If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path vacation ideas and a place to make your own personal oasis, then Wilmington is the destination for you. Full of hidden gems and unique experiences, this coastal city invites you to stray off course to create a vacation full of adventure and renewal.

Airlie Gardens Fountain pathway lined with arches and trees

Explore the Outdoors

Find your secret escape at Airlie Gardens as you spend a quiet afternoon perusing more than 67 acres of beautiful, lush gardens and breathtaking wildlife. Open year-round, you can find a perfect picnic spot, wander through the iconic Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel or visit the butterfly house that is home to hundreds of different types of North Carolina butterflies from May until October.

You’ll find a unique collection of native carnivorous plants at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, hidden along the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail. Explore the natural habitat of Pitcher Plants and Venus flytraps, which only grow naturally within a 75- to 100-mile radius of Wilmington.

Or, take a stroll through seven acres of community gardens at the Arboretum at New Hanover County to explore lush landscapes and flowering flora. Discover one of North Carolina’s largest water gardens, where you can see hundreds of colorful Koi, catfish and lilies, as well as visit an authentic Japanese tea house.

Step Back in Time

Immerse yourself in local history with a self-guided tour of the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens. Built in 1770, this Georgian-style residence is filled to the brim with 18th and 19th-century antiques and rare collectibles. Spend the afternoon meandering through the house’s seven Colonial-style gardens, where you’ll find an orchard of figs, pomegranates, and crabapples.

Take in a show at Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts, one of the most beautiful theaters in America and host to more than 500 events every year. Weekly behind-the-scenes tours offer visitors an inside look at the theatre’s 160-year history, including the chance to see the oldest painted stage curtain in the country.  

Located near historic downtown, Oakdale Cemetery is North Carolina’s oldest rural cemetery. Take a step back in time with a self-guided tour through the cemetery, where you’ll find the burial grounds of more than 367 unknown Confederate soldiers, as well as the graves of the state’s first governor, a Confederate secret agent and a pioneer of broadcast journalism.

You’ll also find an abundance of hidden gems in Wilmington’s nearby island beaches. Explore serene coastal sanctuaries at Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.