Summer Fun Day Trip Itinerary for Families Visiting #WilmingtonNC River District & Island Beaches @wilmingtoNCoast

Living in Miami for almost 20 years meant falling in love with the ocean and the beach. So for Fathers Day I thought it would be great to take my husband and our daughter for a Sunday Funday in Wilmington River District & Island Beaches for Fathers Day.

Depart Raleigh, NC | 9:00 am

Beach chairs ? check. Towels and cold water? check. Beach snack? check. Gas tank full and we were off. A quick 2 hour straight drive on I-40 East puts most Triangle residents in downtown Wilmington. Another great thing about the ride is it cuts thru farm country and there are many opportunities to pull of the highway to a farmers produce stand and pick up some ripe plums, peaches or berries to snack on! The beauty of a day trip is that you really don’t have to pack or plan much. Just get up and go!

Arrive Wilmington,NC| 11:00 am

We headed to the Wilmington riverbooth information center on Riverwalk at the foot of Market Street to pick up maps, guides, coupons and more from the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau. They have 2 locations conveniently downtown.

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WHERE is your fave destination to take a Day Trip? For a memorable family getaway from Raleigh, NC, we ❤ Wilmington's River District & Island Beaches. @wilmingtoncoast Besides being an easy, 2 hr + drive, it is a cool place that has historic Southern charm and a beach life vibe! ————————– We have been coming here at least once a year ever since our daughter was 4, but not matter how many times we visit, it is always a good idea to stop by to see what's new and get information on fun things to do at The Riverfront Booth, which is located at the foot of Market Street and Water Street and operates on a seasonal schedule; daily, 9:30am-5pm (June-Aug.). ————– Watch for highlights from our fun day on my instastories exploring #WilmingtonNC, enjoying the walkable River District, visiting @ncaquariumff 🐠, playing on Pleasure Island [Kure/Carolina Beach], dining at @michaelsseafood and more! Plus stay tuned for my #familyfun #DayTrip itinerary on the blog, SobeSavvy.com! #visitNC #exploreNC

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Stroll River District | 12 pm

We spent some time strolling and window shopping in the historic River district. They have everything from vintage clothing boutiques, restaurants and we particularly enjoyed a little Italian food store. As is tradition we took a pic of our little girl by the fabulous fountain! It was Sunday so the Artisan street market was in full swing. Local vendors and artists had booths with unique art and gifts for sale.

Lunch Downtown Historic Wilmington| 1 pm
Strolling had us all hungry but we also wanted to make our way to the beaches. We ended up at this great spot called The Reel Cafe. They let us order some fish and chips to go. It was plenty for us all to snack on during the quick drive to the beaches.

Visit NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher | 1:30 pm

Who doesn’t love an aquarium? Not just any aquarium but the famous NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. This world class aquarium is adjacent to the beach so after exploring all of the wonders of the natural oceans we strolled took a dip in one !! From Albino alligators and a majestic Bald Eagle, this aquarium allows visitors to experience the wild close up. Sharks and giant groupers can be right around the next turn! My daughter loves the hands on areas where she can touch horse shoe crabs and real stingrays. How exciting! They have a cute outdoor patio cafe and kids play area. This aquarium also gives visitors some outdoor experiences. Behind the main building is their now famous Lorikeet Landing habitat. You can walk inside with pre made nectar for purchase and the happy Lorikeets will actually land directly on you and eat from your hand. Some can be a little aggressive so I laid my nectar on the ground for them to feast. Make this a must do activity on your trip to this wonderful facility.

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#Didyouknow…#June is #NationalAquariumMonth & #nationaloceanmonth? Celebrate both at @ncaquariumff #ncaquariumff and have fun going on an under the sea adventure at this landmark attraction, which was named TOP 20 U.S AQUARIUMS by @tripadvisor + BEST AQUARIUMS in the US by @travelchannel .com ———- Located at the southern tip of @kurebeachnc , the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is just a short drive south from @wilmingtoncoast and aprox 2.5 hrs away from #RaleighNC, making it an ideal place for families to visit for a day trip & it is right next to the beach! ——- Some must see highlights are: ▪Luna, the albino alligator ▪Touch/Feel stations ▪Adventure Reef, an outdoor interactive play area for kids ▪Visit the Lorikeet Landing exhibit and feed them too! …and over 2,500 animals to see and have fun learning about! ——- No matter how many times we visit, there are always new and fun discoveries! 🐠 . . . #SobeSavvy #soTravelsavvy #soNCsavvy #NCblogger #LifestyleBlogger #FamilyBlogger #TravelBlogger #tuesdaytip #traveltuesday #familyfun #aquarium #daytrip #summertravel #daytripideas #WilmingtonNC #KureBeach #attraction #landmarks

