and restaurants and a fantastic boardwalk.
  • Kure Beach: The quietest out of all the beaches, with a little bit of an older small town beach vibe. It’s about a 10-minute drive past Carolina Beach to get to Kure Beach. Walk the Kure Beach pier and eat at Freddie’s when you visit!

Other beach destinations around Wilmington:

  • Masonboro Island: Only accessible by boat, and you must plan with the tide. There are public and private boat ramps in Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach that you can access and take your own boat there. If you want, you can also kayak and camp on the island. Masonboro Island is pretty quiet except on holidays. It makes for a great day out!
  • Figure Eight Island: A private island where a booking is required. But if you can get a rental unit there, you’ll have a great time.
  • Topsail Beach: About 50 minutes from Wilmington. Another quiet beach community that is mostly beach rentals for families and groups of friends.

Try Your Hand at Surfing

Surf And Bike Rentals At Carolina Beach

Many people travel to the Carolinas to surf, as it’s great for beginners! The beaches around Wilmington are a fantastic place to learn, thanks to a shallow, 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! The Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp team can get you hooked on the waves (good for all ages!).

Stroll Through Airlie Gardens

Airlie Gardens in Wilmington
Strolling through Airlie

Airlie Gardens is a 67-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.

Natasha Airlie Gardens Wilmington
Airlie Gardens in the Spring

The gardens are filled with oaks, outdoor art, walking paths, and seasonal flowers. This makes it the perfect place for a picnic on a beautiful sunny day. Several events can be enjoyed on the grounds throughout the year, including an Oyster Roast and a whole summer concert series. If you are visiting around the holidays, Airlie Gardens decorates the whole property with fantastic lights, though to see this, you’ll need to purchase tickets well in advance.

Go Fishing!

Fishing In The Waters Around Wilmington
Fishing in Wilmington with family!

Many who come to the coastal town have one thing on their minds – fishing. There are many ways you can go fishing in the Wilmington area. However, before you start, ensure you have a fishing license to do so legally. There are two exceptions to a fishing license – if you’re fishing from a pier that charges a fee to fish or if you’re on a charter fishing boat (both carry special commercial licenses that cover you). There are many ways you can try your hand at fishing; some include:

  • Surf Fishing from the beach.
  • Fish in Snow’s Cut and from Carolina Beach State Park.
  • Deep-sea fishing with a charter boat from Carolina Beach or Wrightsville Beach.
  • Cast a line off Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, or Johnny Mercer Pier.
  • Hop on the Winner Gulf Stream Fishing cruise.
  • Take your boat, of course!

Enjoy a Live Event!

Live Concert In Wilmington NC

Being at the beach and having an excellent downtown area, Wilmington hosts 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.

A few of our favorites are the NC Azalea Festival, the Cucalorus Film Festival, and Wilmington Beer Week. If you’re looking for a weekly event, check out the farmers market at Tidal Creek Co-op or catch a concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre.

Stand Up Paddleboard at Wrightsville Beach

A Standup Paddleboard On The Beach

Wrightsville Beach was my favorite beach to go to as a college student to stand up paddleboard. It has an entirely different vibe at Wrightsville Beach than at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.

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 Wilmington.

Of course, you can travel to Wrightsville and lounge around, but Wrightsville SUP offers everyone the chance to try to stand up paddleboarding. Rentals start at $35, or you can take lessons.  If you think you’ll be stand-up paddleboarding more than once, investing in a stand-up paddleboard might not hurt. We did, and it makes our summers that much more amazing.

Disc Golf in Wilmington

Joe Eakes Disc Golf Course in Kure Beach - Things To Do In Wilmington
Disc Golfing at Joe Eakes Park, Kure Beach

Disc Golf is Cameron’s favorite thing to do in Wilmington when the weather is beautiful. The Wilmington area has four disc golf courses, and they’re all free to use, making it one of the best free things to do. All you need is a disc which you can pick up for $10 at several shops around the area. Or pre-purchase your own online on Amazon.

You can find them in-store in Wilmington at Outdoor Provisions, surf shops (CB surf), and Dicks Sporting Goods.

