21 Fun and Interesting Things to Do in Wilmington, North Carolina

Skyline of Wilmington from USS North Carolina Battleship l

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Whether you love beautiful beaches, boutique shopping, historic sites, or foodie adventures, there are so many fun things to do in Wilmington, NC.

Just be sure you’re looking at recommendations for the one in North Carolina, not Wilmington Delaware!

This coastal city enjoys a prime position with barrier islands and Wrightsville Beach offering a buffer to the Atlantic Ocean, and the expansive Cape Fear River bordering the city for scenic views and vital historic significance.

Learn all about the evolution of Wilmington from being the traditional land of the Lumbee and Mánu peoples to its pivotal role as a port during the Colonial era to its continued importance today as a popular film location — it’s sometimes known as Hollywood of the East!

With its Historic Downtown area right along the Cape Fear River, there are also plenty of romantic things to do in Wilmington if you’re looking for a little getaway with your sweetheart.

You may also like our guides to Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham NC if you’re spending more time in North Carolina.

You can also reach Wilmington on a fun day trip from Myrtle Beach if you’re looking to explore more of this region.

Fun Things to Do in Wilmington, NC

Battleship North Carolina  

The Battleship North Carolina (1 Battleship Rd NE) is a World War II battleship and now a floating museum, where you can tour the decks and learn about the ship’s history and crew. 

The battleship is one of the most popular Wilmington attractions. 

You can even climb aboard a fighter plane and experience what it’s like to fly in combat!

This is a fun and interesting destination for the whole family, young and old.

If you’re into military history, be sure to visit Fayetteville, too!

USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington

Wilmington Riverwalk

The Wilmington Riverwalk (Wilmington Downtown Riverwalk) is a 1.75-mile-long boardwalk along the Cape Fear River, offering breathtaking views and access to many shops, restaurants, and bars. 

As one of the most iconic things to do in Downtown Wilmington, one of the main draws of the Riverwalk is its scenic views of the water.

Along the walk, take photos of the impressive Cape Fear Memorial Bridge — even better if you time it for sunset!

The Riverwalk is also a great spot to watch boats and ships passing by, and to spot wildlife such as dolphins and pelicans.

This is one of our top suggestions for things to do at night in Wilmington, check out the rest!

Island Passage 

Island Passage (4 Market St) is a fun beachy boutique with various locations in Wilmington and on Wrightsville Beach.

Shop their variety of clothing, swimwear, and accessories for women and men. 

They specialize in resort wear and beach-chic style, with a focus on comfortable and casual clothing for coastal living.

Children’s Museum of Wilmington 

The Children’s Museum of Wilmington (116 Orange St ) is an interactive museum that features hands-on exhibits and activities for children of all ages, including a pretend grocery store, a pirate ship, and a science lab. 

This is one of the best things to do in Wilmington with kids.

Edge of Urge  

Edge of Urge (18 Market St) is another trendy boutique in downtown Wilmington. 

Enjoy a unique shopping experience featuring clothing, accessories, and gifts from independent designers and artists. 

With a fun and quirky aesthetic, Edge of Urge is known for its statement jewelry and graphic tees. 

Whether you’re looking to update your wardrobe or find the perfect gift for a friend, Edge of Urge is a must-visit destination in Wilmington.

Copper Penny 

Copper Penny (109 Chestnut St) is a casual restaurant with a unique name as well as a distinct atmosphere.

It was even featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri!

Expect a variety of American-style dishes, like burgers, sandwiches, and salads. 

There is also a kids’ menu with options like grilled cheese, chicken tenders, and mac and cheese.

Islands Fresh Mex Grill

While checking off your list of things to do in Wilmington NC, don’t forget to eat!

Islands Fresh Mex Grill (310 N Front St #1) is a restaurant that offers a variety of fresh and healthy Mexican-inspired dishes, as well as a kids’ menu with options like quesadillas, tacos, and burritos.

Buen provecho!

The Basics 

Another lunch option would be The Basics (319 N Front St), which is a Southern-style restaurant that offers a variety of comfort food favorites, like fried chicken, biscuits, and mac and cheese. 

The kids’ menu includes options like grilled cheese, chicken tenders, and fruit cups.

Wilmington Railroad Museum 

Going to the Wilmington Railroad Museum (505 Nutt St) is one of the best Wilmington activities for train enthusiasts and history buffs.

It showcases the rich history of railroading in the Wilmington area, with exhibits on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. 

The WBR also features as one of our favorite indoor things to do in Wilmington if you’re looking for more ideas.

Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts 

One of the most elegant things to do in Wilmington is to visit the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts (310 Chestnut St). 

This hall is a historic theater that has been entertaining Wilmington audiences since 1858. 

It hosts a variety of performances, including plays, musicals, concerts, and dance performances.

Historic Thalian House in Wilmington North Carolina

Crossfire Paintball and Nerf

If you’re looking for more outdoor adventure activities to add to your list of things to do in Wilmington, Crossfire Paintball and Nerf (3070 Business Park Drive) is an exciting option to consider. 

This facility offers paintball and Nerf battles in a variety of unique and challenging arenas, providing an adrenaline-pumping experience for players of all skill levels.

