Looking for summer activities that will keep you cool when you need a break from fun in the sun? Wilmington and its island beaches offer plenty of alternative entertainment for the whole family. From family-friendly activities to museums and sweet treats, check out the following ideas to stay cool during your summer vacay to Wilmington and Island Beaches.

Cool Down with Family Fun

Imagine being able to relax and cool down in a lazy river after a thrilling ride on bumper cars or Grand Prix go-karts. Look no further than Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park in Wilmington. Not only is Jungle Rapids a water park, but it is also a fully-functional entertainment center with a dry park. From a rocking climbing wall to miniature golf and speed slides, this park has it all and is the perfect spot to chill on a hot afternoon.


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Get your jump on at Defy Gravity. Bounce from one side to another on the angle-wall trampolines, hop into the Olympic foam pit or play in one of the largest trampoline dodgeball cages in the country. Wilmington’s Flip N Fly is another indoor trampoline park with more than 40 trampolines, various obstacle courses and a full professional ninja course.

Hit the links minus the summer sun at The Clubhouse Indoor Golf. The Clubhouse offers a virtual reality golf simulation where you can take lessons with a golf pro or take your swing at one of the world’s most famous courses. Rounds Golf & Lounge is another indoor golf simulator featuring 84 championship golf courses and various virtual-sport applications. Similarly, Wilmington’s Club Golf Indoor is a 2,700 square-foot facility with four full-swing golf simulators to perfect your swing. If golf is not for you, challenge yourself to virtual soccer, carnival games and “zombie dodgeball.”

Spend an afternoon under the shade of historic oak trees at Airlie Gardens. Explore the site’s more than 67 acres of walking paths, gardens, seasonal blooms, historic structures and more. Don’t miss out on a chance to see the tall and mighty Airlie Oak – which dates back to 1545.

For families with young children, let your little ones’ imaginations run wild through interactive play at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. Kids – and their parents – will find ample opportunities to explore and better understand the arts, sciences, culture and more through engaging exhibits and programs. Home to the Guinness World Record since 2011 for the longest model train, the Wilmington Railroad Museum provides a variety of displays for train lovers of all ages.

Tours and More Indoors

For those who love antebellum architecture, historic downtown Wilmington is the place to spend an afternoon touring homes of days past. Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design is one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture, featuring the mansion, carriage house and original slave quarters. Built in 1852, the Latimer House Museum provides a glimpse into upper-class life of Victorian Wilmington. The Burgwin-Wright House Museum is a perfect example of Georgian architecture complete with Colonial-style gardens.

One of the oldest and most beautiful theaters in America, Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts invites guests to experience a behind-the-scenes look at the historic venue during a one-hour guided tour hosted every Monday. Visitors can also take in an array of shows and movies throughout the week at this spectacular piece of Wilmington’s history.

Head to the Smithsonian-affiliated Cape Fear Museum of History and Science for engaging exhibits such as the brand new “Dinosaur Discovery” where you can pretend to be a paleontologist. For art lovers, take a guided tour through Wilmington’s Cameron Art Museum, which hosts a number of rotating exhibits throughout the year that celebrates art of all styles and from different periods of time.

Spice up your Style

In Wilmington, you will find more unique boutiques than chain stores. Spend an afternoon perusing charming boutiques and sipping on an iced coffee at Wilmington’s Lumina Station, the shopping village by the beach. The Cotton Exchange in historic downtown Wilmington is home to a collection of one-of-a-kind shops, as well as picturesque courtyards and delectable restaurants. Shoppers will be treated to clothes, jewelry, treats, bouts of history and more. Redix at Wrightsville Beach has everything one could possibly imagine for beach gear and apparel, from designer clothing to fishing gear.

Experience Nature Up Close and Personal

Take nature indoors at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. Meet Luna, a rare albino alligator, and see firsthand the majesty of a rescued bald eagle, Maverick. Explore marine life from salt marshes and tidal pools, as well as a two-story open ocean exhibit featuring sharks, rays and eels. Open now through September 2, the Lorikeet Landing exhibit features colorful lorikeets – tropical birds that fly throughout the exhibit’s enclosure – offering a magical, interactive experience that both kids and adults will enjoy! 

At Wrightsville Beach, visit the Fred and Alice Stanback Coastal Education Center, which offers a unique coastal learning experience for all ages. Every Tuesday throughout the summer participates in their signature event – “Touch Tank Tuesday” – where guests can get up close with local flora and fauna.

Sweet Tooth Cravings

Treat yourself to an ice-cold treat at Kilwin’s in historic downtown Wilmington that serves not only ice cream but homemade fudge, too. For a unique and innovative ice cream experience, swing by the Buzzed Bull Creamery where they use liquid nitrogen to make their ice cream. Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats at Carolina Beach is known for its trademark treat, The Squigley®, created from a base of real vanilla ice cream, and the more than 4,050 possible flavor combinations. Celtic Creamery – also at Carolina Beach – gets its name from a delicious and coveted Irish ice cream recipe.