Here are four great disc golf courses around Wilmington:

  • North Regional Park, Castle Hayne: This course is on the PDGA, and it’s the best course in the area. It has 18 holes and many challenging par 4 and 5 holes. It’s prone to mud when there is fresh rain, but it’s terrific on a chilly day.
  • Joe Eakes Park, Kure Beach: This is my favorite course because it’s a full 18 holes and has a few challenging holes. What makes it the best for me is it’s all in a coastal forest with sand fairways. The weather is reliable with plenty of water close by, but it also gets windy!
  • Arrowhead Park18 hole par three disc golf course. There are plenty of hills that make for fun elevation changes and it’s in a beautiful little park.
  • Good Hops Brewing, Carolina Beach: This is the most straightforward course with all of the holes at par 3. It’s also on the brewery’s property so you can legally pick up a craft beer inside and play while drinking. AWESOME!

Run “The Loop”

Running The Loop At Wrightsville Beach - Things To Do In Wilmington

If you’re in the mood for a bit of exercise and like to run, there is a great running trail around the Wrightsville Beach area. The John Nesbitt Loop, or “The Loop” referred to by locals, is the perfect 2.5-mile running path around the beach. Don’t worry. It’s dog and kid-friendly and isn’t all runners! If you’re big on running, there are other great places to head in Wilmington.

Places like Long Leaf Park, Carolina Beach State Park, or the Cross City Trail are perfect. When training for a race, Cameron would take the trail from UNCW to the loop and back (that’s a half marathon all on a paved path), so even serious runners will have plenty of room to stretch their legs. Check out the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail map here!

Enjoy a Trolley Tour Downtown

Downtown Wilmington At Dusk - Things To Do In Wilmington

With its historic buildings and homes, Downtown Wilmington fully deserves to be appreciated, and exploring is a definite Wilmington thing to do. I love our historic waterfront. If it’s your first time, consider hopping on a trolley tour, it’s one of the best things you can do in Wilmington. That’s right – downtown Wilmington still runs modified trolleys through town. You can find the trolley route here.

Fondue Yourself

Fondue - Things To Do In Wilmington

Another great thing to do in Wilmington is eat amazing fondue. If you’re looking for a place to have a nice dinner, heading to Historic Downtown Wilmington will provide the most options. 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 them out online first.

Bar Hop Downtown

Cameron In Front Of Mural In Downtown Wilmington - Things To Do In Wilmington

If you’re looking for a night out on the town with your friends, you have three places around Wilmington. The Wrightsville Beach Bars, Downtown Wilmington, and Carolina Beach. I always found Wrightsville Beach bars to be where the frat guys hung out, so I didn’t bother going there often, while Carolina Beach is a bit far from Wilmington to go drinking.

I wish I knew the number 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’s a bar for just about any type of crowd downtown. There are rooftop bars, clubs, dive bars, breweries, beer halls, country bars, chill bars, and more.

There used to be a Dueling Piano Bar, but unfortunately, that’s gone now. It may seem a little “younger” downtown (especially at night), but remember that Wilmington isn’t just a vacation town but also a college town.

Our favorite bars in Downtown Wilmington, NC are:

  • Blue Post (dive bar)
  • The Husk
  • Cape Fear Beer & Wine
  • Satellite
  • Duck and Dive
  • Barbary Coast

Listen to Music at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater

Throughout the year, the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, a spacious open-air venue with a capacity of 1,200, hosts a diverse array of concerts, theatrical performances, and festivals. Watch local bands and musicians perform while the sun goes down. Concerts run all year, so it’s best to keep up to date with the current schedule on Live Nation.

Shop at the Cotton Exchange

Natasha At The Cotton Exchange in Downtown Wilmington - Things To Do In Wilmington

The Cotton Exchange is where you can find many boutique shops in Wilmington. It’s located in the historic downtown area and is best visited on the weekends when you can see the place come alive. The vendors sell many antiques, locally made products, and art. If you like shopping for unique finds, this is one of the best things to do in Wilmington!

Grab a Craft Beer at One of the Many Breweries

Front Street Brewery In Wilmington - Things To Do In Wilmington

Wilmington has become a craft beer and brewery mecca of the beach. I remember 10 years ago in Wilmington, one of the only breweries was Front Street Brewery on Front Street downtown. Now hit up Wilmington and type “brewery” into your search engine, and there are almost too many to choose from! If you’re in search of a good beer, make sure to head to a craft brewery. Some of my favorites are:

  • Wrightsville Beach Brewery
  • Edward Teach Brewing
  • Front Street Brewery (the OG)
  • Flying Machine Brewing Company
Our Favorite Best Wilmington Breweries!

