Delightful Days in Wilmington, NC
(This post is from 2015.)
If you live in the Carolinas, the ancient port city of Wilmington makes a great weekend destination. If you have been hitting up the same Savannah-Hilton Head-Myrtle Beach-etc. weekend spots over and over, why not try something different? There’s a little too much to see to just take a day trip. Historic and charming, Wilmington is often overlooked in favor of its southern sisters Charleston and Savannah, I think, but is definitely worth every minute you spend there, and probably many more.
Things to Do
My favorite spot was the antebellum Bellamy Mansion last time I visited Wilmington. If you are a preservation buff or if you just like grand old homes, this is a must-see. The admission is not steep at all, and the architecture alone evokes a true portrait of life in the past. Back with the Tide is a fascinating little book written by Ellen Bellamy, the last Bellamy family member to live in the house. It makes a nice keepsake from your visit at just around $10 and offers a personal memoir of her days in the mansion. The picture below is of a little stage on one of the upper floors of the house. Children who lived in the house would use it as a stage to perform plays.
A couple of other attractions include the Battleship North Carolina and the Wilmington Railroad Museum. If it’s a tour you’re looking for, you might want to try the Cape Fear Riverboat Tours or a Segway Tour. If you’re into ghosts, the Haunted Cotton Exchange Tour can hook you up with chills and a little humor. But call ahead to make reservations. The tour guide will only come out if she has pre-sold tickets.
Walking around in downtown Wilmington is just a delight in itself. The buildings and streets remind me of Charleston and Savannah with the charm of the old world and a glimpse into trade in centuries past. (Explore a map of shops here.) No matter who you are, you’re almost certain to find a shop that suits your fancy. And you know, wherever I go, if there is a good book store, I must find it. I found it here: Two Sisters Bookery.
As you can see in the picture, my friend and I enjoyed lunch on a wrought iron balcony at Roy’s Riverboat Landing. The picture is a little dark due to an overcast day and a less than stellar camera, but you can take my word for it that we were very pleased with every aspect of lunch. The little balcony is just the right size for a table for two, and it’s delightful when the weather is right. The picture below is the front of the restaurant. One of the side balconies on the second floor is where we sat.
If you don't stay overnight, you are cheating yourself. And the ghost tours happen at night, if that's one of your objectives. If you prefer a hotel chain, Courtyard by Marriott has a location in the downtown area and offers a reliable product with spacious rooms and suites. Hilton Wilmington Riverside also has a nice location. But if a more intimate, charming setting is what you seek, then the Port City Guest House is a lovely B&B near the Bellamy Mansion.
For One Tree Hill fans
These stairs were used in at least one episode.
Okay, I’ll admit to watching a few episodes. I was in law school at the time and didn’t have cable. I would come home from a long afternoon in the library and look for something to watch while I ate dinner. And a little bit of unrealistic, cheesy teen drama that left me asking Where is the parental supervision?! was sometimes just what I needed to unwind. So anyway, if you want to check out some of the spots where the show was filmed and do a little self-guided tour, here are a couple of resources:
There are a few other shows and movies that have been filmed in Wilmington, as well, if you like scoping out movie locations.