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Play at Kure Beach | 2:30 pm
Kure beach is a local favorite. There are many beaches to choose from along this portion of the coast and each has their own different flavors. Kure beach lets dogs get their chance at a ocean dip so my daughter {who is a big dog lover} was delighted at the happy hounds. The surf was not too strong so we did some body surfing and playing with the incoming tides. A great couple of hours just relaxing enjoying the ocean.

Explore Carolina Beach Boardwalk|4:30 pm
Next up was Carolina Beach Boardwalk. This beach has some traditional carnival like rides and small roller coasters. It reminded me of a small Coney Island. Pizza and ice cream shops were everywhere. When you visit the Boardwalk make a beeline to the world famous Britt’s Donut Shop. This is siimply the lightest most delicious glazed donut ever. They only make one kind so don’t worry about having a problem choosing one! Made fresh on premise and dropped still steaming warm in your bag. Simply the best. After all the eating, we wanted to work off some calories so we hit up Wheel Fun Rentals. We rented a fun double pedal bike and went off on a self guided tour of the area. Great exercise and a wonderful way to see more of the area.

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For Family Friendly Fun at the beach..head to Carolina Beach Boardwalk >@carolinabeachnc ! During our Day Trip to @wilmingtoncoast , we stopped by the award-winning boardwalk which features: amusement rides in the summer, sweets and eats from Beach Bunny Ice Cream @beachbunnyicecreamcoffee + Frank's Pizza @frankspizzacbnc and Britts Donut Shop @brittsdonutscb @brittsdonuts . Lastly, we rented a surrey bike from Wheel Fun Rentals @wheelfunrentalsofficial which allowed us to work off all that good eating, have a fun, unique bike riding experience together and see more sights around CB Lake Park! • What is your fave thing to do at #CarolinaBeachBoardwalk ? ————– Stay tuned for full Day Trip to Wilmington, NC Historic River District & Island Beaches coming soon, on the blog SobeSavvy.com

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Dine at Michael’s Seafood Restaurant in Carolina Beach | 6:00 pm
No trip to Wilmington and the Beaches would be complete until we have a early dinner at Michaels. This venerable seafood restaurant never dissapoints. The chowder is amazing. A bowl is never enough! The main even was the seafood platter. Crab legs, shrimp, corn and mussels oh my! As always the service was great as was the food and drinks. We love this place. Make sure you make this your place too.

Depart Wilmington,NC| 7:30pm

On our way back to 40-W, I heard ” I want Pelicans” from the back seat. Pelicans is our favorite snoball/snowcone spot back in the triangle so we were happy to see them in Wilmington. We grabbed 3 of them for the road. A sweet ending to a sweet day in Wilmington & The Beaches.

For more info on the happenings in Wilmington and Beaches go to www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com

#TRAVEL | Visit #WilmingtonNC & Island Beaches to Enjoy Nature and Discover What’s In Bloom🌹

TRAVEL | Visit Wilmington NC & Island Beaches to Enjoy Nature and Discover What’s In Bloom! Photo Credit: SobeSavvy.com

You all know the saying ..”April Showers Bring May Flowers“,well my #HeighPartyof3 decided to put the theory to the test and headed to Wilmington NC & Island Beaches to discover What’s In Bloom! In the past, we have visited during the summer as a fun, “Family Travel” destination and also spent a “Daycation” in Wilmington NC & Island Beaches because for us it’s just a 2 hour roadtrip from Raleigh, NC.

