Visit Wilmington and Its Island Beaches
Day 1: Historic Wilmington
An inspiring place to start is Battleship North Carolina. Walk the nine decks of the restored World War II battleship, and see the crew quarters, engine rooms and museum.
Next, head to the Burgwin Wright House & Gardens. This beautifully restored Georgian-style home is decorated with 18th- and early 19th-century furnishings and graced by lovely gardens. Demonstrations are held in a colonial kitchen building, and you’ll find re-enactments in the 18th-century jail.
Have lunch at a waterfront restaurant or one of many eateries in downtown Wilmington. Spend the afternoon with Tour Old Wilmington, exploring the city’s historic district and learning what life was like there in the mid-to-late 1800s.
Next, stop in at the Cape Fear Museum, North Carolina’s oldest history museum. The museum features a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts that showcase the history, science and culture of the state's southern coast.
Day 2: Sightseeing by Carriage, Boat and Foot
Start the day with a Carriage and Horse Drawn Trolley Tour. Narrated by a costumed driver, this is a ride that will take you back to a time when the pace of life was much slower.
Head for downtown Wilmington to browse antique and apparel shops, as well as art galleries. Enjoy an afternoon sightseeing cruise along the Cape Fear River, where you'll learn about the history of the area, marine and animal life, and fun facts on movies filmed there. But if you'd rather cruise the waters in the evening, the riverboat operator offers sunset cruises Wednesday to Sunday.
The Cameron Art Museum is a 42,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that features North Carolina and American art from the 18th century to today. The 9.6-acre campus also features a historic Civil War site, changing exhibitions, museum shop and cafe.
This evening, sign on for the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, an enchanting 90-minute tour through the streets and alleyways of downtown. A costumed guide will introduce you to a host of lost souls to who still haunt this charming city.
Day 3: Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach
At the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, journey from freshwater rivers and swamps to coastal waters and into the open ocean beyond. Walk through the half-acre glass-covered conservatory with alligators, catfish and more. Marvel at the 250,000-gallon marine exhibit with views of sharks, eels and barracudas.
Before its January 1865 fall, Fort Fisher protected blockade-runners en route to Wilmington. It was the largest earthen fort in the South. Tour the trail at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Civil War Museum, view a presentation about the history of the fort, and check out the view from the oceanfront overlook and revetment.
At Carolina Beach State Park, wind your way through habitats along nature trails with more than 50 species of trees, shrubs and plants, including the Venus flytrap, a rare carnivorous plant indigenous to this area of North Carolina.
Day 4: Greenfield Park and Airlie Gardens
Revel in the scenery at Greenfield Lake Park & Gardens. A 5-mile scenic drive surrounds this 200-acre city park with a lake, 20 acres of gardens, nature trail, and walking and biking loop through Spanish moss-draped cypress trees.
After lunch, head to Airlie Gardens, a historic area encompassing 67 acres of beautiful Gilded Age gardens with 10 acres of freshwater lakes. Admire the azaleas and hog the shade of the Airlie Oak, which dates back to 1545. Then wander the New Hanover County Extension Service Arboretum with 4,000 species of native plants and a Japanese Tea House Gazebo.
Day 5: Trains and Waterslides
Begin your day at the Wilmington Railroad Museum, where an eclectic collection of displays tell the history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the history of railroading in the Southeastern U.S. Kids will enjoy the trains in the Children's Hall, the life-size caboose and the model train display holding the Guinness World Record for Longest Model Train.
Next, it’s on to a complete family entertainment center, the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. The park offers everything from waterslides and a wave pool to Grand Prix go-carts, jungle miniature golf, laser-tag, arcade and more. The Big Splash Cafe serves lunch.