Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on February 29, 2024.
We’ve traveled all over this awesome place in North Carolina 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 most of them throughout the year.
Since there are so many fun things to do with kids in Wilmington (and nearby), we organized this guide into the following sections:
- Family-Friendly Activities Throughout (Beaches, Boat Tours, Indoor Entertament, and More)
- Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington and Nearby Towns
- Carolina Beach
- Kure Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
- Family-Friendly Breweries
- Family-Friendly Restaurants
You can scroll ahead to the section you’re looking for or continue reading about family-friendly activities in Wilmington proper. If you’d like to visually plan things to do with kids in Wilmington, check out our North Carolina Travel Map.
Read More: Things to Do in Wilmington
Family-Friendly Activities in Wilmington (Throughout the Area)
Before we dig into specific towns, we wanted to share some fun things to do with kids in Wilmington and throughout its surroundings!
- 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, and one of the best beaches in North Carolina. It’s further south from the main drag of Carolina Beach.
- We love 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!
- We’ve also enjoyed Fort Fisher Beach, which is just south of town in Kure Beach. Our guide covers this beach in more detail in the “Kure Beach” section.
- Masonboro Island is a wonderful spot that you need a boat to reach. Various boat tours will take you there, and we highly recommend a visit to this beautiful island.
- 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.
Cruise along the Cape Fear River or around the area’s beaches with a boat tour company. We’ve done a few of these with our little one and highly recommend this as a family-friendly activity.
You’ll learn various fun facts about the area’s history, its ecology, and more along the scenic way. Here are a few boat tour companies in Wilmington and nearby:
- Island Cruises (Carolina Beach)
- Island Time Water Tours (Carolina Beach)
- Sea Gate Boating (Wrightsville Beach)
- Wilmington Water Tours (Wilmington)
- Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Water Taxi (Wrightsville Beach)
Grabbing a trophy photo as a family is one of the most fulfilling activities in the Wilmington area. Below is a list of fishing charters and their departure points:
- Batson Charter Boats (Carolina Beach)
- Blackbird Guide Services (Multiple Locations)
- Cape Fear Guide (Wrightsville Beach and More Locations)
- Carolina Beach Fishing Charters (Carolina Beach)
- Carolina Beach Headboats (Carolina Beach)
- Circle H Charters (Wrightsville Beach)
- Deep Sea Express Charters (Wrightsville Beach)
- Feel Good Fishing Charters (Multiple Locations)
- Fish Witch Charters (Carolina Beach)
- Fortune Hunter (Wrightsville Beach)
- Gone Coastal Charters (Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and More)
- Hook, Line, and Paddle (Wilmington)
- Hot Ticket Fishing Charters (Wrightsville Beach)
- Liveline Charters (Wilmington)
- Musicman Charters (Carolina Beach)
- No Excuses Fishing Charters (Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and More)
- ProFishNC Charters (Multiple Locations)
- Sea Gate Boating (Wrightsville Beach)
- Seagate Charters (Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and Wilmington)
- Second Sport Charters (Carolina Beach)
- Southern Sportfishing (Carolina Beach)
- WB Diving (Wrightsville Beach)
- Wet-N-Wild Sportfishing (Carolina Beach)
- Whipsaw Charters (Wrightsville Beach)
Some charter services may be willing to depart from a different area, so please feel free to contact them and discuss further.
If you don’t want to hop on a boat to fish, you can hook something from one of the Wilmington area’s piers.
- Carolina Beach Pier
- Crystal Pier (Wrightsville Beach)
- Kure Beach Fishing Pier
- Johnnie Mercers Pier (Wrightsville Beach)
We’ll mention more about these piers in each individual beach town’s section.
Indoor Games and Entertainment
Let’s be honest. The weather won’t always cooperate no matter how tightly we cross our fingers.
Along with museums, we think arcades, bowling alleys, trampoline parks, and escape rooms are a great solution to rainy days! Here are a few in the Wilmington area:
- BreakTime Billiards Bar & Grill- Family Fun Center (127 S College Rd, Wilmington)
- Cardinal Lanes Shipyard (3907 Shipyard Blvd #6152, Wilmington)
- Cardinal Lanes North/Beach Bowl (7026 Market St, Wilmington)
- Carolina Beach Arcade (103 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach)
- Defy Wilmington Trampoline Park (6431 Market St, Wilmington)
- The Exit Games (2 N Front St, 2nd Floor, Wilmington)
- Flip N Fly Indoor Entertainment Park (830 Inspiration Drive, Wilmington)
- Green Light Escape Rooms (130 N Front St, Suite 202 Wilmington)
- Hi-Tech Arcade (111 K Avenue, Kure Beach)
- iEscape Rooms (100 N Lake Park Blvd, 2nd Floor, Carolina Beach)
- Ten Pin Alley- Family Fun Center (127 S College Rd. Wilmington)
Paddling (via kayak or SUP) is one of the most fun ways to get out on the water, especially in the Wilmington area. A few of these outfitters offer tours, but that could change due to staffing and any other unforeseen circumstances.
