Want a change of scenery? Here’s where to STAY, EAT, EXPLORE in @WilmingtonNCoast! #travel #familytravel #WilmingtonNC #CarolinaBeachNC #SobeSavvy

2020 has been a unique year to say the least. Challenges that none of us could have guessed a year ago have filled all of our lives since March. Like many of you, home school and working from home has become a mainstay. My #HeighPartyof3 family were in need of a change of scenery, so we opted for a roadtrip to Wilmington, NC over this past Thanksgiving Day weekend. If you are not familiar with Wilmington, it’s an iconic coastal city that is both urban and beachy at the same time with a down home friendliness and great food and hospitality scene. We have visited this destination a few times (read about past visits: here) and our familiarity made the choice that much easier. If you are in need of a change of scenery, here’s where to STAY, EAT, EXPLORE in Wilmington, NC!

STAY

Social distancing is a invented term due to COVID-19 and picking a place that takes that seriously led us to Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront. They have instituted a industry leading room cleaning sanitation program called Clean Stay. They have partnered with Lysol to ensure the highest level of cleanliness at the property.

This hotel’s proximity to the riverwalk and historic downtown makes this a awesome choice for those wanting to explore this part of Wilmington on foot. Hubby took a jogging map the hotel has and went for a birthday morning 3 mile run! We had a spacious modern suite with a enviable Cape Fear River view. Great stay at a nice property!

STEAM Restaurant & Bar, located inside the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront had a special Thanksgiving Brunch. The STEAM staff served the buffet with socially distanced tables and sanitized protocols in place. We had a table with no one in our immediate area so we got a chance to relax and enjoy a turkey dinner along with some locally sourced oysters and shrimp! Great service and wine/cocktail list made this a great choice.

EAT

In addition to STEAM , there are amazing family dining options in the area that offer takeout as well as dining in with Covid safety measures in place. Here are some places we enjoyed:

Hops Supply Co.: We had eaten a heavy “thanksgiving” at lunch time and didn’t quite think about the fact that almost NOTHING is open after 3 or 4 on Thanksgiving and needed a place to get something light. Enter Hops Supply Co. A restaurant that happens to be THE place in Wilmington for craft beer, wine on tap and food of course !We opted for curbside pickup of their Bistro Salad and a side order of asparagus. The.salad.was.everything !! Enough for two and incredibly good. The candied walnuts and blue cheese crumble combined with their incredible balsamic vinaigrette equaled perfection. When times get more back to normal I look forward to returning to try their beer and other food selections.

Slice of Life Pizzeria & Pub: Everyone likes pizza but my husband and daughter LOVE pizza. Lucky for them {and me} that one of the best pizza places ever at Slice Of Life. Voted Best Pizza and Best Late Nite Eatery in Wilmington for several years in a row, Slice Of Life got the unofficial stamp of approval from a 9 year old. You can customize a pizza with their myriad of toppings. We opted for half cheese and half Pineapple ham and mushroom. Simple perfection. We will definitely return!

The Basics: Located in the heart of everything downtown on Front street is The Basics. This mainstay has been a dining favorite for years. Everything from a casual breakfast to a dress up for dinner party can be had in this one restaurant. We had celebrated my birthday here a few years ago abd returned for breakfast this time. Shrimp and Grits, Chicken Biscuit and pancakes for the not so little one were ordered up this time. A few daytime cocktails included a Tequila Sunrise that was simply perfect.Yum Yum Yum. Just look at these pics and they say it all. There is nothing Basic about The Basics!

EXPLORE

Wilmington Riverwalk: Wilmington’s iconic riverwalk has been under construction for a few years now. It’s popularity had taken a toll and they are now renovating and expanding this wonderful walkway that doubles as a jogging route. We enjoyed taking walks during our stay here and made a fun IG reels video (that you can watch: here) to take you along the Riverwalk with us! Hugging the Cape Fear River this walkway gives visitors a great way to experience what I call the “backside” of downtown. Restaurants, shops and hotels line the riverwalk as well and you can see some of the most beautiful sunsets from here. You could also book a cruise tour aboard The Henrietta riverboat to learn more about Wilmington.

Carolina Beach: One of the best features of Wilmington is it’s proximity to many beach areas within a 30 min drive from downtown. Carolina Beach is one of them. We took a stroll along the boardwalk, enjoyed gelato while sitting in one of the swings and simply enjoyed being outside with nature. A walk on the beach is all that we needed to get some relaxing time together and a change of scenery.

Wilmington Tours: History is everywhere in Wilmington and sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to start when it comes to exploring historic Wilmington. Enter the Wilmington Tours App. Located in the Google Play store, this app features 5 full length city tours that include: African-American History, Pub Crawl Wilmington, Civil War Wilmington, 2nd Street to the River, and 3rd Street & East. We downloaded the African American Tour and since it was raining we drove to some of the historic sites that included the home of one of Wilmington’s most prominent black families, a rare intact urban slave quarters and different street corners of significance. This interactive tour is highly informative and literally made history come to life. I highly recommend this app for any visitor to learn about the history of Wilmington. Next time we will choose another tour from this amazing app!

Airlie Gardens: These public gardens are 67 acres of natural historic beauty. Airlie Gardens are a treasure not just of Wilmington or Hanover County but a treasure of all of North Carolina. While these gardens are beautiful any day of the year, we went for their annual “Enchanted Airlie” Holiday light spectacular. This is the hot ticket since 2005 and this year, while a little different still was as popular as ever. Timed tickets ensured it was not too crowded. Over a million lights adorned natural and man made things throughout. Different themes could be found everywhere. We all loved “Swan Lake” and the butterfly house exhbit. So many colors and with Holiday tunes playing, everyone was into kicking off the Christmas season! It even “snowed”. My daughter simply loved the whimsical atmosphere of it all and it will be a treasured memory.

👀Watch my full recap of opening night at Enchanted Airlie>> here.

We are thankful and grateful to be able to spend some quality time together and get a change of scenery in a neighboring city that we love to explore. This was our first time going to Wilmington,NC as a kick off to the holiday season and we may just make this a new family tradition! Before you go, be sure to check in with Wilmington and Beaches to plan your vacation. We hope that you are inspired to visit soon!

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#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!