99 Days of Summer

Squeeze every last moment out of your coastal vacation with our roundup of things to do this summer in Wilmington and our Island Beaches. We’ve highlighted a summer full of places to go, must-try experiences, things to see, dishes to eat and hidden gems you won't want to miss. Check back often, as this list will be updated throughout the summer.

Visiting us later in the season? Don't worry. Just pick your favorites and make the most of what's left of summer!

Attractions

  1. Be a Pirate for the Day with the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tour. 
  2. Spend a day seeing DINOSAURS!, Butterflies and marine life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. 
  3. Stroll through Wilmington's exquisite gardens at the Arboretum and Airlie Gardens. 
  4. Play your day away at Cape Fear Museum of History and Science with their special exhibit Playtime! 
  5. Stop in at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History to learn the 100+ year history of the island. Then, while you’re inside, pick up a self-guided tour around The Loop and explore the island’s history and culture.
  6. Jump higher than life at Wilmington’s very own trampoline park, DefyGravity
  7. Spend the morning fishing, then enjoy a bite and the view from the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier. 
  8. Enjoy riverfront views along the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA's Memorial Walkway before taking a self-guided tour of the WWII vessel. 
  9. Share your feelings anonymously by leaving a letter in the Wrightsville Beach Mailbox located at the north end of the beach. 
  10. Grab your favorite fruits and vegetables while you find unique artisan creations at Wilmington’s Riverfront Farmers Market.
  11. Learn how to keep our coastal ecosystems healthy while touching aquatic life during Touch Tank Tuesdays at the Fred and Alice Stanback Coastal Education Center in Wrightsville Beach. 
  12. Find all kinds of vintage fun on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, one of the last remaining boardwalks in the U.S. 
  13. Cast your line from one of the oldest piers on the Atlantic Coast, the Kure Beach Fishing Pier. 
  14. Take in yoga and mimosas on the event pier at Port City Marina in Wilmington’s River District. 
  15. Head to Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park in Wilmington for the area’s largest water park, mini golf and go carts. 
  16. RiverfrontStroll the Riverwalk and discover the history of downtown Wilmington by reading the Historic Wilmington Foundation Plaques along the way.
  17. Head back in time and experience history with cannons and earthenworks at the Civil War's largest land-sea battle site, Fort Fisher State Historic Site. 
  18. Greet the day with yoga above the Atlantic Ocean on the Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach.

Cruises & Tours

  1. Kayak your way through an eco or river tour in Carolina Beach with PaddleNC.
  2. Take a guided tour with a local expert by trolley, horse-drawn carriage, scenic cruise, Segway or on foot.
  3. Embark on a self-guided tour to see where they made your favorite movies or TV shows, like Dawson’s Creek, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
  4. Learn history and eat great food with a walking and tasting tour of Carolina Beach with Tasting History.
  5. Get spooked in one of the world's most actively haunted cities during the walking Ghost Tour of Old Wilmington.
  6. Choose your course and take a self-guided DIY tour of downtown Wilmington.

