Spring Renewal and Coastal Family Fun

From old traditions to newly sparked interests, there are countless ways to stray off course in Wilmington and our Island Beaches. Experience a spring renewal and savor river breezes while exploring the Historic District and brick-lined streets of downtown, then dine al fresco at one of our many cafes lining the Riverwalk and main streets. Celebrate and participate in craft culture of a different kind hopping on a brew bus and exploring the Wilmington Ale Trail or make a weekend of it during the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival. See the Battleship or the North Carolina Aquarium like never before on a behind-the-scenes tour and let spring take flight with the return of the Lorikeet Landing Exhibit. Experience spring break on our island beaches including a fresh food scene and signature events like the Carolina Beach Music Festival. Whatever your path, enjoy your twin journeys from the river to the sea all spring long.



Countdown to Summer

Plan now for a summer full of family fun with our roundup of 99 days of summer. Celebrate the unofficial start of the summer season with Memorial Day events and activities where warm weather and water views prompt a summer state of mind. Step back in time aboard the Santa Maria, a replica of Christopher Columbus' ship, May 10-19 and take a self-guided tour of the four decks to see what life was like for Spanish sailors over 500 years ago. Have a spirited weekend, May 17-19, at the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival. Get your derby attire ready for Friday night's Southern Smoke BBQ Cocktail Party and sample fine vino and regional fare at Saturday's Corks & Forks Grand Tasting showcasing selections from over a dozen area restaurants and 150 worldwide wine distributors. Bring the whole family for Sunday's Bubbles, Brews and Street Eats to enjoy live music, local breweries, food trucks on-site and plenty of bubbly. Grab wine or beer, enjoy live entertainment and explore the charm of historic downtown during the Orange Street ArtsFest, May 25-26, featuring 80 artists from across the southeast displaying painting, pottery, jewelry, wood, glass and accompanied by old-fashioned fair food. Between a beautiful waterfront, 230-block National Register Historic District and access to three island beaches, see for yourself why the readers of Southern Living magazine voted Wilmington one of the "South's Best Cities." 

Island Time

Trade city vibes for island time with a visit to our three island beaches, each possessing their own personality and things to do. Fins and feathers flock together during the Lorikeet Landing Exhibit, running through Sept 30, at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, where you can interact with colorful, exotic birds as they whisp around your head and eat from your hand. Get active on the water at Wrightsville Beach and dive in or cheer from the shore during the Stoked To Go Out Pier-to-Pier Swim, May 18. Witness Venus flytraps and carnivorous plants in their native habitat at Carolina Beach State Park or hike waterside. Dance barefoot in the sand to the sounds of beach music at the Carolina Beach Music Festival, June 1, one of the longest running beach music festivals still held on the beach.

Family-Friendly Getaway

Family vacations help adults find their inner kid again and kids explore and learn more. Visit with Wilmington’s oldest resident, a 200-foot-tall giant ground sloth at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science then blast off at the hands-on Space Place Exhibit where little astronauts can learn and play with a robotic arm, microscopic experiments and more. Spend time at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington with magical, hands-on exhibits. Kids can climb high in the whimsical toddler treehouse, set sail in a pirate ship, shop for dinner in the Neighborhood Market, discover the ecological surroundings of Wilmington and our island beaches with Sea and Me as well as more exhibits and daily activities. Say 'moo' and 'oink,' May 18 during Family Farm Day where barnyard friends like donkeys, chickens and bunnies will be in the courtyard of the Museum alongside pony rides and story time with milk and cookies. Let the little ones learn about the area's native carnivorous plants and walk along the wooden observation deck to see Venus flytraps at Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.

Tours and Tales

The stately gardens of Bellamy Mansion will be blooming with traditional heirloom plants, nodding to the creations of Mrs. Bellamy herself. Take a guided tour through the gardens, mansion and carriage house as you hear the stories of those who built the home on the eve of the Civil War. Grab a tasty cocktail or drink from the bar and enjoy live acoustic music as you cruise down the Cape Fear River hearing stories of the area's rich history featuring pirates, blockade runners and the river's importance. Go behind the scenes on the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, climb over high hatches and down steep ladders to explore un-restored parts of the ship on a Hidden Battleship Tour, May 18. Hop aboard Springbrook Farms' guided carriage tour led by rescued horses and a costumed carriage driver to peruse the 230-block National Register Historic District, hearing the stories behind Wilmington's stately mansions. Film buffs can relive Wilmington on the big screen with a 90-minute Hollywood location walk through a city that serves as one of America’s largest living film sets.

An Artistic Escape

Known as a cultural gem for our theater groups, live music clubs, galleries and art-centric events, Wilmington is the perfect place to indulge in an arts and culture getaway. Find the perfect piece of artwork at local galleries like Art in Bloom Gallery featuring paintings, drawings, jewelry, sculptures and more in a renovated 19th-century horse stable with large courtyard space or browse the eclectic Brooklyn Arts District to visit galleries and meet the artists behind the work during Fourth Fridays. Browse the interactive, A Time When Art is Everywhere Exhibit, at Cameron Art Museum where reimagined worlds are turned into digital projections, then continue into the night with live music in the CAM Cafe Thursday evenings. Celebrate natural beauty and take home fresh finds at the Riverfront Farmers' Market every Saturday in the historic downtown river district. Watch a concert lakeside at Hugh Morton Amphitheater at Greenfield Lake Park and see acts like Rodrigo Y Gabriela, June 4.

Dine Outdoors

Spring is the perfect time to take advantage of Wilmington's many options to dine al fresco. Savor river breezes, enjoy oysters Rockefeller and take in panoramic Cape Fear River views from the large outdoor deck of Elijah's Restaurant. Sip cocktails on a rooftop bar at Cloud 9 while savoring fresh seafood, jerk wings and lobster rolls. Dine al fresco with Cape Fear River views and a delicious mix of seafood and BBQ at Smoke on the Water. Experience dining island style nearby at Carolina Beach where ocean views are accompanied by BBQ and a cold one on the topside deck at Carolina Smokehouse, savor the Caribbean inspired dishes at Jack Mackerel's Island Grill in Kure Beach or enjoy dinner and drinks beside the Intracoastal Waterway at Dockside Restaurant near Wrightsville Beach.

Find the perfect place to stay

Reserve a suite at full-service hotels and resorts and take advantage of amenities like a rooftop bar and oceanfront gardens. Boutique area hotels offer a curated experience along the Wilmington Riverwalk or Historic District where area shopping and nightlife and are just steps from the front door. Downtime after last year's storm allowed for upgraded and modernized hotels and vacation rentals at our island beaches. From historic bed and breakfasts and modern full-service hotels to oceanfront vacation rentals, you'll find accommodations for every vacation and budget. Book now as spring and summer rentals go quickly.