Wilmington (North Carolina)
Wilmington is a city in the southeastern part of North Carolina. It is the county seat of New Hanover County, and home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial, the Cape Fear Museum, Airlie Gardens, and a large historic district. It is convenient to nearby beaches, and is a relatively short drive from the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, SC, and the I-95 corridor.
The city is famous for its beaches, seafood, and historic plantations. As of the census of 2005, there were about 96,000 people residing in the city, estimates now are just over 100,000, with about 360,000 residents in the metro area. The racial makeup of the city is about 70% White, 26% African American, and the remainder other races.
The cultural opportunities in Wilmington are endless; aquariums, museums, historical sites, festivals, libraries, film studios, theatres, and plantations can be enjoyed in this richly cultured city.
Wilmington was the site of the only violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government in United States history, the Wilmington Insurrection, when a mob of 2,000 white Democrats massacred an estimated 60 black residents and the duly-elected city government (including several white men), and installed a white supremacist government in its place despite the city's population being more than 55% African-American at the time. This was following the 1898 election in which a coalition party that promised free public education for all and equal voting rights for every African-American man in the city had secured a majority of city council seats.
Wilmington sits between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. With the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, some 45-60 miles offshore, Historic Wilmington and North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast - Carolina Beach, Kure Beach & Wrightsville Beach enjoy a temperate subtropical climate year-round. Summer temperatures are usually in the 80s (°F). Seasons are mild, with an average 212 sunshine days and a mean average temperature of . The average winter temperature is about .
By carFrom the south via I-95 N, or from the direction of Charlotte, you should take US 74 E (exit 14 in North Carolina from I-95). It will take you about an 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and US 74. If taking this route, you should be sure to stock up on snacks and drinks, use the restroom, and fill up your gasoline tank before merging onto US 74 E, because stops are few and far between until arriving in Wilmington. US 74 (running concurrent with US 17 and US 76 at this point) crosses the Cape Fear River Bridge into Wilmington just south of the Historic District.
From the north via I-95 S, or from the direction of Raleigh, take I-40 E. Again, it will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Wilmington from the junction of I-95 and I-40. You should be aware that stops between I-95 and Wilmington are also infrequent, although there is a rest area near Warsaw, at the exit for NC 24.
From Barstow, California drive 2560 miles due east on Interstate 40 through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The interstate ends at US Highway 117 in Wilmington.
address: 1740 Airport BlvdTwo airlines fly into ILM: American Airlines and Delta. There are non-stop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Orlando/Sanford, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.
By busBus service to Wilmington is via Carolina Trailways, a subsidiary of Greyhound. Buses connect Wilmington to Charleston, Goldsboro, Myrtle Beach, Raleigh and Savannah. The station is at 201 Harnett Street in downtown Wilmington. Service is infrequent, with only four arrivals and departures per day, and the station is open for limited hours: 9AM-1PM, and 4PM-6PM.
By bicycleThe NCDOT Cape Fear Run Bicycling Highway 5 connects Apex to Wilmington and closely parallels the RUSA brevet route. The Ports of Call Bicycling Highway 3 connects Wilmington to Bath, Edenton, New Bern and Southport. The River to the Sea Bikeway (signed route 1) runs for 10 miles from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach along local streets and off-road paths. The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization provides maps of local bicycle facilities and routes. The Gary Shell Cross City Trail runs from Wrightsville Beach, through multiple city parks, ending later at E.L Wade Park.
By boatThere are two water taxi services that connect downtown Wilmington to the U.S. Battleship North Carolina and connect Wrightsville Beach to the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve at Masonboro Island. Many area attractions, including Carolina Beach, downtown Wilmington, and Wrightsville Beach are accessible by boat via the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway.
By busLocal bus service is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which does business as WAVE Transit. WAVE Transit operates eight local routes through the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Most of these operate every 30 min on weekdays. The authority also operates a free downtown trolley that runs every 10 min on weekdays and infrequent service to the towns of Belville, Bolton, Hallsboro, Lake Waccamaw, Leland, Navassa, and Whiteville on the west side of the Cape Fear River. The base fare for a one-way trip is $1.50. The services that cross the river are more expensive.
