With the new year in full swing, there’s no better time to discover what’s new in Wilmington and its island beaches. From easier ways to arrive into town to a six-acre waterfront park, Wilmington has a lot more to offer families and friends during your next getaway. In fact, Wilmington, which was named one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice “Top Destinations on the Rise,” is already home to more than 200 restaurants, shops and attractions in the downtown area alone. Read on to find out what’s new!

Battleship North Carolina Memorial Walkway

Getting Around Wilmington

Traveling to, from and within Wilmington is getting an upgrade. Wilmington International Airport (ILM) started offering non-stop flights to Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. in 2018 joining other major cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia and New York.

The airport also recently welcomed United Airlines to join its lineup of carriers, providing more options for travelers planning trips to and from the North Carolina coast.

Once you’ve arrived to town, the WAVE Transit trolley is an ideal form of transportation for visitors hoping to enjoy all of the food, shops and historical sites and attractions downtown. The trolley recently updated its route, adding stops in the Brooklyn Arts District, Castle Street Arts and Antiques District and South Front District.

Bar Hop Through Town

After a long day of exploration, hang out with family and friends at one of Wilmington’s local breweries. Flying Machine Brewery, which opened in November 2018, features a two-story taproom and patio bar. Mad Mole Brewing opened its doors as the first solar-powered brewery in Wilmington. The popular New Anthem Beer Project announced the arrival of a second location in South Front District, and Bill’s Brewing Company is expanding and renovating its operations to convert to a 20-barrel system. Wilmington Brewing Company also plans to amplify its space through the addition of a 3,000-square-foot, 250-person venue for live music and other events.

Events and Entertainment

Head east of downtown to South Front District, an area that is home to older buildings that have been transformed into delicious restaurants, funky breweries and picturesque wine bars. New to the neighborhood is Second Glass Wine Bar. Vino lovers won’t be able to take their eyes off the temperature-controlled wine cellar that houses nearly 1,000 bottles of wine. Looking for a small bite to accompany your glass of red or white? The wine bar serves savory small plates and delectable entrées to round out your perfect night.

Up for a round of golf? Wilmington Municipal Golf Course is both beautiful and affordable, making it no surprise that it was recently named the 50th Best Course in North America by Top100GolfCourses.com. Rounds Golf and Lounge and Club Golf Indoor – both of which just opened in January – offer indoor golf simulation experiences that are perfect for those craving a break from the sun but still looking to swing a club.

Visitors will find additional downtown shopping options at the mixed-use River Place when it opens in late 2019. Located adjacent to Port City Marina, plans are well underway for North Waterfront Park. Features will include a children’s play area, splash plaza, beer gardens, extensive open lawn space, an inland boardwalk and connection to the Riverwalk. Concerts and performances will be managed by Live Nation, which is expected to bring more national and regional acts to the area. 

Artistic Appreciation

For those with an artistic eye, Airlie Gardens’ 2019 sculpture exhibit – HeART of the Garden – will feature a number of fiberglass heart sculptures for your viewing pleasure. The sculptures will be on display from July to October. For musical and acting performances, visit Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts. Known for its rich history and beautiful interior, Thalian Hall now offers tours every Monday for those looking to learn more about the building’s history.

The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was unveiled in November 2018 at Hugh MacRae Park, which honors the families and relatives of those who sacrificed their lives while protecting our freedom. This park, located in central New Hanover County, offers six picnic shelters for parties, picnics and reunions, as well as a beautiful garden area with a pond and gazebo.

Educational Attractions

No trip to Wilmington would be complete without a visit to what was considered to be the world’s greatest sea weapon when she was commissioned in 1941. During World War II, the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars. Before or after your tour, take in spectacular river views while walking the new, half-mile SECU Memorial Walkway surrounding the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. Areas around the walkway honor the five branches of the military.

For history or science lovers, the Cape Fear Museum is a must-visit attraction. The Cape Fear Museum recently announced its official designation as a Smithsonian Affiliate and joins over 200 other affiliated organizations across the country as a proud collaborator with the world’s largest museum.

The Museum also recently unveiled its new Science Cycle program, which offers interactive, science-based activities from staff pedaling a tricycle full of science experiments along Wilmington’s Riverwalk, Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Halyburton Park and Hugh MacRae Park, during festivals, parades and more. This mobile program will inspire kids to be curious, think big and experiment by bringing science and hands-on activities to them in outdoor settings. Inside, the Museum will also host Dinosaur Discoveries from the Virginia Museum of Natural Sciences this year.

Comfort of Vacation

Need a place to stay and get some rest after a day full of activities? A new Holiday Inn Express & Suites will open its doors on Medical Center Drive later this year. The Wilmingtonian is getting an upgrade and change in name. The new and improved ARRIVE Wilmington, expected to open in March 2019, will offer renovated rooms and a new café and bar. The Aloft Coastline Hotel has broken ground in the heart of the River District in downtown, with an anticipated opening in 2020. The Aloft will occupy part of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Building, adding a historic twist to the new hotel, and offer its guests a full-service restaurant, ground-level bar, rooftop bar, meeting rooms, banquet rooms, guest services, outdoor terraces, a fitness center, service kitchen and an outdoor pool, as well as a 7,000-square-foot ballroom. 

For a one-of-a-kind stay, Between the Covers Literary B&B offers guests a historic look at famous writers from North Carolina and their literary works. The historic home belongs to the owner of Wilmington’s Old Books on Front Street and operator of the Literary History Walking Tour, for visitors looking to take a deeper dive into Wilmington’s literary history.

For updates about what’s new at Wilmington’s Island Beaches, visit: