Fall is the New Summer in Wilmington, NC

Coastal Splendor. Still on Deck.

In Wilmington, NC and Island Beaches, outdoor adventures and sunny days carry on well into fall. With our premier parks and gardens, beautiful beaches and many nature-related activities to choose from, visitors find rejuvenation and relaxation wherever they go. Seasonal activities, self-guided tours, water experiences and alfresco or takeout dining make it easy to get away from it all. Experience fall at the coast to enjoy continued warm weather, less crowds, off-season rates and all the outdoor activities the Wilmington area is famous for well beyond summer. Whether it’s a sunrise over the ocean or stroll along the waterfront, Wilmington and our beaches – Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville – are ready for whatever brings you happiness.

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What to Expect When Visiting

Thank you for trusting us with your care and safety as you travel to the area. We encourage you to travel and enjoy responsibly by practicing social distancing, wearing masks and following other guidelines for your safety. With safety concerns top of mind for travelers, many lodging properties are following enhanced safety guidelines provided by corporate offices, as well as guidance from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, U.S. Travel Association, and the CDC that are designed to provide consistent cleaning safety standards. A statewide “Count on Me NC” program with the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, Visit NC, and N.C. State University provides specific guidance and training to local restaurants, hotels, and other public-facing businesses on best practices. Find a map and list here of businesses who have completed "Count on Me NC" training. Please find on-going COVID travel updates here.

Find the Perfect Rates & Places to Stay

Whether you’re families needing a break from in-home learning or couples and quarantine pals looking to escape cabin fever, there are plenty of spacious vacation rentals, full-service hotels and resorts, boutique inns and cozy bed & breakfasts to choose from. Soundside, beachside or riverside views and off-season deals on stays offer the perfect incentives to book your fall escape now. Be in the center of it all while taking in Historic Downtown Wilmington’s attractions, boutique shops and cafes lining the two-mile scenic Riverwalk. Take advantage of amenities at full-service hotels and resorts like a rooftop bar, farm-and sea-to-table restaurants or stay oceanfront and play cornhole in plush gardens. Boutique hotels and B&Bs offer a curated experience in the Historic District. Feel at home while on vacation with beach home or condo rentals at our island beaches. Our lodging options are upholding cleaning and safety standards that will help you find comfort and peace of mind, no matter where you stay. Check out lodging partner websites directly to discover off-season rates when booking for fall and look for weekday stays (Sunday – Thursday) for the best savings.

Cool Escape. Same Warm Waves.

Adventure doesn't end with the summer season at our island beaches. With warm water and mild temperatures well into the fall—plus plenty of extra room without peak season crowds—fall visitors can expect to experience a variety of outdoor activities and beachside fun still in season. Rent kayaks, paddleboards and bicycles from area outfitters. Embark on an eco-adventure at Wrightsville Beach by way of water aboard a catamaran or head to barrier islands like Masonboro Island or Zeke’s Island for a fun day of bird watching and shell collecting. You can still catch a wave or learn from the pros in surf school at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina’s birthplace of surfing with WB Surf Camp or Indo Jax Surf School or take a surf lesson in Carolina Beach with Odysea Surf School or with an Olympic gold medal winner at Tony Silvagni Surf School. Rent standup paddleboards and paddle calm waters through salt marshes along the Intracoastal Waterway or take a guided SUP tour through Paddle NC or Wrightsville SUP. Kure Beach is the perfect fall retreat and was named one of 11 Secret Beaches Perfect for Social Distancing on the East Coast. Rent a Jeep from SunFun Rentals and head out on the secluded four-wheel-drive access beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.

Less Crowds. More Breathing Room.

Explore the wide variety of open spaces and nature found in our many parks and gardens as shades of a fall coastal landscape set in. Choose from nearly nine miles of trails at Carolina Beach State Park that wander along the water and through the long-leaf pines. Kure Beach’s Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is the perfect short nature walk for all fitness levels, or walk or jog along the Wrightsville Beach Loop featuring scenic sound, channel and town views. Grab your binoculars and zoom lenses to spy feathered friends in our area along NC’s Birding Trail, including the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wrightsville Beach and Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington to see a variety of Plover, Ibis, Heron, Pelican and many more bird species. Find breathtaking blooms as you explore seven acres of scenic greenery including a koi fish water garden and Japanese tranquility garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum. Stroll the many walking paths within the 67 acres of Airlie Gardens, one of the South's premiere gardens. Now through November, look for Airlie Squirrels! the art exhibition, featuring larger-than-life squirrels decorated by local artists on display throughout the grounds. After the trail adventures, head downtown for ales on a self-guided tasting tour along the Wilmington Ale Trail or dig into coastal fare still in season on one of our many outdoor patios. Take in a river sunset as you stroll along the Wilmington Riverwalk to end the day. We’re ready for whatever helps you discover new paths.

