Find Your Muse in Our Vibrant Arts & Culture Scene 

Visitors to Wilmington and our island beaches can enjoy an array of festivals, museums, art galleries, performing arts events and historic sites. From a nationally-designated historic district maintained to honor days gone by to a thriving arts scene that is the foundation to its independent spirit, Wilmington has an unbeatable charm and character that is embedded in many visitor experiences and not to be missed.

Be inspired below, or view the full list of arts and culture venues.

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Historic Sites and Tours

Established in 1739, Wilmington played a significant role in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and WWII. Today, spanning 230-plus blocks, Wilmington’s National Register Historic District is one of the largest and most beautiful in the country. Experience it for yourself via a guided or self-guided tour, during which time you’ll discover classic architecture, brick-lined streets and antebellum homes.

Get an up-close look at one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture at the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design. Originally built in 1861 as a prominent family’s residence, the 10,000-square-foot home has been carefully restored and the grounds have been re-created. The Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens were constructed on the former walls of the 1744 county jail. Today, the house is a superb example of Georgian architecture, with rooms furnished with 18th and 19th-century antiques and complemented by four levels of Colonial-style terrace gardens. One of America’s oldest plantations – Poplar Grove Plantation – is credited with pioneering peanut production in antebellum North Carolina. The site includes an 1850 home, tenant house, blacksmith shop, weaving and basket studios, farm animals, exhibits, picnic and playground area and access to the 67-acre Abbey Natural Preserve. The Latimer House Museum was built in 1852 and is now a showcase of upper-class life in Victorian Wilmington. More than 600 historic objects displayed throughout 14 rooms transport visitors back to a more elegant era.

Walk along the new SECU Memorial Walkway, a half-mile boardwalk honoring WWII veterans from all branches of the military located near the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. The walkway gives visitors a front-seat view of the historical ship from the 1930s. Start your journey on the observation deck providing views of historic downtown Wilmington. Once inside, enjoy a self-guided tour of the nine levels of living spaces, mess decks, gun turrets, powder storage, sickbay, and more.

Located at the southern tip of nearby Kure Beach, Fort Fisher was the site of the largest land and sea battle of the Civil War. Explore its history at Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, where 10% of the fort still stands today, along with a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits and walking trails detailing the fort’s history.

Galleries

Located in a renovated 19th-century horse stable in historic downtown, Art in Bloom Gallery presents an eclectic mix of original paintings, ceramics, sculpture, blown glass, stained-glass mosaics, photography, mobiles, jewelry, limited-edition prints and mixed media by international and national established and emerging artists. Visitors will be charmed by the original heart-pine ceiling and brick walls of the building that are mixed with modern-day technology such as interactive computer screens and WiFi displaying digital and physical art. Head outdoors to explore the courtyard that displays outdoor sculpture and is the site of seasonal special events.

Originally constructed in 1888, St. Andrews Church has been transformed into the Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews. The restored and refurbished space, located in the Brooklyn Arts District, now serves as an event venue that hosts art shows and vintage flea markets featuring one-of-a-kind pieces throughout the year.

If you’re a lover of wine and art, a stop to Bottega Art & Wine is a must. Artists, collectors, wine enthusiasts and beer connoisseurs regularly gather at the wine-bar-meets-gallery full of interesting spaces, sculptures and 3D art pieces featured inside and outside in the backyard courtyard.

New Elements Gallery has showcased the best of regional and national fine art and craft since 1985. At this historic downtown gallery, you’ll find exceptional, unique pieces that fit a variety of styles and just might be the perfect souvenir of your travels.

Painters and art enthusiasts should add Acme Art Studios to their itineraries. Comprised of 20 working studios and an in-house gallery, the studio features locally-produced paintings, photography and sculptures.

Appreciate the community arts by exploring the masterpieces making up Wilmington’s pedestrian art program. Permanent pieces include the iconic Venus Flytrap Sculpture located at the foot of Market and Water Streets and the Dram Tree Sculpture located on the Riverwalk in front of the Wilmington Convention Center. Other pieces currently on display include the Yellow Orbit and Navigator and True North, both of which can be found on the north end of the Riverwalk. The public sculpture program collection can be discovered through a self-guided tour.