Check Out the Cameron Art Museum

The Cameron Art Museum In WIlmington - Things To Do In Wilmington

If you are looking something to do when it rains head to the Cameron Art Museum with the family. The museum frequently has interesting exhibitions, classes, workshops, and events.

Enjoy the Cape Fear River on a Riverboat

A River Cruise Boat On The Cape Fear River -  Things To Do In Wilmington

See the Cape Fear River and Downtown Wilmington from the water with Cape Fear Riverboats. The brand-new Henrietta will take visitors out on a 1.5-hour sunset cruise every Saturday. Onboard is a bar and light snacks to enjoy while you relax on the beautiful river.

Henrietta runs shorter daily tours for $15 in the afternoon if you want a more educational tour. Sit back and eat Anne Bonny’s Bar food while learning about the importance of the Cape Fear River and see some of Wilmington’s oldest homes.

Rent a beach Cruiser and Ride Around the Beach

Natasha On A Beach Cruiser At The Beach - Things To Do In Wilmington
Sunset near Carolina Beach

There is just something iconic about riding a comfortable beach cruiser on the beach. Wrightsville Beach Bikes and Boards will get you hooked up with a cruiser for a day. Daily Rentals start at $25, and Weekly Rentals run $75, so if you stay for more than three days, it’s probably worth it to go for the week. It’s important to note these bikes are not for the sand. For that, you will need a fat bike.

Natasha Riding A Bike On The Dock - Things To Do In Wilmington

If you want to rent a bike at Carolina Beach, check out Pleasure Island Rentals. They are a bit cheaper, starting at $15 per day.

Enjoy a Sea Legs Pedal Pub

Natasha Watching A Sunset From Snow's Cut On A Boat

You’ve likely heard of a Pedal Pub tour, which is 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 that lasts 2 hours. Tours start at $36 per person, and you can bring your own booze!

Take the Kids to Jungle Rapids

Kid On A Water Slide - Things To Do In Wilmington

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. It has Two Body Water Slides, a Lazy River and Wave Pool, and a few other fun rides. It also has bowling, golf, go-karts, mini-golf, and a rock-climbing wall!

Play Some Beach Volleyball

Sunset Volleyball Match - Things To Do In Wilmington

I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 11 years old, so you can bet the first thing I searched for when I moved to Wilmington was a volleyball court. There is one main establishment for organized beach volleyball in Wilmington, Capt’n Bill’s located on Market Street.

I played on teams, and even worked part-time as a referee at Capt’n Bill’s for four years in Wilmington, and I love the vibe there. 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.

Tour the USS North Carolina

USS North Carolina Battleship - Things To Do In Wilmington

One of the most unique things to do in Wilmington is tour a battleship! USS North Carolina (BB-55) is the lead ship of the pair of North Carolina-class battleships and docked right in Wilmington, NC. 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!

Listen to the Ghost Stories From a Historic Port Town

An Image Of A Ghost At Night - Things To Do In Wilmington

These days, Wilmington is very much a vacation destination, but that wasn’t always the case. Wilmington was, and still very much is a port town. The city was settled by European Americans along the Cape Fear River back in the 16th century.

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. Which is great if you’re looking for the perfect night time activity and want to hear some chilling ghost stories. Check out their haunted pub crawl if you want a little drink with your story!

Kayak Around Zeke’s Island

Cameron Pulling A Kayak On To Zeke's Island - Things To Do In Wilmington

One of Cameron’s favorite activities in Wilmington, NC, is kayaking around Zeke’s Island. Zeke’s Island is an NC Coastal Reserve only accessible by shallow-water boats. Once there, you will enjoy the peace and quiet of the coastal marshlands. It’s a great opportunity to see all the biodiversity of Wilmington. There is a boat ramp at Federal Point, adjacent to the Zeke’s Island site, that it’s straightforward to launch from.

I recommend taking a cooler and some chairs for relaxation once there. I wouldn’t recommend crossing the old Civil War wall that leads out to the island. Cameron once got caught out there during high tide, and it wasn’t a good day—his sister hopped away with 26 stitches in her knee from oyster shells.

Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Family At The Aquarium - Things To Do In Wilmington

One of the most fun things for families to do in Wilmington is visit 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.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a member of the 230 accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

They have many exhibits and shows open every day of the year, so no matter what day you visit, you’ll be sure to have a good time. It’s here that you can also meet the rare albino alligator named Luna and a rescued bald eagle named Maverick. They also have an awesome butterfly garden in the Spring and Summer.