Crossfire also offers axe throwing, archery tag, and a variety of other outdoor games, making it a great destination for groups and parties. 

The facility also has a pro shop where you can purchase equipment and accessories for your own paintball or Nerf battles.

Spend a fun day with friends or family at Crossfire Paintball and Nerf — it will be a memorable experience for everyone!

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science 

The Cape Fear Museum (814 Market St) is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and science of the region, with exhibits on everything from local fossils and Civil War history to modern technology and space exploration. 

Perfect for history buffs, this is one of the best places to visit in Wilmington to learn more about the local history.

Before you visit, be sure to learn from their online exhibit dedicated to the Wilmington Massacre and Coup d’état of 1898.

During this incredibly important but often overlooked moment in North Carolina history, white supremacists murdered an estimated 60 Black people in Wilmington and seized control of the government just days after a contentious November election.

Black residents of Wilmington left in droves, forever altering the city.

It wasn’t until 1972 that a Black City Council member was elected again in Wilmington and it wasn’t until 100 years after the fact that the true story of the coup began to be discussed in North Carolina.

While this isn’t the whole story of Wilmington by any means, this is a vital piece of local history that visitors should learn.

Far From France Bakery

Far From France Bakery (1474 Barclay Pointe Blvd #201) offers Wilmington an authentic taste of France, with freshly baked croissants, baguettes, and other French pastries. 

They also have a full menu of breakfast and lunch items and serve coffee and espresso drinks.

The Cameron Art Museum 

The Cameron Art Museum (3201 S 17th St) showcases a diverse collection of contemporary art from local and regional artists, as well as works from around the world. 

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply looking for a cultural experience, the Cameron Art Museum is sure to impress. 

In addition to its extensive permanent collection, the museum also hosts a variety of special exhibitions, workshops, and events throughout the year, providing visitors with a chance to engage with the art and artists in a more interactive and immersive way. 

Whether you’re looking to expand your artistic horizons or simply enjoy a cultural day out, the Cameron Art Museum is a must-see attraction in Wilmington.

Wilmington, North Carolina aerial cityscape at dusk

Carolina BBQ & Seafood

While in Wilmington, you have to stop in and try Carolina BBQ

This barbecue restaurant serves up a variety of smoked meats, as well as classic Southern sides like collard greens and mac and cheese. 

The kids’ menu includes options like BBQ sliders, chicken tenders, and grilled cheese.

Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park

Among Wilmington’s fun things to do, Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park (5320 Oleander Dr) is at the top for families!

This kid-friendly amusement park features water slides, go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, and more. 

In addition to its exciting activities, Jungle Rapids also features a variety of food and beverage options, as well as a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs to remember your visit. 

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for an adrenaline rush or simply looking for a fun day out with your loved ones, pack your sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes, and get ready to have a blast! 

North Carolina Azalea Festival 

The North Carolina Azalea Festival (5725 Oleander Dr B7) is an annual festival that celebrates the beauty of the azalea flowers that are abundant in the Wilmington area. 

This is one of the Wilmington attractions that brings in thousands of visitors each year. 

It features a variety of events, including a parade, garden tours, live music, and arts and crafts vendors.

Have fun while visiting, and make the most out of the day!

Airlie Gardens 

Airlie Gardens (300 Airlie Rd) is a stunning 67-acre garden that features beautiful azaleas, camellias, and other native plants, as well as several small lakes and waterways. 

Don’t miss the famous 462-year-old Airlie Oak tree, which is one of the largest in the state. 

This is certainly one of the best things to see in Wilmington — don’t miss out on the beautiful experience the Airlie Gardens have to offer!

Beautiful fountain and trellis on the lake in Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina

Mayfaire Town Center 

Mayfaire Town Center (6835 Conservation Way) outdoor shopping center features a variety of upscale stores, including clothing boutiques, home decor shops, and specialty food stores. 

There are also several restaurants and cafes, as well as a movie theater and a farmers’ market on the weekends. 

Mayfaire Town Center offers one of the best places to go in Wilmington to shop with plenty of parking and a beautiful outdoor setting.

Sweet n Savory Café

Sweet n Savory Cafe (1611 Pavilion Pl) is a family-owned restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with options like pancakes, sandwiches, salads, and quiches. 

There is also a kids’ menu with options like French toast, grilled cheese, and chicken fingers. 

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is definitely one of the best places to go around Wilmington for locals and visitors alike!

With its crystal-clear water and soft, white sand, this beach offers a variety of activities for families, including swimming, surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

There are also plenty of shops, restaurants, and ice cream stands nearby, as well as public restrooms and showers. 

Wrightsville Beach is a great place to spend a day soaking up the sun and enjoying the ocean breeze.

Instead of driving and paying for parking, take an e-bike tour from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach for a few hours of fun in the sun!

Book it on Viator or GetYourGuide.

Aerial view of Johnnie Mercers fishing pier and beachfront houses on Wrightsville Beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Final Words

We hope this list inspires you to enjoy all the fun things to do in Wilmington, NC! There’s so much to explore, from local cuisine to art, history, beaches, boutiques, and more.

Share your favorite local spots in the comments below!

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