Wilmington has an endless number of attractions and activities with a rich history. The city is made of up 18th and 19th-century themed buildings that have transformed over the years into nice and cozy inns, boutiques, breweries and so much more.
Explore the sandy beaches of the city from the eastern parts to the beautiful Cape Fear River in the western parts.
Check out exhibitions in various museums and experience the famous historic USS North Carolina Battleship, Fort Fisher State Historic Site, and many more. Below are the 15 best things to do in Wilmington (NC).
Greenfield Lake is just the perfect place to start an adventure in Wilmington, North Carolina. The park sits on 250 acres of land and water with lots of walking and biking trails to explore.
It features some amazing fun things to do such as tennis courts, outdoor amphitheatre, Greenfield Grind Skate Park, and boat and kayak rentals.
The place is open all year round and has handicap-accessible free packing with other amenities including restrooms, playgrounds, water fountains, grills, picnic shelters, and a fishing dock. It is a great place to spend time with family and friends, and it is Dog friendly too.
Wilmington Downtown, Inc
A visit to Downtown Wilmington, the central business district is a no-brainer, it has amazing activities to partake in. As the social and economic hub of the city, it is filled with incredible apartments, condos, and hotels.
This is the business district and home to more than 800 businesses with a Riverwalk that spans 1.75 miles. The city centre also houses lots of museums, meeting spaces, cultural facilities, and so much more.
Cameron Art Museum
Located south of Wilmington’s city centre is the Cameron Art Museum, which plays home to several interesting collections of art and exhibitions.
It also boasts an impressive array of artworks for travellers and residents to explore. The museum runs different outreach programs, classes, and workshops for communities. Founded in 1962, it grew too large for the space at the time and was relocated to its current site with an education centre dedicated to arts and outdoor exhibitions.
The main attractions include contemporary clay models by locals, designs by international artists, photo displays, fine paintings, and drawings.
Battleship North Carolina
Decommissioned back in 1947, the extraordinary Battleship North Carolina is docked across from Wilmington’s Riverwalk and the Historic District.
It was the first of its kind and the fastest the battleship built in the 19th century, the sheer size of it makes it a mega-ship and fun to explore.
The battleship patrolled the Pacific for years and also fought the World War II naval battles.
It is one of the main attractions in Wilmington, tourists get to experience what it felt like to be on the ship and see the decks, rooms, and guns. Some exhibits tell the battleship’s story of its glory days and operations.
After exploring the Decks of the Battleship, hop on a ride to the Wilmington Riverwalk which spans 1.75 miles with scenic views of the Cape Fear River.
It is the spot where the city and water adjoin with amazing places scattered around including restaurants, shops, and views of the city centre.
Travelers and residents both get to enjoy a stroll down the Riverwalk, basketball lovers can also watch the Wilmington Sharks play in the Coastal Plain League.
Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
Still in the heart of downtown Wilmington is the delightful Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.
It is the oldest of the history museums in the state which first opened in the 18th century as a place for Confederate artifacts and the history of the Civil War.
Today, the museum houses more than 50,000 items and it focuses on science, history, and culture in the region.
It has different interesting educational and interactive exhibits on display including items from the Civil War to the 19th century days of segregation in the city to Michael Jordan who once lived in Wilmington and so much more.
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
Travelers with kids are not left out of the city’s major fun activities. The Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is one of the 15 best places to be in Wilmington North Carolina.
Its water activities are the best in the city for family fun and entertainment all day long.
The Jungle Rapids features a water park with more than 1 million gallons of Wave Pool, Volcano Mountain, Lazy River, Snack Shack snack bar, Dual Lane Speed Slides, 7,000 square foot Splash Pool for kids and so much more.
There are no food or drinks allowed, although visitors can come along with empty bottles to get water from the fountains.
Bellamy Mansion Museum
Bellamy Mansion Museum was first built as the residence of John D. Bellamy, a prominent planter at the time by slaved laborers and black carpenters who were free.
The museum showcases pure architecture and history in North Carolina, it features a lush garden and many more. The house has 22 rooms and was designed by James F. Post, a New Jersey architect and Rufus Bunnel a Connecticut resident.
