The city is a gem, hugging the Cape Fear River with the Atlantic Ocean a few miles away. A classic wooden plank boardwalk runs nearly two miles along the scenic river. It’s lined with 200 independent stores, restaurants and hotels with river views. The historic district is one of the largest in the country: 230 blocks of historic homes and churches. You can tour via horse-drawn carriage, Segway, trolley or on foot. Considered one of the most haunted cities in the country, Wilmington (www.hauntedwilmington.com) has nighttime ghosts tours and a tour of haunted pubs.
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If the city looks familiar, it may be because it’s a popular choice for TV and movie production. There are self-guided tours of locations from “Sleepy Hollow,” “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek” and weekend tours of the EUE/Screen Gems studio (www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/hollywood-east).
Across the river, the battleship USS North Carolina (www.battleshipnc.com) welcomes visitors. Now peacefully moored, the ship saw fighting in the Pacific during World War II. Exhibits allow visitors to “operate” the ship’s systems and simulate life onboard a ship on active duty.
Wilmington’s Front Street Brewery was a pioneer in the revival of American craft brewing. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is now joined by eight more breweries.
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The spring highlight is the North Carolina Azalea Festival (April 8 to 12). Now in its 68th year, it welcomes the new season with bright blooms and festivities.
The city-wide festival starts off with a parade of azalea-bedecked floats, marching bands, mounted units and street entertainers. Headliners for the evening concerts include Alan Jackson and Nelly. But flowers are the reason for the party. Over a dozen public and private gardens open for the hugely popular Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour. Interior design and historic architecture of houses and churches are the theme for the home tour. Details and schedule for the festival are at www.ncazaleafestival.org.
For more on Wilmington, visit GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com.
Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beaches
These three island communities on the Atlantic have beautiful settings, small town amenities and outdoor activities.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Considered one of the country’s best, it explores the aquatic ecology of the Cape Fear Region. www.ncaquariums.com
Take a walking tour of the food scene. The morning Farmers’ Market Tour on Saturday includes a cooking class. www.tastecarolina.net
Come for Southern soul food and barbeque as it is meant to be. www.caseysbuffet.com
For more travel advice, go to www.insightguides.com.