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45+ Great Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington (and Nearby!)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on February 29, 2024.

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To all our friends searching for things to do with kids in Wilmington, we salute you and want to help. We’ve also visited the city and love it, as well as its surroundings.

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
    • Wilmington
    • 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!

Beaches

Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington
Masonboro Island.

Visiting the beaches near Wilmington is on many families’ bucket lists each year and we’re happy to share a bit about each one. 

  • 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. 

Read More: 15 of the Best Topsail Island Restaurants (Great Food for All!)

Boat Tours

Attractions in Wilmington NC Water Tours Image
Wilmington Water Tours

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:

Read More: Visiting Airlie Gardens in Wilmington (+ 10 Things We Love!)

Fishing Charters

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:

Some charter services may be willing to depart from a different area, so please feel free to contact them and discuss further.

Fishing Piers

Wrightsville pier drone
Johnnie Mercer’s Pier.

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:

Paddling

Paddling to Zekes Island Bald Head Island from Fort Fisher NC

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.

We suggest you call in advance and be patient, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of your planned adventure.

Surf Lessons

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:

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.

Airlie Gardens

300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Airlie Gardens

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.

Enchanted Airlie is one of the most festive collections of Christmas lights in North Carolina, if you’re here during winter!

Read More: The Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in North Carolina

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

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Battleship North Carolina

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.

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science

814 Market St, Wilmington

Things to Do with Kids in 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. 

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Amazing Places to Visit)

Children’s Museum of Wilmington

116 Orange St, Wilmington

Museums in North Carolina Childrens Museum of Wilmington Image

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

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden

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

Wilmington NC Attractions Riverwalk Images

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!

Read More: 30+ Amazing NC Coastal Towns (+ Things to Do in Each One!)

More Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Carolina Beach)

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington 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.

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)

Carolina Beach State Park

1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach State Park things to do in Wilmington

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)

Wilmington NC Beaches Kure Beach Image

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.

Kure Beach is also home to Fort Fisher, which is great for the outdoor historian (Civil War Battle Site) and lover of sea life (NC Aquarium). 

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

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Kure Beach Fishing 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

If you’re driving from Raleigh on I-40 or even on I-95 where the two meet, 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.

Read More: Amazing Museums in North Carolina

Fort Fisher Historic Site

1610 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Fort Fisher State 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. 

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

1000 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach

Wilmington NC Beaches Fort Fisher Image

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

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Blockade Runner Sailing School

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.

Crystal Pier

703 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach

Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington Wrightsville Beach Pier

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)

Things to do in Wilmington NC Front Street Brewery Image

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.

Read More: The Best North Carolina Breweries

Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Restaurants Wilmington NC Michaels Seafood Carolina Beach Image
Michael’s Seafood

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. 

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!

More Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington (Without Kids, Too)

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