If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out all of our Wilmington, NC posts.
We love living in Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s January and 78 degrees, so that’s one of the reasons. Another is that there’s so much to do here. And it doesn’t have to be expensive stuff either. There are a ton of free things to do in Wilmington, NC.
I’m keeping this list specifically to Wilmington, NC. And Wilmington doesn’t actually have a beach. It’s near beaches, but there aren’t actually any beaches in Wilmington. So that’s why you won’t see the beach on this list.
10 Free Things To Do In Wilmington, NC
1. The New Hanover County Arboretum
If you love flowers and botanical gardens, you’ll love the New Hanover County Arboretum (6206 Oleander Dr.). The seven-acre arboretum has a children’s garden, an herb garden, a Japanese garden (my favorite!), and more.
There’s also staff on hand to answer any questions that you may have about the garden itself or your home garden. If you do live locally, there are educational classes that are offered at the arboretum too, which is worth attending.
And, if you like Pokemon Go, it’s a great place to play. There are a few gyms and stops at the arboretum.
Hours: Garden Hours: dawn to dusk (daily); Admin Hours: 8am to 5pm (daily); Plant Clinic: 10am to 4pm (daily)
2. Front Street Brewery Beer Tastings
Twice daily, you can take a free brewery tour. You’ll learn the brewing process, view Front Street Brewery’s brewing equipment, and taste two samples. You can sign up for a tour at the hostess station. First come, first serve.
The tour is free, but you can stay and try more of the brewery’s beers and food. If you stay for dinner, we recommend the pulled chicken nachos.
Hours: 3:15pm and 4:15pm (daily)
3. Downtown Sundown Concert Series
If you’re looking for something free to do in Wilmington in the summer, check out the Downtown Sundown Concert Series. Each Friday night, from 6:30pm to 10pm, Wilmington Downtown Inc. sponsors a free, outdoor concert.
A local band always opens the show at 6:30pm and a national, touring cover band performs from 8pm to 10pm. The headliner changes weekly, ranging from ’80s cover bands to Coldplay cover bands and everything in between.
Admission is free, although you can purchase food and alcohol (if you’re 21+) during the concert.
Hours: 6:30pm to 10pm (Fridays during the summer)
4. Cape Fear Museum Park
The Cape Fear Museum Of History And Science (814 Market St) is a really great museum if you want to learn about the history of the Cape Fear region. There’s a space exhibit inside, one about Michael Jordan, and a full dinosaurs exhibit upstairs (well, until it changes to a sloth exhibit next month). Of course, to go inside, there’s a fee.
But outside the museum is the Cape Fear Museum Park. There are interactive exhibits outside, a walking path, history about the area, and more.
The Cape Fear Museum Park, which is adjacent to the museum, is free and open to the public. You can spend a lot of time there without paying admission for the museum
Hours: dawn to dusk (daily)
5. Wilmington Riverwalk
Wilmington has a really great downtown area. Front Street is filled with bars, restaurants, and local shops. But one block over is the aptly named Water Street. And then, one block down, is the newly updated Riverwalk.
The Wilmington Riverwalk runs nearly two miles, nearly going from the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to the Isabel Holmes Bridge. It passes behind restaurant, stores, the Coast Guard’s USS Diligence, local hotels, and more.
And again, my Pokemon Go playing friends, this walk is filled with gyms and stops.
6. Long Leaf Park
If you’re looking for a great park in Wilmington, Long Leaf Park, previously known as Hugh McRae Park, (314 Pine Grove Dr) is it.
The free town park has an inclusive playground (including a Liberty Wheelchair Swing), splash pad (opened seasonally), a basketball court, a dog park, an outdoor gym, a 1.55-mile running/walking trail, a garden area with pond and gazebo, tennis courts, and a volleyball court.
But that’s not all. There’s also a StoryWalk®, which is a children’s picture book along a walking trail. Parents and children can walk and read the story together. So yeah, this park has everything for, really, everyone.
Hours: 8am to 10pm (daily)
7. Poplar Grove Plantation
Poplar Grove Plantation (10200 US-17) is a former sweet potato and peanut plantation turned museum complex with a manor house, smoke house, tenant house, blacksmith shop, and animals.
You can buy tickets to tour the manor house, but everything else on the 15-acre plantation is free to self-tour. There’s also a beautiful walking trail on the grounds that is worth a look too.
Poplar Grove Plantation hosts a farmers’ market during the spring and summer plus various other events during the year (like a Mardi Gras party in February, a Halloween bash in October, and a Christmas festival in December).
Hours: 9:30am to 3pm (Monday through Saturday)
9. Greenfield Lake Park And Gardens
Wilmington has a ton of local parks, and another really good one is Greenfield Lake Park And Gardens (1739 Burnett Blvd). Greenfield Lake Park is exceptional because it’s 250-acres of park.
There’s tennis courts, a 5-mile walking/biking trail, playgrounds, and picnic areas. We actually thought about having our rehearsal dinner at Greenfield Lake Park, but the picnic area is on a first come, first serve basis and we couldn’t risk that.
Fishing is permitted at the park, and there’s water access if you have a boat (with trolling motors that are 3hp or less), kayak or canoe. Keep in mind, though, there are alligators and water moccasins in the lake, so you’ll be up close and personal with nature.
Hours: sunrise to sunset (daily)
10. Riverfront Farmers’ Market
Wilmington has a lot of farmers’ markets, but the OG market is the Riverfront Farmers’ Market. That’s where Pete sells his small batch marinara sauce, Rita’s Wooden Spoon, so I definitely suggest you check the market out.
The name is a bit of a misnomer right now, due to construction that’s happening on the riverfront. The Riverfront Farmers’ Market was originally on Water Street/on the Wilmington Riverwalk. In 2016, it was moved to a parking lot on Water Street and in 2019 it was moved to Dock Street.
The market runs from March until November, so we’ll be sure to let you know where it is before this season begins.
Hours: 8am to 1pm (Saturdays from March until November)
Planning a trip to Wilmington?
If you’re planning a trip to Wilmington, NC, these posts will help you make your trip complete:
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Drink In Wilmington:
- Best Cups Of Coffee In Wilmington, NC
- End Of Days Distillery
- The Complete Guide To Distilleries In Wilmington, NC