Expand Your Horizons

A new year is the perfect time to stray off course and find new experiences. Thanks to the numerous days of coastal sunshine year-round, it’s a great time to get outside for outdoor adventures offering visitors rejuvenation and relaxation wherever they go. New things to do, including traveling museum exhibitions, self-guided tours and fresh dishes served at area restaurants during restaurant week make it easy for solo travelers, couples or quarantine pals looking to escape cabin fever to get away from it all and discover something new in Wilmington and at our island beaches.

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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 required 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.

Up your Wellness Game

Getting active while on vacation has never been easier thanks to a variety of wellness activities and outdoor adventures. Bring your clubs and tee off at one of Wilmington’s golf courses. Experience Japanese maples, a water garden with hundreds of colorful Koi and an authentic tea house at the New Hanover County Arboretum. With 67 acres to explore, visit Airlie Gardens to find formal gardens, wildlife, 10 acres of lakes and the gargantuan Airlie Oak dating back to 1545. Home to over 200 bird species, you can also grab your binoculars for a guided bird hike through the gardens.  Explore Greenfield Park on foot and take in water views along the nearly five-mile trail or rent a kayak to explore by water.  

At our nearby island beaches, enjoy a winter hike at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area or Carolina Beach State Park, both part of the North Carolina State Parks system. Take a kayak excursion or a paddle adventure to explore the local waterways, or stay on dry land and take a walk or jog along the Island Greenway in Carolina Beach or The Loop in Wrightsville Beach. Rent a bike to pedal along the River to Sea Bikeway, a 10-mile route that stretches from Wrightsville Beach to Historic Downtown Wilmington. 

Journey Off Course

Take your getaway to the next level with immersive tours. Discover what life in Wilmington was like during the colonial and Victorian eras with a walking tour through historic downtown with Tour Old Wilmington. Or, experience the pace of days gone by during a horse-drawn carriage tour of the 230-plus-block National Register Historic District with Springbrook Farms. Thanks to mild temperatures, you can still board water tours or book a private charter to check out surrounding island waters. Choose from historic and eco-tours to explore the area’s waterways or relax on a sunset cruise overlooking the beautiful Cape Fear River. 

Coastal Museums and Attractions

Enjoy the new exhibit Otters on the Edge at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, where a new fur family of four Asian small-clawed otters can be viewed in their freshwater conservatory. Dive into the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science's new exhibition H20 Today, examining the diversity and challenges of global water sources through art, science and technology. View over 134 modernist prints in the Eye Learns exhibit on display through Feb. 14 that include original artworks from leading artists who shaped the course of visual art in the 20th century at the Cameron Art Museum, and enjoy locally sourced and inspired North Carolina fare during lunch at the on-site CAM Cafe.

Historic Roots Run Deep

In 2020, 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. 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 both indoors and 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.

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 Victorian examples of architecture on a new self-guided audio tour of the restored 10,000-square-foot house and re-created grounds at Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design.

Flavors to Savor

Wilmington and our beaches’ dining scene has evolved with a focus on safety, featuring no-contact ordering options and unique curbside pickup. Taste around town during Port City Taste, Wilmington's restaurant week. Taking place Jan. 25 – Feb. 7, choose from pre-fixe menus from more than 25 local eateries offering both dine-in or to-go meals. 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.” Head to midtown to indulge in award-winning coastal creations to-go from "Top Chef" contestant Keith Rhodes at Catch. Savor fresh flavors of the sea with marina-side meals-to-go from 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.

Find the Perfect Rates & Places to Stay

Soundside, beachside or riverside views and off-season deals on stays offer the perfect incentives to plan an escape. Take advantage of amenities at full-service hotels and resorts like farm-and sea-to-table restaurants or stay oceanfront with a view of seasonal 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 and look for weekday stays (Sunday – Thursday) for the best savings. Plan ahead now for spring and summer travel as vacation rentals are in high demand.