Car rental is available at the airport from these companies:
- Avis, +1 910 763-1993
- Hertz Rent-a-Car, +1 910 762-1010
- National Car Rental, +1 910 762-8000
- Thrifty Rent-a-Car, +1 910 343-1411
Traffic can be heavy in some parts of Wilmington (South College Rd., Market St.), but on the whole, driving around town is relatively easy. For the most part, major thoroughfares radiate out from the historic downtown, and there are numerous streets that allow you to cut across these radiating thoroughfares. The new Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway provides easy access to downtown, the airport, Interstate 40, and the beach while bypassing the most congested parts of Wilmington.
phone: +1 910 798-7700address: 300 Airlie RdAirlie Gardens encompasses 67 acres of quintessential Southern gardens with 10 acres of freshwater lakes. Features include azaleas, camellias, statuary and the Historic Airlie Oak. This once privately owned garden was purchased for the public by New Hanover County in January, 1999. The gardens are near Wrightsville Beach on Airlie Road.
- Hit the beach! There are several beaches to choose from in Wilmington: Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach. Wrightsville and Carolina Beach are crowded in the summer, but there are always good views and good times. Wrightsville Beach (follow US 74 or US 76 east) has two piers, one owned by a restaurant, the Oceanic, and the other is a public pier. The original wooden public pier was destroyed by a hurricane in 1998 or '99 and has since been rebuilt with cement pilings. This pier also has an arcade for those interested. Carolina Beach (head south on S. College Road) has a board walk with an arcade, several restaurants, an ice cream shop, and a pier.
phone: +1 910 791-0666address: 5320 Oleander DrWater park closed during off season but dry park open all year round, hours vary and park may close due to inclement weather so call ahead! Its main feature is the water park, but includes an arcade, mini golf, and go karts. Prices vary for admittance to the waterpark, but the best price is the 4PM-7PM $14.95 for all ages special.
Marrz Theatrephone: +1 910 772-9045address: 15 S. Front StVoted Best Live Music Venue by Encore magazine. Marrz offers live music from national and regional bands on one of the largest stages in any area club. Show dates and times vary, so check the schedule at their website or call. Marrz has all ABC permits and offers full bar services, beer and wine, but no food service. Some seating is available. The second floor houses a game room and features a pool table, Foosball and other games. Ticket prices vary according to the band. Municipal parking is available directly behind the club.
phone: +1 910 794-1866Riverfront at Market & Water Streets.
phone: +1 910 443-3345address: 3520 Middle Sound Loop RdKayaking tours and lessons.
phone: +1 910 409-4300address: 321 North Front StScary, creepy and mostly ghostly tales. Chills and thrills await you at the one of the most historic & haunted locations in Wilmington. Bring your camera.
North Carolina Azalea FestivalA week-long festival held every April, with music, events, exhibits, tours, community pride, and the beautiful flowers in bloom.
- University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 S. College Rd., +1 910 962-3000.
- Cape Fear Community College, 411 N. Front St., +1 910 362-7000.
- New Hanover County Public Library, 201 Chestnut St., +1 910 798-6301.
- New Hanover County Schools, 6410 Carolina Beach Rd., +1 910 763-5431.
Independence Mall off of Oleander Drive is a respectable mall. Its major department stores are Dillards, JC Penney's, Sears, and Belk's. There are a plethora of other shops to browse as well. The mall wasn't much to talk about before the renovation in 2000. They added the Dillard's and an entire new wing to the mall.
