From new ways to explore the city and a fresh outlook on nature to acclaimed restaurants and vibrant bars, Wilmington is welcoming some exciting additions in 2023. Whether you’re a regular or a first-time visitor, your travel checklist just got a little longer.
Tours to Explore
Journey through diverse wildlife and ecosystems with Wilmington Outdoor Adventures as the outfitter launches several new seasonal tours in 2023. The new Shark Tooth Hunting Eco Tour takes participants through Barnards Creek to reach an island far less visited than Shark Tooth Island to search for shark teeth, fossils and other artifacts. Paddle along the currents of the river and creeks with the Brunswick River Sunset Tour addition.
After several years of restoration, the mast and hull repairs to Battleship NORTH CAROLINA are complete, and the ship is fully open to the public. Visitors can opt for full guided tours, available by request in 2023, that provide a behind-the-scenes look at the ship’s nine different levels or for shorter guided tours that take a deep dive into specific topics. Shorter tours include the Big Bang Tour, which takes an in-depth look at the ship’s artillery, and the Second Deck Tour, which allows guests to experience a city at sea and visit the ship’s stores, shops and living spaces.
The walls of Wilmington's historic homes are talking – and they tell the stories of the area's prominent past. The Latimer House Museum has introduced a new way to glimpse into Victorian era nightlife. The museum’s new Night Life and Gas Technology in a Victorian Household tour takes place in the evenings of the first and third Saturdays of the month.
A new Bike & Brew Tour offers residents and visitors a fresh way to explore the downtown area. Riders can visit famous filming sites on the One Tree Hill Tour or learn all about Wilmington’s eerie history on the History, Haunts and Breweries Tour and Just the History Haunts Tour.
Brand New Bites
Wilmington’s foodie scene is growing! The Cargo District has welcomed Beat Street, the newest creation by We Are True Blue restaurateur Bobby Zimmerman. This vibrant fast-casual restaurant serves up authentic street food, including tacos, kebabs and other classics. A Raleigh favorite, Bowstring Pizza & Brewyard will open its second location in downtown Wilmington’s Soda Pop District in 2023.
Coming to the north end of the Riverwalk, Bonita Latin Fusion & Cocteleria will serve a menu of dishes and cocktails created by owners Jennifer Rigard and Yesenia Leon that bring together the different culinary traditions across Latin America. The 2022 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best Chef Southeast,” Sunny Gerhart, is also bringing his talents to downtown Wilmington. His newest restaurant, Olivero, is set to open in 2023, featuring a New Orleans-style cuisine with a Spanish influence.
New Cocktail Spots
Located in the Cotton Exchange, Momentum Spirits, a micro-distillery producing vodka and cordials such as limoncello, is adding a tasting room for tours in 2023. The Vibe Music and Cocktail Lounge, the only bar-specific establishment in the Cotton Exchange, recently celebrated its grand opening. From hosting open mic and comedy nights to live performances, The Vibe has a full menu of craft cocktails and specials.
Around downtown’s hip northern end, The Underfront, a new craft cocktail bar, is planned to open in early 2023. This modernized industrial bar comes from creators who have previously flipped local hotspots such as Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Rumcow and Tacobaby. The Underfront will serve up thoughtful cocktails and occasional live music performances, with plans to turn the waterfront back patio into a tiki bar during the summers.
From the mind of a Disney Imagineer, The Sorrow Drowner has been reimagined since its opening in 2022. While maintaining its “tiki noir” decor, guests are transported into the era of Exploration and enjoy a revamped food and cocktail menu. In addition to hiring a new chef, this unique bar and small plates restaurant also hosts Sunday brunch and monthly performances.
After much anticipation, ARRIVE Wilmington is set to re-open and welcome guests in February 2023, with a third building opening later in the year. This property offers 34 rooms featuring a mid-century modern design. Guests begin their experience by entering through the library to enjoy craft drinks at a cozy courtyard bar with fireplaces, lawn games and even a confessional. Located a block from Historic Downtown, the hotel’s restaurant, Dram Yard, is open and accepting reservations.
Hotel LELA Wilmington, Tapestry Collection by Hilton and Tru by Hilton Wilmington are scheduled to open off of Market St. in early 2023 and will connect through a breezeway.
As Port City Marina introduces its new docks early this year, the Strands Houseboat Community expects to grow and dock up to 30 more houseboats by 2024. The floating community currently docks 10 houseboats, with seven serving as vacation rentals allowing visitors to stay dockside.
With the start of the new year comes the launch of North Carolina’s 2023 “Year of the Trail,” which celebrates the beautiful landscapes throughout our state. Wilmington and its island beaches are home to two state parks: Carolina Beach State Park, where you can encounter indigenous carnivorous plants along the Venus Flytrap Trail, and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, which features wildlife-rich marshes and undeveloped coastline along the Basin Trail.
As a Leave No Trace Partner, Wilmington has more than a dozen parks with fitness and nature trails. The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail boasts 15 miles of off-road cycling or walking, and the River to Sea Bikeway allows cyclists to travel across the city at their own pace. Long Leaf Park and Halyburton Park offer walkable nature trails along with New Hanover County Parks & Gardens and Greenfield Park, which both offer scenic walking trails. Wilmington and its island beaches also have several sites along the N.C. Birding Trail, N.C. Civil War Trail, N.C. Oyster Trail and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
From journeying along the trails or exploring our coastal city in unexpected ways to trying new restaurants and cocktail bars, you’ll find new favorites on a trip to Wilmington this year.