While on our vacation in Topsail Island, we adventured over to nearby Wilmington. We’d heard from many of the locals that it was a stop we needed to add to our trip. We took a weekday afternoon and made the 45 minute drive. It was the cutest little town, with a lot of shops and activities that weren’t available to us on the island. It was the epitome of southern charm.
First up on the itinerary was Airlie Gardens. We’d had many folks recommend these beautiful garden grounds to us, so it was a no brainer. Tickets were fairly priced at $9 per person.
The property, known as Airlie, was part of the 640 acre land grant from King George II to the Ogden brothers in 1736. Since then, the property has passed through many hands, but is now owned by New Hanover County. It has traditionally been a local pride, with residences coming to view the 75,000 blooming Azalea’s throughout the property during the Spring season.
Throughout the property, you’ll find thousands of different plant species, intricately designed into beautiful flowering scapes. The paths are lined with weeping willows and giant oak, all with beautiful spanish moss draping from the limbs. The beauty of the grounds was absolutely unreal.
Perhaps our most favorite place was the pergola area. Pictures really just don’t do it justice to be honest. There’s a small historic church on the property, which is owned and occasionally used for special events by a larger church located in downtown. The burial grounds of many of the properties previous owners can be found near the church, and is a pretty neat experience. There is a butterfly garden and house, where you can enter into a large dome filled with butterflies. The zen gardens was a beautiful and tranquil space, and the nature walk was the perfect way to end our garden tour.
We made the short drive to the historic downtown area of Wilmington. There were TONS of cute little shops, but we arrived a little late in the evening to enjoy many of these. However, one of the most interesting, and our favorite shop was luckily open for another few minutes. A Proper Garden, was the most perfect little garden shop, with beautiful live plants, home decor, gift items, and more! I could have just sat in that store for hours admiring the beauty. We purchased two air plants in beautiful shells to commemorate our favorite store.
We were torn between The Pilot House, and Elijah’s for dinner. Both restaurants sit side-by-side on the riverfront. We opted for Elijah’s, as the menu suited us a little better. It was an awesome meal! I ordered a steamer bucket full of crab legs, oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, cajun sausage, roasted red potatoes, and corn on the cob. It was absolutely delicious!
From there, we journeyed a little further into the downtown area, checking out Ann St, where there are quite a few shops. Our next stop was Kilwin’s, a local chocolate and sweet shop. I got two scoops of Toasted Coconut ice cream, which is made in house. Shantelle, my always amazing travel bestie, loaded up on all kinds of their famous chocolates. The cases were stocked with tons of amazing looking sweets, and prices were really good, considering much of it is made in-house.
The Black Cat Shoppe was up next. It’s a really whimsical and fun little shop, with magic tricks, Harry Potter goodies (always a win for us), and other unique gifts you wouldn’t find anywhere else. We learned about the Haunted Pub Crawl here, and were dying to go! Unfortunately, there wasn’t another one scheduled before we were leaving the area. So if you make it to downtown Wilmington, be sure to look this up ahead of time and plan for it! It had raving reviews!
The Riverwalk area was the perfect place to end our beautiful evening in Wilmington. There’s shops lining the wooden boardwalk, and live music at many of the restaurants along the way. I think a nice, long walk down the riverfront area was my favorite way to see Wilmington. I also noticed some VRBO’s above many of the shops, so I’m in the process of planning a 3-day “long weekend” trip back to Wilmington, and will probably try to book one of these for our stay.
If you’re a Dawson Creek or One Tree Hill fan, you might recognize some of the local landmarks and shops! We stopped at the North 6th St Bridge, which you may have seen Lucas Scott dribble his basketball across in One Tree Hill. We also stopped at some of the houses used in the show, and a shop downtown which sold souvenir’s and clothes from the show. You could find his jersey, Clothes Before Bro’s apparel, and their high school shirts. I’m almost sad to admit that I’ve never seen either of these shows, but Shantelle was super excited for this part of the trip, and it’s one of the main reasons we headed to Wilmington! It was really easy to find all the addresses to the spots with a quick Google search.
Check out a visual list of my “must-see’s” during a day in Wilmington below!
See you in Wilmington!