You’ve said you could do your marketing on your own…
how has that turned out?
I’ll just go ahead and say it. I was very surprised by Wilmington, NC. We’ve passed by on our way to other beaches along the coast and thought, at most, ‘Oh, the battleship would be cool to visit. The waterfront looks cute.‘ Friends had told us we needed to go for a weekend and so many others shared online how it was their favorite….that and it being under a two-hour drive for us?
Alright, let’s go.
By the way this coast gets rocked by hurricanes every year and the damage can be devastating. If you’re looking to aid in relief efforts please do so here.
We visited Wilmington Labor Day weekend 2019. This meant we had a Friday to Monday four-day weekend to enjoy ourselves in what turned out to be the foodie and craft beer social scene of the region.
Downtown is home to about 880 businesses, 10,800 workers, and 2,100 residents. As a hospitality and tourism center, Wilmington also boasts an amazing 1.75-mile long riverwalk, hotels, convention and meeting space, museums, cultural facilities and one of the largest historic districts in the County.- Source
There are also 33 colleges within 100 miles of Wilmington but two of the closest are University of NC Wilmington and Cape Fear CC. When we visited it was also Pride Weekend which took us by surprise in an area that was full of historic southern buildings but buzzing and decorated as if we were back in Portland or Seattle.
Where To Stay
Front Street is where it’s at. If you’re within walking distance here you’re in great shape. Our Airbnb was not only the ideal location (seriously we plan on staying here for any future visits) but it was also the most affordable option over the holiday weekend. Having a parking space is always important to us on trips where we drive down.
This unique space was carved from a former Livery stable, built in 1914. It has a back alley parking spot available, a door code to a gated entrance and another door code for your room access. You are on block from the river and next door to numerous bars and fantastic foodie spots.
- Here is the link to the best decorated studio apartment rental we’ve ever stayed in. You can also find it online by searching #
- Not a member of Airbnb? I can hook you up with some discounts to join here.
Where To Eat
Front Street Brewery. This is a must; so much so that we went here twice and will definitely return. Order their famous Pulled Chicken Nachos-they sell 57,000 of their nachos every year!
Their wings are also great as are the burgers, beer flights and….well, yeah, anything you order. I usually find at least one beer at a brewery I don’t enjoy but I had a variety of taps and loved each of them.
The Copper Penny. This is another must. Out of at least six places in this town that DDD visited, this did not disappoint!
Also like a majority of places here (especially over a holiday weekend) you won’t be able to reserve a spot so expect around an hour wait. No need to fear; Pour Taproom I mentioned above is a few steps away. Once you’re in, you need their onion rings, no question. I had the featured 109 Chestnut Chicken Sandwich and my husband had a (huge) burger. These make great late-night snacks, too, so try it all and box it up!
Another weird thing to mention…for some reason all of the bread in this area was fantastic.
This would be great for brunch, lunch or dinner…just make sure you stop in! Their crab bread was alright and the hot chicken sandwich was huge (as were all their burgers) but not too hot. When Guy visited he had highlighted the Duck Burger, Bacon Waffles, Texas Poutine Fries…not sure you could go wrong.
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar. They specialize in Fresh Steamed and Raw Seafood (Oysters, Shrimp, Clams, Crab Legs, Mussells).
They were also voted Best Wings in Carolina Beach, N.C. The cocktail drinks are strong like you’re in a beach shack. This restaurant has a deck out back with views of the river a block away. You’ll be able to catch a sunset while you enjoy your dinner date.
The George on the Riverwalk. Not only can you dock and dine here but it’s a gorgeous and comfortable place to enjoy brunch. Start off with the perfectly fried Gator Bites then enjoy a sweeter take on Chicken and Waffles or their Breakfast Sandwich.
The best part? It’s a block down from the Airbnb and right next to the water taxis that can roundtrip you to the USS North Carolina. *This could be a cool experience but it’s likely cheaper you drive yourself or Uber.
The Dixie Grill is a Wilmington staple and voted Wilmington’s Best Breakfast. Apparently this was also featured on One Tree Hill but more on that below. We stopped by on a Sunday at 11 and were quoted a 20 minute wait.
It felt like a bit longer than that but you can try scratch-made, diner classic, filling breakfast. I wouldn’t say it’s out-of-this-world incredible but it is worth going while in Wilmington. We had their Roasted Turkey Bacon Wrap and Breakfast Burrito which were both flavorful and the home fries were great!
Where To Drink
KGB ILM. This underground lounge has some of the best, most refreshing cocktails I’ve had in a while (aside from Canada…which sounded way more pretentious than I hoped for). Try the Pretty Pretty Princess, La Playa or Abandon Ship for something unique; otherwise their Summer Mule will give you a nice take on a classic beverage.
Husk. During Pride this place was decked out. Even better? It is across the street from your Airbnb as well as the Duck Dive Bar and New Anthem Brewing Co. (We didn’t stop in this trip but plan to next trip.)
Rebellion NC. This Whiskey Rebellion venue has drinks other than whiskey if you’re not a fan of the distilled spirit. Beside an extensive (obviously) whiskey and bourbon list the cocktails are made well. I had The Resistance and my husband has Congress Hall.
If you’re not already familiar with Untappd, founded in Wilmington, it’s a check-in, rate and review others opinions on beers. It’s helpful when exploring different locations and breweries and you get the chance to earn badges. I’ve wanted to work for them but right now they’re only offering local positions and it’s too far away for that daily drive.
Pour Taproom. I expect places like this to get vastly more popular now that the technology is out.
