One of the South’s most underrated cities. Made famous with its close connection to the film industry – 2nd to Hollywood with the number of studios. Classic series like One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek made a local celeb siting common throughout recent years. Sadly, because of politics and the elimination of tax benefits -the film industry here is not quite as booming as it once was. However, its incredible food, immediate beach access and friendly locals make ILM a do NOT miss on your Southern Hospitality tour.
- 3pm – Beach Blast
Head over to Wrightsville Beach ASAP! A beautiful little island is the closest beach to Wilmington – this is THE PLACE to be and be seen. However, parking can be a challenge and the crowds are very real on the weekends. Friday will be easier though, so hop over to South End Surf Shop and pick up your rental paddle or surf boards and get out there!
- 6pm – Feeding the fire
At the point you are likely famished from playing in the waves. Head back across the bridge and get an outside table at Dockside. This low key Wilmington tradition needs to be your first seafood stop. Don’t pass on the shrimp and grits!
- 8pm – Downtown Bound
Now that you have refueled it’s time to head downtown! The best local haunts right off the main drag are Blue Post, Beer Barrio and Palate (good stop to explore to hipster and mildly seedy Brooklyn arts district). If your night gets a little more intense and you need to dance off those poor drink decisions, it’s worth the climb to the rooftop level 5.
- 2am – Late Night Chops
Skip the absurd pizza lines and head around the corner to the late night window at Chops deli. A Wilmington sandwich staple – even their mac’n’cheese will change your life.
- 9am – Nothing but the Basics
It’s worth getting your potentially hungover tail out of bed for some southern brunch at Basics. The sides are the don’t miss items here – mashed potatoes for breakfast. YES PLEASE. Also, you should probably walk off your food baby at the farmers market on Saturday mornings around the corner.
- 10am – Fort Fisher
You can’t visit the South without visiting a historical site. A quick 45 minute drive through beach towns leads you to Fort Fisher. This Civil War Fort and battle is an interesting stop to learn about the critical coastline and supply pipeline to Confederate armies inland. The defeat here helped to seal the fate of the Confederacy.
- 11:30 – Ferry to Southport
You shouldn’t visit the Carolina coastline without taking a ferry. So, do the quintessential local thing and drive your car on the ferry over to Southport. Check the schedules here! Southport was voted America’s happiest seaside town last year – Oak Tree lined streets, historic homes with immediate access to Oak Island and the lighthouse. Its definitely worth a visit to this gem of a coastal haven.
- 12:30 – Lunch at Provision Co.
Southport is cute and all…but this is really why people come out here. Grab some seafood (fried fish is the specialty) and save room for ice cream across the parking lot!
- 6pm – Relax with some jams
Drive back to Wilmington and stop by Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Get tickets in advance – this little place attracts some good names but it sells out quickly.
- 10pm – It’s time to see stars
Satellite – Many a local’s favorite stop – tons of selection. Awesome outside corn hole and games, Sunday night bluegrass jam night that will knock your socks off. Young people in Wilmington are known to choose their housing based on their proximity to this joint, it’s worth a stop to find out why.
- 10am Sunday Beach Brunch
Sweet and Savory is THE place to brunch in all of Wilmington. Get there early on a Sunday, beat the church crowds and have a mental battle over the eggs benedict and the french toast. Save space for the key lime tarts if you can…errrrmagerd!
- 1pm Beach Chill
Your brunch local is happily suited down the road from the beach! My suggestion is to grab a beach umbrella, return to Wrightsville, soak up some rays and nap off that epic meal!
- 3pm Airlie Gardens
If you manage to peel yourself away from the beach – or you simply can’t stand to see another half-naked human. Drive around the corner to Airlie Gardens – this beautiful botanical spot will be sure to give you a whole new appreciation of Southern flora and fauna. You are also likely to catch a local couple getting hitched under the Southern Live Oak.
- 7pm Dinner Indochine
It pains me to mention this last, but if you do anything or eat at all while you are in Wilmington – GO TO INDOCHINE. I spent a summer in Thailand in college my favorite Thai food of all time is still this place! Be prepared to wait – drool over the epic menu – understand that you will 100% take home left overs and do whatever you can to save room for dessert. Although, this task my friends is nearly impossible.