Whether you’re a first-time or repeat visitor, there are plenty of new and exciting experiences to discover this year in Wilmington. From burgeoning arts, culture and film happenings to a thriving culinary and craft beer scene, plus new exhibits and lodging options, read on for trip ideas to help you plan your next coastal getaway.

Stay Awhile 

The Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center is under construction and slated to open in summer 2021. Located along the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, the Aloft will have seven stories and 125 rooms. Amenities will include a full-service restaurant, ground-level bar, rooftop bar, outdoor terraces, a fitness center and an outdoor pool. The new Aloft will incorporate the façade of a historic Romanesque-style building into its design. It will be connected to the 100-year-old historic Coastline Center, which will be renovated as part of the project. The Coastline Center in downtown Wilmington was constructed in the late 19th century for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad (ACL) and was used as its headquarters from the early 1900s to the 1960s.  


While Wilmington and its island beaches make for the perfect road trip destination for North Carolinians and residents of nearby states, other visitors can look to the Wilmington International Airport for their travel needs. The airport is currently undergoing a $60 million terminal expansion, scheduled for completion in late 2022 or early 2023. The renovation will include four additional gates, a restaurant, concessions and more, along with three public art installations by local artists in collaboration with the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County. 

Exhibits and Art Galore 

The story of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) will be illuminated with Cameron Art Museum’s new Wilmington U.S. Colored Troops Sculpture Project, slated to be unveiled in November alongside community living history events to commemorate the important project. The project aims to promote social change by highlighting the narratives of African American freedom fighters who played an impactful role in the Battle of Forks Road in Wilmington during the Civil War.  


The Cape Fear Museum of History & Science will welcome a new exhibition called “H2O Today.” Beginning in February, museum visitors can examine the diversity and challenges of global water sources. The exhibit’s goal is to promote conversation, creativity and innovation through art, science and technology. 

Coastal Cuisine 

Exciting new restaurants are joining Wilmington’s already burgeoning culinary scene! From James Beard semi-finalist Chef Dean Neff, Seabird will celebrate the seasonality of the seafood found at the coast, offering locally sourced, in-season seafood alongside delicious, creative vegetable dishes from the freshest local produce. Seabird will open in the spring for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with indoor and outdoor dining options, as well as takeout.  

Award-winning Chef Keith Rhodes of Catch Restaurant recently opened his newest venture, Tackle Box Kitchen. Located inside Seven Mile Post Pub, the restaurant specializes in sandwiches and small plates highlighting local ingredients, all meant to be enjoyed in a cool sports bar setting.  


Brews & Spirits 

Raise a glass to Wilmington’s thriving beer and brewery scene. Wilmington was recently ranked 13th in the 2020 edition of best cities for beer drinkers nationwide by SmartAsset, and Fermental bottle shop was voted North Carolina’s Best Beer Bar in Craftbeer.com’s 2020 Great American Beer Bars roundup. 


New to the scene, End of Days Distillery has already taken home national and international awards from the International Consumer Tasting SIP Awards. The small-batch distillery’s Port of Entry rum and gin each took home Double Gold awards, and its Port of Entry vodka won silver honors. Wilmington’s first grain-to-glass craft distillery is currently offering public tours and tastings. It plans to add ready-to-drink canned cocktails to its lineup in the spring and is aging several spirits for release in the near future. 

Known for its flagship locations in Asheville, N.C., Hi-Wire Brewing has arrived in Wilmington! Hi-Wire Brewing Wilmington is located in the up-and-coming Soda Pop District. The 7,920 square-foot taproom features two outdoor beer gardens and an expansive 24 tap bar offering Hi-Wire’s approachable and balanced ales and lagers including year-rounds, seasonals, specialties, sours and more, like the Blackberry Limeade Sour Session Ale and the Hop Circus Tropical White IPA. The taproom also features a variety of family-friendly activities like soccer pool, table tennis, shuffleboard, foosball and more. 


Adventure Outdoors 

One of the most anticipated projects taking place in downtown Wilmington is North Waterfront Park and Amphitheater. This urban green space will treat visitors to Cape Fear River views and be connected by the Riverwalk. The park’s largest feature will be an open-air music venue managed by Live Nation. Additional amenities will include green space, a park and walking trails. Located on 6.6 acres adjacent to Port City Marina, the park is projected to open in early summer. It was recently awarded WEDG Verification by the Waterfront Alliance for excellence in resilient, accessible and sustainable waterfront design, making it the first project outside of New York City to receive the designation. 


Movie Magic 

Known as “Hollywood East,” Wilmington’s film industry experienced a renaissance in 2020 and doesn’t show signs of slowing down in 2021. The Wilmington-made sequel to the popular Halloween film series, Halloween Kills, is set to premiere in October and continues the thrilling saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. The newest installment of the Scream horror franchise, SCREAM, starring original cast members David Arquette, Courteney Cox and Neve Campbell, wrapped filming in Wilmington in November 2020 and will be released in early 2022. 


Discover the best of what the North Carolina coast has to offer in Wilmington, where you’ll find plenty of new and exciting experiences to explore this year. See more new things to do in Wilmington and at our island beaches, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.