Post updated October 2018
Wilmington is the town that has been transformed into Port City Java to my last amazing breakfast spread at Country Inn and Suites Although I have visited many other Southern towns and cities since then, it’s still my favourite. Here are a few reasons why I fell in love and ideas on things to do in Wilmington, because you have to visit now, right?It instantly drew me in with its friendly locals, fun activities and beautiful Victorian architecture. I was hooked on the North Carolina town from my first iced tea at
For those who are unaware, I am a bit of a film and television nerd/geek/stalker. I watch too many TV shows and I probably (definitely) know too much about celebrities. I also love going behind the scenes to see how my favourite productions are made. So when I was researching where I would visit in Southern USA, Wilmington instantly caught my attention. It’s the Hollywood of the East. A glimpse at what has/is filmed here: One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek, Sleepy Hollow, Secrets and Lies, A Walk To Remember, Empire Records, We’re The Millers, Iron Man 3 and Tammy.
See my guest post on This is my South for more information on Wilmywood. But I highly recommend doing the amazing with Sir Spiel Stevenberg. Tours are a bargain at $13 for 90 minutes.
The Wilmington food and drink scene
When you have so many celebrities coming to town on a regular basis, you have to impress them with your culinary skills. Wilmington’s historic district is saturated with places to eat and drink. I wish I had more time to do some more testing, but these were my favourites.
The George on the Riverwalk
Do the riverfront right and eat at The George. I had, funnily enough, The George Burger. It was good, nothing noteworthy though, but the fries. Golden, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. You also get an uninterrupted view of the river from the patio. The restaurant had just begun a vegan menu that day as well, if anyone is looking for vegan food in Wilmington.
Front Street Brewery
I’ll be honest. I don’t really enjoy drinking alone. But I was in such a good mood that I thought I’d check out Front Street Brewery. Um, $2 mugs of beer on Tuesday? Cheers. 1/2 price appetisers every day from 4-6pm? Thank you very much, I don’t do ales, but nonetheless they had two fantastic beers I really enjoyed: the Coastal Kolsch and the Raspberry Wheat. I couldn’t taste the raspberry in the latter so it was just a good-bodied wheat beer to me. And the kolsch is very light and much too easy to drink.
To accompany the beer I tried the brewery’s beer nuggets. I got this many for $2.50 and they were deliciously crispy, doughy balls of heaven, dipped in a marinara sauce. I don’t know if these are an American delicacy or the brewery’s own recipe, but the person behind this creation deserves a medal.
A little bit of hipster in the south. I had a daily special at The Basics which was so fresh and one of the best meals I have had in awhile: grilled swordfish, tomato and basil relish, caramelised onions, bed of kale (first time to eat it, was not too bad) and some mashed potatoes on the side. The staff here were super friendly and kind, too.
I am a sucker for an ice cream at any time of the day and in any weather. I was the girl eating gelato in Rome at New Years (I was wearing gloves whilst holding my cup but so worth it). The people at Kilwins, so it was obviously fate. I had two different scoops of Kilwin specialities in my cup, including the Kilwin Tracks. So creamy., who do the Hollywood Location Walk, give you a card at the end of their tours with discount coupons on the back, including 10% off at
Seeing as this was my first visit to the South I noticed almost immediately the friendliness of the locals. I had heard about life in the South, but experiencing it is something else. People really are just genuinely nice. They will say hello to you as you walk down the street. They will always serve you with a smile no matter where you are.
I got the public bus to my hotel from downtown both nights and I had the same driver. She asked where I was going and then would stop the bus outside my hotel instead of around the corner so I didn’t have to walk in the dark. I thought about the response I would get with a request like that anywhere else. Eye rolls, scoffs, you get it.
Cape Fear River
I don’t know if it’s the Piscean in me, but I do love being by the water. Wilmington has a great Riverfront Walk for romantic strolls or afternoon runs. You can also cruise along the river with Wilmington Water Tours. They have 50 minute tours every hour that costs $13. Even hours the boat heads north towards Eagles Island and odd hours the boat heads south towards the port.
You can stay on for both directions and just pay an extra $4, which is what I did. I enjoyed heading north more as the scenery was prettier: golden reeds and bald eagles in bare trees; the town disappearing behind us. Captain Wendy was also a very friendly tour guide.
The sunsets aren’t exactly terrible, either. I sat by the river on my first night and as I took photos of the beautiful changing clouds in front of me, I thought my life is good. I want more moments like this in my life. When I am happy with me and this life I have chosen. I don’t know what it is about sunsets that make me get so reflective. It must be the fact that they mark the end of the day.
I never thought I was very into architecture. However, since travelling I am becoming that person that loves buildings. Wilmington helped fuel this passion, with old brick buildings along Front Street and Victorian houses in different shades I saw on my Horse Drawn Tour The shops had neon signs, spray-painted signs and perfectly hung signs. This tour is 30 minutes and costs $12 per person. I would only recommend this tour to people who don’t mind the slower pace, as for the price you definitely aren’t seeing as much as other tours. It is mainly for the experience.
Just in case you didn’t think I was nerdy enough already! But in Wilmington, and everywhere in the south basically, you can go for a Haunted Wilmington, and it was so fascinating. Our guide, Debra was very animated when she told the tales, which added to the spookiness. She recounted different experiences she had had at the places we visited. I won’t give away the stories but I will say that their tour was much better than one I did later on in St Augustine. Debra’s tales were a combination of old and new, which gave you hope of possibly seeing or feeling someone else.I did, with
For the kids, a visit to Cape Fear Museum is a must. I enjoyed it myself but there are lots of places for the children to get interactive. I know I would have loved pushing the buttons when I was younger. A short stroll away is also the Bellamy Mansion Museum If it wasn’t supposedly haunted I could happily live there, just saying.
I covered a lot of ground in two days, but I could happily spend a week here relaxing by the river, visiting the beaches and celebrity stalking. Wilmington, I shall never forget our brief encounter and I will try to come back for a visit someday.
Which is your favourite Southern town?
♥ My entire North America itinerary
♥ My budget travel guide to the US
Thanks to the team at Wilmington and Beaches for the complimentary tours and meals at The George and The Basics. However, all opinions and love confessions are my own.