Some of North Carolina’s most popular attractions are found at the coast. Wilmington is situated by three Cape Fear island beaches – Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure, each with their own colorful vibe and culture. Wrightsville is the closest beach where surfers catch waves and hang ten, shop in beach stores or chill out in local pubs and cafes. In the city of Wilmington, water, surf and sun rule in warmer months but in the quiet of winter, visitors are equally enticed to the burg with water as its backdrop.
No matter the temperature, the beach beckons all to come and spend the day on its sandy shores looking for shells or sitting under the umbrella with a book. For those who want adventures on land, Wilmington has it covered with gardens, parks, museums and attractions.
The USS Battleship North Carolina and the Aquarium at Fort Fisher are popular attractions that are a perfect way to spend an afternoon. For the first time visitors can go inside the Cold Storage compartments that housed food for sailors while at sea. The refrigerated compartments are the first new additions to the tour in decades. The Battleship is host to more than 200,000 visitors annually.
Otters will soon have a new home at the N. C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, one of three state aquariums. The new habitat will showcase Asian small-clawed otters along with other crowd favorites – sharks, jelly fish and sea turtles. Don’t miss the daily dive programs and feedings.
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, North Carolina’s oldest history museum, is showing off a new selfie station along with other unique exhibits. Snoopy fans gravitate to the traveling exhibit, To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA. The exhibit examines the history of Apollo 10 and the Peanuts character’s role in that flight.
A fun way to see the city is with a tour on the water. Wilmington Water Tours has added a “Breakfast with the Birds” tour and a wine tasting cruise. Or take a ride with Cape Fear Riverboats on the new Henrietta riverboat at sunset with cocktails.
The award-winning riverfront and River District is Wilmington’s epicenter for dining, shops and hotels. The nearby historic downtown adds culture in the form of museums, theater, entertainment and special events. “Downtown Wilmington remains a hotbed of economic and cultural activity” says Ed Wolverton, president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown, Inc. “New stores like Silverhammer Design, restaurants such as Dram Yard and attractions are expanding the mix and variety of choices in downtown, and blending well with long-time favorites.
Dining Options Abound
Dining choices have never been better in Wilmington. From casual cafes to white tablecloth establishments, the city has something for every taste. Fresh seafood and farm-to-table eateries serve up award-winning dishes made at the hands of top rated chefs. Go “South of the Border” at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, featured on The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. Or, have pasta at Floriana Restaurant, a beloved restaurant that originated in Washington D.C.
In early 2020, steak lovers will line up when Michael’s Steak & Seafood opens on the waterfront. The renovated 19th century trade house owned by New York restaurateurs is a gastropub that will feature steak and local seafood options along with craft beer.
If brunch is your thing, head to Savorez included on the EatThis.com list of “best brunch in every state” ranking. And, don’t leave the city without eating at manna, the only AAA Four Diamond rated restaurant in Wilmington.
Craft Beers & Bourbon
The city’s brew scene is hopping with breweries continuing to open and/or expand. Have a brew at Mad Mole Brewing, first place winner in the “America’s Favorite Solar Powered MicroBrewery” in 2019. Other brew pubs are expanding like Wilmington Brewing Company which will build a 5,000-square-foot event space in 2020.
Front Street Brewery will celebrate 25 years in 2020. On-going beer collaborations with Port City Java (also celebrating 25 years) will kick off the new year in January and run through June – Beard & Mustache Competition (February 8, 2020) and an Oyster Roast with Eagle Island (tentative February 29, 2020). To sample the diverse beer offerings, get on the Wilmington Ale Trail and check out 18 plus venues.
You might not think that America’s Best Bourbon Bar accolade would land at the coast, but guess again. Front Street Brewery, home of North Carolina’s largest whiskey selection is featured by The Bourbon Review as one of the top bourbon bars in the South for 2019, one of only two bourbon bars listed from North Carolina.
Don’t wait for summer to visit but embrace Wilmington in the cooler months. Whether your heart lies with the sea or on land, you can find plenty to do in the waterfront city where it is never really off-season.