Head to the Beach Bars

Enjoying the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar - Things To Do In Wilmington
Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach

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.

The beach bars at Carolina Beach feel much more “beachy” to me than at Wrightsville, where the college crowd hangs out. Kure Beach is also lovely, but it is much quieter than Carolina. We’re Carolina Beach regulars, so here are our favorite bars in Carolina Beach.

  • Fat Pelican: This doesn’t only make our list of favorite bars in Wilmington, but the world. It’s eclectic, packed with character, and just crusty enough to make it the perfect dive bar. We love the crowd as there is no age limit here (21+ mind you) and you’ll find every walk of life.
  • Crush & Grind: We love the atmosphere here as it’s all about craft beer and wine in a modern atmosphere. The owner also makes some fantastic coffee – try out the cold brew!
  • Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar: On a beautiful day it’s impossible to beat sitting on the remains of a pier and enjoying a cold drink. The only negative for us is the price with $5 beer cans and $12 cocktails (We’re not in NYC!).
  • Sea Witch Tiki BarLive weekend music and awesome tiki bar feel. They have a large open courtyard and often draw a crowd in the summer.
  • The Last Resort: This little bar sits right on Carolina Beach Ave, and you can’t miss it.
  • Nollies Taco JointThere probably isn’t a better bar food than tacos.

Hunt for a Venus Flytrap at Carolina Beach State Park

Cameron Walking Through Carolina Beach State Park - Things To Do In Wilmington
Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park

One of the great attractions in Wilmington, is Carolina Beach State Park. Carolina Beach State Park is one of my favorite places in Wilmington to watch the sunset every day. We spent a month here in 2018 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. Carolina Beach has beautiful shaded campsites for campers and RVs. It is also home to the Venus flytrap! That’s right, Carolina Beach State Park is home to one of the most famous carnivorous plants in the world and one of the only places you can find it in the wild.

Practice Yoga on the Beach

Yoga On The Beach At Sunrise - Things To Do In Wilmington

Wilmington is perfect if you like to do yoga and go to the beach. 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.

Wilmington Yoga Studios and Longwave Yoga both offer yoga retreats, beach yoga, and SUP yoga. If you head to Wilmington Yoga Studios, be sure to check out Tidal Creek Coop on the floor below for healthy food.

Have a Coffee at Bitty and Beau

Team Photo At Bitty and Beau - Things To Do In Wilmington

Bitty and Beau was not around while we were in college, but it has become a well-known national sensation and for a good reason! This Wilmington coffee shop was opened by a local couple who have two children (Bitty and Beau) with Down Syndrome.

To combat the high unemployment rate for individuals with IDD and other disabilities, the Wrights opened up the first Bitty and Beau in Wilmington and employed people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They now have two locations and employ over 60 people between the two coffee shops. Oh, Amy Wright also won CNN’s Hero of the Year.

Catch a Baseball Game

The Legion Stadium Home Of The Wilmington Sharks - Things To Do In Wilmington

While the Carolinas have no Major League Baseball team, Wilmington still has a collegiate summer baseball league. The Wilmington Sharks play at Legion Stadium during the summer. It makes for a great evening out. Thirsty Thursdays are the best time to watch as they offer $1 draft beers – no joke.

Experience Hollywood East

The River Boardwalk Of Downtown Wilmington At Sunset - Things To Do In Wilmington

Did you know Wilmington was once dubbed the “Hollywood of the East” or”Wilmywood”? That’s right; little old Wilmington is home to a considerable amount of film productions over the years. It’s why I chose to get my Film Degree at UNCW. One Tree Hill, Iron Man, The Conjuring, and a ton of Nicholas Sparks’ books turned movies were filmed in Wilmington.

Many movies are shot on location, but EUE Screen Gems Studios also plays a massive role in film production in Wilmington. Movie making in North Carolina was much larger while we lived in Wilmington. However, the state legislature voted to end film incentive tax credits after 2014 film production in North Carolina has almost come to a standstill. With nearly all movies and TV shows are heading to Atlanta these days. Guided tours don’t run here as much as they used to, but you can do a self-guided tour around filming locations for true fans.

Pick Delicious Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries - Things To Do In Wilmington

Lewis Nursery and Farms is a family-run business growing all the good stuff on their land – strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries! They allow visitors to pick their strawberries during the spring season, which is a fun day out. Don’t worry; if you’re feeling lazy, you can still buy the pre-picked fresh berries.

