The Bellamy Mansion in Downtown Wilmington, NC is a great place for a visit. Go inside The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights in this post.
For more things to do, 25 Things To Do In Wilmington, NC At Christmastime.
We live in an area that is really rich in history. Downtown Wilmington, NC is filled with historical homes that are so majestic from the outside, you just want to peek in the windows and see what the inside is like.
The Bellamy Mansion is no exception to the desire to see inside.
And, actually, you can. For free. During The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights.
The Bellamy Mansion Museum (503 Market St) does have hours for the public to visit and tour the mansion, but during the holiday season, the former home of Dr. Bellamy and his family is decorated for Christmas and open to the public to tour for free.
Inside The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights
We went to Nights of Lights in 2018 and 2019, and both times have just been wonderful. If you get the chance to go, I highly suggest it.
The Bellamy Mansion was built on the eve of the Civil War, and the entire 10,000 square foot home (plus urban slave quarters and carriage house) are filled with history.
It was originally a family home for Dr. Bellamy, who also owned two plantations, his wife Eliza, and their 10 children (well, one only lived for 10 days, but the remaining children occupied the home).
A yellow fever outbreak occurred in Wilmington during the Civil War, forcing the Bellamy family to take refuge elsewhere. During that time, Union soldiers invaded and took shelter in many of the nicer homes. The Union soldiers occupied the Bellamy home and it became a headquarters for the military staff.
The Bellamy family did reclaim the home — eventually — and it stayed a family home until the last living child, Ellen, died in 1946 when she was 96.
These are the facts that you can learn on the official tour.
The mansion museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm.
Previously, guided tours were available on the hour. But for now, only self-guided and audio tours are allowed.
Masks are required for anyone who is 5 and older, and the occupancy is limited to 35. Tickets are $6, plus tax, for students (ages 6 to 18), $10, plus tax, for seniors (62+), active/retired military, and college students. Adults are $12. plus tax. Children under 5 and members are free.
During The Bellamy Mansion Museum Nights of Lights, you’ll take a self-guided tour through the mansion and slave quarters. But, in years past, there is a volunteer in each room who can give you a bit of history and answer any questions you might have.
When we first walked in, beautiful Christmas music was playing from, what we thought, was a radio. We were wrong. A woman was actually playing the harp, right there, in the corner of the first room we went in. Both my dad and I were taken aback because we thought it was a recording. She was incredible and just such a special way to start the Nights of Lights.
The main floor of the home is decorated in a traditional Victorian style, complete with Christmas trees up on tables. I asked why and was told it was taken from the German tradition, which was brought to England by Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, in the 1790s. She was of German descent and brought this tradition with her.
Small aside: The Royal Family is also, of course, of German lineage, and they continue the German tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve and spending Christmas Day in church.
The upstairs, though, is decorated with a very modern decor. The children’s bedrooms were upstairs, and, as one of the guides reminded me, families generally don’t decorate the bedrooms of children for the holidays. So the volunteers at the museum just go with themes: Santa, fairies, gingerbread, and angels.
The basement is the most historically interesting portion of the house. It’s considered an English basement because half of it is underground. That aided in cooling it, which was super important during North Carolina summers.
The dining room was downstairs because, well, it was cooler.
The kitchen (where a slave cooked for 20 people, three times a day!), ironing room, and butler’s pantry (where dinner was plated before being served), are all downstairs.
There’s a door that leads outside so you can see the coal room (all the fireplaces in the home were coal, and the home was completely run on coal) on your way to the slave quarters. The women and children slept there while the men slept in the top of the carriage house.
It’s so interesting, no matter what time of the year you go. But if you’re like me, and you prefer when museums are free, you should definitely go during The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights.
Get tickets for The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights
You don’t need tickets for the event. Just show up December 20 to 22 from 5 pm to 8 pm. There will be refreshments available for purchase on site.
Is The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights good for kids?
When we have gone to Nights of Lights, we’ve actually never seen kids there. I guess parents think it can be a little boring for them since there’s nothing to play with.
But, if your kids are into history, they’ll absolutely love it.
Father Christmas will also be there, so kids will be excited for that. And kids can pick up an activity brochure to complete at home. So The Bellamy Mansion Museum does make Nights of Lights as kid friendly as possible.
Restaurants near The Bellamy Mansion Museum
If you’re traveling from out of town to see The Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights, you might want to grab a bite to eat before you head home. We have a great list of must-try restaurants in Wilmington that will definitely help you figure out where to eat.
Personally, we love the nachos at Front Street Brewery (9 N Front St), the chicken sandwich at Fork n Cork (122 Market St), and the French onion soup at The Copper Penny (109 Chestnut St). All those restaurants are downtown and within walking distance of The Bellamy Mansion Museum.
Have you been to the Bellamy Mansion Museum’s Nights of Lights? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
Friday 28th of December 2018
Wow what a fascinating place, no wonder you keep returning.