Trolleys and shopping and snakes, oh my! Follow I-40 or 74/76 to downtown Wilmington, NC for some of the best family-friendly attractions around. With dining, cruises, horse-drawn carriage rides and yes, a snake museum, you’ll find lots of attractions for family fun in downtown Wilmington.
Take the Family on a Cape Fear River Cruise
Choose from two boats for a great sightseeing cruise on the Cape Fear River this summer. It’s one of Wilmington, NC’s coolest, breeziest attractions! Climb aboard the Captain J.N. Maffitt for a 1-hour cruise with captain’s narration most days at 11 a.m. and 12:15, 1:30, 3, and 4:15 p.m. and additional evening cruises available during Summer months. Call (910) 343-1611 to check schedules. Tickets are $10, $5 for kids 2-12, and smaller tots are free. Tickets for the Maffitt are available on the day of the cruise at the boat or the ticket booth in front of the Henrietta III on the Riverwalk on Water Street in downtown Wilmington. Call (910) 343.1611 for more information.
Or enjoy a sightseeing lunch or dinner cruise on the Henrietta III, North Carolina’s largest riverboat. The Friday TGIF Dinner Cruise is a great way to end the work week with the family, or try a Tuesday evening Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise—you and the kids help solve the crime! Wednesdays are Ribs on the River Cruise nights. Kids love the buffet-style dining on the Henrietta, but if you’ve already eaten, boat rides are available without dinner, too.
Step Back in Time at the Bellamy Mansion Museum
Take a walk through history at the Bellamy Mansion Museum, one of North Carolina’s best examples of antebellum architecture. The graceful house with the high columns, built on the eve of the Civil War, is right in downtown Wilmington, NC. It now houses a museum of history and design arts with daily tours. Explore the 10,000-square-foot house, shady gardens, and restored slave quarters Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays 1-5 p.m. Guided tours are given on the hour. Adults are $10, children 5-12 $4, and kids younger than 5 are free. Call (910) 251.3700 for more information.
Take Your Kids to the Cape Fear Serpentarium
Quiet, shadowy, and a little bit scary, a trip to the Cape Fear Serpentarium is a visit you won’t soon forget. This attraction educates visitors on the humble life of rare and dangerous venomous snakes, exotic lizards, giant anacondas, pythons, and boas and—why not—crocodiles. On Orange Street in downtown Wilmington, NC, the Serpentarium is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $9, children under 2 years free. Call 762-1669.
Take a Stroll on the Cape Fear Riverwalk in Wilmington, NC
Enjoy shopping, dining, and all kinds of events as you stroll downtown Wilmington’s Cape Fear Riverwalk. This mile-long scenic boardwalk along the Cape Fear River provides great views, a glimpse of historic downtown architecture, and access to dozens of attractions. Visit local shops and the Cotton Exchange, linger for a bite or a drink at several waterfront restaurants, and sit a while at Riverfront Park, home to a changing array of events and concerts. Don’t miss Friday Night Downtown Sundown shows or the Saturday morning Farmers (and Arts and Crafts) Market.
Fortify Yourself at Front Street Brewery
Fuel up the kids while treating the adults to a little something, too! Priced right for the family, Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC offers $6.99 lunch and $8.99 dinner specials. It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight every day. Take a free tour that includes a beer tasting at 3, 3:45, and 4:30 p.m. Call (910) 251-1935 for more information about this attraction.
Take a Trolley Ride Through Downtown Wilmington, NC
A tour on the Wilmington Trolley is a great way to see the sights, get a feel for downtown Wilmington, and learn more about the Port City. Narrated trolley rides begin every day on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You’ll learn about area attractions such as museums, birthplaces of famous natives, TV and movie locations, and shops. Call 763-4483 for more information.
Take an Old-fashioned Carriage Ride in Downtown Wilmington, NC
A costumed narrator driving rescued horses is waiting at the foot of Market Street to take you on a unique adventure along the Cape Fear River and through historic downtown Wilmington. The Horse Drawn Tours company has rescued 16 percheron draft horses though this attraction. Rides are $12, $5 for children younger than 12, and are offered daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (910) 251-8889.
Get on the Train at the Railroad Museum
There’s lots for kids to explore at the Wilmington Railroad Museum on Nutt Street in downtown Wilmington, NC. Little ones can play in the Thomas the Tank Train play area while bigger kids explore more than 20 operating scale model trains and cool layouts. There’s a real life-size caboose, boxcar, and a 100-year-old steam locomotive. Learn about the development of railroads in the Wilmington, NC area. Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for kids 2-12. Call (910)763-2634 to learn more about this attraction.