For many visitors, the waterfront downtown region is where the action is in Wilmington, and an extended visit to this area is the highlight, if not the majority, of a great Wilmington vacation. Downtown Wilmington is steeped in history, filled with attractions, and offers all the enticing restaurants and shops of a major city, while retaining its small-town coastal charm.

Downtown Wilmington, NC

Spanning 300 city blocks, and recognized as one of the largest downtown communities of its kind, visitors will find plenty of ways to hit the cobblestone streets and enjoy the distinctive culture, history and entertainment that Wilmington is known for. Be sure and take advantage of these activities, all available along Wilmington's riverfront and downtown.

A Day of Touring: There are endless tours available in Downtown Wilmington, both self-guided and conducted by a number of distinctive tour companies. Visitors will find they have the option to explore the streets via a horse drawn carriage, a local trolley, or even cruise along the bordering Cape Fear River waters via a tour boat. Specialty tours are also available, including moonlit ghost tours, historical walking tours, and even "pub crawls" or dining tours which escort visitors to the best local brews and restaurants in town. For a self-guided exploration, head to the Riverwalk, a one mile boardwalk that runs parallel to both Downtown Wilmington and the Cape Fear River, and which provides a safe and scenic route to catch some fantastic views of Wilmington's best attractions, including the Battleship USS North Carolina docked along the harbor.

Downtown Wilmington NC

A Day of Shopping: Shopping in the downtown region is sure to produce some distinctive finds, as the shops here specialize in one-of-a-kind merchandise that can't be found anywhere else. Elite boutiques mix with funky little college-centric vintage shops, and galleries can be found around virtually every corner, showcasing the famous local and regional artists that have put the local art scene on the map. Foodies will find ample bakeries, wine and cheese shops, and other fun little shops to explore, (including a locally acclaimed store that specializes solely in Italian Olive Oils), and souvenir seekers will find plenty of treasures to take back home. Bring your wallet and your walking shoes, because Wilmington is truly a treasure trove of fantastic shopping.

St. james Church, Wilmington NC

A Day of Sightseeing: Many of Wilmington's most distinguished and well-known sites are located within the downtown, making a day of exploring the highlights an easy, on-foot adventure. Sightseers will want to stop by the USS Battleship North Carolina anchored along the riverfront, theBurgwin Wright House, Bellamy Mansion and Latimer House, three historic pre-Civil War estates, or visit the local museums. The Cape Fear Museum, Childrens Museum of Wilmington, and Cape Fear Serpentarium can all be found here, making a day within the confines of Wilmington's downtown a full, educational, and gratifying experience.

Downtown Wilmington, NC

A Night at the Theater: Wilmington's theater scene is nothing short of outstanding, thanks in no small part to its connection to major Hollywood studios which film in the area on a regular basis. The heart of the theater scene is in the downtown region, where visitors will find nearly a dozen community theaters that host exceptional productions. Head over to Thalian Hall, which has been the home to thousands of productions without pause since it was first opened in 1858, or buy a couple tickets for the latest show at City Stage at Level 5 in the heart of the downtown area. This historic building features a rooftop bar with incredible views of the city during intermission, as well as a small but refined 220 seat century-old theater without a bad seat in the house. From Shakespeare to musicals, every genre is well-represented, making it easy for theater lovers everywhere to enjoy multiple nights exploring the arts scene.

A B&B in Downtown Wilmington, NC

A Night of Dining: The dining scene in Downtown Wilmington is incredible, with cafes, coffee houses, diners, and fine dining establishments scattered throughout the streets. Take an afternoon lunch break with a couple of cheap homemade tacos and some North Carolina brews, or enjoy a romantic night out with critically acclaimed French cuisine or impeccably crafted seafood dishes by some of the region's greatest chefs. Changing menus and specials ensure that every dining experience will be unique, and with so many dining options to choose from, Wilmington visitors never go hungry.