This was our first time traveling to Wilmington NC in the Spring and I thought instead of flowers as a gift for Mother’s Day, why not experience botanical gardens and more in this beautiful city! With just 24 hours to explore, there is so much to get outside and do here. Take a look at our weekend itinerary filled with nature-theme activities the whole family can enjoy!

DAY 1 Arrive Saturday

Wilmington + Wrightsville Beach

Before you explore, make your first stop at the main Visitor Information Center, located at 505 Nutt Street in Downtown Wilmington. It opens on Saturday at 9am and is open daily except for Thanksgiving/Christmas. You can get any questions answered by staff, pick up maps, guides and vacation coupons!

Pick up an Official Visitors Guide and more at the main Visitor Information Center | SobeSavvy.com

Take a self-guided walking tour at Airlie Gardens , a 67 acre historical garden in Wilmington. We took advantage of the complimentary tram ride and learned so much about the lush gardens and its rich history. Go and see a 468 yr old Airlie Oak, Azaleas, and the Butterfly House. Learn about Minnie Evans, an African American woman who was a domestic who sold her artwork at Airlie. She once said ” God has some 600 shades of green, and He dressed the world with them.” She died in 1987 and local artists created the Bottle Chapel, a memorial sculpture garden, in 2004 in her honor. It was such an amazing sight to see!

Walk thru Airlie Gardens and learn about history while enjoying nature | SobeSavvy.com

All that walking will surely work up an appetite! Sweet & Savory Café is close by and offers a Saturday Brunch. This farm to fork restaurant in Wilmington is known for its variety of menu choices and fresh baked goods at their bakery.

Dine at Sweet and Savory for Saturday Brunch for a variety of Farm to Fork dishes | SobeSavvy.com

SobeSavvy Tip: Short on time or rather have a quick bite to go? Grab something at Port City Java. I enjoyed an iced coffee for a caffeine boost before our next activity!

Port City Java uses the Japanese Iced Coffee method for a more flavorful,bright,complex brew and its oh so good| SobeSavvy.com

We checked in at the Hampton Inn Wilmington/Downtown and got changed into our bathing suits for some fun in the sun at Wrightsville Beach, located just 15 mins away from Downtown Wilmington. It’s a spacious, clean beach with clear blue waters and is one of the most environmentally friendly beaches in the state. We collected shells to take home as a souvenir and our daughter played by the shore until it was time for dinner at Oceanic Restaurant attached to Crystal Pier. *Be sure to check back here for my #FoodieFriday review of our dining experience at this restaurant. Wrightsville Beach is a walkable beach town with the beauty of nature all around!

Play, Relax and Start a Seashell Collection at Wrightsville Beach | SobeSavvy.com

The Arboretum at New Hanover County closes at 8pm which made it a great last stop of our day. It happened to be prom night and many people were there to capture the perfect photo. Visit the 7 acres of nature trails and gardens, which include a Japanese tea house, gazebo, children’s cottage, ability garden and water garden for FREE!

See the beauty of blooms for free at The Arboretum at New Hanover County | SobeSavvy.com

DAY 2 Depart Sunday

Kure Beach+ Carolina Beach

Sunday,Mother’s Day..all I want to do is sleep in but when you have a six year old daughter who’s motto is ‘Carpe Diem’, you get up early and seize the day! We enjoyed brunch with a view in Wrightsville Beach at Bluewater Waterfront Grill (which you can see a few of my photos here + stay tuned for my #FoodieFriday feature) before our visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. It’s worth the short drive from Wilmington to see more than 2500 animals and the 2 special exhibits: Dinosaurs! and Butterfly Bungalow. The cherry on top of our Sunday Funday at the Aquarium was when one of the butterflies landed right on my husband’s hand! My whole family had a fin-tastic time at this attraction learning just how much animals and nature are connected to each other.

Visit the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher to be inspired by nature and all its wonder | SobeSavvy.com

We did not plan to have another beach day but our daughter’s pleas and the call of the ocean breeze encouraged us to stop at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. It is right down the road from the Aquarium so it really was a convenient stop. This public beach is great for bird watchers because alot of nature is unspoiled here.

