A view looking over the Cape Fear River at downtown Wilmington, NC, USA.

Travel season is upon us! Summer break, no more Covid restrictions means people are traveling like crazy. Maybe you’re hopping a plane to go to Europe, the Caribbean, or across the country. But also there are so many good road trip destinations close by to check out. This past weekend I took a quick road trip to the North Carolina coast to explore a town I haven’t spent much time in. But I have to say there were a few things I wish I knew before I planned my trip to Wilmington North Carolina.

I’ve spent a decent amount of time on Topsail Island and on those trips ventured a little into Wilmington/Wrightsville. But never really downtown and I’d never stayed there. Ok I mean I stayed there on my 4th-grade field trip where we toured the Battleship NC and went deep-sea fishing. Most of my memories of that trip though are how everyone got seasick. So this was my first chance to really explore downtown Wilmington and take in all the city has to offer.

And don’t get me wrong I had a great time. Ate some good meals, explored, and did a little shopping all of which are musts on any trip for me. But I’m also a little bit of an obsessive planner, I like to get the most out of my trips. I’m not much of a “relaxing vacation” type of person. I like to go go go and see and do everything. Ok, I’m like that at home too but I digress. Long story short, all of my planning was not successful and there were parts of the trip that just weren’t what I expected. In case, you’re planning a trip to the area I wanted to share the things I wish I knew before visiting Wilmington. Because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did!

  • Eat Early!

    On vacation, I tend to like to go back to the room, rest up, and then go back out to dinner. On two of three nights on my trip, I tried to eat after 8 pm and dealt with several places that either didn’t serve food after 8 or closed at 8:30 so they wouldn’t serve us. In a town that I feel has a decent-sized tourist population this came as a shock to me.

  • A Lot Of Places Are Closed Sunday and Monday

    We dealt with this as far as restaurants and some tourist attraction/museum-type things we wanted to check out. Many places were closed on these days meaning we had to jam pack Saturday to get things done and missed out on some other plans due to hours of operation. So make sure you double-check the hours of operation for anything you want to experience on your trip!

  • It's Crowded (Especially The Beach)

    Again this relates to not fantastic planning on my part, but being still early in May I wasn’t expecting crowds quite like what were there. We took a drive over to Wrightsville Beach Sunday morning which in all sense of the word was an epic fail. We arrived around 11:30 and it was packed. No place to park whatsoever except one private lot that was charging $40 to park and that was almost full as well. And considering my goal was not a full-on “beach day” and more of a walk around the town and venture down to see the ocean that wasn’t worth it to me.

    If you’re going to head to the beach go early. Like super early. Otherwise just don’t even bother.

  • Make Reservations Ahead of Time

    This goes for the restaurant situation detailed above as well as for tours. I’m typically a planner but I had struggled with places not taking reservations or being full. I also dropped the ball on a tour we wanted to go on assuming a Sunday night tour wouldn’t sell out. The website also mentioned you could purchase the day of so I figured it wasn’t in danger of selling out. Wrong, it had been full for a couple of days, and asking if they could squeeze a couple more people in (it was a walking tour) was unsuccessful.

  • Historic Downtown/River Walk Isn't What I Thought It Was

    I’ve been to Topsail Island several times and the outskirts of Wilmington but since a 4th-grade field trip this was my first trip to downtown Wilmington. The research I did and what I had heard gave me a slightly different idea of what to expect than reality. I was picturing something a little more along the lines (but obviously smaller) of Charleston and Savannah. And really it wasn’t. The Riverwalk is ok, but it’s honestly just a boardwalk along the river. There aren’t shops that open up to it, and outside of a couple of blocks most of the restaurants are a few streets off as well.

    I expected the historic district to be a little more historic as well. But really outside of a few buildings here or there it was just a normal downtown.

Sign me up for the V101.9 email newsletter!

Get the latest updates with music news, contests, events, and more when you become a V 101.9 VIP Member. Exclusive access to all things music and soul with your favorite throwback station.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.