- Cape Fear Paddleboarding (Wrightsville Beach)
- Hook, Line, and Paddle (Wilmington)
- Kayak Carolina (Kure Beach)
- Mahanaim Adventures (Multiple Locations)
- Paddle NC (Carolina Beach and also, Topsail and Hammocks Beach State Park)
- Pleasure Island Rentals (Carolina Beach)
- Wrightsville Kayak Company (Wrightsville Beach and Figure Eight Island)
- Wrightsville SUP (Wrightsville Beach)
We suggest you call in advance and be patient, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of your planned adventure.
Be we move onto specific major attractions in Wilmington and nearby, we think you should know that surf lessons are also on the table! Here are a few fun places to learn how to ride those waves:
- Crystal South Surf Camp (Wrightsville Beach)
- Indo Jax Surf School (Wilmington)
- JC Surf Camp, Inc (Wilmington)
- Sean’s Private Surf Instruction (Wrightsville Beach)
- Tony Silvagni Surf School (Carolina Beach)
Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington NC
We’ve shared all the things to do with kids in Wilmington and elsewhere. Now it’s time to cover the major attractions in our Port City and nearby.
300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington
Just northeast of downtown Wilmington is the spectacular 67-acres of Airlie Gardens. Airlie is known for a 500-year-old live oak, 10 acres of lakes, a variety of gardens, a chapel made out of bottles, and much more.
More New Hanover County Parks
Airlie Gardens is managed by New Hanover County, but it’s not the only awesome park worth mentioning. Here are a few more county parks:
- Arrowhead Park (300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington)
- Cape Fear Museum Park (814 Market St, Wilmington)
- Long Leaf Park (314 Pine Grove Dr, Wilmington)
Battleship North Carolina
1 Battleship Rd NE, Wilmington
One thing that belongs on everyone’s bucket list (especially families) is a walk on the USS North Carolina. Docked in the waters across from Downtown Wilmington, this is also one of our favorite museums in North Carolina.
The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
814 Market St, Wilmington
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.
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
116 Orange St, 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.
Read More: Airbnbs in Wilmington (and its surroundings)
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
5320 Oleander Drive
Open weekends from Memorial Day to mid-September, Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is one of the most fun-filled things to do with kids in Wilmington. Many people come for the water park, but don’t forget that you can play laster tag, bowl, play arcade games, enjoy rock climbing, and much more!
Museum of the Bizarre
201 South Water St
Museum of the Bizarre is a perfect place for lovers of science and oddities. The Crystal Skull of Knowledge and Fort Fisher Mermaid are two of many bizarre things that await inside.
Keep your visit strictly to the museum side or challenge yourself with a walk through the Lazer Vault Maze, too. Either way, we think you should add this to your list of things to do with kids in Wilmington.
Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
New Hanover County Arboretum
6206 Oleander Dr
The New Hanover County Arboretum sits between Airlie Gardens and Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park and is always worthy of a stop. Unless there is a special ticketed event, this is one of many free things to do with kids in Wilmington.
You and the little ones can stroll the seven acres of gardens (open daily) and don’t forget to bring a lunch to enjoy in the picnic area.
Remember to stay with your kids and not to pick from the beautiful gardens.
Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden
3800 Canterbury Rd, Wilmington
Did you know that the Venus flytrap is native to Wilmington and the 60-mile radius around it? The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is one place where you can learn all about it!
See if you can spot Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and more carnivorous plants while learning about Wilmington’s interesting microclimate.
More Wilmington Parks & Greenways
The City of Wilmington manages the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden and more parks throughout the city. Here are a few more you should know about:
- Arrowhead Park (720 Arnold Rd, Wilmington)
- Gary Shell Cross City Trail (City Wide, 15 Miles)
- Greenfield Park (1739 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington)
- Halyburton Park (4099 S. 17th St, Wilmington)
- Long Leaf Park (314 Pine Grove Dr, Wilmington)
- Ogden Park (615 Ogden Park Dr, Wilmington)
- Riverfront Park (10 Cowan St, Wilmington)
Wilmington Railroad Museum
(505 Nutt St, Wilmington)
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.