Dining

  1. Have dinner at Indochine for a Thai and Vietnamese feast in the outdoor private cabanas.
  2. Brunch to start the day right in Wilmington at Dixie Grill, Pinpoint or The Basics.
  3. Spend an afternoon eating and soaking up the sun playing games like volleyball, cornhole and more at the Lazy Pirate in Carolina Beach.
  4. Build your own hot dog at Trolly Stop Hot Dogs, which is located at what was once the first stop on the old Wrightsville Beach trolley line.
  5. Experience locally sourced and acclaimed seafood dishes by James Beard nominee and Top Chef participant, Chef Keith Rhodes at Catch restaurant; Dean Neff at PinPoint; and A Chef’s Life star and Emmy winner, Vivian Howard at Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria.
  6. Get out of your comfort zone at Platypus and Gnome with exotic menu options like wild boar soup, curried lamb poutine or ostrich sliders; or head to Casey’s Buffet for pig feet or fat back.
  7. Celebrate Taco Tuesday at some of our hottest spots for Mexican fare, Beer Barrio, k38 and Islands.
  8. Get squiggled at Squigleys with one (or more) of their 4,050 flavors of unique ice cream.
  9. Indulge in famous Kure Beach dishes like pork chops at Freddie's Restaurant or grouper wraps at Jack Mackerel’s.
  10. Grab a healthy and locally sourced meal at Lovey's, Tidal Creek, Farmin’ on Front or Epic Food Co.
  11. Pick up a batch of Robert’s famous chicken salad for a beach picnic from Robert’s Grocery in Wrightsville Beach. 
  12. Indulge in superior seafood and cocktails at Surf House in Carolina Beach.
  13. Watch the sunset while enjoying dinner on the Cape Fear River at Elijahs, Pilot House, Le Catalan or The George.
  14. Cool off with family and homemade Boombalatti's Ice Cream or the old-fashioned confectionery Kilwins.
  15. Eat like Guy Fieri at Ceviches, Copper Penny, Fork ‘n Cork, Something FISHy, Cast Iron Kitchen or Sweet and Savory, which were featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
  16. Give in to your sweet tooth at Wake n' Bake, Britt’s, Peppered Cupcake, Celtic Creamery or Apple Annie's.
  17. The WorkshopCheck out giant Megalodon shark teeth and grab a cold brew coffee at The Workshop in Wrightsville Beach.
  18. Lunch with the pups at a dog-friendly spot like Blue Surf, Sweet n Savory Cafe or The George on the Riverwalk.
  19. Grab sushi at Yosake on the second floor of the historic Roudabush Building in downtown Wilmington. Don’t miss the 5 to 7 happy hour.
  20. Wait in line and eat a classic Britt’s Donut on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
  21. Seclude yourself with a different river view and dining experience at Smoke on the Water.

Drinks & Nightlife

  1. Come alive at night in Carolina Beach and enjoy live music at The Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar and Seawitch Café.
  2. Hop on the Port City Brew Bus or go out on your own along the Wilmington Ale Trail to tour the area’s 14 local breweries.
  3. Visit Wrightsville Beach Brewery for brewery yoga or their beer garden farmer's market.
  4. Enjoy an after-dinner drink tasting at Fortunate Glass, Blind Elephant and manna ave. 123 in downtown Wilmington.
  5. Sip on a drink and see Wilmington from a whole new vantage point while rooftop bar hopping at Cloud 9, Reel Café and the Rooftop Bar at North Front Theatre.
  6. Discover your new favorite brew from the 350+ selection of the Fat Pelican’s walk-in cooler in Carolina Beach.
  7. Stop by Good Hops Brewery in Carolina Beach for one of their unique activities like disc golf, beer and hymns, or yoga.

Events

  1. Cheer on surfers from around the world at O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest in Wrightsville Beach, August 17–19.
  2. Attend one of the top 4th of July celebrations in the country, with live entertainment and fireworks in downtown Wilmington on the riverfront.
  3. Enjoy tunes and see the night sky light up during Fireworks by the Sea, Boardwalk Blast on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk every Thursday throughout the summer.
  4. Learn about the importance of saving sea turtles during Turtle Talks: Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project, every Monday at Kure Beach's Ocean Front Park and every Wednesday at Carolina Beach State Park.
  5. Watch family-friendly movies during free Summer Movies at the Lake, every Sunday evening this summer in Carolina Beach.

Hidden Gems

  1. Cool off with an Acai Bowl at Surfberry in Wrightsville Beach.
  2. Stop by the Veggie Wagon in Carolina Beach for fresh food and local goodies.
  3. Experience more than just a cup of coffee at Bitty + Beau’s Coffee Shop, featured on CNN, NBC, and passion project of CNN’s 2017’s Hero of the Year.
  4. See the unique coquina rocks and look for sea life that calls the eco-system home during low tide on the beach at the north end of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
  5. Crystal PierCatch the sunrise from Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach and then grab coffee with a view at SUNdays Surf Café.
  6. Enjoy local brews, good eats, and sand volleyball at Capt'n Bills in Wilmington.
  7. Drink coffee like a local at Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods, Drift Coffee + Kitchen or Port City Java.