Kure Beach is a pure and natural playground for beach goers, bird watchers and nature lovers | SobeSavvy.com

Did you know that one of the only places in the world where you can see the Venus flytrap growing in its native environment is at Carolina Beach State Park? See the rare Venus Flytraps for FREE and learn about one of the world’s most unique carnivorous plants!

Head to the Carolina Beach State Park for a tour along the Flytrap Trail | SobeSavvy.com

SobeSavvy Tip: Ranger-Guided tours of the park’s Venus flytrap trail are available Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10am. I recommend the guided tour, as the flytraps can be hard to find on your own. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes with socks for this guided tour. Insect repellent is highly recommended as are long pants. You can always change back into shorts and sandals in the park’s visitor center bathrooms. The hikes meet at the flytrap trail head and depart promptly at 10am so be sure to arrive in time to park and meet. If you gey hungry after hiking the nature trails, go a half a mile to dine at Michael’s Seafood and enjoy fresh seafood dishes like loaded oysters and snow crab legs!

Dine at Michael’s Seafood, conveniently close to Carolina Beach State Park | SobeSavvy.com

Thank you to Wilmington and Beaches CVB and the attractions who welcomed my family and I to experience nature-theme activities and feature them in my 24 hour itinerary. I hope you and your family will review this travel guide and take the opportunity to visit Wilmington NC & Island Beaches soon to see What’s In Bloom!

#TravelTuesday | Top 4 Reasons to Visit @WilmingtonNCoast for #FamilyTravel #WilmingtonNC

Disclosure: Thank you to Wilmington and Beaches CVB for your assistance with itinerary and attractions to facilitate this review. 

Leslie Heigh, Raleigh-based freelance lifetyle/travel writer/blogger at Wilmington and Beaches CVB Visitor Center’s main office~505 Nutt Street

I planned to visit Wilmington, NC for my 44th birthday this year and met up with family & friends to enjoy my birthday themed weekend: #44bytheshore. Why Wilmington? It is an easy 2 hour drive from where I live in Raleigh, NC plus I love the city and all it has to offer. From the beautiful beaches and shores, variety of attractions, restaurants and tours, Wilmington, NC has alot to explore!

Welcome Bag courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB

My family did a daycation here last year (see travel guide here) and we had so much fun! Now that our daughter is older, we looked forward to an extended stay and having her revisit some places we went to before while also discovering new family friendly activities to do. 

STAY |The Hilton Wilmington Riverside, located on the Cape Fear River in historic downtown Wilmington, was our hotel for our two night stay. We loved how convenient it was to restaurants (such as The Basics, located in The Cotton Exchange across from the hotel) as well as attractions (like the Wilmington Railroad Museum). Stay there for enjoyable river views from their renovated rooms, the pool /tiki bar and access to the 1.75 mile Riverwalk! For more of a look inside the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, click here.

Inside the Hilton Wilmington Riverside

If you are planning a visit to Wilmington and not sure if it is a good fit for your family, I’d like to share with you my         Top 4 Reasons to Visit Wilmington,NC for Family Travel 

  1. BEACHES

    #outandaboutAva & her Mom at Kure Beach   

    Did you know that Wilmington, North Carolina has 31 miles of pristine shoreline with luminous sandy beaches? During our visit, we enjoyed 2 out of 3 island beaches: Carolina Beach Kure Beach. The sun played hide and seek during our 2 nt stay but we still found time to play in the area known as, Pleasure Island . 

    Carolina Beach Boardwalk                            

    Since we arrived on Thursday, we got to check out the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Blast concert with fireworks and also the seasonal amusement park. There’s plenty of sweet treats on the boardwalk but if you love donuts save room for Britt’s Donut Shop!

    Britts Donut Shop

    Kure Beach Pier                                                  

    Kure Beach, North Carolina is known for its Kure Beach Pier , oceanfront park and four miles of uninhabited beach. The award winning aquarium is there also so this beach is kid-friendly. To get here was an easy 20 minute drive from our downtown Wilmington hotel. Check out more photos from our visit to both of the beautiful beaches >>>> here.