Get Out to Masonboro Island

Natasha Walking On Masonboro Island At Sunset - Things To Do In Wilmington

Masonboro Island is state-protected and undeveloped. It’s a lovely area and one of the last places to truly experience an untouched coast. Believe it or not, the mouth of the Cape Fear River and Wilmington are one of the most biodiverse spots in the continental United States and the highest on the East Coast.

Try Britts Donut

Britts Donuts A Week After Opening - Things To Do In Wilmington

Everyone, and I mean everyone who lives in Wilmington, raves about Britts Donuts in Carolina Beach. Now I’ve never really been much of a donut fanatic, but I can confirm that Britt’s Donuts are delicious. They’ve perfected the glazed donut; besides coffee and milk, it is the only thing they sell.

Come in the summertime and you’ll likely be waiting in line to try one. Don’t expect to pay with a credit card here if you feel like mixing it up; head to Wake N’ Bake Donuts for some other amazing original creations.

Day Trip to Southport

Natasha On The Ferry To Southport - Things To Do In Wilmington

Southport is a charming small town in Southeastern North Carolina located right where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic. This seaside town was once deemed “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” and is full of cute restaurants and boutique shopping opportunities.

Plenty of movies have been filmed here to depict “small-town southern life” (think I Know What You Did Last Summer and A Walk to Remember). Make sure to stop at Provision Company for lunch, as they serve some of the best seafood in the area!

It’s a fun spot to head when you are looking for something a little different out of your beach vacation. You can drive here, but the ferry from Fort Fisher is the best way to access Southport. Check NCDOT for ferry schedules and ticket prices.

Wilmington Railroad Museum

Wilmington Railroad Museum - Things To Do In Wilmington

Wilmington is known for its rich history, and this quaint Railroad Museum is a great place to learn more about the city’s past. It’s actually set inside an old train station for a fully immersive experience. 

This museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the exciting tale of the evolution of locomotion. Visitors can see firsthand how the railroads shaped the city today. You can even climb aboard a real caboose and check out a hundred-year-old steam engine. There’s a special hall with interactive exhibits for the little ones. 

Historic House Museums

Bellamy Mansion Museum Downtown Wilmington -  Things To Do In Wilmington

There’s something special about visiting a historic home. Maybe it’s the feeling of stepping back in time, or the sense of connection to the past. Whatever the reason, Wilmington’s historic homes offer a unique and enriching experience. 

The Bellamy Mansion boasts a variety of architectural styles including Greek Revival, Neoclassical, and Italianate. There’s an on-site museum and regular tours of the ancient facade from top to bottom. The Burgwin-Wright House was constructed in 1770 and is currently the city’s only colonial structure that’s open to the public. There are gorgeous gardens to wander on this expansive estate as well. 

New Hanover County Arboretum

New Hanover County Arboretum -  Things To Do In Wilmington

The New Hanover County Arboretum is a great place to wander through Wilmington’s natural history. With more than seven acres of gardens and woodlands, the Arboretum is home to a variety of enchanting flora and fauna. The gardens feature a wide range of native plants, and the woodlands are home to a diverse array of bird species and other cute critters. 

They also host many educational programs and events to partake in. These idyllic grounds are one of our favorite places to escape the city crowds and spend a tranquil day in Wilmington. 

Museum of the Bizarre

Bizzare Tech - Things To Do In Wilmington

The Museum of the Bizarre is an ideal hidden gem for anyone hoping to travel a bit off the beaten path. This museum houses an abundance of oddities and curiosities, ranging from shrunken heads to two-headed animals.

There’s also a cool collection of interactive exhibits, such as the Laser Vault and Mirror Maze or Houdini’s Possessed Ouija Board. If you’re interested in learning about the world’s strangest customs, you love spooky stuff, or you simply want to see something new, the Museum of the Bizarre is sure to offer a mesmerizing and memorable experience. 

Poplar Grove Plantation

Poplar Grove Plantation - Things To Do In Wilmington

Poplar Grove Plantation is a beautifully preserved example of a traditional southern plantation in Wilmington. The current manor was originally constructed back in 1850. You can tour the plantation house, learn about the area’s history at the on-site museum, or even go for a horseback ride through the property. 

Once a sweet potato and peanut farm, today, it serves as a harrowing reminder of the country’s oppressive past. It’s an important stop that seeks to shed light on the pre-Revolutionary War era of North Carolina. 