It is located on the outskirts of downtown Wilmington on Market Street and is a great place to learn about the slave days of the region and the house.
For tourists looking for a place to relax and reminisce about the Wilmington experience so far, then the Wrightsville Beach is a must-visit.
The beach is located 10 miles on the eastern part of the Historic Downtown Wilmington, it is a popular place with 4 miles of sand with excellent surfing activities.
There are shops and restaurants with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and visitors also get to go fishing or hop on a boat tour to see the North Carolina coastline.
This is one of the best places to visit in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Airlie Gardens is not too far from Wrightsville Beach.
It is the perfect place to escape the noisy part of the city and has been around since 1884 with numerous historical pieces around to see.
Visitors can explore all 67acres of the estate and see the bee and butterfly Pollinator Garden, Pergola Garden, Spring Garden, Airlie Lake, Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel, and Airlie Oak Lawn, which houses the Airlie Oak Tree for nearly 500 years.
Wilmington Railroad Museum
In 2011, the Wilmington Rail Road Museum set a Guinness World Record for the longest model train in the world. The museum is one of the best places to be and it is family-friendly with a dedicated kids’ play area.
It has huge model trains and railroads, a 100-year-old locomotive steam engine, and a caboose on display. Kids on a trip will never get tired of learning about the rail system and its evolution, how the steam engines work, and how railroads helped regional transportation in the 18th century.
Historic Thalian Hall
The Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts does not only set the stage for some of Wilmington’s most opulent and engaging performances, but it also reigns as one of the city’s most distinguished buildings in its historic Downtown region.
Built by the famous 19th-century theatre architect, John Montague Trimble between 1855-1858. It has a seating capacity of about 1,000 people and was used as a multipurpose hall for local government, opera house and so on.
It had been marked for demolition severally in the 1900s and also a fire incident in its auditorium in 1973, which had a significant impact on a large part of the interior.
Visitors get to learn about the history of the theatre, its renovation, and both past and present performances.
The Cotton Exchange
Make a stop at the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington’s Historic Downtown for a shopping experience. As the traditional district, the place has spacious restaurants and courtyards that tell the town’s history while walking the streets.
Visitors can explore the Wilmington Walk of Fame which honors famous heroes from the town such as Charlie Daniels, David Brinkley, Roman Gabriel, and Althea Gibson to name a few.
The Cotton Exchange offers more than 15 unique boutiques where travelers can get jewelry, fine arts, accessories, handmade crafts, clothing, and numerous North Carolina souvenirs.
Parking is free in the district which makes it a great place to visit with peace of mind.
Burgwin – Wright House and Gardens
Learn about the unique history of the Burgwin-Wright House and Garden. The house has a remarkable Georgian architectural design with colonial-style gardens.
The circa 1770 residence is furnished with 18th and 19th-century antiques with hundreds of rare items. The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens was built on the walls of the former 1744 city jail, it maintains many shadows of the old jail.
During museum hours, the garden’s 4-level terrace is open free of charge to the public travelers can download the self-guided tour from their website for a beautiful experience.
Long Leaf Park
A short ride from Historic Downtown is the Long Leaf Park in central New Hanover County. The park has a lot of offerings with 6 shelters for picnics, parties, and reunions.
It also has an amazing garden with a gazebo and pond which can also serve for wedding ceremonies, photos, and outdoor events.
Other amenities include 4 well-lit small basketball fields, 4 tennis fields also well-lit, a full-size basketball court with lights as well, and a sand volleyball court.
The park is dog friendly and also has a well-lit off-leash space for visitors with dogs, an exercise station, Ninja Fitness Obstacle Course, an accessible playground, a splash pad, and a 1.55-mile walking trail fully paved.
Parking hours are timed and start from 8 am to 10 pm.
A lot of travelers may think of Wilmington as just a port city, but it is a gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants, and rich historical museums.
As travelers or residents, you will find a lot of activities to enjoy while in the city whether you want to experience the outdoors, learn about history, fish, or explore with kids, Wilmington has got it all.
Catch the next flight, hop on the next bus and head out to enjoy these 15 best things to do in the city.