While coastal destinations often come to mind as ideal family spring break destinations, Wilmington and our island beaches are far from the average getaway. Recently named one of the “Best Small Cities in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler, Wilmington offers incomparable coastal experiences that will leave the whole family feeling refreshed and renewed. Spend spring break in a destination defined by unlimited vacation choices – and enjoy the best of the Carolina coast all in one place.
Embark on Outdoor Experiences
From its scenic Cape Fear River to blooming gardens, Wilmington beckons spring break visitors to enjoy family time in the great outdoors. Embark on Wilmington Outdoor Adventures’ Shark Tooth Hunting Eco Tour and kayak to an uninhabited island where the kids will love hunting for coveted shark teeth and other fossils. Take a family-friendly sunset cruise along the Wilmington riverfront with Cape Fear River Tours, or hop aboard Wilmington Water Tours’ Eagles Island Cruise for a narrated ride filled with fun facts and stories about the area’s maritime history and unique wildlife.
Wilmington offers a plethora of parks and trails perfect for land-based family adventures. Greenfield Park’s 250 acres feature a lake surrounded by beautiful moss-draped cypress trees. After strolling around the lake together, enjoy the park’s other amenities, including picnic shelters, age- and ability-specific playgrounds and rental paddleboats, kayaks or canoes.
Remember to stop and smell the flowers at Wilmington's bountiful gardens. Considered one of the South’s premier gardens, Airlie Gardens is a must-visit for families. Its 67 beautiful acres are defined by picturesque pathways, the famous Airlie Oak and more than 75,000 vibrant azaleas. The nearby New Hanover County Arboretum is a hidden gem with a water garden, colorful Koi, a children’s play area and a rose garden perfect for a family photo-op. For a unique experience that kids will love, visit the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden to see an extensive collection of native carnivorous plants like Venus flytraps and pitcher plants.
Bring Learning to Life
As classrooms empty for spring break, Wilmington sparks curiosity and inspires hands-on learning. The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science offers engaging exhibits, including the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery, a 20-foot-tall giant ground sloth replica and Space Place, where kids can try on an astronaut suit. The Children’s Museum of Wilmington features hands-on arts, science and culture exhibits. Preschool Story Time, Crafty Kids, Sea Stars and other daily programs provide playful experiences tailored to different age groups. The Wilmington Railroad Museum showcases the history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and boasts model trains, a Thomas the Tank Train play area and a century-old steam locomotive for kids to climb aboard and “conduct.”
Wilmington's 230-block National Register Historic District, one of the largest in the South, offers families a wealth of opportunities to discover the city's fascinating past. Take a Springbrook Farms’ guided carriage tour drawn by rescued draft horses to hear stories behind Wilmington’s history and stately mansions. Get an inside look at downtown’s historic homes with guided tours of Bellamy Mansion Museum, Latimer House Museum and Burgwin-Wright House.
Curious kids will delight in a first-hand history lesson the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, a landmark attraction contributing to Wilmington’s designation as the first World War II Heritage City. Make a reservation for a guided tour highlighting living quarters, gun turrets and more. Hop on the Bizzy Bee Water Taxi for a fun ride between the Riverwalk and the Battleship.
Dig Into Kid-Friendly Flavors
With endless family dining options, there’s no need to limit culinary experiences based on kids’ cravings during a Wilmington spring break. Savor lunch or dinner with riverfront views at Elijah’s and Pilot House, which both offer delicious seafood and kid-friendly fare in casual settings right on the Riverwalk. Tucked away from downtown in a spot just off the water, families can dine al fresco on the deck of Smoke on the Water while digging into seafood, BBQ, burgers and more. Featured on Southern Living's "Top 13 Things to Eat" list, Chef Vivian Howard's Benny's Big Time Pizzeria will make kids’ pasta and pizza dreams come true. Split wood-fired pies like the traditional Tony Pepperoni and the pineapple jam- and pepper-covered King Louie.
Indulge the little ones with a sweet treat along the Riverwalk at GelaRto, serving creamy gelato made with fresh Alpine spring water and milk from their herd of cows in Italy. Wilmington’s new The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar Wilmington serves over-the-top frozen treats in jars overflowing with candy, cookies and fresh fruit. Stop by downtown Wake N Bake Donuts and let kids choose from creatively-decorated fresh doughnuts, while adults can order organic fair-trade coffee to caffeinate between family activities.
Take a Family Riverwalk
Meander along Wilmington's Riverwalk together and soak up scenic views of the historic Cape Fear River and the surrounding cityscape. Voted among “America's Best Riverfronts” in USA TODAY's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards, the Riverwalk is lined with historical markers and over 200 unique boutiques, restaurants, markets, art galleries and more – offering plenty to entertain kids and adults alike. At the northern end, the family-friendly Riverfront Park features urban gardens, a seasonal water feature, a play area and an ample green lawn.
Find the Perfect Homebase
Unwind in comfort and style with accommodations that suit your family’s size and budget. Choose from conveniently located hotels and motels. Make reservations at the Hotel Ballast for Southern hospitality and views of the Cape Fear River, or book a suite to fit the whole family at the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel or Aloft Wilmington. The area’s full-service hotels and resorts offer extraordinary views and a variety of amenities. Or, enjoy the conveniences of home with a vacation rental, including riverfront houses and centrally located homes with access to bike paths, downtown and the Riverwalk.
Plan your family’s ultimate spring break to the best of the Carolina coast and experience a destination where no two getaways are alike. Immerse yourself in the new and ongoing mix of coastal sights, sounds and tastes that await in a destination packed full of family fun.