Known for its historic charm and rich Southern culture, Wilmington is home to vibrant neighborhoods each with its own character and distinct vibe, offering a variety of attractions and activities to experience.Read on for tried-and-true favorites and newcomers in established districts like Historic Downtown and the National Register Historic District, as well as in several up-and-coming districts.
Historic Downtown and the River District
Historic roots meet vibrant activity in Historic Downtown and the River District. Discover the neighborhood’s past while enjoying new offerings ranging from restaurants and lodging to attractions and entertainment.
Enjoy plenty to see and do plus the breathtaking backdrop of the Cape Fear River along Wilmington’s iconic Riverwalk, featuring views of the majestic WWII Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. You’ll find an assortment of markets, boutiques, restaurants and more, with new and exciting developments always on the horizon. While strolling along the Riverwalk, be sure to stop by GelaRto to grab a scoop of award-winning Italian gelato or sorbet.
Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill has earned its status as a downtown staple thanks to its outdoor seating that floats on the Cape Fear River, perfect for enjoying views of the sunset over the water, as well as its delicious Carolina-casual basket dinner selections, salads and appetizers. Just across the Riverwalk, enjoy the classic walk-up ice cream spot, Lazy Jack’s Ice Cream Shack, for fresh soft serve, a variety of drinks and signature dishes like Ice Cream Nachos.
Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park is a concert venue and an urban green space that takes advantage of views of the Cape Fear River and is connected by the downtown Riverwalk. A playground, seasonal water feature, large green space and lush gardens and trails allow visitors to enjoy respite among the active downtown urban landscape. The park's largest feature is an open-air music venue featuring national acts and managed by Live Nation, making it one of only a handful of Live Nation music venues located on the water.
Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center is now open along the Riverwalk, offering spacious loft-inspired rooms and several on-site food and drink options. The hotel’s bar, the WXYZ Lounge, features outdoor beverage service, and the hotel is also slated to open The Atlantic soon, a chef-driven restaurant serving Carolina-inspired dishes with a European flair alongside a comprehensive wine selection. aView Rooftop Bistro, located on the seventh floor, offers indoor and outdoor seating with spectacular river views and a selection of elevated tapas and beverages.
Sauce’d, a new addition to the Riverwalk, offers fun, fanciful cocktails and a curated fries menu featuring air-fried sweet potato, waffle, yucca and traditional potato fries, all served with gourmet dipping sauces. Enjoy the delicious bites and unique cocktails from the outdoor riverside seating perfect for snapping a picture or two at sunset.
National Register Historic District
Wilmington has a long and rich history, which is most apparent in none other than the National Register Historic District. Take a carriage ride or stroll through one of the largest and most picturesque historic districts in the country, today made up of 230-plus blocks of rich history and Victorian- and Colonial-era architecture to explore.
Established in 1770, The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens is the only Colonial-era structure in Wilmington open to the public. Get a glimpse into colonial life in Wilmington during a guided tour showcasing the home’s decorated interior featuring furnishings, antiques, objects and more from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Experience Victorian Wilmington with a house tour at the fully furnished, circa 1852 Latimer House Museum. View more than 600 historic objects, including neoclassical statues imported from Paris, 19th-century furnishings from the original home and more on a guided tour. While you are taken through the house, you’ll hear stories about the three generations of the Latimer Family who lived in the house’s 11 rooms.
Step back in time at the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design, one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of early 1800s architecture. Originally constructed in 1861 for the prominent family of Dr. John D. Bellamy, the 10,000-square-foot, 22-room mansion boasts architectural elements of Greek Revival, Neoclassical and Italianate styles as well as formal gardens.
Embark on Wilmington History Tours’ self-guided African American History Tour to discover 32 sites significant to Wilmington’s past. Or, download A Guide to Wilmington’s African American History, a free online guide to sites like the 1898 Monument & Memorial, honoring those who have continued their work for racial progress following the Wilmington Coup of 1898.
South Front District
Taste your way through Wilmington’s South Front District, where you’ll find a variety of delicious restaurants, funky breweries and wine bars set in transformed buildings and warehouses, perfect for anyone looking to relax and indulge.
Head to BlockTaco, an eclectic walk-up taco spot where you can customize a delicious taco of your choice or grab a bite at Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria, a delectable pizzeria featured on Southern Living’s list of the “Top 13 Things to Eat” before it even opened its doors!
Linger in South Front District a bit longer to relax and unwind at Satellite Bar & Lounge, a dog-friendly spot offering 250 craft beers and Bluegrass Jams on Sunday evenings with listening and dancing both inside and on the outside patio. Or, grab a pack of canned beer to-go from New Anthem Beer Project, where you can visit their tasting room featuring a variety of refreshing wine and craft beers. Not a fan of beer? Wine lovers will enjoy a glass of seasonal wine or a delicious cocktail complemented with a savory bite, like house-made focaccia or pimento cheese or a charcuterie board on the covered patio at The Second Glass.
True Blue Butcher and Table features an in-house butcher counter, quick and affordable lunch and dinner options including charcuterie boards, a raw bar, aged steaks and more.
Brooklyn Arts District
Home to revitalized industrial buildings and historic churches, Brooklyn Arts District is an artist’s dream. Located on the historic north side of downtown Wilmington, this unique neighborhood offers an array of live music, breweries, art galleries and more.
The neighborhood is anchored by the Brooklyn Arts Center + The Annex, a church building originally constructed in 1888 as St. Andrew’s Church that was the center of the neighborhood for nearly a century. Today, the fully restored and refurbished building operates as an event venue for concerts, weddings, art shows, vintage flea markets and more.
