Wilmington NC Travel Guide

Posted on: July 18, 2019

Something I say almost every time I travel anywhere is, “I wish I just had one more day here,” and that was most definitely the case when I visited Wilmington, N.C.! Actually, I wish I had another three to four days! I had not visited Wilmington before, and I was so impressed with the quaint Southern town. 

This town is a great place for a girls’ trip, group trip, and/or a couples’ trip. One thing I didn’t realize until we started exploring is that Wilmington is a big craft beer town. There are over 16 breweries in Wilmington, which you can explore along the “Wilmington Ale Trail.”

We ate and drank our way through town and LOVED it per usual! 

Wilmington NC Travel Guide – Where to Stay:

  • Hotel Ballast – We stayed at Hotel Ballast, which is a Hilton property right on the Riverwalk and located in the heart of downtown Wilmington. During our stay, we enjoyed time outside at the pool and at night drinking wine by their firepits. 

Wilmington NC Travel Guide – Where to Eat and Drink:

  • Board and Barrel – Indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar inside of Hotel Ballast. The outdoor patio is right along the Riverwalk and has a couple of cabanas with fire pits that showcase views of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. This was our first stop when we arrived in Wilmington for small plates and shareables.
  • Fork N CorkFeatured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” and everything on their menu looked amazing.  We ordered the Mac and Cheese with Pulled Pork and “Rattlesnake Bites” which were roasted jalapenos stuffed with shrimp, sweet corn, bacon, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese.
  • Front Street BreweryFront Street Brewery was one of our favorite spots on our visit, as it was close to our hotel, right in the center of downtown, had great local beers and food and open late!  After we got back from a full day at Wrightsville Beach, we were still a bit hungry and Front Street Brewery was one of the only food options late night.  We got the chicken fingers and the MUG of Bacon… yes, you heard that right… a MUG filled with bacon. Ha.
Mug of Bacon…
Beer Flight
  • CatchA local, award-winning seafood restaurant.  You’d never believe this place is award-winning by the looks of it outside, as it looks like it’s a hole in the wall in an old strip mall, but MAN their food was good. Their menu changes seasonally, but I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Beer Barrio – A craft-beer infused, modern Mexican restaurant.  Open for lunch, dinner, and late night.  Yes, please.
  • Bespoke Coffee & Dry Goods – Besides this place being extremely aesthetically pleasing, I had literally one of the best iced coffees and blueberry muffins I’ve ever had.  The perfect place to start your mornings!
  • Blind Elephant Speakeasy – This little speakeasy is a hidden gem. Tucked down an alleyway, this hideaway gives you all the feels of a prohibition bar.  They have a live piano player and Mules on tap! I tried the tequila mule and was a big fan.
  • manna ave. 123– This is one of two places that y’all kept recommending to me, and let me tell you—you guys know your stuff!  manna ave. 123 is the only restaurant in Wilmington to receive the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award, and they take cocktails very seriously. A must-stop when you’re in Wilmington.

Wilmington NC Travel Guide – What to Do:

  • Horse and Carriage Ride through Downtown Wilmington – Departs on the half-hour from the ½ block of Market Street.  Tours begin at 10 am and end at 10 pm.
  • Bellamy Mansion – Guided tours are 90 minutes long and start at 11 a.m., you can also opt for a self-guided tour that only takes about 45 minutes and those begin at 10 am.
  • Visit Wilmington’s Beaches (Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach) – Located only 20 minutes from downtown Wilmington!  We spent a full day at Wrightsville Beach and it’s one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been to!  Beautiful white sandy beaches, cute colorful beach houses, great shopping and fantastic food.  Read about our full experience at Wrightsville Beach here.
  • Explore Wilmington’s Riverwalk and downtown shops– Our hotel was located right on the Riverwalk and we really enjoyed walking along the river at sunset!
  • Airlie Gardens  Encompasses 67 acres of beautiful Gilded Age gardens and lakes. Admire the azaleas, gaze at the camellias, stand in the shade of the 450-year old AirlieOak, experience nature’s most delicate and ephemeral creatures – butterflies – in the region’s first permanent butterfly house.
  • The Forum – Charming boutiques, fine dining, sidewalk bistros, and gourmet cafes.
  • Explore Wilmington’s Neighborhoods
  • South Front District – Hub for well-loved local food and nightlife
  • Castle St. Arts & Antique District – Three blocks with antique stores, vintage boutiques, locally owned shops and eateries with great food.
  • Brooklyn Arts District – Trendy, arts-focused neighborhood undergoing revitalization

Other Tips and Advice for Wilmington NC:

A lot of y’all asked about transportation and the best way to get to Wilmington.  We flew American Airlines directly into the  Wilmington International Airport (ILM) with a layover in Charlotte. We then took an Uber from the airport to Hotel Ballast.  From our hotel we were able to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go.  We did go to a couple restaurants that were about a 5-10 minute Uber ride away, and Wrightsville Beach was about a 20 minute Uber ride away. Personally, I would rather just Uber than rent a car and have to deal with parking, especially on the days we wanted to go to the beach.  The beach can get SUPER crowded, and they say if you’re not over the bridge to Wrightsville Beach before 9:00 a.m. in the summer, you won’t find parking.

You can also fly into Raleigh (RDU), which is usually cheaper than flying into Wilmington and has more flight options.  From Raleigh, it is an easy two-hour drive to Wilmington.  I also documented our whole trip on Instagram stories and saved them to a highlight called “Wilmington” if you’d like to check out more!

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