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What to Do in Wilmington, NC

by Libby ThompsonMar 21, 2023
What to Do in Wilmington, NC

Visitors to Wilmington, NC are never short of things to do. Its charming riverside districts and idyllic beaches beckon nature lovers from all walks of life, while its countless museums and historic sites showcase its deep roots dating back to pre-colonial events. There are also pristine gardens and cultural city attractions, and the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River come together to provide endless water sports opportunities. No matter what type of traveler you are, read on for just a few ideas of what to do in Wilmington, NC.

1. Take a Tour of Battleship North Carolina

Whether or not you’re into military history, an answer to the inquiry of what to do in Wilmington, NC will always include the suggestion to check out the USS North Carolina. Once considered the “greatest sea weapon in the world,” this vessel is as tall as a 15-story building and as long as two city blocks. Constructed in 1941, the USS North Carolina saw battle during WWII and carried over 2,000 men aboard.

This battleship plays host to various events throughout the year, and visitors can take an in-depth tour of the gigantic vessel. Take the chance to explore below deck to witness the details of life aboard this massive battleship. Kids love exploring the engine room, seeing sailors’ bunks firsthand, and strategizing in the Combat Information Center. Conveniently located across from downtown Wilmington, this attraction is a must-see.

2. Go Beach-Hopping

One of the best answers for what to do in Wilmington, NC? Check out the local beaches! Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach all make excellent options if you’re looking to bury your toes in the sand. Whether you love to kayak, fish, play in the waves, or bask in the sun, these destinations will fill your cup and provide a gorgeous backdrop for seaside activities. Be on the lookout for events and special happenings at the area’s beaches!

3. Visit Local Museums

If you’re wondering what to do in Wilmington, NC with your history buff friends or the family member who’s always yearning for learning, look no further than the vast array of museums and historic sites. Dig into the history of the Atlantic Coast Railroad at the Wilmington Railroad Museum, or wander through the abundant collections at Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.

Architecture enthusiasts enjoy the Bellamy Mansion Museum, known for its 25-foot-tall Corinthian columns and ornate features as well as its antebellum history. Plus, art museums and local galleries are easy to stumble upon. There are museums and historic sites for every interest in charming Wilmington, NC.

4. Explore the Gardens

This activity tops the list of what to do in Wilmington, NC for botany enthusiasts. Airlie Gardens offers a lush and colorful retreat from the bustle of the city and the beaches. With a butterfly house, formal gardens, over 60,000 tulips, and stunning structures, this attraction is both peaceful and breathtaking. The namesake Airlie Oak is over 400-years-old and stands adorned with beautiful Spanish moss.

A visit to the New Hanover County Arboretum is a free and conveniently located opportunity to explore even more flora. Seven picturesque acres encapsulate creative flower displays, a vegetable garden, a Koi pond, and more. Snap photos of the lovely red bridge in the Japanese Garden, or pack a picnic and relish the fresh air.

5. Plan a Boat Day

Look to the locals for what to do in Wilmington, NC: get out on the water! Whether you rent a boat, bring your own watercraft, or hop on a boat tour departing from the Riverwalk, boating can help you gain access to even more Wilmington attractions.

For example, Masonboro Island Reserve is only accessible by boat or ferry. This undisturbed barrier island is home to sea turtles, birds, and fragile tidal creek ecosystems.

6. Stroll the Riverwalk and Historic Downtown

The best way to get familiar with a new city is to go for a stroll. The Wilmington Riverwalk overlooks Cape Fear River and often features local events like farmers markets. Pop into shops and restaurants on this one-mile stretch, and use this activity as a jumping-off point to explore the nearby downtown area or tour the USS North Carolina.

Historic Downtown flaunts antique shops, delicious cuisine, romantic architecture, and tidy town squares. Enjoy the brightly-painted homes and the Southern charm evident on every street! If meandering through town isn’t your style, join a walking tour for a deeper dive into the area’s history and architecture.

Where to Stay

Finding the right place to stay during your visit to Wilmington can enhance your overall experience. From serene glamping grounds to scenic pull-through sites, select accommodations that will allow you to make the most of each day of travel. 

1. Lake Town Glamping

RVs parked on grass in North Carolina

Whether you choose to drive your own RV to this convenient campground or you select an amenities-packed glamping RV, a stay at Lake Town Glamping promises relaxation and ultimate comfort. Glamping RVs come equipped with a private bathroom, air conditioning, a fire pit, and more. Enjoy the water by kayaking or canoeing right on the grounds, and bask in the lush greenery of North Carolina.

2. Silver Sands RV Park 

aerial view of RV campground in Wilmington, NC

An ideal location for beach lovers, Silver Sands RV Park combines the serenity of nature with the convenience of an easily-accessed location. This pet-friendly oasis features gorgeous views of the surrounding area and very short commutes to beaches, shopping, and more. Each site features hook-ups for sewer and water, and a wide variety of equipment types are allowed.

From fun in the sun to relaxation by the river, Wilmington, NC bursts with life and activity. Friend groups, couples, families, and solo adventurers never run out of things to do in this vibrant city. Book your stay today!

Libby Thompson is a freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado. Having grown up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, hiking and camping have been cornerstones of her life since childhood. Rain, snow, or shine, you can usually find her outdoors on a paddle board, a hiking trail, or a pair of skis. Libby can be reached via email at

Image credits in order of appearance: Adobe Stock – Bennekom, Lake Town Glamping, Silver Sands RV Park