Rainy Day Activities

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.

So on your next Wilmington vacation, use the occasional rainy day as an excuse to discover one of these unique destinations or activities which will easily be a fascinating aspect of any exploration. In a city that’s filled with arts, history, and miles of fun, there’s always an opportunity to enjoy a new adventure – even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Bellamy Mansion tour

Bellamy Mansion

Start a tour of Wilmington’s rich historic district with a visit to the Bellamy Mansion, one of the city’s best examples of antebellum architecture. Built in 1859-1861, this historic residence that was once home to a prominent doctor has been converted to an engaging museum that represents what life was like in the city during the eve of the Civil War. Outfitted with period antiques and furnishings throughout, guests can enjoy a guided or self-guided audio tour of the property, and discover a fascinating chapter in local history while admiring one of the grandest structures in town.

Cameron Art Museum

Cameron Art Museum

The 42,000’ square foot Cameron Art Museum is a fascinating destination for art lovers, thanks to an incredible collection of artworks from regional, national, and even international artists of note. A series of 6-8 regularly changing exhibits make every visit a chance to discover a new talent, while the on-site Cameron Art School is a great destination for an afternoon activity, thanks to a range of classes designed for budding artists of all ages and abilities. With an acclaimed restaurant on the premises, the CAM Café, and a series of special events and programs regularly available, visitors can enjoy a full rainy day of fun at this acclaimed Wilmington institution.

Cape Fear Museum

Cape Fear Museum

A Tour of Wilmington’s history and natural landscape begins at the extensive Cape Fear Museum. This sprawling two-story site is home to a wealth of engaging and interactive exhibits that chronicles the story of the Port City from its early 1720s roots to its present day ecosystems. Peruse popular exhibits like the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery, an extensive model of the 1863 Wilmington Waterfront, and the engaging Civil War Battle of Fort Fisher section, and discover virtually everything that this city is renowned for with a single rainy day exploration.

Downtown Wilmington shops and restaurants

Shopping and Dining in Downtown Wilmington and Beyond

A rainy day is a perfect excuse to discover Wilmington’s impressive and city-wide shopping and dining scenes. Home to dozens of shopping plazas and center, a mall, and a host of downtown shops that are wholly unique, Wilmington is the perfect spot to enjoy a little retail therapy. Start your shopping adventures in the downtown area, where a host of art galleries, antique stores, and chic boutiques can be discovered, or use a rainy day as an excuse to feast at one of Wilmington’s hundreds of distinct restaurants. No matter how you choose to indulge, the sheer variety of options will entice foodies and shoppers of all styles and tastes.

The Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington NC

The Cotton Exchange

Visitors can enjoy a little history and a lot of shopping and dining with a visit to The Cotton Exchange, a popular destination in the heart of the downtown area. Encompassing a collection of 8 amazing restored brick buildings from the turn of the 20th century, this site features 33 unique specialty shops as well as a collection of restaurants, coffee shops, and other tempting destinations. Visitors can peruse the wide array of specialty stores, and when the sun comes out, can explore the impressive grounds which includes gracious courtyards and nearby river views. As a result of the layout and wealth of interior diversions, The Cotton Exchange is an enticing destination, rain or shine.

Tour the USS North Carolina

USS North Carolina Battleship

Bypass the topside decks and head to the interior of this massive ship for an inside look into military history. The USS North Carolina Battleship is an impressive attraction and is an authentic 1940s battleship that served in the Pacific during World War II, and earned 15 battle stars during its years of service. On a rainy day, visitors can easily explore the network of galleys, engine rooms, and interior compartments, where the impressive layout and structure of the ship itself serves as an enlightening museum and a tour through history.

Burgwin Wright House

Burgwin-Wright House Museum and Gardens

Wilmington’s history is often best explored via its collection of authentic residences and structures, and the Burgwin-Wright House Museum and Gardens is a prime example of local history come to life. The impressive 1770 property features a collection of rooms that are stocked with 18th and 19th century antiques, a freestanding kitchen house, and a collection of Colonial style gardens which can be admired in person when the skies clear. Open Tuesday through Saturday with guided tours every hour, the Burgwin-Wright House Museum and Gardens is a stunning representation of the daily life of Wilmington’s elite and prominent residences.

