Spend Some Time in Wilmington, NC – A Destination on the Rise – A Small Southern Town with Lots to Do and See

I was provided an all expense paid trip to Wilmington, NC by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. This post was originally published in The Summer Soiree Issue – August 2018 by Carolina STYLE Magazine 

wilmington north carolina

Let’s face it – we all look for somewhere to go for a quick weekend away from home. Close enough to get there within a couple of hours but far enough away to make you feel refreshed when it’s time to head back to work or school on Monday. If you live in the Carolinas, a visit to Wilmington, NC is definitely the answer!

I spent a few days exploring Wilmington recently and was pleasantly surprised at the convenience and all there is to do.

Where to Stay

There are several places to stay along the water, as well as downtown, that offer great rooms, food and views. Hampton Inn, Aloft Hotel and Hotel Ballast (a Tapestry Collection hotel by Hilton) all offer anything you will need for a few days rest and relaxation. All are conveniently located for touring Wilmington. The Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront Hotel was my home for a few days and I was thrilled with the location and the hotel itself.

The Embassy Suites is located adjacent to the Wilmington Convention Center and is one of the newest hotels in the area. Opened in early 2018, they offer all two-room guests suites, daily free breakfast, Cloud 9 rooftop deck and bar and stunning views of the Cape Fear River.

The rooms are large, well furnished and comfortable. Since the hotel sits right along the Riverwalk you couldn’t have a better place to start a day in Wilmington. It’s an easy walk down the boardwalk to shops and restaurants.

What to See

The renewed riverfront has been expanded and is now home to new and renovated hotels, waterfront restaurants, rooftop bars, a marina and an event pier. Everything is connected by the Riverwalk which is full of tours, small shops and cafes. 

The River District combines historic charm with modern design and is an easy walk to downtown where you can find so many restaurants you’ll have a difficult time choosing where to dine. You can go shopping and even take a horse drawn carriage ride. The downtown area offers breweries, shopping and outstanding food. 

Free activities and festivals fill the calendar with special ways to spend your days while visiting Wilmington. 

The Shell, which is perched along the water at Port City Marina hosts concerts and private events, while being surrounded by water on three sides and is within walking distance of a beautiful city park.

Wilmington, NC was selected as one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Traveler’s Choice for “Top Destinations on the Rise” for good reason. The River District is full of historic charm, mixed with new attractions and modern designs. An easy walk to the downtown area gives visitors access to hundreds of restaurants, charming boutiques and attractions. Nearby beaches add a little extra into what there is to do for any visitor.

The U.S.S. North Carolina battleship sits regally along the Cape Fear River as a museum full of World War II artifacts.

Wilmington is within easy driving distance to three area island beaches. Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure Beaches all offer and quick beach day when visiting the area. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is nationally recognized as a vacation destination. Kure Beach offers historic sites to tour and the North Carolina Aquarium. Wrightsville Beach is the place to visit for surfers and watersport enthusiasts.

The Food

If you want to get a true sample of the food in Wilmington, take a tour with Taste Carolina! Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours connects visitors with the best restaurants in the downtown area of Wilmington. They offer walking tours that will give you a sample of some of the best area dining spots, as well as corporate and private events. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to be able to sample what the Wilmington area has to offer when it comes to food.

Fork-n-Cork – Without any doubt one of the food highlights of the tour for me. A small location on Market Street that started out as a food truck and now offers such delicious and interesting items such as Rattlesnake Bites (no rattlesnakes involved), ribbon cut Fried Pickles, Duck Wings and Fonduta. The Fork-n-Cork was recently highlighted on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. Once you visit, you’ll understand why! 

Pinpoint Restaurant – The Pinpoint serves food rooted in Southern traditions and locally sourced. The menu changes daily since it depends on the offerings of the Wilmington area farmers, fishermen, oyster-men, and crabbers. Baked oysters and strawberry salad were among the items I sampled and a flourless chocolate brownie left me wondering how such simple dishes could be made to taste so heavenly!

Beer Bario –  craft beer-infused modern Mexican with over 30 beers and margaritas on draft, this stop is definitely a hot spot in Wilmington. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating and in-house, fresh made chips and salsa that will help get any party started! 

Savorez – run by a (very) young Wilmington native, the restaurant combines art, music, flavor and community into a dining spot that offers different flavors right along side southern favorites like shrimp and grits. Sweet potato and goat cheese guacamole with house made chips can be a delicious starter or a meal in itself. 

What’s Coming to Wilmington

The River Place Development plans are underway on development. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020 and will provide new and exciting places for visitors as well as the residents of Wilmington.

The new North Waterfront Park will include children’s play areas, beer gardens, open lawn space and a new outdoor performance center that will host outdoor events and concerts managed by Live Nation.

The South Front neighborhood is being rejuvenated and re-purposed and is full of on-going renovations. A historic shirt factory has been made into apartments, and new and exciting restaurants are moving into the area, including Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria owned by Celebrity Chef Vivian Howard.

Overall, Wilmington offers something for every visitor. The area is full of historic buildings and homes, great restaurants, eclectic shopping and is close to beautiful beaches. Wilmington is definitely on the rise with upcoming new development. Why not spend a few days exploring Wilmington. You’ll be glad you did!