8 Things to do in Wilmington, NC This Spring
Historic district of Wilmington, North Carolina by Idawriter via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
The small port town of Wilmington, North Carolina is beautiful in the spring. The weather warms, spring buds bloom, and people enjoy spending more time outdoors. There are many fun things to do in Wilmington during the spring. Make a visit to the Riverwalk, explore the WWII ship USS North Carolina, or enjoy the serene environment of the Airlie Gardens. In addition to the sights, there are many historic Wilmington attractions, including museums, old plantations, and the historic district of downtown. We have details on all these fun things to do below.
A stroll down the Wilmington Riverwalk will take you along the Cape Fear River via a mile of scenic boardwalk from the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge all the way to the Isabel Holmes Bridge. Enjoy the open water views, or stop into one of the many merchants’ shops that dot the Riverwalk. The boardwalk is lit with light posts in the evening and stays active with nighttime visitors in search of a good meal and perhaps a drink at one of the nearby restaurants. The Riverwalk also hosts many events throughout the year. A farmers market is held every Saturday from 8–10 a.m. March 31–November 17.
The Wilmington Riverwalk in North Carolina along the Cape Fear River by Jason W. Smith via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Spring is the perfect time to visit the Airlie Gardens. The gardens span 67 acres and feature walking paths, formal gardens, seasonal blooms, mighty live oaks, historic structures, and contemporary sculpture. The garden is known for its azaleas in the spring. It is also known for beautiful artwork. One significant artistic creation is the memorial sculpture garden, dedicated to the late artist Minnie Evans. Evans’ paintings frequently featured the landscapes of Airlie Gardens. Visitors who are interested in the natural wildlife of the gardens can participate in a monthly bird hike. For details on events and admission to the Airlie Gardens, visit their events and news page.
The USS North Carolina is a large piece (729 feet to be exact) of history from World War II. The battleship has been preserved as a museum in Wilmington, moored on the Cape Fear River. It served in nearly every major battle in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. It was dedicated as a memorial in 1962. Visitors are invited to walk the ship decks; see the engine and firing guns; and look at photos, mementos, and artifacts from the marines and crew members who once occupied the ship. Guided tours by a trained volunteer take place on Saturdays, but the ship is open every day of the week with adult admission starting at $14.00.
USS North Carolina (BB-55) stern by Mr.TinDC via Flickr.
Local history takes the spotlight at the Cape Fear Museum. It is the oldest history museum in all of North Carolina, founded in 1898. The museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history, science, and cultures of Lower Cape Fear. There are over 52,000 artifacts displayed in the museum. The displays showcase the natural ecosystems of Wilmington as well as the social, economic, and industrial history of the city. The museum has many permanent and traveling exhibits. They can be seen during the museum’s regular hours Tuesday–Sunday, from Memorial Day (May) to Labor Day (September).
The Poplar Grove Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has become one of the last remaining plantation complexes in North Carolina. The plantation formerly produced peanuts and sweet potatoes. It became a public museum after restoration in 1980. In 2014, it added the exhibit, From Civil War to Civil Rights, which tells the stories of the plantation slaves and their journey to freedom. The plantation was in the Foy family for six generations and was successful because of the skills and talents of the Foy slaves who produced the crops and also built the second manor house. Visitors can take tours and learn about the plantation’s history daily. On Wednesdays, April–September, visitors can enjoy a farmers market from 8 a.m.–1 p.m. The plantation is also the site of spring festivals. The Herb & Garden Fair takes place early April, and the Cape Fear BBQ Festival takes place in May.
Halyburton Park presents another opportunity to get outdoors in Wilmington this spring. The park is a nature preserve open to the community. It features a community building, playground areas, picnic shelters, and a 1.3-mile trail for hiking, biking, and walking. The park offers a series of programs and events. Programs are focused around education and experiencing nature. Events include excavations, bird watching, hikes, yoga classes, snake and turtle feedings, and more.
Watch or play spring sports like baseball or soccer at Legion Stadium in Wilmington. The Wilmington Sharks baseball team of the Coastal Plain League, Wilmington Post 10 Baseball, and New Hanover High athletics. Baseball typically begins in June and lasts through August. The stadium features a main field, a baseball field, four lighted tennis courts, and a swimming pool. The stadium can seat about 6,000 visitors.
A favorite activity in Wilmington during the spring and summer is a trip to the Tregembo Animal Park (aka the Tregembo Zoo). It opens in March and remains open through October. The zoo has been owned by a local family, the Tregembos, since 1952. They opened with just a handful of animals and have since grown to hold over 100 species of animals. Unique animals like the prehensile-tail porcupine, snow macaques, white bengal tigers, and two-toed sloths can be seen at the Tregembo Zoo.
Visiting the historic district is one of the best things to do in Wilmington. It’s one of the largest historic districts in the U.S., spanning 230 blocks. Within the district, visitors will find churches, gardens, homes, museums, shops, restaurants, and more. The district can be explored on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, riverboat, or trolley car. Guided and self-guided tours are available. There are many waterfront restaurants that make a great midday resting spot to enjoy a meal while looking over the river.
Plan your activities in Wilmington, North Carolina this spring with our list of things to do and attractions. Spring is a great time to get outdoors, go sightseeing, and enjoy all Wilmington has to offer.