Cape Fear Serpentarium

Cape Fear Serpentarium

Get your pulse racing with a visit to the 10,000’ square foot Cape Fear Serpentarium, where hundreds of scaly and slithering residents provide a thrilling experience for adventurous visitors. This unique museum features 150 different species of snakes and other reptiles, which includes everything from local snakes to exotic international critters. Housed within more than 50 safe displays, and featuring unique species including black mambas, king cobras, and even giant constrictors, the Cape Fear Serpentarium is one of the most memorable and fascinating destinations in Wilmington. 

Children's Museum of Wilmington

Young visitors will be fascinated with the collection of interactive and indoor exhibits that are found within the popular Children's Museum of Wilmington – an attraction that’s designed for museum-goers ages 1-10. In the sprawling space, visitors can climb a giant pirate ship, engage in science experiments, create a masterpiece at the art studio, and let their imaginations run wild – all while having an undeniably fun time. Special programs and kids classes are held regularly, making every visit a unique and fun way to spend a rainy day while discovering something new.

Latimer House in Wilmington NC

Latimer House Museum and Gardens

This stunning and historic home was built in 1852 by a local merchant named Zebulon Latimer, and was converted to the home of the Historical Society in 1963. Today, the Latimer House Museum and Gardens is a representation of upper class life in Wilmington in the 1800s, and visitors can explore this history in rich detail via a tour of the home’s 14 rooms and more than 600 historic objects, such as furnishings, jewelry, tools, tableware, and much more. When the clouds part, take a tour of the outlying gardens, and enjoy a richly decadent experience that portrays the life of Wilmington’s elite from the ground up.

Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts

Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts

A rainy day is the perfect excuse to take in a show, and Wilmington has an exceptional theater scene where performances of all varieties are celebrated. While there are certainly dozens of movie theaters and live theater venues to keep visitors entertained, the crème de la crème of Wilmington’s cultural scene is the impressive Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts. Built in the 19th century as Wilmington’s premiere opera house, today Thalian Hall is the host of a full line-up of productions, ranging from visiting musicians and performers to locally staged plays and special events. Check out shows that correspond with a stay for a decadent theater experience you’ll never forget.

Wilmington Railroad Museum

Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Wilmington Railroad Museum is a unique museum that celebrates Wilmington’s former distinction as one of the largest and most vibrant port cities along the Carolina coastline. The wealth of attractions includes a 1,500’ square foot model hall, a special children’s area, impressive and original machinery and artifacts from the 19th century, and even a full locomotive which is stationed just outside the museum’s entrance. Because of the wealth of exhibits and interactive displays, the Wilmington Railroad Museum is a fascinating destination for train fans and everyday explorers alike.

Poplar Grove Plantation

Poplar Grove Plantation

Discover a series of exhibits that pays homage to the everyday life of an 1850 farm with a visit to the Poplar Grove Plantation. Located just north of the Wilmington city limits, this unique plantation house is filled with restored rooms that are furnished with period antiques, as well as unique outbuildings which includes an on-site farm and kids’ play area. Guided tours are regularly available, and unique craft demonstrations and other hand-on activities allows visitors to gain a new perspective on what life was like for rural residents more than 150 years ago.

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Visitors of all ages will love spending a rainy day at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher – a fascinating destination that was named as one of the "Best Aquariums in the United States" by the Travel Channel. Home to a series of exhibits that chronicle the many different environments that the Cape Fear region is known for – from freshwater streams to ocean reefs – a visit to this amazing aquarium is a full morning or afternoon adventure that will be a highlight of any coastal vacation. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a quick drive away for Wilmington residents, and is located in the southern coastal town of Kure Beach.

With a landscape that’s dotted with unique museums, iconic homes and landmarks, and tons of shopping and dining options, bad weather never puts a damper on a Wilmington vacation. Spend a rainy day discovering all the incredible aspects of this historical town, and see why the Port City remains one of the most fascinating destinations for coastal explorers, inside and out.

Wilmington, NC Boating Guide