Alfresco Dining

When the fresh-food cravings hit, head to Wilmington's alfresco dining scene, Downtown Alive. Downtown's sidewalk cafés and parklets are available to safely serve customers and allow diners to enjoy our restaurants responsibly. Catch the energy of our downtown main streets during Downtown Alive while enjoying comfort food and unique grilled cheese flavors from Crust Kitchen and Cocktails or savor tapas from Circa 1922. Enjoy outdoor dining at PinPoint Restaurant where the menu features local seasonal offerings from Wilmington’s farmers, fishermen, oystermen, and crabbers. Advance reservations with participating restaurants are encouraged. If waterside dining is more your style, venture to the Riverwalk to enjoy the spectacular river views and fresh seafood at The George on the Riverwalk, Elijah's Restaurant or Pilot House Restaurant. Check out new restaurants like Quanto Basta featuring a private outdoor courtyard and carefully curated Italian menu and experience the true Italian meaning of quanto basta—“as much as you like; as much as you need,” or head to the riverfront to Floriana for balcony dining serving coastal dishes in a historic building.

Flavors to Savor

Wilmington and our beaches’ dining scene has evolved with a focus on safety, featuring new no-contact ordering options and unique curbside pickup. Head to Midtown to indulge in award-winning coastal creations to-go from "Top Chef" contestant Keith Rhodes at Catch. Order a fresh oyster steamer pot to share while taking in tranquil river views dining outdoors at Smoke on the Water. Enjoy certified Angus Beef burgers, Ahi Tuna and Crab Dip at JohnnyLukes KitchenBar, offering visitors with mobile phones a contactless menu and takeout service. Savor fresh flavors of the sea with marina-side meals-to-go from Dockside Restaurant and Bluewater Waterfront Grill in Wrightsville Beach or Stoked Restaurant in Carolina Beach. Jack Mackerel's Island Grill in Kure Beach features Calabash platters and local softshell crab sandwiches packaged to go. Order a customizable seafood steam pot to-go from Topsail Steamer or Cape Fear Boil Company. These ready-to-boil meals are perfect for a family night in at the vacation rental. 

Museums and Attractions Reopen

Many of the area's attractions and museums are open again after a summer hiatus. Indoor and outdoor spaces filled with art, history and seasonal blooms make experiencing the culture of the city and island beaches delightful in fall. Museum homes take you on a journey through Wilmington's storied history. Explore the Georgian architecture of the circa 1770 residence graced by Colonial style gardens at the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens, see the Victorian-era Latimer House Museum featuring over 600 historic objects including furniture and jewelry, then experience one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture in the restored 10,000-square-foot house and re-created grounds at Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design. Embark on a self-guided tour of Wilmington's African American Heritage and discover critical religious, educational, social and cultural sites. Download the map and brochure to begin your tour of more than 35 historically important locations. Download the Wilmington History Tours mobile app and explore downtown’s National Register Historic District with 230-plus blocks of historic homes and buildings. The app includes five different tours, so choose your adventure and explore at your own pace. 

Celebrate visual arts at the Cameron Art Museum (CAM) with three brand new exhibitions, explore the outdoor park and works including a historic Civil War Site. Enjoy locally sourced and inspired North Carolina fare during lunch at the CAM cafe.

Wilmington became the first city in the country to be designated as a ‘‘World War II Heritage City’’ to commemorate 75 years since the war ended. One of the city’s most iconic WWII relics, the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is moored across the river from downtown Wilmington. Exhibits at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science interpret Wilmington’s role during World War II, and other popular exhibits include the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery and Space Place. The Wilmington Railroad Museum also interprets Wilmington’s role during World War II and is a can’t-miss attraction for rail enthusiasts and history lovers alike with scale models and rail exhibits indoors with a life-size caboose and a 100-year-old steam engine on display outdoors. Nearby, visitors can walk the grounds of Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, where WWII soldiers were trained, and see the remains of the South’s largest earthen fort surrounded by live oaks with peaceful ocean and river views.
 
Experience a beach cottage and island life as it was in the 1930s at Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, then walk the outdoor Loop Through History to learn more about the island through seasonal signage posted along the 2.5-mile fitness trail. Enjoy an under-the-sea experience at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, then get outside to explore the aquarium's gardens, pond and birding deck.