How to Have an Epic Day Trip from Topsail to Wilmington

Wilmington Day Trips

Nestled along the gentle Cape Fear River approximately 50 miles south of your Topsail Island vacation you'll find the beautiful port city of Wilmington. With lovely old homes, a thriving historic district, beautiful river walk and home of the USS North Carolina battleship, there is plenty to do and see in Wilmington. Take advantage of being in the heart of coastal North Carolina during your Topsail Island vacation by taking a day-trip to beautiful Wilmington. There is so much to see and do we're sure you'll have a wonderful day exploring this majestic port city. Here 5 great things to do in Wilmington during your day-trip.



 1. Battleship North Carolina

Moored on the Cape Fear River across from downtown, the USS North Carolina gives visitors a rare opportunity to step back in time. History comes alive at this exciting attraction that is consistently rated as one of the top attractions in the state. No trip to downtown Wilmington is complete without taking a tour of this World War II-era battleship. Originally commissioned in 1941 the ship served with distinction in several Pacific theater offensives. The Navy ultimately decided to decommission the ship in 1947. Originally after being decommissioned the ship was scheduled to be scrapped, but the citizens of North Carolina successfully petitioned for the ship to be preserved as a memorial and in 1961 that is exactly what happened. Now the battleship is open to the public and is one of the great treasures of North Carolina. Topsail Island is a favorite vacation stop for many of our service members and veterans and as many of you know North Carolina is home to some of the countries largest military bases. So take a moment to not only learn about some great North Carolina history but also to honor those who have served.

Finding the battleship is easy, take Hwy 210 West out of Topsail Island and then follow Highway 17 South to Wilmington. You'll notice signs directing you to the Battleship as you approach Wilmington on 17. The battleship if very easy to find. Since the battleship is technically considered a military memorial is open every day of the year, even all major holidays which makes it accessible anytime. Visitors are welcome to take the self-guided tour, or there are guided tours available. Guided tours do have an additional admission fee, but are well worth it. Consider taking the Full-Tour which takes approximately 3 hours. This tour includes main deck, navigation, living and mess decks. Additionally, this tour allows access to the 5-inch and 16-inch turrets.



2. Riverwalk

No trip to Wilmington is complete without taking a stroll down the Riverwalk. This mile-long boardwalk is the perfect way to take in the waterfront along downtown. With beautiful waterfront views, you might never get off the boardwalk, but that would be a mistake. Along the boardwalk, you'll find loads of restaurants, bars, a happening nightlife, and great shopping. One of the most popular spots is the Cotton Exchange and the 1914 Murchison Building. With the holidays fast approaching the Riverwalk is the perfect place to stroll and shop for those perfect holiday gifts. If you would like to incorporate a visit to the USS North Carolina Battleship into this visit, you can take a water taxi from the Riverwalk to the Battleship. There is no fee associated with the Riverwalk, and you'll need to plan on spending 1-4 hours on the Riverwalk and the surrounding area depending on how much shopping you do or if you stop to eat along the way. The Riverwalks is handicap accessible.

Historic District 

3. Historic District

Take a leisurely walk back in time during your visit to Wilmington by exploring the Historic District. The Historic Districts consists of 230 blocks of historic properties that personify the beauty of coastal North Carolina. Throughout the year the historic district features different themed events, such as the Candlelight Tour of historic homes which takes place Dec 2 and 3. Visitors can also take a trolley tour. If you're looking for something a little more in keeping with the period there are several vendors offering horse-drawn carriage rides. Bring the camera, grab a hot chocolate and just think of what it must have been like in the 1800's strolling the beautiful streets of historic Wilmington. (IMG Source: Bellamy Mansion Museum)

Poplar Grove 

4. Poplar Grove Plantation

Poplar Grove is a beautiful plantation home listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites. Located right on Highway 17 N in Wilmington, NC Poplar Grove comes alive this time of year in Christmas splendor. No matter the time of year a visit to Poplar Grove is worth the trip. Tours of the home take you back in time and offer visitors a unique look into plantation life. Throughout the year there are several events that are worth a day trip by themselves. Christmas time is no different.
If you're looking for beautiful handmade artisan crafts, jewelry, or pottery look no further than a day trip to the Poplar Grove A Merry Little Christmas Arts, Crafts and Gift Show. This year's event is slated to be better than ever, with tons of period activities, and family-friendly events that are sure to put you not only in the shopping spirit but the Christmas mood as well. The event takes place on Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10 from 10 am to 5 pm and 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday. Here are just a few of the things you can expect to enjoy during your visit. Kids will love the inflatable bouncy houses, and you'll love strolling the beautiful grounds lit with dazzling white lights. This year there are wagon tours of the Abbey Nature Trail and of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be at the gazebo for picture opportunities. Finally, there are barnyard animals for the kids to visit which makes any event more fun. This is a market that offers something for everyone. Make sure to be there towards twilight to enjoy all the spectacular lights! 

Airlee Gardens

5. Airlie Gardens

You may not know this but Wilmington is often called the Hollywood of the East due to the number of movies and television show filmed in and around the city. One location that is often used, and that you've probably seen is Airlie Gardens. So what is Airlie Gardens? Arlie Gardens is a 640 Acre historic public garden. The gardens are also home to much of Minnie Evans American folk art, which alone is worth the trip. Tickets to the gardens are $9.00 for adults and $3.00 for children (4-12) and give visitors access to the grounds all day. Exploring the gardens is a fun and family-friend event. Here are just a few of the exhibits and things to do in the gardens.

Butterfly House-One of the fun things about the gardens is the 2,700 sq foot Butterfly house which houses hundreds of butterflies all of which are native to North Carolina. Another great feature of the gardens is thousands of beautiful plants.

Bird Watching- The gardens are home to over 200 different species of birds and is a bird watcher's paradise. Make sure to bring your camera as you'll likely see unique birds you'll never see anywhere else in NC.

Art in the Garden-Minne Evans has produced some of the defining pieces of American folk art sculptures. This art walk is a tribute to her visionary impact on the local community. Walk along beautifully manicured garden paths. Make sure to stop at the Bottle Chapel which is unique in that it is sculpted out of glass bottles, bottle caps, cement, and metal.

With so many great things to do and see in Wilmington, we're sure you'll enjoy your day trip to this beautiful port city. One of the great values of a Topsail Island vacation is how close TopSail Island is to so many of North Carolina's great attractions. The best part is at the end of the day, no matter what day-trip you take you'll end up back on the beautiful Topsail Island. There is plenty of time to find that perfect fall or late season vacation rental and with so many things to do and see this time of year is the perfect time of year to visit Topsail Island! Click below to start your adventure today. 

Wilmington Day Trip Pin

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