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Best things to do in Wilmington

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Where in the world: USA  /  North Carolina  /  North Carolina Coast  /  Wilmington

Top 15 things to do in Wilmington

1. Airlie Gardens

Embark on a self-guided walking tour of the sculpted formal gardens at Airlie Gardens. More than 100,000 azaleas and numerous camellias bloom along the walking trails that weave throughout this garden by the sea. Along the way, you'll get glimpses of Bradley Creek and many freshwater lakes. Look for the ancient, 467-year-old Airlie oak tree. At the butterfly house, watch 11 species of native butterflies as you learn about their life cycle and which plants allow them to thrive. Other features include the Bottle Chapel, Lebanon Chapel, and Mystery Grave, which supposedly belongs to one of Napoleon's marshals.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Historic District

Historic District offers a window into the 19th and 20th centuries. The neighborhood features 151 buildings, many of which are three-story, red-brick townhouses. Others are wooden Victorian homes with large front porches. You'll also see some grander homes that played a role in the town's early history. Look for historical markers that identify these houses and tell their stories. Consider touring the neighborhood on a horse-drawn tram with a guide. After browsing the boutiques, head to the cozy bars.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Historic District

3. Battleship North Carolina

Explore the decks and hear stories about the most decorated U.S. Battleship of World War II. Battleship North Carolina was built using the latest shipbuilding technology of the time and participated in every major naval offensive of the Pacific Theater. A self-guided tour will take you to nine decks, gun turrets, living quarters, and a surgical clinic. Learn about individuals who served on the ship from oral histories, photographs, and mementoes. Read the Roll of Honor to see names of North Carolinians who died serving in World War II. The ship is not air-conditioned, and you will be walking a lot, so bring a bottle of water.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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Tours including Battleship North Carolina:
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4. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Wrightsville Beach Municipal Complex, Wrightsville Beach

A long stretch of clean, soft sand, sits in a small town just east of Wilmington. You can explore the waters lapping this golden beach by kayak or paddle board, or watch the sun setting over the ocean during an evening harbor cruise. The beach hosts a variety of family-friendly activities including treasure hunts, swimming and surfing lessons, and eco tours designed to introduce you to North Carolina's rich marine life. You can also visit a small history museum here, housed inside a restored beach cottage originally built in 1907. Once the sun goes down, explore the many beachfront restaurants and taverns, serving signature cocktails and local seafood specialties.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Downtown Wilmington

The social and economic center of the region, Downtown Wilmington houses over 800 businesses, including museums, cultural facilities, and hotels. The neighborhood is also home to one of the biggest historical districts in the county. While exploring the area, you will have a chance to enjoy many different events, including walking and food tours. Check the website for the updated schedule of events and other practical information.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Downtown Wilmington
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8. Bellamy Mansion

The Bellamy Mansion is one of North Carolina's most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture. It was built on the eve of the Civil War by free and enslaved black artisans, for John Dillard Bellamy (1817-1896) physician, planter and business leader and his wife, Eliza McIlhenny Harriss (1821-1907) and their nine children. After the fall of Fort Fisher in 1865, Federal troops commandeered the house as their headquarters during the occupation of Wilmington.

The Mansion offers an exquisite backdrop to create an event of historic proportions. Far from your typical banquet hall, the Mansion is one of North Carolina's premier historic treasures, featuring lush gardens, grand columns, wrap-around porches, brass chandeliers, Victorian-style carpets, ornate molding, and marble fireplaces.

The museums gallery spaces feature changing exhibits on architectural history, historic preservation and the designs arts. You and your guests will enjoy an event in close proximity to beaches, shopping, nightlife, restaurants, the historic riverwalk, and plenty of charming B&Bs and hotels.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. New Hanover County Arboretum

A family-friendly attraction, New Hanover County Arboretum includes a kids play area, koi pond, and flower gardens. A peaceful retreat on the outskirts of downtown, this green place features foliage and greenery that changes with every season, so each visit is a brand new experience of native plants. You'll find over 30 distinct gardens there, with many sculptures scattered around, works by noted local artists.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about New Hanover County Arboretum

10. Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville

Airborne and Special Operations Museum explores the history of, and plays tribute to, the U.S. military, with a focus on its airborne and special operations forces. Embark on a self-guided tour to learn the history of these forces, from the U.S Army Parachute Test Platoon of 1940 to peacekeeping and contingency operations today. Informational displays, artifacts, and interactive activities bring soldiers' stories to life. The museum's "Descending from the Clouds" movie and Pitch, Roll, and Yaw motion simulator provide further insight into the duties of these brave soldiers. Spend time in the museum's lobby, home to the Medal of Honor Wall.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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11. North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach

At North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher you'll discover the marine life of the Cape Fear region. Touch sharks and sea urchins and meet a loggerhead sea turtle. In the freshwater life gallery that showcases streams, ponds, swamps, and trees, explore the world of freshwater fish, reptiles, and mammals. See box turtles, catfish, snakes, and even albino alligators. In the coastal waters gallery, you'll learn about the animals that live in the surf zone; then move through to the open oceans gallery for an education about animals that live farther off-shore such as octopus and jellyfish. Talk to the scuba divers as they swim with rays and observe the feeding of sturgeon, turtles, stingrays, and sharks.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
Learn more about North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

12. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

By exploring the state's geography, prehistoric past, geology, plants, and animals, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences helps over a million visitors a year learn about the natural world. The museum has four floors of displays, live animals, and hands-on activities. At the Nature Research Center, you can watch scientists working at research labs through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Researchers also give regular presentations at the center's three-story, multimedia space, which is also used to show spectacular scenes from nature.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

13. Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh

Known for hands-on exhibits, Marbles Kids Museum is geared toward children under ten. Your little ones will have fun and learn as they participate in activities like the Kid Grid, which teaches about electricity, and Ideaworks, where children build machines. Other exhibits offer lessons about saving money, living in a city, and making art. Don't miss the IMAX theater that screens major motion pictures. Purchase your IMAX ticket first, then add a museum ticket to save money on admission. Visit the website for a calendar of special events, such as classes and presentations.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Marbles Kids Museum

14. Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry, Southport

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Off-Road Tours, North Myrtle Beach

Suggested duration: 3 hours
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