Coastal destinations often top everyone’s list when it comes to warm weather getaways, and for good reason. A combination of fun in the sun and kid-friendly activities is the ticket to making your summer vacation one to remember. Find an abundance and variety of family vacation experiences in Wilmington, a vibrant, historic riverfront city with three nearby island beaches that enhance this all-in-one getaway.
Here are 15 of our favorite kid-approved activities in Wilmington:
Children’s Museum of Wilmington – Celebrate the joys of childhood through magical and playful experiences for kids of all ages. The museum explores everything from art and science to cooking and conservation and offers a wide variety of educational programs and events for varying interests throughout the week.
Wilmington Railroad Museum – Explore the rail industry's legacy with an emphasis on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which served the city during the line’s earliest beginnings. Discover the Children’s Hall play area where the little ones can build their own model railroad empire. See more than 20 model trains in action and explore a life-size caboose and 100-year-old steam locomotive.
Defy Wilmington and Flip N Fly – Reach new heights at one of the area’s two awesome trampoline parks. Defy Wilmington, a 23,000-square-foot indoor facility with wall-to-wall trampolines, is home to the famous Angled Wall Trampolines, an expansive Olympic Foam Pit and one of the largest Trampoline Dodgeball cages in the country. At Flip N Fly, bounce around on trampolines, try your luck on the dodgeball court and dive into soft foam pits. Younger children can safely expend energy as their imaginations run wild on the kids’ court. Reserve Open Jump Time online for seamless fun.
Crossfire Indoor Paintball & Nerf Park – Weather will never be an issue at this indoor course. Age-divided groups ensure a fun and safe experience for all children. Parents can take part in the GellyBall, paintball and Nerf competition or spectate through a large glass window for a full view of all the action.
Battle House Laser Tag – Live out your video game dreams at this more than 10,000-square-foot facility featuring high-tech equipment and multiple two-story buildings, rooms, roads and an alleyway designed to mimic an urban environment. Choose from challenges like capture the flag and more. Special game times for children under 10 allow for younger family members to safely participate.
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park – This family fun park includes Water Park fun for the whole family, Jungle Lagoon golf, laser tag, Grand Prix Go-Karts, “The Rock” Climbing wall, arcade games, snack bar and much more.
Cape Fear Museum of History and Science – The oldest history museum in the state houses a collection of more than 57,000 items dedicated to the rich history, science and cultures of the region. Try on an astronaut suit in the hands-on Space Place, learn about Michael Jordan’s early years and Wilmington roots and pose with the replica of a 20-foot-tall ground sloth.
Airlie Gardens – Discover 67 acres of breathtaking formal gardens, wildlife and lakes. Walk the trails and find the 500-year-old live Airlie Oak. Spot species like the Monarch and Common Buckeye at Airlie Gardens’ Native Butterfly House, open seasonally for exploration. During Butterfly Releases held from June through September, environmental educators explain butterflies’ lifecycles before letting them loose to flutter. All ages are welcome, but pre-registration is required.
New Hanover County Arboretum – Wander the paved pathways spanning 7 acres to discover beautiful seasonal gardens, including a water garden with hundreds of colorful Koi, a Japanese garden with an authentic tea house and the children’s garden featuring a play area.
Cape Fear River Boats and Wilmington Water Tours – Explore the area from a unique perspective. Embark on family-friendly daily sightseeing and sunset cruises with Cape Fear River Boats. For narrated eco-tours and sunset cruises with live acoustic music, hop on a Wilmington Water Tours cruise.
Battleship NORTH CAROLINA – No trip to Wilmington would be complete without a visit to a ship called the world’s greatest sea weapon when she was commissioned in 1941. During World War II, Battleship NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific and earned 15 battle stars. Today, families can explore nine levels of living spaces, mess decks, gun turrets and more. Take a self-guided tour or make an online reservation for a 90-minute Second Deck Tour to learn about daily life aboard a floating city.
Riverwalk – Little legs can get some energy out on a family stroll along the nearly two-mile scenic walkway hugging the Cape Fear River. Grab a bite at an outdoor café or treat the kids at an ice cream shop like the Italian-inspired GelaRto. Drop a line from Conlon Pier, the only spot along the Riverwalk that allows fishing. At the north end, Riverfront Park offers plenty of waterfront green space, a playground and a seasonal water feature.
Greenfield Park – This park’s 250 acres are filled with biking and walking trails perfect for exploring as a family. Other amenities include playgrounds for different ages and abilities, picnic shelter and an accessible fishing dock.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher – Learn about the underwater world as you meet the Aquarium’s 2,500+ animal residents, ranging from alligators and stingrays to sea turtles and small-clawed otters. Reserve tickets online to take a guided, behind-the scenes tour for a backstage look at exhibits and the animal holding area. There is even an on-site café and an outdoor interactive Adventure Reef play area.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site – Located at the south end of nearby Kure Beach, Fort Fisher was the site of the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War. Attend historical reenactments, tour the grounds or visit the 16-foot-long 3D battle map that illustrates the final hours of the battle.