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Wilmington, NC Travel Guide

USA

Best Things To Do in Wilmington, NC

The best things to do in Wilmington tend to revolve around the city's history and its waterways. For instance, this region – which was discovered by Giovanni da Verrazzano back in 1524 – boasts enough historical attractions to fill an entire vacation: from the 200-some block Historic District, which contains treasures like the Bellamy House, to the Battleship North Carolina, which was deployed during World War II. But the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River are worth exploring too, and these are best enjoyed at Wrightsville Beach or via a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Wilmington, NC

Free
No trip to Wilmington is complete without a stroll along its mile-long Riverwalk. This wooden boardwalk that borders Cape Fear River is lined with popular restaurants and bars – and punctuated by stools and benches that are perfect for taking a break and taking in the scene. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Riverwalk
No trip to Wilmington is complete without a stroll along its mile-long Riverwalk. This wooden boardwalk that borders Cape Fear River is lined with popular restaurants and bars – and punctuated by stools and benches that are perfect for taking a break and taking in the scene. 
... more

#2

#2 in Wilmington, NC

Free
The 230-plus blocks that comprise Wilmington's historic district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and they contain everything from mansions to museums, as well as a host of restaurants and shops. One of the best ways to see the district's highlights is via a guided tour. Some traveler-approved operators include Haunted Wilmington and Wilmington Trolley Company. But you can also download the Wilmington.tours app to your smartphone, which includes four tours, including one with a pub crawl theme and another with a Civil War slant, if you'd rather take a self-guided tour. 
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Historic Homes/Mansions Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Historic District
The 230-plus blocks that comprise Wilmington's historic district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and they contain everything from mansions to museums, as well as a host of restaurants and shops. One of the best ways to see the district's highlights is via a guided tour. Some traveler-approved operators include Haunted Wilmington and Wilmington Trolley Company. But you can also download the Wilmington.tours app to your smartphone, which includes four tours, including one with a pub crawl theme and another with a Civil War slant, if you'd rather take a self-guided tour. 
... more

#3

#3 in Wilmington, NC

Free
Wrightsville Beach is located just 10 miles east of the Historic District, and it receives high praise for its wide ribbon of sand, which is easily accessible and lined by hotels, vacation homes, restaurants, bars and shops. There are even restrooms and showers at several beach-access points. Since the beach is situated several dozen miles from the Gulf Stream, it offers travelers warmer, almost transparent waters. 
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach is located just 10 miles east of the Historic District, and it receives high praise for its wide ribbon of sand, which is easily accessible and lined by hotels, vacation homes, restaurants, bars and shops. There are even restrooms and showers at several beach-access points. Since the beach is situated several dozen miles from the Gulf Stream, it offers travelers warmer, almost transparent waters. 
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#4

#4 in Wilmington, NC

Wilmington's 67-acre Airlie Gardens are enchanting. Not only do the gardens feature the flora and fauna native to this corner of North Carolina, they also contain a butterfly house and a tangle of footpaths ideal for a walk through the woods. Plus, a roster of special events further adds to Airlie's allure: For instance, in December, the gardens host a monthlong festival of lights; in the summer, there are concerts every other Friday. 
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Airlie Gardens
Wilmington's 67-acre Airlie Gardens are enchanting. Not only do the gardens feature the flora and fauna native to this corner of North Carolina, they also contain a butterfly house and a tangle of footpaths ideal for a walk through the woods. Plus, a roster of special events further adds to Airlie's allure: For instance, in December, the gardens host a monthlong festival of lights; in the summer, there are concerts every other Friday. 
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#5

#5 in Wilmington, NC

Back when Battleship North Carolina was commissioned in 1941, the ship was thought of as "the world's greatest sea weapon," and it turned out to be just that by participating in more than a dozen offensives in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and was going to be sent for scrap metal but North Carolinians petitioned for the ship to be preserved as a museum – and in 1962, it was dedicated as just that. Today, visitors can tour the ship, all the while learning about the history of its veterans. 
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Battleship North Carolina
Back when Battleship North Carolina was commissioned in 1941, the ship was thought of as "the world's greatest sea weapon," and it turned out to be just that by participating in more than a dozen offensives in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and was going to be sent for scrap metal but North Carolinians petitioned for the ship to be preserved as a museum – and in 1962, it was dedicated as just that. Today, visitors can tour the ship, all the while learning about the history of its veterans. 
... more

#6

#6 in Wilmington, NC

This gorgeous 1800s Greek Revival mansion housed the Bellamy family, from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The property contains 22 rooms, gorgeous gardens and restored slave quarters – and today, knowledgeable tour guides give guests both a history of the family and of the architecture.
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Historic Homes/Mansions Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Bellamy Mansion Museum
This gorgeous 1800s Greek Revival mansion housed the Bellamy family, from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The property contains 22 rooms, gorgeous gardens and restored slave quarters – and today, knowledgeable tour guides give guests both a history of the family and of the architecture.
... more
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