Events

Cucalorus Festival is a non-competitive festival that showcases more than 300 independent films from all over the world. In addition to film screenings, visitors can enjoy a diverse selection of stage performances and over 50 events that focus on technology and entrepreneurship. The festival’s spirited celebration has been celebrated as a breeding ground for young artists, new ideas and lifelong friendships. Moviemaker Magazine recognized the event as “One of the Coolest Film Festivals in the World” and “One of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.” Cucalorus takes place in November.

Enjoy the enchanting scenery that surrounds you while you soothe your soul with live jazz at the Jazz at the Mansion Concert Series, which takes place at the Bellamy Mansion Museum. The concert series, held on the second Thursday of every month between May and September, invites listeners to relax on their blankets and chairs while enjoying a glass of wine or beer and their favorite snack.

Downtown galleries, studios and art spaces open their doors to the public in an after-hours celebration of art and culture during Fourth Friday Gallery Nights. At your own pace, view exhibitions of various mediums including oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, metals, ceramics, music, mixed media and more. Many galleries invite their featured artists to attend the event and discuss their craft with patrons. Maps are available at all participating locations, including the Arts Council of Wilmington, or they can be found on the Arts Council’s website.

Wilmington's largest downtown arts festival, Orange Street ArtsFest invites visitors to explore oil and watercolor paintings, pottery, jewelry, wood, glass and paper creations from more than 80 artists from across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. The event also offers live entertainment, old-fashioned fair food and a wine and beer tent. Don’t miss out on "A Jewel of a Show!” 

The Museum School at the Cameron Art Museum provides adult art education including a range of beginner and masterclasses. Participate in adult studio classes that invite you to learn how to create a variety of work from sculptures to classical and contemporary paintings and more. No weekend plans? Head to the CAM for a weekend workshop where you can learn everything from how to create your own pottery to origami, photography and a variety of painting styles.

“Namaste” while you soak up history, the Cape Fear River and downtown views with an all-level yoga class aboard the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA.

Museums

Visit North Carolina’s first history museum, the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science. From educational programs for children and families to a 20-foot-tall giant ground sloth exhibit, there is something for everyone to explore and learn at this museum. Step back in time and discover how life along the Cape Fear River has changed since Native American times with the Cape Fear Stories Exhibit or peruse one of the Smithsonian-affiliate museum’s featured exhibits.

To get in touch with your creative side, celebrate the visual and performing arts at the Cameron Art Museum. Visitors can learn art history, tour one of CAM’s numerous exhibitions, outdoor artwork sculptures or participate in events including concerts from local artists or talks with art experts. While on tour, stop by for a bite at the CAM café.

The Wilmington Railroad Museum is a “can’t miss” attraction for rail enthusiasts, offering an exceptional collection of train displays along with educational opportunities and tons of fun. Discover over 20 operating model trains, model layouts, a life-size caboose and a 100-year-old steam engine. Visitors can even build their own railroad!

Theaters

Visit one of the oldest, most beautiful theaters in the country, Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts. A converted city hall and the only surviving theatre designed by John Montague Trimble, one of America's foremost 19th-century theatre architects, the venue hosts 500 performances each year and weekly behind-the-scenes tours featuring the stories and history of Thalian Hall.

Wilmington is home to the largest and most technologically advanced performance center in Eastern North Carolina, The Wilson Center. Spend an entertaining evening taking in a Broadway show, symphony or concert at this impressive venue. The center has played host to The Beach Boys, The Wilmington Symphony and Tony-award winning musicals including Fiddler on the Roof and Evita.

Kenan Auditorium at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is home to more than 170 musical, theatrical and dance performances throughout the year. Spend an evening attending a university production, internationally-acclaimed performance or local event at the largest performing arts venue on the UNCW campus.

For an intimate theater experience, venture to Cape Fear Playhouse. The 50-seat black box theatre located in the heart of the Castle Street Arts & Antique District works with Big Dawg Productions to produce a lineup of thought-provoking and socially responsible theater.