Wilmington, North Carolina is a sleepy place that, like many historic coastal towns, is a port where a river meets the sea. It draws all sorts of tourists who mingle with the university students and soldiers from nearby Camp Lejeune year round because of temperate weather and reasonable prices.
Dining: There are tons of restaurants to choose from, but locals prefer Hell’s Kitchen, which was a staple in scenes from “Dawson’s Creek.” Whitey’s, Dixie Grill, and Barbary Coast also rank highly among those looking for good eats and perhaps an adult beverage. Barbary Coast is known for being Wilmington’s oldest bar, its appearance in “Blue Velvet,” and abnormally high sales of PBR. After you’ve had enough of those, head over to City Limits Saloon to ride their mechanical bull. For breakfast or snacks, make sure to hit Britt’s Donuts at Carolina Beach, but only during summer months. Snowbirds will find it shut in the winter.
Things To Do: Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure Beaches are all quick drives from downtown Wilmington. All three have public parking and easy beach access areas. Carolina Beach Boardwalk boasts an amusement park, restaurants, and shopping. There are also multiple options for watercraft rentals, eco, and fishing tours. Fort Fisher State Recreation area at Kure Beach is home to pet-friendly beaches and one of the North Carolina Aquariums.
Back in downtown Wilmington, don’t miss touring the USS North Carolina Battleship for a piece of World War II history. To further enjoy the Cape Fear River, visit the Cape Fear River Trail or book a dinner cruise on a riverboat tour. Airlie Gardens in downtown Wilmington features beautiful southern plants and flowers and is a favorite place to spot movies and television shows in production. Wilmington isn’t known as “Hollywood East” for nothin’, y’all.
Shopping: The Cotton Exchange downtown has free parking for patrons. There you’ll find unique shops selling a wide variety of items. Surf shops can be found there and the beach areas. Rainy days are well spent at Mayfaire Town Center, where there are shops and a movie theater. On Friday evenings in the summer months, they also offer free concerts featuring classic and southern rock, country, and funk bands. Bring a blanket, bug spray, and a cooler and enjoy the evening.
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