Read More: Amazing Children’s Museums in North Carolina
The Wilmington Riverwalk
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.
Wilmington Sharks Baseball
2149 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington
The Wilmington Sharks are a summer collegiate baseball team that plays in the Coastal Plain League. Personally, we find Minor League Baseball more fun to watch than the big leagues because the players seem more approachable and down to earth.
Games are also more affordable, especially for Sharks games, which kick off in May!
More Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Carolina Beach)
Carolina Beach Boardwalk
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is often our first stop! It’s surrounded by brightly colored buildings filled with great restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream joints, and tiki bars.
There are several swings along the wooden boardwalk and plenty of space to stretch your legs before heading onto the beach or elsewhere.
Carolina Beach State Park
1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach
Carolina Beach State Park is easily one of our favorite things to do with kids in Wilmington. The trails are flat and easy and give a great representative look at the diverse ecosystems found in the Cape Fear region.
While there’s no swimming allowed here, Carolina Beach State Park is one of the best places to fish, take your boat, and enjoy the water!
Read More: All North Carolina State Parks Sites
Freeman Park Recreation Area
1800 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach
Freeman Recreation Area is a popular spot for swimming, crabbing, and camping. Permits are required and intermittent closures can occur due to erosion and other environmental factors.
More Carolina Beach Parks
Freeman Recreation Area is a great spot near the water, but here are a few more Carolina Beach Parks you should also know about:
- Carolina Beach Lake Park (400 S Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach)
- Island Greenway (Mike Chappell Park, 501 Dow Road South, Carolina Beach)
- Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park (1018 N Lake Park Blvd Carolina Beach)
- Mike Chappell Park (501 Dow Rd S, Carolina Beach)
Even More Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Kure Beach)
Speaking of Fort Fisher, there are quite a few things to do at this popular, historic spot that shares Pleasure Island with Kure Beach.
Kure Beach Pier
From April to Thanksgiving, the 711 foot Kure Beach Pier is the perfect spot to look back on those pastel houses and the water that surrounds you. You can also fish here or grab some ice cream from the seasonal concession stand.
No fishing license is required to fish off of the pier, but there is a small fee required to do so. If you’re not fishing, access to the pier is FREE.
NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
900 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach
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.
Read More: Amazing Museums in North Carolina
Fort Fisher Historic Site
1610 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach
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.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
1000 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is an amazing State Parks site, 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.
Kure Beach Parks
More ways to get outside include these wonderful Kure Beach Parks:
- Kure Beach Ocean Front Park & Pavilion (105 Atlantic Ave, Kure Beach)
- Joe Eakes Park (K Avenue & S 7th Ave, Kure Beach)
Even Even More Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Wrightsville Beach)
Blockade Runner Sailing School
275 Waynick Blvd, Wrightsville Beach
Sailing lessons might be of the most fun things to do with kids in Wilmington’s surroundings.
The Blockade Runner Sailing School is one excellent option for that. Ages 13 and up are welcome to try sailing and no previous experience is required!
You can try for an hour or go all-in with a two-day basic keelboat sailing certification course.
703 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach’s Crystal Pier stretches 475 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. The Oceanic Restaurant is here and you can also walk or fish from the pier for free.
Unless it’s closed for a private event, the Crystal Pier is open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Johnnie Mercer’s Pier
23 E Salisbury St, Wrightsville Beach
Johnnie Mercer’s Pier extends more than 1,200 feet into the ocean and is certainly a place you must visit at least once. This is the first concrete fishing pier in the state of North Carolina, with a tackle shop, seasonal snack bar, and full bathrooms.
Also, don’t forget about the wonderful views that await!
Family-Friendly Breweries in Wilmington (and Nearby)
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.
- Flytrap Brewing (319 Walnut St, Wilmington)
- Front Street Brewing (9 N Front St, Wilmington)
- Wilmington Brewing Company (824 S Kerr Ave, Wilmington)
- Wrightsville Beach Brewing Company (6201 Oleander Dr, Wilmington)
Read More: The Best North Carolina Breweries
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.
- The Basics (319 N Front St, Wilmington)
- Michael’s Seafood (1206 N Lake Park Blvd A, Carolina Beach)
- Peppered Cupcake (105 S Front St & 260 Racine Dr Ste 7, Wilmington)
- The Pilot House (2 Ann St, Wilmington)
- Wake n’ Bake Donuts (1401 N. Lake Park Blvd, # 46, Carolina Beach)
Ready to Enjoy these Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington?
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 things to do with kids in Wilmington! If there’s something you’d like to add, let us know, too!