Greenfield Lake

Kayak On Greenfield Lake - Things To Do In Wilmington

With over 250 acres, Greenfield Lake is a great place to take a stroll, picnic, or enjoy some scenery in Wilmington. True to its name, there are miles of waterfront trails surrounded by lush trees and flowers. There’s also a charming playground, gazebo, sports court, skate park, boat rental service, and amphitheater to enjoy. 

If you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle or two! The lake is also a popular fishing destination in the city, and there’s plenty to catch. It’s also known as one of the best places to go with a furry companion since it’s super dog-friendly. 

Fort Fisher State Historic Site

Fort Fisher State Historic Site - Things To Do In Wilmington

Fort Fisher is an amazing attraction for both history buffs and nature lovers. Home to the biggest amphibious battle in the country, this beautiful location was once a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It was built to protect the vital trading ports of the city. 

Today, the site includes the remains of the once iconic structure as well as a museum packed with relevant memorabilia. The protected and legendary grounds alternate between miles of pristine beachfront and trails through wild salt marsh. 

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science - Things To Do In Wilmington

The Cape Fear Museum is both a fun and educational activity in Wilmington. This expansive museum has something for everyone, exhibiting everything from local history to natural science. Younger visitors are sure to love the hands-on elements, which includes interactive exhibits like Space Place. Additionally, older learners will appreciate the chance to explore Wilmington’s rich history through detailed displays such as the dramatic Fire! Gallery or the enlightening Cape Fear Stories exposition.

The Best Restaurants in Wilmington

The Little Dipper - Restaurants In Wilmington NC

This is all our opinion, but these are the best places to eat and drink in Wilmington!

  • Indochine: Whenever there’s a special occasion, we head to Indochine. Indochine is a Thai infusion restaurant, and it’s downright amazing and reasonably priced. I’ve never been to Indochine, no matter the day or time of year when there isn’t a line. So be prepared for that – but you won’t regret waiting. It is an institution in Wilmington, and a must-try.
  • Satellite: An impressive bar that often hosts events, live music on the weekend, and draws a hip crowd.
  • Hibachi Bistro: My favorite “cheap eats” spot in Wilmington. Hibachi Bistro serves up cheap and quick hibachi meals, and on Wednesday they typically have half-priced sushi.
  • Dock Street Oyster Bar: If you’re a shellfish fan then this is the place to head. They offer steamed and raw oysters in a relaxed bar atmosphere.
  • Flaming Amys: This colorful restaurant is another Wilmington institution known for its awesome burritos.
  • The Copper Penny: Awesome cheap eats and bar food downtown.
  • Little Dipper: As mentioned before, Little Dipper, is great for a date night or Ladies’ night.
  • Taqueria Los Portales: For authentic, no frills, not “American” Mexican, this place is fantastic.
  • Front Street Brewery: Front Street Brewery is…well…A brewery located right on Front Street. They have tasty beers and good food which you can enjoy inside or on the patio when the weather is good. Prices are very reasonable. You’ll probably end up waiting in a line if you come during a nice summer weekend day.
  • Cape Fear Seafood Company: It doesn’t look like much on the outside, and it’s not ocean front, but Cape Fear Seafood Company serves fresh local reliable seafood.
  • Slice of LifeHands down the best pizza in Wilmington.
  • Crush & Grind: This is our favorite coffee shop in Wilmington, although really it is in Carolina Beach. They serve great coffee and then the place turns into a wine bar at night. I also love that they use eco-friendly products and paper straws keeping the oceans clean here!

Wilmington Attractions Map

How to Get There

Sunset On Wrightsville Beach - Things To Do In Wilmington

If you are flying to North Carolina, you will be pleased to know that Wilmington has its own airport. The Wilmington International Airport (ILM) is a small airport near Wrightsboro that services multiple flights a day. Most flights from around the country are connected via Charlotte Douglas, but there are some from Atlanta and Dallas.

ILM is probably the easiest airport to navigate through as it is small and quiet. If you can get a flight here, then do it. Often it doesn’t cost much more than flying into Charlotte or Raleigh. If driving to North Carolina, you’ll likely find yourself on Interstate 40, which starts (or ends) in Wilmington. Wilmington is about two hours away from Raleigh, 3.5 hours from Charleston, 4 hours from Charlotte, and 1.5 hours to Myrtle Beach.


