Known for its historic charm and rich Southern culture, Wilmington is home to vibrant neighborhoods each with their own character and distinct vibe, offering a variety of attractions and activities to experience. Read on for what’s new in established districts like historic downtown and the National Register Historic District, as well as in several up-and-coming districts.
Hops & History
Discover Wilmington’s emerging neighborhood, the Soda Pop District, located just outside of downtown and named for a former Coca-Cola bottling plant built in the 1930s. The area is already home to several beloved local restaurants, with more on the way.
Raise a glass to Hi-Wire Brewing Wilmington, the newest addition to the city’s already impressive craft beer and brewery scene. Originally established in Asheville, Hi-Wire’s Wilmington location is housed in a building that once served as a car dealership, featuring an expansive selection of 21 craft beers – from seasonal options such as the Munich Rye Lager to the Chocolate Raspberry Sour Smoothie – as well as three wine taps. The pet- and family-friendly taproom includes two outdoor beer gardens with games like foosball and table tennis.
Come for the bites and beverages, stay for the company! At Folks Café, enjoy a small-batch organic or fair-trade coffee alongside delicious baked goods in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Or, stop into Parchies Barbeque, a mainstay of the district serving comfort food at its finest, from Southern-inspired breakfast bites to lunch options like barbecue plates, crispy fried chicken and more.
Discover the district’s burgeoning arts community at Jengo’s Playhouse, a local cinema home to the Cucalorus Foundation, an organization dedicated to celebrating independent and international film and supporting creative professionals. The foundation hosts the annual Cucalorus Festival, recognized by Moviemaker Magazine as “One of the Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” which attracts more than 20,000 attendees to Wilmington each year. The multimedia arts facility is also often used by filmmakers and other artists to host screenings and parties.
Explore Wilmington’s newest neighborhood, the Cargo District. Home to a variety of dining options, bottle shops, coffee shops, boutiques and creative businesses, this innovative district is one of the city’s most unique neighborhoods.
Spend the afternoon at End of Days Distillery, Wilmington’s very first craft distillery offering limited-edition spirits like the Castaway Series of barrel rested rum and gin and the Port of Entry series, which features vodka, rum and gin. Experience the distiller’s thoughtful approach to crafting heritage spirits with a guided tour to explore the process of sourcing, fermentation, distillation and finishing. When visiting, be sure to sample soulful drink options, charcuterie plates and to-go cocktails like the Hurricane Warning.
Wander through The Outpost, an already popular food hall with plenty of options for everyone to enjoy. Choose from eight rotating taps at Alcove Beer Garden, grab a coffee or tea at the Outpost Coffee Co., or dine at Mess Hall, which offers a variety of burgers and tasty vegan options.
Historic roots meet vibrant activity in historic downtown and the River District. Discover the neighborhood’s past while enjoying new offerings ranging from restaurants and lodging to budding attractions and activities.
The Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center is slated to open this summer. While most Aloft hotels feature a “Backyard” outdoor space, the Wilmington location will feature a unique pedestrian- and pet-friendly “Front Yard.” The outdoor space will offer seating, a fire pit and music, and it will be connected to the hotel’s bar, the WXYZ Lounge, for outdoor beverage service. The hotel will also be home to The Atlantic, a chef-driven restaurant serving Carolina-inspired dishes with a European flair alongside a comprehensive wine selection that can be savored in the indoor dining room, on the riverfront patio or in the private second-floor Wine Loft. Additionally, the rooftop Above Bistro will offer indoor and outdoor seating and a selection of elevated tapas and beverages.
While you’re there, enjoy lively happenings and the breathtaking backdrop of the Cape Fear River along Wilmington’s iconic Riverwalk, featuring views of the majestic WWII Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. You’ll find an assortment of markets, boutiques, restaurants and more, with new and exciting developments to come this year. While strolling along the Riverwalk, be sure to stop by GelaRto to grab a scoop of award-winning Italian gelato or sorbet. Imported from Turin, Italy, each gelato batch is made from scratch using high-quality, fresh ingredients including whole fruit and milk from the shop’s own herd of dairy cows.
Coming this spring for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Seabird will highlight coastal cuisine with locally sourced, in-season seafood and creative vegetable dishes made from the freshest local produce. From James Beard semi-finalist Chef Dean Neff, the new restaurant concept will be open for indoor and outdoor dining, as well as takeout, in the heart of downtown.
