I recently had the opportunity to visit Wilmington, NC during my Birthday week. Iâ€™ve honestly been trying to get to the beach since June and it just didnâ€™t happen this past summer. So, I did the next best thing and started planning to visit during the Fall season and explore all Wilmington had to offer. I had a jam PACKED itinerary full of family friendly activities for all ages and managed to fit EVERYTHING planned into our schedule. My children vary in ages. I have two young adults 21, 20, a teenager 17 and a 9-year-old.
When Iâ€™m making travel plans for my family I take everyoneâ€™s age and interests into consideration. My goal is for us to all enjoy ourselves when on vacation or in this case a staycation. The first thing we did was visit the North Carolina Aquarium in Fort Fisher. We all had a great time! I enjoyed seeing Luna, the rare albino alligator. It just looked so surreal and she was underwater so it was like she was glowing. My favorite moment was watching the jellyfish! They just look so cool and carefree.
My youngest son had fun when he got to touch the bamboo shark(s). I was just a bystander while he enjoyed his hands-on experience. He also got to get up close and personal with the horseshoe crabs and got a chance to feed them. I really like that some of the exhibits are interactive allowing you to have a real aquatic experience. My son is homeschooled and we had a great learning experience. North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a teaching facility. I canâ€™t wait to visit again real soon!
We worked up an appetite at the aquarium so we stopped at the Hang Ten Grill for some lunch. I ordered some hushpuppies to start and they were delicious. Iâ€™ve been eating a lot of burgers lately so I decided to have a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch and it was a great choice. My teens opted for burgers and my youngest went for the kidâ€™s chicken fingers with French fries. Hang Ten Grill is a great lunch spot and very convenient to Kure beach and the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The staff is friendly, helpful and the menu is diverse with a variety of grill and seafood options.
Once we refueled we were ready to have a Wilmington Water Tour on the Cape Fear River. We enjoyed cruising down the Cape Fear River in a Catamaran. Itâ€™s fully enclosed with spacious seating for up to 49 guests. You also have access to a rest room and cocktails from the bar. Cruises are scheduled daily and are also available for private functions. There is so much history in Wilmington and I enjoyed learning about it while we were cruising on the river. The waterfront is a beautiful sight to see from the water.
I was honestly wiped out after such a full morning so we stopped at Wrightsville beach quickly before we checked-into our suite at the Homewood Suites â€“ Mayfaire and I took a nap before dinner! Our evening plans were to grab a bite to eat at The Basics, go on a horse drawn carriage ride around historic Downtown Wilmington as well as enjoy a guided ghost walk tour in Old Wilmington. I love the Wilmington Riverwalk. Itâ€™s full of eclectic shops, restaurants and boutiques.
Once I was refreshed from my nap it was time to head over to The Basics. Oh, Happy Birthday to ME! The menu has a southern feel with fresh regional ingredients and some popular favorites. For starters, I ordered Warm Spinach Dip with French baguettes for dipping. It was perfect with a kick of spice and the French baguettes were just as fresh as can be. For my entrÃ©e, I ordered the Filet Mignon crowned with herbed goat cheese, wild mushroom demi-glaze, mashed potatoes and green beans. It was tasty and I ate every bite!
My youngest had grilled chicken with fresh fruit and rice. My daughter had grilled chicken, macaroni and cheese and fresh fruit. We were all so stuffed that we looked at the dessert menu but, didnâ€™t have any room to partake in the sweet treats. The Basics has a great atmosphere and you feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door. The staff is welcoming, accommodating and gave us excellent recommendations. They also have a good beer, wine and cocktail menu. It was a Birthday Treat!
Next Upâ€¦ Horse Drawn Carriage Tour! The horse was beautiful! I canâ€™t even tell you the last time I went on a horse drawn carriage ride. Itâ€™s been years! It was so refreshing to sit back and take in the downtown historic Wilmington scenes. It was a bit chilly so I was excited to see that we had blankets available to us. Itâ€™s a half hour narrated tour throughout downtown. I enjoyed learning about the different houses and who lived there. It was interesting to see the architecture on some of the historic homes with minimal updates.
Who doesnâ€™t like a good haunt? It was time to experience the ghost walk tour of Old Wilmington. Itâ€™s a 90-minute ghost walk tour through the cityâ€™s most actively haunted homes & burial grounds. You get to hear spooky tales of ghost occurrences, including actual recent encounters. Itâ€™s Wilmingtonâ€™s #1 haunted attraction. As if things werenâ€™t spooky enoughâ€¦ My sonâ€™s phone took an unexpected photo on the ghost tour and he insists he caught a spirit. Boo! What say you? Most tours are scheduled nightly at 6:30 & 8:30 pm. Thereâ€™s limited space so itâ€™s best to get your tickets in advance!
Our night came to an end and we geared up for our next day of adventure. We were up early and decided to head back to Wrightsville Beach before heading to lunch. I love the water! Thereâ€™s just something soothing about being on the beach, taking in the scenes and listening to the waves crash on the shore. They say, â€œThe voice of the sea speaks to the soul.â€ I believe that with my whole heart! I left the beach feeling refreshed. Itâ€™s one of my happy places!
Time for lunch at The Pilot House overlooking Cape Fear River. I really enjoyed the outdoor seating and it was a beautiful day! All the dishes are cooked with locally sourced ingredients and sustainable seafood. The Pilot house menu gives you a variety of tastes to choose from. I started with the lobster mac & cheese and made that my meal. It was so delicious! I got a side Caesar salad to go with it. My son opted for a burger, my daughter got a grilled chicken Cesar salad and the youngster got chicken fingers with French fries and fresh fruit.
The staff was very attentive to us and took care of everything we needed. I canâ€™t stress how much I enjoyed eating on the patio overlooking the river. It was refreshing and I canâ€™t see myself dining indoors on the waterfront after this experience. It was AMAZING! Overall, Wilmington is a great place to relax, sightsee local attractions and dine at some of the finest local restaurants. I canâ€™t wait to plan my next Wilmington staycation. Thereâ€™s so much more to see and do!
What do you want to experience in Wilmington?
Disclosure: Thank you to the Wilmington and Beaches CVB, for being amazing hosts. I appreciate the warm welcome and recommendations. All opinions expressed are 100% honest and completely my own.