Mayfaire is all outdoor but very nice. If you are in good health, you should have no problem parking in one place and walking around the mall. It's sort of upscale (but not out of reach of the average family) with Belk's and such. It also has an incredibly large and nice movie theater. Definitely the best in town. There are also condos upstairs to some of these buildings. They are costly, but very beautiful. It is a gorgeous place to walk around and shop for the day.
phone: +1 910 792-5599address: 132 Racine Dr. Unit B-1The owner/operator Arthur Quaranta is a nice approachable man who knows what he is talking about when it comes to nutrition products. The government just made new standards for these products; where other companies had to adjust to these new standards, Max Muscle's products still exceed the new standard.
phone: +1 910 409-4300address: Tour meets at the end of Market on the Cape Fear RiverTour Old Wilmington and discover hidden history and a lost time as we travel to Wilmington during the Victorian Era (1837- 1901) Learn about Wilmington’s rich and colorful history as we reveal what life was like in Wilmington during the Civil War, customs and traditions of the day, sea tales, folklore and more..! Call for Tour Times. Walking tours start at the foot of Market and Water Streets, be sure to look for the Victorian Lady!
phone: +1 910 769-4075address: 2547 S 17th StCasual lunch spot for Asian/Latin fusion. Take-out available, lots of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and healthy options.
phone: +1 910 799-2919address: 4002 Oleander DrMainly serves burritos and other Mexican style food. Advertises its food as "hot, fast, cheap and easy" and is a local favorite. Restaurant features a psychedelic theme.
Plaza Mariachiphone: +1 910 313-6894address: 326 South College RdTraditional Mexican. Great food, chips and drinks make it a local favorite.
phone: +1 910 509-0774address: 1121 L Military Cutoff RdDelicious sushi, fresh ingredients all at reasonable price and incredible atmosphere.
Catchphone: +1 910 762-2841address: 215 Princess St
phone: +1 910 256-2753 or +1 910 256-5379Open daily 11AM-until. On the water just south of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. Locals' favorite "place to be" for friendly Carolina service, relaxed island lifestyle. Fresh seafood, famous drinks, families love kid's menu. Live music most weekends.
phone: +1 910 343-8881address: 131 N. Front StCombine homemade Italian food and 24 draft beers and you've got the country's latest concept: an Italian Pub!
phone: +1 910 762-1922address: 8 North Front StAffordable tapas and fine dining with a wonderful wine selection and terrific ambience, located in the Front Street riverfront nightlife area.
East Oceanfront DiningLocated on the water at Wrightsville Beach. Jazz fans should take note of "Jazz Sunday." Brunch buffet is served Sunday from 11:30AM-2PM with live jazz.
phone: +1 910 251-0333address: 114 Market St
phone: +1 910 343-1448address: 2 Ann StMain dining room closed daily from 3PM-5PM, oyster bar open all day, reservations are recommended. Casual American Grill and oyster bar, downtown on the river. Sunset hues are said to be spectacular.
phone: +1 910 794-1570address: 222 Eastwood RdLunch on Sundays 11AM-4PMJapanese cuisine. Includes sushi bar and sashimi. Chefs prepare your meal right at your table.
phone: +1 910 256-4955address: 1981 Eastwood RdServes center cut beef, lamb, and pork, and serve only certified Angus Beef. Also offered are a variety of seafood and pasta dishes. Lunch and dinner specials are served every day.
- Port City Java Wilmington, among other things, is known for their coffee. Port City Java, which was founded in this small town and has now gone global, has an excellent selection of coffee, bagels, and other varieties of café specialties. A local favorite.
- Smoothie King If craving something fruity and refreshing, Smoothie King had smoothie flavors that will satisfy anyone's taste buds.
phone: +1 910 763-4133address: 118 Princess StFormerly a set for the locally filmed TV show Dawson's Creek, Hell's Kitchen has fast become a popular downtown destination for good times among friends. A pub-style setting and a menu of pub sandwiches, burritos and nachos. Full liquor bar available and offers a wide variety of draught and microbrew beers. Recently, well known Wilmington nightclub "Rum Runners" merged with this establishment, bringing their signature dueling pianos show with them.
phone: +1 910 794-1866The Cotton Exchange, 321 N. Front Street.