Projected to open this summer, North Waterfront Park and Amphitheater is one of the most anticipated projects coming to downtown Wilmington. This urban green space will take advantage of views of the Cape Fear River and be connected by the downtown Riverwalk. A playground with a splash pad, shade trees and lush gardens will allow visitors to enjoy respite among the active downtown urban landscape. The park's largest feature will be a large open-air music venue managed by Live Nation, making it one of only a handful of Live Nation music venues located on the water. The amphitheater’s VIP Club will feature a balcony overlooking the seating area.
Stroll through the National Register Historic District, one of the largest and most picturesque historic districts in the country, with 230-plus blocks of rich history and Victorian and Colonial-era architecture to explore.
The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens recently celebrated its 250-year anniversary. Get a glimpse into colonial life in Wilmington along a guided tour showcasing the home’s decorated interior featuring furnishings, antiques, objects and more from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or, experience Victorian Wilmington with a house tour at the circa 1852 Latimer House Museum. Step back in time at the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design, one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of early 1800s architecture. The site also features a rare surviving and one of the best-preserved examples in the country of servants’ quarters. Through the Bellamy Mansion Slave Quarters restoration, the lives and contributions of not only the enslaved residents and their children but also all enslaved people who lived in such dwellings is honored. Embark on Wilmington History Tours’ self-guided African American History Tour to discover 32 sites significant to Wilmington’s past. Or, download A Guide to Wilmington’s African American History, a free online guide to sites like the 1898 Monument & Memorial, honoring those who have continued their work for racial progress following the Wilmington Coup of 1898; the Orange Street Landing on Cape Fear, marking the location where 22 slaves escaped to freedom along the Cape Fear River; the Wilmington Journal and historically significant homes, churches, cemeteries, schools and more.
Tried & True Favorites
Taste your way through Wilmington’s South Front District, where you’ll find a variety of delicious restaurants, funky breweries and wine bars set in transformed buildings and warehouses, perfect for anyone looking to relax and indulge. Head to BlockTaco, a neat walk-up taco spot where you can customize a delicious taco of your choice, or grab a bite at Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria, a delectable pizzeria featured on Southern Living’s list of the “Top 13 Things to Eat” before it even opened its doors!
Linger in South Front District a bit longer to relax and unwind at Satellite Bar & Lounge, a dog-friendly spot offering 250 craft beers, or grab a pack of canned beer to-go from New Anthem Beer Project, where you can visit their tasting room featuring a variety of refreshing wine and craft beers. Not a fan of beer? Wine lovers will enjoy a glass of seasonal wine or a delicious cocktail complemented with a savory bite on the covered patio at The Second Glass.
Home to revitalized industrial buildings and historic churches, Brooklyn Arts District is an artist’s dream. Located on the historic north side of downtown Wilmington, this unique neighborhood offers an array of live music, breweries, art galleries and more. Stop by the Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews to check out the 123-year-old church building that today hosts concerts, weddings, festivals and more. Choose between the signature bacon-infused vodka or more than 15 beers on tap inside the traditional English pub or in the outdoor beer garden at Goat & Compass. Sip on a cold beer at Flytrap Brewing, a unique small-batch brewery named in homage to the native Venus flytrap, where you’ll often find rotating art exhibitions, live music and food trucks. Indulge in artisanship at Bottega Art & Wine, a local wine bar featuring artwork and jewelry from Wilmington designers. Satisfy your sweet tooth with one of the famous macadamia nut cookies or cinnamon rolls at Throwback Bakery, a charming spot offering a broad selection of made-from-scratch sweets.
Visit Castle Street Arts & Antiques District to discover unique cafés and restaurants, local music, theater, antiques and more just blocks from the riverfront. Take a peek inside Decades of Decor, a small and funky furniture store with modern and mid-century styles, or search for vintage finds at Jess James + Co. Relish in Rx Restaurant & Bar, a casual restaurant with delicious dishes created from the finest local ingredients. Kick back on their new cozy patio and enjoy fresh fare like Dave’s Smoked Chicken, NC Duck Breast or the Rx Vegan Plate. Grab breakfast, lunch or Sunday brunch at Jester’s Cafe, a home-style eatery nestled inside a charming house.
Wherever your adventure takes you, Wilmington’s unique neighborhoods full of charm are ready with an abundance of new experiences to explore.