With vaccination rates steadily rising and many families excited to plan their summer vacations, Wilmington and our island beaches offer unique attractions and activities catered to families and suitable for children of all ages. From the sand and shore to city, a trip full of family-friendly fun awaits.
Curate a vacation perfect for your family with our guide on top things to do with kids of all ages:
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Discover an ideal coastal retreat with a variety of family-friendly accommodations. Great for families with little ones, stay overnight in a full-service hotel with various amenities and prime locations near Wilmington’s top attractions and activities. Just minutes from historic downtown and nearby Wrightsville Beach, book a suite at the Holiday Inn Wilmington and enjoy an onsite restaurant, indoor pool, whirlpool and more. Perfect for a relaxing family vacation, the Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach has an outdoor pool and is also close to some of the area’s best attractions, with both properties centrally located between the city and the beaches for visitors who want to experience them both. Or, opt for an oceanfront stay in one of our island beaches’ hotels and resorts.
From cooling off in a splash pool to creative adventures at a museum, keep the youngest children excited and engaged during your getaway. Bring along the whole family for a day of delight at Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. Play in the kiddie splash pool, ride the waves in the wave pool or float along the lazy river. Spark imagination with interactive, age-appropriate activities at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, from Preschool Story Time and Adventures in Art to STEAM Exploration and more.
Parents don’t have to narrow down their dining options based on their kids’ cravings. Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly restaurants or options to satisfy a picky eater, parents can find plenty of choices from eclectic lunch and dinner dishes to one-of-a-kind ice cream creations at the beach. At The Copper Penny, kids can enjoy meals like fish sticks and chicken tenders, while adults can choose from fresh salads, seafood platters, sandwiches and more. Dine in the seasonal outdoor front patio in the heart of Historic Downtown. Find a wide variety of delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options like buttermilk waffles and kids’ quesadillas at Blue Surf Café, specializing in locally sourced ingredients in a casual environment both indoors and on the outdoor patio.
As the kids age up, you may be wanting more space in your vacation accommodations. For amenities and activities to keep the kids busy while giving you plenty of room to spread out, look no further than one of our hotels or motels. Located by the scenic Riverwalk, opt for a two-room suite at the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel. Or, stay in Historic Downtown Wilmington at the recently renovated Hotel Ballast, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, featuring a riverfront outdoor pool.
Just because school is out for the summer doesn’t mean the kids have to stop learning! Our destination offers a variety of hands-on history and educational experiences. Explore more than 20 operating scale model trains and a 100-year-old steam locomotive at the Wilmington Railroad Museum, or build your own train tracks in the play area. Discover Wilmington’s storied past on a self-guided tour of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, a refurbished WWII battleship featuring nine levels of living spaces, mess decks and more. Or, experience the slower pace of days gone by on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Historic Downtown Wilmington with Springbrook Farms. Ride past stately mansions and discover the area’s history while kids enjoy the company of a beautiful Percheron horse.
Explore abundant blooms and wildlife at Airlie Gardens. Stop by the Airlie Oak, dating back to 1545, and stroll along the gardens’ trails to the open-air Butterfly House where children will love watching butterflies flutter around them. Open seasonally starting in early June, the structure houses species native to North Carolina including Monarchs, Black Swallowtails and more.
Have fun with the whole family while finding something on the menu for everyone. Dine al fresco with one of our outdoor dining options to enjoy scenic views of both river and sea. Adventure to Smoke on the Water, a restaurant tucked away from Wilmington’s downtown in a spot just off the water, for offerings both parents and children will savor from seafood to burgers. After your meal, stroll over the marsh along the dog-friendly deck and overlook the beautiful Cape Fear River. Soak in the riverfront scenery at Steam Restaurant & Bar, offering fresh fish and meat entrees for adults and options like grilled chicken and the signature Pimento Grilled Cheese sandwich for the kids.
Tweens & Teens
If you’re looking for accommodations with all the conveniences of home while giving the older kids some independence, opt for one of our many vacation rentals. From beachfront apartments and cottages to historic homes and downtown condos, our coastal destination offers a variety of rental options to fit any size family and budget.
Whether the kids are looking for activities to explore on their own or for unique ways to spend their vacation time, tweens and teens are sure to find plenty of age-appropriate things to do from strolling along the scenic Cape Fear River to experiencing a unique escape game. Walk the nearly two miles of scenic walkway along the Riverwalk, lined with an assortment of markets, unique boutiques, art galleries, outdoor cafes and more. Test your communication and problem-solving skills at Green Light Escape Room, Wilmington’s largest escape game facility. Choose from thrilling rooms like Alien Escape or The Attic, designed for those 13 and up. For the perfect water adventure, tweens and teens can certify as junior divers and embark on a customized dive charter with Aquatic Safaris.
Pedal along the Cape Fear River with BrewBoat Wilmington. Take in Riverwalk views as you and your group keep the boat cruising. Open to all ages, bring whatever kind of beverages you like and enjoy the scenery from a unique vantage point. Or, enjoy one of the older kid and grown-up activities at Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park like Jungle Lagoon miniature golf, go-karts, laser tag and more.
For restaurant options that surpass the average fare, discover unique and trendy noshes that will be sure to satisfy teens and adults alike. Stop by Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn for delicious eats alongside a unique atmosphere and video games. Build your own burrito or choose from one of the made-to-order creations like the Fried Avocado Burrito or Back Double Cheese Burgerito. After your meal, head downtown and savor award-winning Italian gelato at GelaRto, serving 24 fresh flavors and treats like gelato sandwiches.