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Things to Do with Kids in Wilmington NC

Wilmington, North Carolina, USA downtown city skyline on the Cape Fear River at night.

Wilmington, North Carolina, stands as a beacon for families seeking a blend of educational, recreational, and cultural experiences. Nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, this historic city offers a plethora of activities that are perfect for children and adults alike. From the enchanting gardens and historic downtown to the beautiful beaches and interactive museums, Wilmington is a playground for exploration and adventure. In this guide, we delve into the best things to do with kids in Wilmington NC, showcasing the city’s diverse offerings that cater to every interest.

Airlie Gardens: A Natural Wonderland

Exploring Airlie Gardens is akin to stepping into a storybook where nature’s beauty unfolds in vibrant colors and textures. This 67-acre public garden is a jewel in Wilmington’s crown, offering families an opportunity to immerse themselves in a serene environment filled with an extraordinary variety of plants, flowers, and wildlife. 

The seasonal Butterfly House is a highlight, providing an intimate look at these delicate creatures in a habitat designed to mimic their natural surroundings. It’s an educational experience that resonates with visitors of all ages, emphasizing the importance of conservation and biodiversity.

The garden’s walking trails meander through landscapes dotted with majestic oaks draped in Spanish moss, picturesque ponds, and themed gardens that change with the seasons. These trails offer a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle, allowing families to connect with nature and each other. Educational programs and events throughout the year add an extra layer of engagement, from bird watching tours to gardening workshops, making Airlie Gardens a dynamic destination for those looking to enrich their knowledge of the natural world.

Airlie Gardens is more than just a botanical garden; it’s a community hub where art, nature, and history intertwine. The garden’s historic structures, including the century-old Airlie Oak, tell the story of Wilmington’s past, offering a tangible connection to the generations that have walked its paths. For families seeking things to do with kids in Wilmington NC, Airlie Gardens represents a blend of beauty, education, and tranquility, making it a must-visit destination that appeals to the curiosity and wonder of both young and old.

Downtown Wilmington: A Cultural Tapestry

Downtown Wilmington serves as the cultural and historical heart of the city, where cobblestone streets and Victorian architecture provide a backdrop for a day filled with discovery. This area is a treasure trove of shops, museums, and restaurants, each offering a unique glimpse into Wilmington’s rich heritage and vibrant community life. For families, the exploration of downtown is one of the most rewarding things to do in Wilmington NC with kids, offering endless opportunities for learning and fun.

The Riverwalk, a scenic boardwalk along the Cape Fear River, is the perfect starting point for a family adventure. It’s here that visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the river, access boat tours, and discover local artisans and performers. The area’s historical significance is brought to life through guided tours and the stories of the local guides, making history accessible and engaging for children. Additionally, the variety of dining options along the Riverwalk caters to all tastes, ensuring that families can enjoy a delicious meal with a view.

Educational opportunities abound in downtown Wilmington, from the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science to the Wilmington Railroad Museum. These institutions offer interactive exhibits and programs designed to spark curiosity and inspire a love of learning. Whether it’s uncovering the mysteries of the universe at the museum’s space exhibit or exploring Wilmington’s rail history, these experiences enrich the visit, making downtown Wilmington a hub for things to do with kids Wilmington NC.

Wrightsville Beach: Sun, Surf, and Sand

Just a short drive from the city center, Wrightsville Beach is an oasis for families looking to enjoy the sun, surf, and sand. Renowned for its crystal-clear waters and soft, sandy beaches, Wrightsville Beach offers a plethora of water-based activities that are perfect for kids and adults alike. From surfing lessons with experienced instructors to paddle boarding and kayaking in the calm waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, the beach provides a playground for adventure and relaxation.

The beach’s lifeguarded areas ensure a safe environment for swimming, while the wide stretches of sand offer ample space for beach games, sandcastle building, and lounging. The local community is welcoming, often hosting family-friendly events and competitions that add to the beach’s lively atmosphere. For families seeking things to do in Wilmington NC with kids, Wrightsville Beach stands out as a destination that combines the thrill of water sports with the serenity of beach life.

Beyond the beach, Wrightsville Beach Park offers playgrounds, picnic areas, and sports facilities, creating a perfect setting for family picnics and casual sports. The park’s accessibility and facilities make it an excellent option for families looking to spend a day outdoors, engaging in various activities or simply enjoying the beach’s natural beauty.

Wrightsville Beach is more than just a place to swim and surf; it’s a community that celebrates the ocean lifestyle. The local surf schools and rental shops offer equipment and lessons for all ages, making it easy to try something new or hone existing skills. Furthermore, the beach’s proximity to Wilmington ensures that families have access to all the amenities and attractions the city has to offer, blending beach relaxation with urban convenience.