Johnny Mercer Pier - Things To Do In Wilmington

There is not much in terms of public transport in Wilmington, as with the rest of the United States. The best way to get around Wilmington is with your own rental car. Rental cars can easily be picked up at ILM. If you have never rented a car before make sure to check out our rental car tips to save time and money.

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Wilmington Weather

Natasha Riding A Bike In Wilmington - Things To Do in Wilmington

Wondering what the Wilmington weather will be like? You might expect me to say that the best time to visit Wilmington is during the summer months, but not exactly. The summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are by far the busiest in Wilmington, but that doesn’t make them the best. During these months the temperatures are often over 90°F with high humidity. It’s actually my least favorite time to be in Wilmington.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Wilmington is during the shoulder season when it’s sunny and warm enough to enjoy the beach, but not humid and hot enough that all you want to do is sit in front of the air conditioner. Those months are April, May, September, and October. Traveling during the shoulder months will also be cheaper than traveling during the high season and will have a much more local feel.

If you can come during any of those shoulder months and still wondering when the Wilmington weather might be best, then bet on September and October. The temperatures will be super comfortable and the ocean will be much warmer than in the springtime. The only downside to planning a trip during September? Hurricane season, which is always a bit of a threat to the Wilmington coast. A hurricane is expected to hit Coastal North Carolina every 3-4 years. The last major hurricane was Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Where To Stay in Wilmington

We Love Wilmington, NC

Natasha and Cameron in Wilmington!

I moved from Michigan to Wilmington, NC, when I was 19 years old in search of a different lifestyle in the South and a college degree. Wilmington became my home while I attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

People often asked me why I moved to Wilmington, and I was searching for an “out” of the harsh Michigan winters. I Googled “Universities on the Beach,” and the rest was history. It took me one day in Wilmington to realize I had picked an excellent school and home and was living where other people vacationed.

I think the decision to move to North Carolina completely changed the path of my life as well. While in college, I got involved in some great programs, used my school’s study abroad program to venture out to Australia, and fell in love with travel. Now, I run a travel blog for a living and have traveled to over 85 countries!

Cameron and I also met in Wilmington and now travel back here every year when we want to slow down since Cameron’s family lives in Wilmington. We both very much consider ourselves locals, and that’s why it pains me to see vacationers here doing the same few things daily when there is so much more. (Oh, and Cameron has even been on the local news… We get this place!)

Travel Planning Resources for the USA

  • Rent a Car: We checked car rental rates on Discover Car Hire and found they provide some of the best rates!
  • Travel Gear: Check out all our recommendations to ensure you have everything before your trip!
  • Travel Credit Card: We save thousands of dollars annually by using our travel credit card for our purchases and redeeming those points for free travel. See our favorite cards here.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

10 thoughts on “55 FUN Things To Do In Wilmington, NC”

  1. I am a recent transplant to Wilmington and every day I’m here, I love it more!! I love the flip-flop sound that hear ever day at WORK! The 10 minute drive to Wrightsville Beach after working….best thing since sliced bread.
    I thought I would always call New Mexico Home, however, my heart is falling totally in love with this amazing “little city”.
    Wilmington is HOME! Where listening to the waves crashing over themselves….eases my cares away.
    I am excited to set out on this adventure and discover this place.
    Question….why would anyone who lives here eat at a chain restaurant? Eat local…we truly have some awesome fare!!!

  2. Causeway Cafe was purchased and just reopened as Gulfstream!! It’s a second location (the first is in Carolina Beach and beloved by locals and tourists alike) Serving breakfast all day, lunch and they’re releasing dinner hours soon!

  3. My husband and I are cconsidering moving to Wilmington from LA. We visited briefly and are planning to go back for a more in-depth look. I have to say that after reading your blog, we may just have found a new home! Thanks!

  4. Happy to hear! We’re on our way to Wilmington right now! Ready to enjoy some great spring weather and beaches!

  5. Hello!!! I love all the pictures, I would love if they had captions of where the places are! where is the bar on the pier by the ocean?

  6. Hugh MacRae has been changed to Long Leaf Park well over a year now. Let us please stop honoring a man who committed atrocities.

  7. Hey Anne,

    We had no idea. Haven’t been up to the park since our college days. We’ll update the article now.


  8. I love this town. Homey but big enough to have adventures of a few kinds. I love how you made it really simple for others to come in and enjoy it like their own!

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