phone: +1 910 251-1935address: 9 North Front StA great brewpub, located in the historic downtown district of Wilmington featuring great beer and good food. Prices are good, and they have daily $1.99 mug special of one of their delicious house beers, as well as cheap lunch specials. Live entertainment on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
phone: +1 910 763-3377address: 139 N Front StA hybrid specialty beer and wine shop/old-world public house, CFWB offers the most impressive selection of microbrews, imports, and wines in eastern NC. 12 beers (and a mead!) rotate on their various taps and draught engines and they boast a selection of over 300 beers and 200 wines. The theme is best described as German beer hall and UK pub have a weird three-way with a bunch of vikings while listening to gnarly punk music. The staff is exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful, AND the establishment serves as an off-premises store.
The Dublinerphone: +1 910 343-8342address: 1756 Carolina Beach RdThe most authentic Irish pub in the city, The Dubliner is located a few miles from the hustle bustle of Front Street. Owned by legitimate Dubliners Tom and Doreen Melina, this bar is a quaint, cozy, quieter favorite of locals and older crowds. Here you can find the perfect pint of Guinness, Harp, Bass, or Magners. Friday nights are live trad Irish music nights; Tom's three-piece, "The Molly Malones" play acoustic Irish pub tunes starting usually around 10PM. There is no cover except for special events (St. Paddy's, etc), which makes the Friday night music a wonderful deal for those looking for a little 'craic'.
phone: +1 910 313-6665address: 5225 Market StExercise room, free continental breakfast, high speed internet, non-smoking rooms, pool.
phone: +1 910 793-1920address: 245 Eastwood RdWi-fi in all rooms, seasonal outdoor pool.
phone: +1 910 398-6470address: 4706 New Centre Dr
phone: +1 910 791-8082address: 307 Eastwood RdHotel is near UNCW campus, Wilmington Airport, Wrightsville Beach, and historic downtown Wilmington. Amenities include microwave, mini-refrigerator, complimentary high-speed Internet access, indoor pool, fitness center, and 24 hour business center.
phone: +1 910-509-4046address: 6745 Rock Spring Rd
phone: +1 910 392-3227address: 160 Van Campen BlvdFree breakfast bar featuring cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and other hot and cold items. 24-hour fitness center, seasonal outdoor pool, outdoor charcoal grills. Free Wi-Fi access and a 24-hour Business Center
phone: +1 910 392-1101address: 5032 Market StAmenities include indoor pool, health and fitness center, high-speed internet access, and business center.
phone: +1 910 452-5660address: 5102 Dunlea CtAmenities include swimming pool, pets allowed, and fitness center.
phone: +1 910 392-1741address: 5225 Market StAmenities include fully equipped kitchens, weekly housekeeping service, free USA today and free deluxe continental breakfast.
phone: +1 910 332-3326address: 305 Eastwood RdContinental breakfast included, pet friendly, fitness center, indoor pool/whirlpool, high-speed Internet.
phone: +1 910 763-2800address: 503 Nutt StAll riverfront rooms. Located in the city’s Historic District.
phone: +1 910-763-5900address: 106 North Water StOn the riverfront, this is an all-suite hotel, prefect for families or extended stays. No two suites are alike and you get to use the facilities at the Hilton Wilmington.
phone: +1 910-202-8500address: 5010 New Centre DrAll-suite hotel, rooms with full kitchens (microwave, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and cooking utensils). 42" flat screen LCD TV, DVD player, wireless internet. Includes breakfast in the mornings and a reception Monday - Thursday evenings.
The Time Warner Cable Store in Independence Mall has free internet kiosks set and free wifi access.
Internet access is available at Bella's Sweets & Spirits 19 Market St. Historic Downtown Wilmington, NC, +1 910 762-2777. Bella's Sweets & Spirits is an Italian-style coffee bar that offers free wireless high speed internet access and allows use of their in house computers for a fee. Prices range from $1.25 to $6.75.