For families considering things to do with kids in Wilmington NC, Wrightsville Beach exemplifies the ideal blend of outdoor fun, educational opportunities, and relaxation. Whether it’s learning about marine conservation, participating in a surf competition, or simply enjoying a day under the sun, Wrightsville Beach offers a memorable experience that highlights the best of North Carolina’s coastal charm.

In wrapping up, Wilmington, NC, with its rich tapestry of attractions, stands as a premier destination for families seeking a mix of education, adventure, and relaxation. From the tranquil beauty of Airlie Gardens and the historic charm of downtown to the exhilarating activities at Wrightsville Beach, there’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Wilmington NC. 

Each visit to this vibrant city unveils new discoveries and creates lasting memories, making it a place where families return year after year. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Wilmington invites you to explore its treasures and experience the warmth and diversity of its community, ensuring that your time spent here is filled with joy, learning, and adventure.

Carolina Beach: Family Fun by the Sea

Carolina Beach presents a perfect blend of traditional beach fun and unique attractions. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk, with its classic seaside entertainment, is a must-visit for families. Here, children can enjoy rides, games, and some of the best donuts on the coast. The summer fireworks and outdoor movies add a magical touch to the beach experience, making it one of the top things to do with kids in Wilmington NC. The state park nearby offers hiking trails and the chance to learn about local wildlife, including the Venus flytrap, native to the area.

The beach itself is a haven for swimming, sandcastle building, and beachcombing. With lifeguards on duty during the summer months, families can relax and enjoy the ocean safely. Fishing enthusiasts, both young and old, can try their luck at the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, where no fishing license is required. This combination of relaxation, adventure, and learning opportunities ensures that Carolina Beach is a highlight for families looking for things to do in Wilmington NC with kids.

Defy Gravity and Flip N Fly: Indoor Adventures

For those days when outdoor activities are not an option, Wilmington’s indoor parks like Defy Gravity and Flip N Fly offer an adrenaline-pumping experience. These parks feature wall-to-wall trampolines, ninja courses, dodgeball arenas, and foam pits that provide endless fun for kids and parents alike. It’s an excellent way for children to stay active, practice agility, and simply have a blast. The safety measures and attentive staff ensure a secure environment where kids can freely enjoy themselves.

These indoor parks also host birthday parties and group events, making them a popular choice for special celebrations. The variety of activities available means that children of all ages can find something thrilling to do, making it a valuable addition to the list of things to do with kids Wilmington NC. Whether it’s mastering the art of the ninja course or flying high on the zip line, the adventure awaits at every turn.

The Educational Thrills of Museums and Aquariums

Wilmington is home to several museums and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, offering educational experiences that are as entertaining as they are informative. The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science delves into the region’s rich history and natural sciences through interactive exhibits that captivate the curiosity of young minds. Here, children can learn about space exploration, regional wildlife, and even play in a replica of the International Space Station.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is another must-visit, where families can explore the wonders of aquatic life. From touching a live stingray to watching sharks swim overhead, the aquarium offers an immersive experience into the marine world. Educational programs and behind-the-scenes tours provide an in-depth look at marine conservation and the efforts being made to protect ocean life.


Wilmington, NC, emerges not just as a delightful vacation spot but as a beacon for families seeking a blend of educational, recreational, and cultural richness in their daily lives. The city’s seamless integration of historical charm, natural beauty, and an abundance of family-friendly activities makes it an ideal place for those looking to enrich their family’s life with new adventures and learning opportunities. 

From the serene beaches where the waves whisper stories of the past, to the bustling streets of downtown brimming with cultural heritage, Wilmington offers an environment where every moment is an opportunity for discovery and growth.

The city’s allure is so compelling that it’s not uncommon for families who come to visit, enticed by the myriad things to do with kids in Wilmington NC, to consider making it their permanent home. The thought of residing in a place where history, nature, and community converge so beautifully leads many to hire a moving company, seeking to relocate and plant their roots in Wilmington’s fertile ground. This trend speaks volumes about the city’s ability to capture the hearts of those who wander its paths, transforming tourists into residents eager to contribute to its vibrant community.

In Wilmington, every sunset at the beach, every stroll through Airlie Gardens, and every laugh shared in its museums and indoor play parks weaves into the fabric of memorable experiences that families cherish. The city not only offers a backdrop for childhood adventures but also stands as a testament to a community where education, nature, and history coalesce, offering a rich tapestry of life. Whether you’re visiting or contemplating a more permanent move, Wilmington, NC, promises a welcoming embrace, inviting you and your family to be part of its ongoing story—a place where every day is an adventure, and every adventure feels like coming home.