We’re kicking off a brand new series here at Drugstore Divas: “24 hours in … ” We’ll be spending 24 hours in certain cities, then giving you a game plan for when you travel there. Sometimes, all the time you have to get away is one night, so you want to make the most of it. Us too. Between work, then running a marinara sauce business and selling it at the local farmers’ market each week, we’re busy people. So I get it. If you’re like us, this is for you. We’re starting the series off with things to do in Wilmington, NC, mostly because we live here. And if you live in a city like ours, you definitely should kick off a new series with it.
24 Hours In Wilmington, NC
We’re starting our 24 hours off at breakfast and continuing until the next day.
Wake up and head to Ezzells Breakfast House (2115 Carolina Beach Road). Everything is good here, but I really recommend the biscuits and gravy. You might get recommendations from others who are dining there since many of Ezzells’ tables are family style — and you often sit there with strangers. That’s part of the charm, though. You end up making friendly conversation with someone you don’t know and end up making a new friend.
Head to the New Hanover County Arboretum (6206 Oleander Drive). There’s no admission fee, and if it’s free it’s for me. Especially when you’re on vacation. I want to do stuff, but I also want to eat. And if I can save money on activities, I can spend more on food. Plus, the arboretum is really beautiful. There’s a huge garden section, which grows food to be donated to a local homeless shelter, there’s a section for kids, a large zen garden, and classes too (so be sure to check the schedule before you head over).
If it’s a Saturday from April until November, I suggest you head over to the Riverfront Farmers’ Market (Water Street). It’s open from 8am until 1pm. You can pick up local vegetables, eggs, plants, seafood, and (my personal favorite) Rita’s Wooden Spoon marinara sauce. That’s Pete’s business, so we are there each week manning the stand. Come say hi.
If you’re still at the arboretum, head across the street to have lunch at The Salt Works (6301 Oleander Drive). It’s a small, unassuming restaurant that has been around for over 30 years. It only serves breakfast and lunch, and it only accepts cash, so keep that in mind. I had a very good grilled cheese there, and the Lima bean soup is great (despite what you may think of Lima bean soup).
If you already left that portion of Wilmington, check out Jax 5th Avenue Deli & Ale House (5046 New Center Drive). It’s an old diner (I like to think of it as an oversized Airstream) that serves really good deli sandwiches and a huge variety of beer.
If you’re with kids, we absolutely love the Children’s Museum of Wilmington (116 Orange Street). There’s so much for kids to see there (like a teddy bear hospital, a really fun outdoors area, and (our favorite) an amazing fabric tree to climb on). We actually go once a year when the museum closes down, opens for ages 21-plus, and hosts Pizza Putt. For one night, there’s mini golf, pizza, and beer set up throughout the museum. It’s so much fun.
For the kid in you, you can go bowling at Ten Pin Alley (127 S. College Road). We got there every year to celebrate Pete’s birthday. It was redone recently. Before that, it may have looked familiar to you because HBO filmed Eastbound & Down there.
Actually, a ton of shows were filmed in Wilmington, so you can put together a walking tour of your favorite shows, especially if you loved One Tree Hill. There are a ton of One Tree Hill landmarks in town still. And if you loved Dawson’s Creek, you can find a lot of familiar spots as well.
Front Street Brewery (9 N. Front Street) is the oldest brewery in Wilmington. We have a ton now, but only the original gives free brewery tours daily. There’s a tour at 3:15 and another at 4:15. You’ll learn about the process, then get a chance to try a few samples too. If you find a favorite, you can have a pint at the bar and snack on some appetizers. Personally, I’m a big fan of their fried pickles and beer nuggets. They also sell a mug of bacon … in case you’re a bacon fan.
Head down on Water Street to walk the riverwalk (and get a great view of the USS North Carolina, a World War II warship), then hop one block up to head into Orton’s Pool Room (133 N. Front Street). It’s America’s oldest billiards and pool hall. Depending on the day you’re in town, you could play for free (Sunday till Tuesday) or just pay $7 an hour per table. Or, you could just get a drink and hang out.
If you’re not hungry yet, I have the best coffee shop for you: Bespoke Coffee & Dry Goods (202 Princess Street). We love this place. It serves great coffee, draft and bottled beer, plus has cookies, pastries, succulents, and some clothig items available for sale too. I like coffee, but don’t drink beer, and Pete drinks both, so we always dreamed of finding a coffee shop that serves beer. Bespoke is exactly that.
My favorite place to eat downtown is Copper Penny (109 Chestnut Street). It’s pub grub done really well. I love the French onion soup there. Pair it with the spinach salad and you’ll have a happy stomach.
If you want seafood (and you probably do since you’re hanging out in a coastal city), go to Dock Street Oyster Bar (12 Dock Street), which has won “Best Oysters” for the last 15 years. Split the Dock Street Steamer Platter with a friend. Trust me.
If you’re feeling romantic, The Little Dipper (138 S. Front Street) is a local fondue restaurant. It’s also where Pete and I got engaged, so it holds a really special place in my heart.
There are a few local restaurants that offer certificates on Restaurant.com. If you can purchase a few ahead of your trip, you’ll be able to save on your meals when you get here. Plus, it’ll help you from having to walk around and decide where to eat.
Now it’s time for late night. Depending on the day and season, you have a ton of options. Front Street, as you may have realized, is full of bars. You can spend time in any of them and have a good time. If you’re looking for something with a little more activity, our favorite ideas are:
Tuesday: Comedy Bingo at Dead Crow Comedy Room (265 N. Front Street). You can get $2 tacos, $2 shots, $2 beers … and a free comedy show. You get a bingo card with words on it. Then, two or three comics perform. You mark down any words they say that are on your bingo cards. And if you get bingo, you can win prizes at the end of the night, like tickets to comedy shows, t-shirts, and gag gifts.
Friday: If you’re in town from about Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, you can check out Downtown Sundown, a free concert on the water (Water Street, between Princess and Market Streets). A local band performs from 6pm to about 7:30pm, then a nationally touring cover band takes the stage from 8pm to 10pm. What’s very cool is that you are able to drink beer and wine outdoors in that area, so it makes for a fun activity.
If you like music, there are a bunch of music venues that get big names. Check out The Throne Theater (208 Market Street) and Greenfield Lake Amphitheater (1941 Amphitheater Drive). You can also see some great performances at the Kenan Auditorium at UNCW (601 S. College Road). If you’re into theater, you can catch fantastic shows at Thalian Hall (310 Chestnut Street) too.
And if you just want to barhop, there are tons of bars downtown for you to do just that.
We recommend you stay the TownePlace Suites Marriott (305 Eastwood Road). This is the hotel we blocked for our wedding guests used when we got married. It has a BBQ outside (which we used), plus twice a week, there is food catered by a nearby restaurant and beer and water provided, free for hotel guests.
Definitely book through a cash back site like eBates or TopCashBack. I always go to those before booking any hotel (or car rental) because you can get a percentage back. And every little bit of savings helps.
You’re heading out, and there’s just enough time for one more breakfast. Good thing you can get that free at the TownePlace Suites Marriott before you check out. My mom was a huge fan of the pancake maker when she stayed there during our wedding week, so try that before you hit the road.
*If you’re planning a trip, be sure to click each location’s name to be brought to their website. You can find operating hours and more that way.