Sip on a cold beer at Flytrap Brewing, a unique small-batch brewery named in homage to the native Venus flytrap, where you’ll often find rotating art exhibitions, live music and food trucks. Indulge in artisanship at Bottega Art & Wine, a local wine bar featuring artwork and jewelry from Wilmington designers. Visit the more than 111-year-old historic firehouse that today houses Edward Teach Brewing, featuring a two-story ship-shaped bar inspired by the infamous pirate known as Blackbeard and taste one – or a few – of the eight beers on tap.
The district recently welcomed two new restaurants. Located in the restored Allen-Oliver historic home, Three10 offers seafood- and vegetable-centric dishes. The fresh, modern, sustainable fare highlights traditional ingredients of the coastal and low country Carolinas complemented by updated classic cocktails. The Kitchen Sink is a new lunchtime soup and sandwich spot. Warm your belly with an array of rotating small-batch soups and seasonal options as well as sandwiches featuring house-made bread and filled with handhelds like smashed avocado with red onion and Muenster or lavender chicken salad.
Castle Street Arts & Antiques District
Visit Castle Street Arts & Antiques District to discover unique cafés and restaurants, local music, theater, antiques and more just blocks from the riverfront. Take a peek inside Decades of Decor, a small and funky furniture store with modern and mid-century styles specializing in all things fabulous, fanciful and glamorous. Search for vintage finds at Jess James + Co, a vintage boutique curated by local style editor and fashion consultant Jess James.
Relish in Rx Restaurant & Bar, a casual farm-to-table restaurant with delicious dishes created from the finest local ingredients. Kick back on their cozy patio and enjoy fresh fare from the ever-changing menu, “Sweet Prescriptions” desserts, a Seasonal Elixir Menu and a can’t-miss Sunday Brunch with DIY Mimosas. Grab breakfast, lunch or Sunday brunch at Jester’s Cafe, a home-style eatery nestled inside a charming house that was once a private residence. The quirky café offers imaginative quiches and homemade desserts on the porch or inside. Plus, keep your eye out for Castle Street Kitchen, coming soon to the district offering Southern-inspired dishes with a twist.
Explore one of Wilmington’s most unique neighborhoods, the Cargo District. Home to a variety of dining options, bottle shops, coffee shops, boutiques and creative businesses, this innovative district has something for everyone.
Featured in the Cooking Channel’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” CheeseSmith was born from the innovation of Molly and Brendan Curnyn, two chefs with a passion for elevating old-school classics. After spending three years as a food truck and selling out everywhere they went, the minds behind CheeseSmith decided it was time for a brick-and-mortar location. The gourmet grilled cheese spot features a rotating menu consisting of new and inventive grilled cheeses, like Maple Bacon and Buffalo Baby, as well as delicious sides and desserts.
Spend an afternoon at End of Days Distillery, Wilmington’s first craft distillery offering limited-edition spirits like the award-winning Castaway Series of barrel-rested rum and gin, as well as the award-winning Port of Entry series, which features vodka, rum and gin. Co-owner Shane Faulkner was an avid homebrewer and self-taught distiller with a passion for turning natural ingredients into award-winning spirits. Take a guided tour to experience the distillery’s thoughtful approach to crafting heritage spirits. Afterward, visit the lounge to sample hand-crafted cocktails featuring the distillery’s spirits and snack on charcuterie plates.
Choose from eight rotating taps at Alcove Beer Garden or stick around for live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. Grab a coffee or tea at Blue Cup Roastery along with a bag of beans to-go.
Soda Pop District
Discover Wilmington’s emerging neighborhood, the Soda Pop District, located just outside of downtown and named for a former Coca-Cola bottling plant built in the 1930s. The area is already home to several beloved local restaurants and attractions, with more on the way.
Come for the bites and beverages, stay for the company! At Folks Café, enjoy a small-batch organic or fair-trade coffee alongside delicious baked goods in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere.
Originally established in Asheville, Hi-Wire Brewing’s Wilmington location is housed in a building that once served as a car dealership. Featuring an expansive selection of 21 craft beers – from seasonal options to specialty mainstays – as well as three wine taps, the pet- and family-friendly taproom includes two outdoor beer gardens with games like foosball and table tennis.
Discover the district’s burgeoning arts community at Jengo’s Playhouse, a local cinema home to the Cucalorus Foundation, an organization dedicated to celebrating independent and international film and supporting creative professionals. The foundation hosts the annual Cucalorus Festival, recognized by Moviemaker Magazine as “One of the Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” which attracts more than 20,000 attendees to Wilmington each year. The multimedia arts facility is also often used by filmmakers and other artists to host screenings and parties.
Visitors will find everything from family-friendly attractions and historic gardens to some of the area’s best shopping villages in Midtown. Explore outdoors with a stroll through Airlie Gardens, where you’ll discover the nearly 500-year-old Airlie Oak and native Butterfly House. Visit in the summer to take part in Airlie Gardens’ weekly butterfly release or plan a visit for summer 2022 to see the new rabbit-themed sculpture exhibit.
Take the whole family to Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park to enjoy a day at the water park or activities like miniature golf, go-karts, laser tag and more. Or shop ‘til you drop at Lumina Station’s fantastical collection of charming, locally-owned boutiques along with cafes and a wine bar for after shopping.
Wander through Cameron Art Museum’s rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits at your own pace, or schedule a guided tour to enhance your experience through hands-on activities. Make time to check out Boundless, a new public sculpture honoring the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). Slated to open in November 2022, the state’s first USCT Park will serve as a quiet space for reflection, healing and learning with the sculpture as its focal point.
Wherever your adventure takes you, Wilmington’s unique neighborhoods full of charm are ready with an abundance of new experiences to explore.