Things to Do in Wilmington with Kids | North Carolina

Wilmington, a small city on the southern coast of North Carolina, has something for everyone, making it a great vacation destination! There are so many fun things to do in Wilmington with kids! There are historic buildings to explore, a battleship full of US military history, an aquarium (nearby), and three amazing beaches to check out: Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure.

Wilmington with Kids

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USS North Carolina Battleship Wilmington

As a WWII battleship, the Battleship North Carolina participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater. She became the most decorated US battleship of the war with 15 battle stars. Over the course of WWII, she survived many close calls and even a Japanese torpedo hitting the hull. Though the Japanese claimed to sink the ship six times, the Battleship North Carolina survived WWII (with only ten men lost in action!) and was later given to the people of North Carolina in the 1960s. In 1962, she became North Carolina’s memorial to WWII veterans and the 11,000 North Carolinians that died serving their country during WWII.

kids on bunks of USS North Carolina Battleship

Today, you’re able to visit the ship and explore up to 9 different levels on a self-guided tour. You get to climb up and down the ladders and narrow staircases, “play” with the guns, try out the super comfy beds and check out the kitchen and mess decks.


Wilmington with kids Alton Lennon Federal Building

Wilmington is often regarded as the Hollywood of the East, and over 500 films and TV shows have been recorded in the Wilmington area. Favorites like Iron Man 3, We’re the Millers, Under the Dome, Sleepy HollowDawson’s Creek, and One Tree Hill were all filmed here. One of the best ways to get a feel for the film industry in Wilmington is the Hollywood Location Walk, a 90-minute walking tour of Wilmington filming locations.

The Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse (above) has been used in various TV shows and movies, including Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, and Matlock.


Lucas Scott house Wilmington One Tree Hill

While you do see some One Tree Hill filming locations on the walking tour of Wilmington, many are only accessible by car, making it the perfect naptime adventure! You can load the kids up in the car and then go see Lucas, Haley, Nathan, Peyton, and Brooke’s houses.


Wilmington with kids standing on Riverwalk

The Wilmington Riverwalk is a great place to explore with kids. At nearly two miles long, the Riverwalk runs from Nun Street to the Isabel Holmes Bridge. There are fun shops to explore, restaurants to enjoy, museums, and even some American history to learn- Orange Street Landing is part of the National Parks Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.


Cruise the Cape Fear River in Wilmington with kids

Cape Fear Riverboats offers one-hour scenic cruises of the Cape Fear aboard the CAPTAIN J. N. MAFFIT and JACOB’S RUN. These narrated cruises explain the importance of the Cape Fear River historically and ecologically and interesting information about downtown Wilmington. You’re welcome to bring your own food and drink on the boat (or purchase from their dockside restaurant, Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill), making them super kid-friendly!


touch tank at the NC Aquarium Fort Fisher - one of our favorite things to do in Wilmington with kids

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is part of the North Carolina Aquarium System that also has aquariums in Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, and Jeanette’s Pier in the Outer Banks.

Albino alligator at NC Aquarium

The Fort Fisher aquarium focuses on the Cape Fear River system into the open ocean and even has an albino alligator! While the aquarium is nowhere near as big as the Georgia Aquarium or the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, it is still really well done and a great place to spend the morning or a rainy afternoon.


The Carolina Beach boardwalk is every kid’s dream. A Ferris wheel, rides, and special events (like fireworks!) beckon vacation-goers and locals alike in the summer. Combine the award-winning boardwalk area with miles of pristine beaches, and it’s a great place to spend a day or a week!

Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach North Carolina

And if you’re looking for the best of Carolina Beach, make sure to stop by Britt’s Donuts— double check their hours as they’re only open seasonally- for the best donuts around! They’ve been open since 1939 and make hot and delicious donuts by hand as they’re ordered. It’s a must-do if you’re in the Wilmington/Carolina Beach area!

Girl eating Britt's Donuts on balcony by beach


Girl looking towards water at Wrightsville Beach

The town of Wrightsville Beach has cute shops and delicious restaurants along with over 40 different public beach access points. Not all have bathrooms, so be sure to check the beach map if proximity to a bathroom is essential and then head to the beach for some fun in the sun!

Girls in waves Wrightsville Beach so many things to do in Wilmington with kids

Wrightsville Beach is much more of a locals’ beach than Myrtle Beach or even nearby Carolina Beach, and thus, it doesn’t have as many activities or as many people. But that makes it a whole lot easier to have a stretch of beach to yourself! Especially if you go around sunset when everyone is headed off to dinner.

Have you been to Wilmington, NC? What was your favorite place to explore?

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  1. August 26, 2023 / 11:30 am

    Thank you so much for this list! I love it. I’ve taken my kids to a few of these places but I’m going to be sure to hit the rest!

    • Jennifer
      September 18, 2023 / 2:16 pm

      Awesome! What’s your fave place in Wilmington?

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