As the Carolina coast’s best getaway destination for all ages and interests, Wilmington and its island beaches will bring your travel companions together for a bounty of genuine vacation experiences. The must-see Southern city’s rich history, natural beauty and authentic coastal culture provide the perfect setting for your travel adventure of choice.
Multigenerational Family Trips
On your all-ages-welcome family vacation, discover the city’s 230-plus-block National Register Historic District by chartering a private trolley tour drawn by Springbrook Farms’ rescued draft horses. Stroll along the scenic Wilmington Riverwalk, then coast down the Cape Fear River aboard the Henrietta on a 90-minute, family-friendly Cape Fear River Boats sunset cruise. Wilmington Water Tours also provides private charters and daily cruises, including the eco- and history-focused Eagles Island Cruise, departing from the Riverwalk. Take a Bizzy Bee water taxi ride to the recently refurbished Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, where a first-hand maritime history lesson will be of interest to all ages.
Younger family members will enjoy the excitement of kid-friendly attractions like Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, featuring waterslides, mini-golf, go-karts and more – while adults can relax on the Lazy River. Just a short drive away, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is home to interactive exhibits and amazing marine life, including sea turtle hatchlings and otter pups, to explore at your own pace or on their “Behind the Scenes Tour.” The vintage Carolina Beach Boardwalk engages kids and grandparents alike with weekly summer fireworks and nostalgic sweet treats like the famous Britt’s Donuts.
Gather your gal pals and head to Wilmington for a fun-filled girls' trip. Indulge in a shopping spree at the beautifully-designed Lumina Station. Check out the shopping village’s charming locally owned boutiques like Airlie Moon, where you can find fine linens and hand-crafted jewelry – and enjoy a glass of wine on the shaded patio of Brasserie du Soleil. Stop in Crabby Chic and Blue Moon Gift Shops for gifts that bring a piece of the Carolina coast home. Breeze through unique boutique shops in The Cotton Exchange, then browse Market Street and the racks at Edge of Urge for handmade and independent designer clothing and accessories.
Find rejuvenation together in a floral oasis at the New Hanover County Arboretum. Take in the Japanese garden, featuring an authentic tea house, as well as one of the largest water gardens in the state, complete with Koi and lilies. Or explore the stunning Airlie Gardens, boasting 67 acres of formal gardens and tranquil lakes. Remember to capture the girls’ trip memories with a photo by the majestic, centuries-old Airlie Oak!
Smaller parties can unwind with shared spa experiences at Head To Toe Day Spa and Salon or Ki Spa & Salon. Register for a Prana Salt Cave gentle yoga class held in a restorative halotherapy cave. Flow into Savasana by the sea together with a Be Unlimited Yoga session, held seasonally on nearby Wrightsville Beach’s Crystal Pier. Perfect your paddling skills and glide through crystal blue waters during a private stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) lesson from Wrightsville SUP.
Charter a customized Epic Excursions sunset cruise to watch for dolphins as you take in scenic waterway views and share a delicious charcuterie spread. Or, embark on an unforgettable evening with Wilmington Water Tours’ special cruise with live local music, offered on Friday and Saturday evenings. Savor the sounds of acoustic tunes, the sights of a brilliant Wilmington sunset and the flavors of refreshing cocktails from the boat's full bar while aboard the catamaran. On dry land, sip beverages at local nightlife favorites like The Second Glass, a sophisticated wine bar, The Blind Elephant, a tucked-away speakeasy, and Bourgie Nights, an intimate music venue serving cocktails crafted just as carefully as its live performance lineup.
Round up your friends for the ultimate guys' trip to Wilmington. Options for anglers abound with Feel Good Fishing Charters & Adventures’ fishing tours and Hot Ticket Fishing Charters’ offshore Gulf Stream and deep-sea bottom fishing excursions. Cast a line from Johnnie Mercers Pier or the Kure Beach Fishing Pier, and find prime fishing spots at Carolina Beach State Park. Or, submerge and explore dozens of shipwrecks and offshore ledges with guided charters from one of the area's diving companies like Aquatic Safaris.
