Welcome to a North Carolina region where the Antebellum South meets modern art, and local southern hospitality mixes with movie stars. Wilmington is one of the most unique towns along the Carolina coastline, as it combines all the attributes of an engaging southern town into one distinctive and altogether exceptional community. Artists, actors, professional beach bums, tourists, and college students all congregate in Wilmington, and the end result is an incredible destination that has something for everyone.
History buffs will love touring the historic USS Battleship North Carolina, a focal point along Wilmington's busy waterfront, or simply exploring the cobblestoned downtown via trolley, carriage tour, or one of the region's many evening ghost tours, which shed new light on the darkened brick alleyways and ancient southern mansions.
Art lovers will adore Wilmington's bustling creative community, which features masters of all mediums congregated in one small southern town. There are plenty of galleries and antique stores to discover in Wilmington for buried treasure, and the theater scene is among the best in North Carolina, with a number of regional groups hosting concerts, plays, and other theatrical events. Because Wilmington is essentially the "Hollywood of the South," and the backdrop for a number of nationally acclaimed movies and TV shows including The Prince of Tides, The Notebook, Dawson's Creek, and One Tree Hill, among many others, it's also a fantastic spot to see actors and artists before they make it big at any of the Broadway-quality productions that are available throughout the year.
Of course, Downtown Wilmington has its own allure to shoppers, as the region features dozens of stores ranging from the quaint to the quirky. Sample artfully crafted olive oils and balsamic vinegars, sift through the racks of fashions at the local boutiques and vintage shops, or simply pick up a few sea-worthy souvenirs for the folks back home. A stroll through Wilmington's downtown will present some gorgeous Cape Fear River views, fantastic window shopping and browsing opportunities, and a first-hand introduction to one of coastal North Carolina's most diverse and historic towns.
The downtown area is also a perfect retreat for foodies as well as night owls. The restaurant scene in Wilmington is simply unparalleled, with world class and nationally famous chefs, (including a Bravo Network's Top Chef contestant), anchoring the dozens of eateries in the area. Sample incredible local seafood, easy-going pizza and hot dogs, or the creme de la creme of French fare without leaving a three block radius. In Wilmington, good food is taken seriously in every establishment, and food lovers will find themselves in a diner's paradise, with more than enough options to fill a week-long vacation.
After hours, this college town, (home to the University of North Carolina in Wilmington), is transformed into a nightlife aficionado's paradise with a bar or club to suit virtually every taste. Saddle up for an expertly mixed martini, or dance the night away on a rooftop bar with four levels of entertainment - virtually every downtown corner has a bar or two which is open until 2:00 a.m. to appease every taste. Pop music, Rock-a-Billy, bluegrass, beach music, country and punk bands can all be found in the area every weekend without fail, so all a night owl has to do is pick a scene, pick a drink, and enjoy.
Naturally, history plays a big role in Wilmington as well, as the town was one of the first big ports along North Carolina, providing transport and shipping from the neighboring Cape Fear River to hundreds of miles of inland communities over the past four centuries. As such, it's not unusual to take a driving tour of Wilmington and inevitably discover gorgeous antiquated mansions in the process, restored to pristine condition with wide white columns and Spanish Moss dripping off of ancient Live Oaks. History is a cultural cornerstone in this small town, and this fact is evident in virtually every Wilmington attraction, from the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts to the Airlie Gardens, cluttered with historical statues, to the Bellamy Mansion, which is a beacon of traditional southern architecture. History buffs and Gone with the Wind fans could easily spend an entire weekend simply breezing through the area and discovering all the historical treasures that this town with centuries of stories has to offer.
Watersport lovers will also find themselves right at home, as the large river banks and small estuaries that wind through Wilmington serve as ideal grounds for virtually every outdoor waterfront activity. Spend a day circling along the riverbanks on a stand-up-paddle board, or take the skiff out to some exceptional saltwater fishing via a public or community boat ramp. In Wilmington, outdoor recreation tends to begin and end along the water, making it an ideal retreat for coastal fans everywhere.
With such a big community spirit, a festival can be found within the town limits virtually every weekend, and Wilmington is perhaps best known for its annual springtime Azalea Festival, one of the largest weekend-long events along the coastline, and Riverfest, which is held every fall along the water. With 90+ festivals annually, however, virtually any time of year is a good time to dive right into the local fun.
Wilmington, essentially, can please just about every palate. From foodies to fishermen, night owls to historians, and everyone in between, this small southern town is big on charm, and even bigger on diverse attractions and activities to enjoy. Spend a little time discovering this small city by the sea, and see why Hollywood types and artists from all regions tend to settle down in this intrinsically hospitable and completely diverse region. With plenty of activities to keep visitors fully entertained any night of the week, Wilmington is a fantastic combination of the old south and modern attractions, all rolled into one picturesque coastal Carolina location.