Suggested Itinerary: 48 Hours in Wilmington, NC

Short trips require less planning and less time off than an extended vacation. There’s plenty here to keep visitors busy for days on end, but this itinerary should get you started if you have just 48 hours. 

Day 1

Check In

Let yourself be pampered in a luxurious boutique hotel that served as a historic home in a past life, be romanced at a charming Victorian inn or get an up-close view of the river at a full-service waterfront hotel. Many of the area’s lodging options are conveniently located within an easy walk of some of Wilmington’s most popular attractions.

Explore the (Historic) Streets

Sightsee in Wilmington’s National Register Historic District via a horse-drawn carriage, Segway, trolley or walking tour. Spanning more than 230 blocks, it features churches, classic architecture, moss-draped live oaks, brick-lined streets and elaborate historic homes. Include one of Wilmington’s historic houses, such as the Burgwin-Wright House (colonial era), Latimer House and Bellamy Mansion (Victorian era). Check out the antique shops in downtown’s central business district and along the Castle Street Arts & Antique district.

Lunch Along the Water

After working up an appetite, grab a bite and enjoy some shopping along the water at Wilmington’s Riverwalk. This nearly two-mile boardwalk runs along the scenic Cape Fear River and is lined with independently owned shops and waterfront restaurants. Three island beaches are located just minutes away.

Walk the Decks of History

Tread along the decks of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, one of the state’s most visited attractions, and imagine being at sea in 1942. Discover how this heroic ship and brave crew fought in every major naval offensive in the Pacific of WWII, earning 15 battle stars for their valiant efforts.

Indulge your Taste Buds

From traditional Southern fare to fresh seafood creations, there are plenty of options for even the most discerning palates, including international cuisines ranging from French and Irish to Greek and Thai. Options include Manna (American cuisine featuring local, regional and American ingredients), Catch Modern Seafood (seafood with a modern twist), Caprice Bistro or Brasserie du Soleil (authentic French bistros), The Basics (gourmet Southern comfort food), Rx and Pembroke’s (seasonal farm-to-table menus). Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours even offers walking culinary tours of downtown restaurants and markets. 

Take a Ghost Walk

Wilmington is considered to be among the most haunted cities in the world. Recommended by USA Today and Southern Living, the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington guides traverse 275-year-old alleyways while telling stories of poor lost souls that still linger in the Port City each night. For a double dose of spirits, try the Haunted Pub Crawl.

Day 2

Discover Natural Beauty

Start the day by getting outdoors. Walkers, joggers and off-road cyclists will want to spend some time on Wilmington’s Gary Shell Cross-CityTrail. Yogis and Pilates-enthusiasts will want to check out classes at Halyburton Memorial Park, a 58-acre nature preserve. Golfers will want to tee off at the Donald Ross-designed Wilmington Municipal Golf Course.

Cruise Along the River

Wilmington Water Tours offers daily 1-hour sightseeing cruises, as well as theme tours and customized private charters. Take the Bizzy Bee water taxi running from the riverwalk to the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA.

Celebrate a Century of Gardens

Historic Airlie Gardens encompasses 67 acres of formal gardens, wildlife, historic structures, walking trails, sculptures, and its legendary landscape of azaleas and historic Airlie Oak, which dates back to 1545. Birders should bring binoculars, as this is a site on the North Carolina Birding Trail.

Tour a Brewery

Located in downtown, Front Street Brewery is a restaurant with a brewery on site. Learn how the beers are brewed and share a few samples with one of the brewers during daily tours.

Get Cultured

From theatre productions to art and museum exhibitions to live music, Wilmington has a vibrant arts and culture scene. Catch a performance at The Wilson Center, the largest and most technologically advanced performance center in Eastern North Carolina or Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, one of the oldest theatres in America. Visit Cameron Art Museum, a 42,000-sq.-ft. museum filled with two centuries of North Carolina and U.S. art. Enjoy Downtown Sundown concerts, concerts on the lawn of the Bellamy Mansion or under the live oak canopy at Airlie Gardens.

Toast Your Visit

Wrap up your trip with appetizers and a drink (or two) at one of the many venues featuring live music. If there’s time, take in some unique shopping at Old Wilmington City Market (a historic building housing an eclectic collection of shops); The Cotton Exchange (eight restored buildings connected by open-air courtyards and home to 30 specialty shops and restaurants); Blue Moon Gift Shops (voted “Best Gift Shop in Wilmington” year after year); The Ivy Cottage (the largest furniture consignment store in the southeast); Mayfaire Town Center (featuring over 80 shops, restaurants and a cinema) or Lumina Station (upscale boutiques and fine dining). You’ll also find dozens of art galleries and antique shops. There’s even a Fourth Friday Gallery Walk.

Bonus: City + Beaches

Can’t bear to leave just yet?

Consider staying an extra day or two to explore the nearby beach towns of Carolina BeachKure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Besides our bustling riverfront and city scene, there’s surfing, fishing, paddle boarding, nature cruises, piers and boardwalks, an aquarium, and a historic fort. It’s everything you love about our beautiful beaches, plus a city, too.