24 Hours In Coastal Wilmington, North Carolina

By Leah Freeman-Haskin


Wilmington is a coastal destination in North Carolina that offers history and adventure from the Cape Fear River to the scenic beaches along the Atlantic. If you happen to find yourself with 24 hours to spend in this fascinating city, here are a few spots you must visit. 



The heart of Wilmington is located in its downtown river district.  You will find ARRIVE Hotel in this historic center that is bustling with new shops and eateries. This brand new “neighborhood hotel” is just two blocks from the river and walking distance to everything that downtown has to offer. You won’t find all of the frills that come with larger hotels, but the experience is in the details of the stunning design, immaculate garden spaces, and friendly staff. 

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Jester’s Café is a boutique bistro in the heart of the Castle Street Arts and Antiques District serving homemade contemporary Southern fare with a French flair. A restaurant nestled inside a historic cottage home, this cafe offers everything from their famous homemade quiches to french toast casserole. 

Photo via jesterscafe.com


You can spend the entire morning walking through the historic downtown area, visiting local galleries, shops, and specialty stores. The locals will gladly stop and chat with you about their love for their city and how things have changed in the last decade. If you get tired from walking, you can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride or a guided cruise down the Cape Fear River.



If you are traveling with kids, Carolina Beach may be the best option. With a lively boardwalk that offers live music, pizza, donut, and ice cream stands as well as an arcade, the kids will have plenty to do. Just 30 minutes up the coast, Wrightsville Beach is known for its crystal blue waters and spacious beach offering plenty of water sports and outdoor healthy and wellness activities. 

Photo via wilmingtonandbeaches.com


South Beach Grill overlooks the scenic harbor on Banks Channel, located on Wrightsville Beach. With Southern-inspired and locally sourced cuisine, you can enjoy a delicious lunch here with views of the ocean.


Airlie Gardens is home to 67 acres of walking paths, formal gardens, seasonal blooms, mighty live oaks, historic structures, and contemporary sculpture that provides the perfect backdrop for a post-lunch stroll.

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After an afternoon at the beach, you can head back downtown to Copper Penny for dinner and drinks. As featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this lively, neighborhood saloon offers a large menu and signature drinks but is best known for their Hot Roast Pork Sandwich, the 109 Chestnut Chicken, and Homemade Beer-Battered Onion Rings.

Photo via copperpennync.com


You can hear live music thumping from the doorsteps of just about every bar along the Cape Fear River.  From the Ibiza Nightclub housing a rotation of DJ’s and drag queen shows to microbreweries like Front Street Brewery, this quaint college town comes to life at night.

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Leah Freeman-Haskin

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