More recently, we’ve traveled through with our little one and have found more than a few things we can all do together. And that’s how we came to create this guide for you.
Here, you’ll find a mix of watery fun, indoor things to do, and places to grab a bite or drink. Above all, we think you can enjoy them throughout the year.
Note: We know that the “beach” season is over and we’re currently working on an off-season guide to help you further! In the meantime, we hope this guide will help with your planning for a trip to Wilmington during the cooler months.
Family-Friendly Fun Activities in Wilmington NC
Special thanks to Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau for hosting us during our stay. All opinions within this article are our own.
Visiting the beaches near Wilmington is on many families’ bucket lists each year and we’re happy to share a bit about each one.
I prefer Wrightsville Beach for the beautiful water you’ll see from the massive pier, and all the fun stuff to do nearby. Wrightsville might be known as more high-end or college-friendly, but I still find it accessible to those traveling on a budget and especially with kids!
To me, Carolina Beach is the most accessible and inviting. The place certainly ramps up during summer and the busy season, with events happening throughout.
Bonus: If you arrive between Memorial Day and Labor Day, grab a Britts Donut while you walk around and take it all in.
Kure Beach (pronounced “Cure-EE”) is the most laid-back of the three, as it’s further south from the main drag of Carolina Beach. It’s also home to Fort Fisher, which is great for the outdoor historian (Civil War Battle Site) and lover of sea life (NC Aquarium).
More Beaches near Wilmington
We’ve even enjoyed Fort Fisher Beach, which is just south of town in Kure Beach.
If you’re in Wilmington for a really long time and want another beach after trying these, check out Topsail. It’s about an hour away from Wilmington and home to a laid-back vibe, beautiful sound and sea views, and more.
Speaking of Fort Fisher, there are quite a few things to do at this popular, historic spot that shares Pleasure Island with Kure Beach.
NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
If you’re driving from Raleigh on I-40 or even on I-95 where it meets I-40, you’ll likely see a sign for North Carolina Aquariums being over 100 miles away.
It’s definitely worth the drive, even if you’re not staying in Wilmington. Here, you’ll take an exhibited adventure through the Cape Fear River, learning about freshwater, coastal, and open ocean habitats.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is managed by NC State Parks, home to five miles of beach, a mile-long trail, fishing, and off-roading. It’s also a great spot for a picnic, with more than 20 tables available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fort Fisher Historic Site
While Fort Fisher fell during a massive amphibious assault from Union troops, its remains are still with us to tell its story and those of Confederate artillerists and Union infantrymen.
Join a Fort Fisher Historic Site guided tour at scheduled times and if you’re traveling with a larger group, it’s recommended to make a reservation here.
The Cape Fear Museum
The Cape Fear Museum’s 52,000 objects highlight the area’s distant past all the way to today. A mix of ongoing and temporary exhibits keeps things interesting for your visit, no matter when you’re in Wilmington.
If you’d like to learn more about Wilmington’s past, check out this book by local legend Beverly Tetterton.
Wilmington Railroad Museum
The Wilmington Railroad Museum sits inside an old freight warehouse and honors the industry’s historically important contributions to the city and surrounding areas. There are life-sized artifacts and 20-plus model trains, making this place a truly interactive, educational experience.
We shared more about our experience at the Wilmington Railroad Museum here.
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
Prepare for some fun and interactive play inside the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. There are a variety of fun exhibits that simulate real-life situations, like a grocery store, doctor’s office, and gym.
The “Toddler Treehouse” is perfect for the really little ones and the “Art Room” allows kids to create masterpieces in a fun and stimulating environment.
And then there’s the Riverwalk, one of those activities in Wilmington for people of all ages, but especially for families. You’ll see tons of shops, the Battleship North Carolina, Children’s Museum, and much more along the way.
Riverfront Park and a picnic area are a couple of nice places to stop along the way, too.
Cruise along the Cape Fear River via Wilmington Water Tours. You’ll learn various fun facts about the area’s history, its ecology, and more along the scenic way.
Even-hour tours explore the Northern Riverfront and during odd hours, they head south under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to the State Ports.
We as parents are grateful for typically adult-friendly spots that double as family-friendly activities in Wilmington. Also, many thanks for allowing us to bring our little one.
Of course, we don’t plan to make it a late-night with our kid, so keep that in mind. Here are a few kid-friendly breweries in Wilmington that we visited.
I like places that specialize in one area and at Flytrap, you’ll find that through a nice collection of Belgian and American style ales. Indoor and outdoor seating await at this Brooklyn Arts neighborhood brewery.
Wilmington Brewing Company
Wilmington Brewing Company hosts food trucks on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to go along with their 15 rotating taps and family-friendly atmosphere. You can also bring your own food anytime, which is an added bonus in my book.
Front Street Brewery
You can come to Front Street for the beer but the food on the menu at downtown Wilmington’s original brewpub is absolutely worth a taste.
With 10 microbrews on tap, tours available, and amazing food coming out of the kitchen, this was and will always be one of our favorite places to visit in Wilmington!
Wrightsville Beach Brewing Company
Wrightsville Beach Brewing Company offers amazing food to go with a variety of ales, porters, and more. They also have a rotating “Beer of the Month,” where 11 percent of sales from that beer go to designated non-profits each month.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about the awesome breweries you’ll find in Wilmington and nearby!
We believe just about any restaurant can be kid-friendly, as long as there aren’t tablecloths and stiff rules involved.
While in the area, here are some of our favorite restaurants in Wilmington and elsewhere in the area that caters nicely to families traveling with children.
Inside the Cotton Exchange, you’ll find ample seating and album covers lining the walls of The Basics. Their menu recognizes the diverse needs of Wilmington’s visitors and locals alike.
Stop by for breakfast and brunch, lunch, and dinner and feed your need for Southern and American comfort food and contemporary favorites, too!
The Pilot House
Enjoy gorgeous views of the Cape Fear River while dining at The Pilot House. Don’t let the scenery dominate the conversation, though, as this place creates amazing dishes with fresh seafood. They also offer a kids menu, which helped us enjoy our catfish and tuna.
You might be thinking that a family-friendly seafood restaurant would be filled with fried stuff, but think again if you’re going to visit Michael’s in Carolina Beach.
This place doesn’t even have a fryer, with its amazing menu offering nearly 100 percent gluten-free options. I was told 98 percent from one of the friendly folks there.
The post-meal food coma is wearing off, but I remember us enjoying the Admiral’s Delight (crab legs, scallops, shrimp, and oysters) while the kiddo munched away on baked chicken and chips.
More Family-Friendly Food in Wilmington
We’ll be sharing a guide to Wilmington restaurants soon but in the meantime, what are your go-to places to eat there?
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
Can we just get back to exploring these and more family-friendly activities in Wilmington? If the people of that awesome city will have us, we’ll gladly and immediately return.
Have you ever spent time exploring this awesome part of our state? If you have kids or travel with them, we’d love to know your top family-friendly activities in Wilmington! If there’s something you’d like to add, let us know, too!