Do not go to the public library for Internet access if you are not a New Hanover County resident. Library cards, required for internet access, are free for New Hanover County residents but non-residents must show ID and pay $30 a year for a library card.
Additionally, there is a new Internet Café adjacent to the public parking lot below the Pier Arcade in Wrightsville Beach. This is at approximately Public Beach Access entrance 15.
The City of Wilmington also offers free wireless internet access in several areas of downtown. Citi Port Wireless Internet access is a free service provided by the city for citizens along Riverwalk, restaurants and businesses in central downtown. The service is accessible along the central part of Water Street and the foot of Market Street.
CrimeDue to several low-income neighborhoods located near the Front Street nightlife district and the fact that the nightlife attracts a hefty group of college students and US military personnel from nearby Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, Wilmington does have a slightly higher crime rate than would be expected from a city of its size. When walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods/areas (particularly at night), exercise the standard level of awareness and caution and try to travel in groups. During late weekend nights, alcohol-fueled fights on Front Street are not unheard of. Typically this occurs around the time bars begin closing at 2:30-3:30AM The police are typically on top of disturbances, however, and such fights serve more as a public nuisance than a threat to safety. The Front Street riverfront nightlife district typically has a considerable mounted police presence on busy nights able to handle any disruptions.
There are several neighborhoods that have reputations as crime spots, but these areas offer nothing of interest to the visitor and are best avoided altogether. Do not mistakenly, particularly at night, wander into low-income neighborhoods that border the riverfront/Front Street district. Violent crime has been known to happen in these areas.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Front Street is quite a busy area; if you find yourself suddenly in an area lacking in pedestrian traffic, there is probable a reason for it so immediately turn around.
A real-time map of reported crimes in Wilmington is available.
Beach and water safety
- Wrightsville Beach Fire Department, 321 Causeway Dr., Wrightsville Beach, +1 910 256-7900. Includes the Ocean Rescue Squad (beach lifeguards).
- Carolina Beach Lifeguards Information
Tropical stormsBecause Wilmington is on the coast, there is a possibility that a tropical storm system could affect the Wilmington area during hurricane season (June 1 - November 30). Stay informed about any systems and be prepared if one is expected to make landfall in the area. For hurricane safety and preparation tips pick up a hurricane tracking map at a local grocery store.
phone: +1 910 343-7000address: 2131 S. 17th St.
phone: +1 910 452-8100address: 5301 Wrightsville Ave.
Medac Convenient Medical Care3 locations:
phone: +1 910 791-0075address: 3710 Shipyard Blvd.
phone: +1 910 256-6088address: 1442 Military Cutoff Rd.
phone: +1 910 686-1972address: 8115 Market St.
Pet healthJust in case a non-human companion needs medical treatment or to be boarded during your travels:
Coastal Carolina Animal Hospitalphone: +1 910 792-9600address: 5650 Carolina Beach Rd.
Needham Animal Hospitalphone: +1 910 799-2970address: 1531 S 41st St.
Wrightsville Beach Pet Hospitalphone: +1 910 397-7770address: 6324 Oleander Dr.
Banfield the Pet Hospitalphone: +1 910 796-0401address: 4715 New Centre Dr
phone: +1 910 343-2000address: 1003 South 17th StLatest Wilmington North Carolina news and events
- Carolina Beach
- Fort Fisher. If interested in Civil War history, drive south on College Road (I-40) until it dead-ends to check out Fort Fisher. This was a major stronghold of the confederacy. The ocean has eroded much of this fort but there is still quite a bit left. Visitors walking around may find a bullet casing from the war. Additionally, before the Civil War, the area was inhabited by Native Americans so it is common for someone digging around to find an arrowhead from the Indians.
- Southport Take the ferry on a day trip from Wilmington to this quaint little town. Stroll along the sidewalks, check out the antique shops, historic homes, grab a bite to eat, and experience true southern hospitality. Unfortunately, with the plans to build a new port and the building of condos and strip malls, this gem will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. See it now before its gone.