Tee off at several area golf courses, including the 18-hole Beau Rivage and the Wilmington Municipal Golf Course, designed by Donald Ross in 1926. If your crew prefers another kind of golf, test your skills at Joe Eakes Park’s 18-hole course in Kure Beach. Challenge each other to a game at Trinity Disc Golf Course, a PDGA-certified course open to the public on the grounds of Good Hops Brewing Company in Carolina Beach, where you can start or end your game with a local brew.
Book a 90-minute BYOB excursion aboard BrewBoat Wilmington’s 15-passenger, pedal-powered vessel. On land, take the self-guided Wilmington Ale Trail to sample the best of Wilmington’s craft breweries and bottle shops. Stop by Flying Machine Brewing Company and Front Street Brewery, the city’s original brewery. Wilmington’s first craft distillery, End of Days Distillery (EOD), creates award-winning premium spirits and gives by-request tours and tastings. End the evening with laughs at Dead Crow Comedy Room, or bond over frights and pints with a Haunted Pub Crawl tour.
Cultural Crew Travels
Wilmington offers a variety of activities for those seeking cultural experiences. As “Hollywood East,” the area boasts over 400 movie and TV-related credits. Follow the footsteps of your favorite directors and stars while taking a self-guided tour of famous filming locations. Or sightsee on two wheels with a Wilmington Bike & Brew Tours offering that explores filming locations from the hit TV show “One Tree Hill.”
Taste for yourself why Wilmington recently ranked among TripSavvy.com’s “10 Places Food Lovers Should Visit in 2023.” Book your Downtown Tasting Tour with Taste Carolina to learn about the city’s ever-expanding culinary community while trying palette-pleasing bites. Or, plan a DIY-style dining adventure by picking foodie favorite spots and ordering a variety of dishes for your crew to share. Don’t miss the opportunity to try creations from renowned chefs such as Keith Rhodes and Dean Neff, both James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast semi-finalists, who use local ingredients and fresh seafood in their restaurants Catch and Seabird, respectively. Benny's Big Time Pizzeria, owned by James Beard Foundation semi-finalist Chef Vivian Howard, serves up mouthwatering woodfired pizza.
Visit Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts, a beautifully restored historic theater that hosts by-request tours and frequent performances. Stake out a lawn spot to enjoy live jazz during the Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Jazz at the Mansion Concert Series held monthly between May and September. When planning your itinerary, check our events calendar for upcoming performances, including concerts at the Live Nation-managed Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park and the cypress-surrounded Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.
Enrich your artistic spirits at the Cameron Art Museum (CAM), which features works by regional, national and international artists. Among CAM’s outdoor artwork sculptures is the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Park’s Boundless, commemorating the USCT Civil War victory on the museum grounds. Art enthusiasts should also check out the city's abundant art galleries and spaces, including Art in Bloom Gallery, New Elements Gallery, Brooklyn Arts Center + The Annex and Bottega Art & Wine.
Convenient Group Stays
When coordinating group lodging, book a block of rooms at full-service hotels like the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel or the Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center, both featuring rooftop bars and modern amenities. Hotel Ballast provides a prime location along the Riverwalk and views from private balconies and the riverfront pool deck and lounge. Unwind with family-friendly stays at Wrightsville Beach’s full-service oceanfront resorts, including Lumina and The Blockade Runner. Large groups can also stay in comfort at The Cottage, Blockade Runner’s 13-bedroom oceanfront house.
Nestled in a tree-lined neighborhood, the 4,000-square-foot Magnolia House welcomes up to 13 guests. Located on a protected lagoon, Moore House comfortably accommodates large groups – and each bedroom boasts a full bath and deck overlooking the water. Find additional vacation and beach rentals to suit a range of group sizes and budgets.
While designing your travel pack’s ideal getaway, you can’t beat the vacation experiences you will find in Wilmington’s and its three island beaches, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.