Music, Arts & Theater

  1. Catch an outdoor concert under the stars at Wilmington’s Greenfield Amphitheater or Airlie Gardens summer concert series.
  2. Explore more than 20 art galleries during a Fourth Friday Gallery Walk in downtown Wilmington.
  3. Jam out to live waterfront music in Wrightsville Beach at The Oceanic and Bluewater Grill.
  4. Watch a live show like My Fair Lady at Thalian Hall, one of the oldest theaters in the country.
  5. Jazz up your night at a stately Antebellum home at Bellamy Mansion’ Jazz at the Mansion concerts.
  6. Let your kids take an art history lesson while the adults tour artistic masterpieces at Cameron Art Museum.
  7. Dance the night away with your family during Sounds of Summer Concert Series at Wrightsville Beach Park.
  8. Experience shag dancing at one of the oldest beach music festivals, the Carolina Beach Music Festival on June 2.
  9. Catch a Broadway show like Rent at the Wilson Center in Wilmington.
  10. Have a family dance party during Boogie in the Park at Kure Beach’s Ocean Front Park. 
  11. Jam out in downtown Wilmington at Downtown Sundown located on the Riverwalk.

Outdoor Activities

  1. Take in a sunrise with a four-wheel drive to the South End of the island in Kure Beach. Note: vehicle permit is required.
  2. Take to the island by bike and make your way to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier for one of the most spectacular views in Wrightsville Beach—1,200 feet out over the ocean.
  3. Hit the links at the Donald Ross-designed Municipal Golf Course, Masonboro Golf Club or Beau Rivage.
  4. Hike Sugarloaf Trail and discover the rare Venus flytrap at Carolina Beach State Park.
  5. Find out how you can help deplete your carbon footprint while walking The Loop in Wrightsville Beach. Step into Wrightsville Beach Art Company for 3D nautical-inspired art made from recycled goods.
  6. Enjoy a picnic and photo opps galore under the stately live oak trees at Fort Fisher State Historic Site.
  7. Walk, run or bike the Wilmington Cross City Trail for access to the beach, neighborhoods, museums, gardens and more.
  8. Book a half-day, deep sea fishing charter for the whole family out of Carolina Beach Marina and then head to the beach for a few hours of sunshine.
  9. Rev up your four-wheel drive engine with a ride on the sand at Carolina Beach’s Freeman Park. Note: vehicle permit is required.
  10. Play a round of disc golf at Joe Eakes Park and let your dog off leash at the park’s Gurney Hood Barking Lot in Kure Beach.
  11. Hike the Basin Trail out to the Fort Fisher Recreation Area’s Observation Deck and make a stop by the Hermit Bunker.

Shopping

  1. Lumina StationFind unique gifts by local artisans in the dozens of boutiques, galleries and shops at Lumina Station and Blue Moon Gift Shops, and then take in an IMAX movie at Mayfair Town Center.
  2. Browse 30 local stores at the historic Cotton Exchange, which at the turn of the century was the place where majestic ships delivered treasures from around the world to Wilmington.
  3. Go treasure hunting on a trip to The Ivy Cottage—the largest furniture and home accessory consignment store in the Southeast.
  4. Shop locally owned surf shops: Annex Surf Supply, Sweetwater, Hotwax and Surf City Surf Shop.

Watersports

  1. Head out on a night paddle or take a SUP yoga class with Wrightsville SUP.
  2. Paddle a kayak from Federal Point in Kure Beach to Zeke's Island, one of the three original National Estuarine Research Reserves.
  3. Canoe or kayak Greenfield Lake, which was the inspiration for the North Carolina Azalea Festival. 
  4. Take a sailing class with Blockade Runner Sailing School or Wrightsville Performance Sailing. 
  5. Learn to SCUBA with one of the area's top dive charters, Aquatic Safaris. 
  6. Kayak or SUP to “The Diminishing Republic,” a sandbar complete with a giant fake palm tree that is a popular low-tide hangout for Wrightsville Beach boaters. 
  7. Learn to surf at one of the surf camps in Wrightsville Beach, the birthplace of surfing in North Carolina. 
  8. Take surf lessons from Olympian and World Champion surfer Tony Silvagni at Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach.  
  9. Dive to North Carolina’s First Heritage Dive Site, The Condor, a Civil War-era blockade runner shipwreck off Kure Beach.