You check-in with your card info and an ID, grab a glass and pour however much you want of whatever you want from their 72 beers on tap (as well as prosecco and wine.) When I’m writing this there are ten locations showcasing local beers in their unique self-serve taprooms. Very cool to try out!
Wilmington Brewing Company. On your drive back into town stop at WBC. You won’t be disappointed by the coastal warehouse vibes, dog-friendly patio, game area, seating taproom area and a home-brewer’s store!
We had a great time here enjoying their brews and it was an easy, short drive home for a shower and power nap after (always the best).
Growler’s Tavern. It’s easy to miss this non-discreet entrance so look for a well-lit alley in between an apartment building and club.
Imagine a larger, and probably cleaner/nicer, college bar. You can pay to play bar/arcade games or just grab a seat. I finally got to try the Peach Wheat from Edward Teach Brewing (located near the One Tree Hill Bridge) and it was FANTASTIC! I’ve raved about the Son of a Peach beer and I would say this is more approachable in flavor and smell.
Tavern Law 1832. I was expecting a lot more from this as it was said to be one of the best nightlife locations. It definitely had new, modern renovations and a large Jenga set but overall I wouldn’t say you’re missing too much. The popular #SecondStreetMural for Wilmington is across the street for all of your picture opps!
The Reel Cafe is a place with cheap drinks, live music, karaoke, and four bars on three levels. It definitely attracts the young (possibly underage?) crowd of college kids but if you’re looking for drink specials under $5 and a fun crowd, head on over.
Want to see all the action live? Not only do I have a NC highlight with all of these inside looks but I would love to interact with you on IG! Let’s Follow Each Other Right Here.
What To Do
Every Friday in ‘Downtown Sundown’ series. We were able to catch the last one of the summer while here and it was an incredible traveling Journey cover band! Each free, family-friendly concert benefits a different organization or local charity. $1 wristbands allow you to purchase beer and wine tickets at $5/piece.
**Sorry this won’t rotate.**
USS. NORTH CAROLINA. This one will be obvious as you drive into the town but the USS North Carolina offers self-guided or guided tours on this massive retired ship.
It took the two of us about three hours to enjoy everything so this is a great morning or afternoon activity. While active, this ship carried 2,300 people. While you will get to see one of everything on the ship they did a great job of placing you back in time and staging the ship to show you how the brave Navy men who served on this ship. It is part of the Pacific Fleet which served in World War 2 and was not harmed in Pearl Harbor because it had been off the East Coast.
The Riverwalk. Casually stroll the one-mile area of boardwalk next to shops, restaurants, water tours and more. If you brought your pup or enjoy a morning run, this walk is constantly buzzing with energy and visitors.
Fort Fisher. When we headed 35 minutes out to the coast it was rainy and windy as Hurricane Dorian came in but there are plenty of indoor and outdoor things to do. Fort Fisher is a Civil war-era historic site that hosts an aquarium, surf fishing and more. They also have a four-wheel-drive beach access. We visited in July 2020 and did a full write-up on it here.
Kure Beach. A few minutes down the road from Fort Fisher is the popular Kure Beach. The town of Kure Beach is a fantastic host to locals and visitors with plenty of signs, boardwalk, a pier you can walk or fish on and numerous places to eat and drink.
If you’re looking for a place to eat or drink, we were recommend Jack Mackerels Island Grill (Still full from breakfast we just grabbed a drink but the food others ordered looked good!) or Bud and Joes Sand Bar. I believe this is across the street and not actually on the sand.
One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek and other famous filming locations. They call Wilmington “Hollywood East” because there are more than 400 film and TV credits. To this day I haven’t seen either OTH or DC (can I even abbreviate those?) but I know how popular they are. Here is a list of 23 filming locations in Wilmington you OTH fans will want to check out.
One of the only ones I sought out was the bridge at 6th Street Bridge on North Street and Hanover Street. Some other famous movies leading the way are The Conjuring, Iron Man 3, Under The Dome, and Revolution.
Kenan Plaza (big fountain in intersection) is home to another famous filming location fo Meet The Millers. Wilmington stands in for downtown Denver and you’re able to knock out several locations while walking over here. The fountain is right next to the incredibly famous and top-of-the-list destination on every travel blog, Bellamy Mansion.
Bellamy Mansion. I love old houses. I’ve always been drawn to sprawling, wraparound porches, crumbling barns, antiques…I love it. But I’m also terrified of them being haunted haha! So I enjoy them in the daytime.
This is noted to be one of North Carolina’s most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture. This once family home now a museum, hosts a mansion, carriage house, and original slave quarters. You can take a guided tour, an audible tour or grab a map and walk around yourself. You’ll learn of several stories of the Bellamy family, of the free and enslaved black artisans who built the home and those who took over the home during the Civil War.
The 10,000-square-foot home also has beautiful and carefully created gardens. I read that the home hosted guests such as Ulysses S. Grant. To be standing where they stood and see the (assumed) cigar burns on the mantle was amazing.
It’s so different to see the styles and signs of upstanding wealth then compared to now. Military admission is $10 but I believe others are around the $18 mark. You might think it’s just a house but it’s worth the walk through!
Oh and how much does Bella Bellamy (the daughter) resemble Bella Hadid!?
Next time we visit Wilmington I would be interested in their haunted tour, pub tour or possibly Hollywood film tour.
Interested in more beach towns in North Carolina? Luckily we’ve got a write up comin’ your way. Where else should we add to our list?
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