Riverfront in downtown Wilmington, NC

A Night on the Town: Considering that Wilmington is a college town, and home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, one might assume that the night scene is geared to the 25 and under set. But the after-hours scene in Wilmington is as diverse as the community itself, and virtually every style of bar, club, and music venue can be found here.Spend a night shagging with Beach Music in the background, enjoy a little live jazz, rock out to a local punk band, or dance the night away at one of the many night clubs. From piano and cigar bars to rooftop night clubs, all tastes are represented, and with easy walking distance from one hotspot to another, visitors can simply peruse the safe streets until they find that perfect late night venue with everything they're looking for.

Downtown Wilmington, NC

Other Events:Wilmington is known for its festivals, and visitors will find a new and exciting event virtually every weekend. Early Saturday risers in the spring, summer and fall seasons will definitely want to check out the local Farmer's Market, held in a riverfront pedestrians-only section of Downtown Wilmington, while visitors in need of a big thrill will want to book a trip during Wilmington's Azalea Festival, easily the largest festival along the southern Carolina coastline. Clearly, no matter how a visitor decides to spend their Wilmington stay, the deceivingly small downtown offers more than enough entertainment and activities to fill a vacation and then some. Keep an eye on the local events calendar, and make sure you join in the fun in this distinctive, and altogether welcoming, waterfront community.

Dining in downtown Wilmington

Horse and carriage tours in Wilmington, NC

Downtown Wilmington, NC

Downtown Wilmington, NC

Farmers Market in downtown Wilmington, NC

Downtown Wilmington, NC

Downtown Waterfront in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington, NC

Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington, NC

Downtown Wilmington, NC

 

Henrietta III

Henrietta III

It's hard to miss the Henrietta III as she cruises along Downtown Wilmingtontowards the open waters of the Cape Fear River. As the largest cruise boat in North Carolina, and the state's only true stern wheel riverboat, the Henrietta III has become a staple of the downtown scene in Wilmington, adding to its historic charm and southern flair for fun.

Rainy Day Activities in Wilmington NC

Rainy Day Activities in Wilmington NC

Rain or shine, there’s always plenty of fun to be found in Wilmington. Home to a wealth of museums, cultural attractions, shops, restaurants, and so much more, visitors of all interests and ages will have no problem at all finding something to do, regardless of the weather.

Freeman Park

Freeman Park

The northernmost coastal region of Carolina Beach is home to the Freeman Park Recreation Area, a stretch of shoreline that is well known to adventurous, beach-loving 4WD truck owners. Unlike other stretches of the barrier islands off the coast of Wilmington, this park is special because it is completely undeveloped, and allows beach driving to off-roaders who like to cruise along the sand.

Masonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Masonboro Island Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Situated on the edge of the Cape Fear Coastline in between the bustling towns of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, the Masonboro Island Estuarine Reserve is a unique slice of undeveloped and natural barrier island shoreline that’s an important habitat for countless coastal species. Hard to reach but wonderfully isolated, visitors who make a trip to this literal deserted island will be rewarded with great shelling, beautiful landscapes, and miles of beaches to go around.

Wilmington Riverwalk

Wilmington Riverwalk

The Riverwalk in Downtown Wilmington is a showstopper of a stroll that is a distinctive attraction all its own. Originally conceived in the 1980s as a way to generate more interest and tourism to the Cape Fear River waterfront regions of Wilmington's historic Downtown, today the Riverwalk encompasses a full mile of scenic boardwalk, hugging the borders of the riverfront, and providing visitors with endless views and easy access to some of the Downtown's most beloved attractions.

Poplar Grove Plantation

Poplar Grove Plantation

Wilmington visitors can enjoy a visit to one of the oldest peanut plantations in the country with an easy drive to the Poplar Grove Plantation. Located just north of the center of Wilmington along US Highway 17, this semi-remote site is a picturesque and perfectly maintained example of antebellum architecture at its most charming.