    Enjoying a Mommy and Me moment

  2. FOOD 

    Visit Wilmington, NC aka ‘Foodie Paradise’

    See more food pics from this trip>>here. Wilmington, NC has alot of great restaurants and notable chefs making this city a foodie paradise. During our visit to Carolina Beach, we enjoyed Kate’s Pancake House for breakfast. This restaurant is popular because it serves some of the most original pancakes and waffles. It’s only open until 1pm but this is a great place to fuel up for the day on the way to the beach or Aquarium.

    Breakfast Time at Kate’s Pancake House

    Looking for a quick lunch in Downtown Wilmington ? Chop’s Deli: a Boar’s Head Delicatessen would be that destination. They offer made to order salads and classic deli sandwiches, as well as soups and spectacular paninis. Their walk up window serves the hungry masses from 11pm to 3am on summer weekends. We decided to sit outside for some sunshine and people watching as we enjoyed a salad, some soup and a sandwich. Don’t forget to wash it down with their homemade lemonade. Everything was fresh and delicious! 

    Chop’s Deli, Downtown Wilmington                    

    No trip to the coast would be complete without a visit to a quintessential seaside seafood restaurant. Michael’s Seafood, founded by it’s namesake, the late chef Michael Mcgowan and his wife Shelly in 1998, is that place. We had a bowl {2 bowls actually} of it’s international award winning seafood chowder. My 6 yr old basically inhaled the first bowl! This restaurant is not only family-friendly but a perfect dinner option if you are looking for amazing seafood and great service. 

    Michael’s Seafood Restaurant ~Seafood Chowder

    Since we were in Wilmington to celebrate my #44bytheShore birthday, we were delighted to dine at The Basics. They serve simple dishes made with basic ingredients, however, they still manage to elevate our tastesbuds with amazing flavors. Our server took good care of the table and we never felt rushed as we lingered over great food, wine and conversation. If you are staying at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, this restaurant is conveniently located across the street in The Cotton Exchange. Take a look at this drool-worthy pic I shared on IG of the Filet Mignon w/goat cheese at The Basics : 

    The Basics, Filet Mignon Entree, IG@SobeSavvy

  3. Historic River District

    The majestic Battleship NORTH CAROLINA

    Travel to Wilmington, the biggest city on North Carolina’s coast, to learn about its unique history, which predates the civil war. There is no better way to learn about it than to take one of their myriad of tours. This visit we took a Wilmington Trolley Tour, which for over 19 years has been providing visitors with a colorful tour of the city. This 8 mile tour highlights architecture, civil war history and also speaks honestly about the racial strife that was a part of Wilmington’s history. Our driver was excellent. He was informative and entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend this family-friendly tour! 

    All smiles after the Wilmington Trolley Tour

    We also went on self-guided tours and walked along Riverwalk Downtown Wilmington and Cape Fear River. We made many discoveries on foot, like the City Market, a great Saturday morning Riverfront Farmers’ Market and many more shops and stores Downtown. See more photos of where our feet led us>>>here

    Taking a walk along the historic Riverwalk, Downtown Wilmington

  4. Family Fun Attractions

#outandaboutAva gets ready for some family fun at the Fort Fisher/NC Aquarium

When it comes to family fun, we let our daughter, #outandaboutAva lead the way to places where she can imagine, learn, explore and play! Wilmington, NC has some great options that everyone would love to visit such as the Fort Fisher NC Aquarium

SobeSavvy.com at Fort Fisher NC Aquarium

The Wilmington Railroad Museum , a great place to explore family-friendly activities in Wilmington’s River District. 

SobeSavvy.com at the Wilmington Railroad Museum

…and the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, which served as a perfect place to play indoors on a rainy day. 

#outandaboutAva #CMoW #PlayToLearn at The Children’s Museum of Wilmington

Visit & Follow my Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/soBEsavvy as I will continue to give you an inside look and share more details plus photos from these 3 family fun attractions. 
Those are just some of the great reasons to visit Wilmington, NC’s Historic River District & Island Beaches. Check out www.gowilmingtonandbeaches.com before you go and see the many ways to explore and to get information for your next family getaway. My family & friends enjoyed our short but sweet 48 hours here and are already making plans to return next year. Hope you are inspired to make memories there soon!

#44bytheShore Family & Friends Getaway to Wilmington, NC Historic River Distict & Island Beaches