At the beginning of last year I wanted to start a new blog series where I feature 24-48 hours in a city to give you somewhat of a plan for when you visit yourself. We are busy people. Sometimes all we have is a weekend to get away, especially with full time jobs, family responsibility, and limited bank accounts. And no one wants to spend that time trying to figure out what to do.
Our travels this time took us to Wilmington, NC. Wilmington is a historical port city that’s located along the Cape Fear River. The history of this charming coastal city ranges from pirate visits to playing an important role in America’s militant history. Meaning, regardless of your reasoning for exploring the city, there is plenty to do for all visitors.
We started our day slightly south of the city at a little donut shop that I spoke about on Wednesday. Rated as being “the best donuts in North Carolina”, Wake N Bake Donuts was absolutely going to be a destination on our trip. The owner has two shops, one located in downtown Wilmington, and one located in Carolina Beach. So, you have options, folks, and I definitely recommend you choosing! These are some of the most indulgent donuts I have ever tasted – they are stuffed to the brim and topped with so much goodness. I recommend the “PB Get Bizzy” and “The Elvis”, but I truly don’t think you can go wrong.
After you pick out your donuts, drive a bit further south to The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. North Carolina has four aquariums located along the coast, with each one showcasing different exhibits. The aquarium at Fort Fisher has a rare albino alligator and a rescued bald eagle. Sign up for an age appropriate tour, or view the site at your own pace. Also, if the weather permits, head outside to let the kiddos burn a little of the sugar overload from the donuts on the adventure reef, or dig into fossil pit and find your own shark tooth souvenir!
Now we’re heading back north to downtown Wilmington where you can learn all about the Cape Fear River and the quaint city of Wilmington by boat! Cape Fear Riverboats is the longest running boat tour in the city, and have been operating since the late 1980s. So, sit back and enjoy a relaxing hour-long cruise and listen to your captain provide a plethora of knowledge on the historical background of this lovely little city.
It’s time for lunch! The Basics, located on Front Street, features a collection of traditional southern recipes while using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including their seafood. I always check menus before going to a restaurant that may not advertise that they are family friendly, just to double check that they have child (or at least Audrey) friendly entrees. Their grilled cheese sandwich was a huge hit in her book, while I enjoyed their crab cakes benedict. The ginger spiced crab was divine and is something I must recreate at home!
If you want to take a plunge into American history, hop in the car and head across the river to the USS North Carolina. This World War II battleship has been authentically restored and now claims the title of National Historical Landmark. Visitors are encouraged to explore the ship’s decks and envision what life was like as sailors living on this ship. If the littles aren’t too interested in the historical aspect, they’re likely to enjoy the maze-like affect the self paced tour provides. Be forewarned, though, this tour is not accessible with a stroller, so it your child is not able to walk on their own, and you’re unable to wear/carry them, this attraction might not be for you.
Don’t fret though – for those that have smaller littles, head to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington instead. Audrey loves children’s museums. When we were living in the suburbs of Richmond, there were a few children’s museums located in and around the area. Geared more towards the younger crowd, each location has hands-on interactive programs and exhibits that have been sponsored by the local establishments, like the neighborhood market, the teddy bear hospital, and animal alley. Want to spend an evening kid free? You can still do that here – channeling your inner child. Because the Wilmington children’s museum hosts an adult pizza-putt. Spend an evening enjoying free local craft beer from the beer garden, play putt-putt, and eat pizza while listening to live music. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great evening out. And it’s for a good cause, because all proceeds help to support the museum. However, this event does require some pre-planning and they do restrict anyone who is under the age of 21.
Next, let’s go shopping! Because would a trip be complete without buying a souvenir? Recently, I asked my social media followers and wrote a mini article for ’30 Second Mom’ on what to buy as a souvenir. Some had recommended post cards, magnets, and Christmas ornaments. Others recommended a more eclectic take away – one that involved local art work and crafts that can be displayed in your own home. And with the beach-chic boutiques, destination malls, shopping villages located by the sea, and surf shops galore, you’re bound to find that something special.
By now , you’re probably ravenous. We love Indian food, so it’s no surprise that we would seek an Indian-style restaurant whenever we can. And rated as one of the best restaurants in Wilmington, Tandoori Bites offers a broad menu of traditional Indian fare. I always start off my dining experience with an appetizer platter, so I can sample a few things they have to offer before settling on my main dish – in which I recommend the chicken tikka masala. The great thing about this particular Indian restaurant is that their children’s meal is also Indian fare – as opposed to standard chicken nuggets and fries I find at other ethnic restaurants. This encourages my daughter to experience other cuisines, which I’m all about. Finish off your dinner with their galub jamun – deep fried milk balls soaked in a sweet syrup. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Finish the evening with a ghost tour. The guided Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington is family-friendly and named in the ‘Top 10 Tours in the United States’ by Trip Advisor. This 90-minute tour takes you on a journey to the city’s most actively haunted homes and cemeteries. Not only do you get a bit of haunted filled history, the tour changes nightly depending on the recent activity. I mean, c’mon, what better way to end your night and your 24 hours in Wilmington, than with a little spook?