Travel Nurse Assignments: Live Like a Local – Wilmington, NC!

Welcome to Wilmington, NC! Located near the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington is a big vacation spot for the Carolinas and the Southeastern United States. The city is teeming with history, and the historic downtown area is full of beautiful mansions, museums, and culture. The city’s pride and joy is the Wilmington Riverwalk which serves as a link between the city and the Cape Fear River and provides access to numerous shops, bars, and restaurants. In addition, the ocean is less than 10 miles away and there are several beach towns, state parks, and natural areas worth visiting. Discover Wilmington for yourself!

Wilmington Riverwalk

One of Wilmington’s newest attractions is the Riverwalk, which runs almost two miles along the Cape Fear River. Completed in 2017, the goal was to build something that would connect tourists to the waterfront and historic downtown areas. Sights you can access along the riverwalk include The Cotton Exchange, a historic complex of buildings that now houses over 30 shops and restaurants, and the USS North Carolina, a WWII battleship and iconic landmark of the city. The route is also a popular exercise spot for locals and offers gorgeous views of downtown Wilmington and the Cape Fear River.

Sunset along the Wilmington Riverwalk with a view of the Isabel Holmes Bridge

Airlie Gardens

Airlie Gardens is one of the city’s premier natural attractions and draws hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The idea for the gardens took root in 1884 when two wealthy North Carolinians purchased the land and transformed it into a grand garden space capable of entertaining high-class guests. Today, the gardens encompass more than 67 acres of trees and flowers, including ancient oak trees that date back to colonial times. Visitors can stroll through the gardens and enjoy special exhibits such as a butterfly house and a native wildlife exhibit. The gardens are also renowned for birding, with over 200 species of birds inhabiting the property.

An ancient southern oak tree at Airlie Gardens

Magnificent Architecture

Wilmington has a vibrant historic district and the city is teeming with Antebellum-era mansions. Bellamy Mansion is one of the most prominent examples and offers guided tours of the home and grounds. Built between 1859 and 1861, the building combines Greek Revival, Italianate, and Neo-Classical architectural styles that give the mansion a unique aesthetic. Moreover, the original slave quarters have been painstakingly preserved and provide a glimpse into the lives of the slaves who lived on the property and built the mansion.

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Another beautiful building worth visiting is the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts just a few blocks from Bellamy Mansion. Completed in 1858, Thalian Hall serves as the city’s cultural center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, patrons are treated to various productions including movies, opera, and live theatre. The main auditorium seats 550 guests and boasts state-of-the-art lighting and sound in a lovely old-fashioned atmosphere.

A view of the Thalian Hall and other historic buildings along Wilmington’s 3rd Street.

Specialty Museums

Wilmington also has several specialty museums that offer unique educational experiences. The Cape Fear Museum is the oldest history museum in the state and houses an impressive collection of over 57,000 artifacts. Founded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the museum was initially limited to Civil War relics but has since expanded to include objects that shed light on the science, history, and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear Region. Exhibits include a giant ground sloth skeleton and a collection of memorabilia from Michael Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington.

The Wilmington Railroad Museum is another must-see attraction that will entertain both children and adults. The museum is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the Atlantic Coast Railroad Line and the history of railroading in Wilmington and the Southeastern U.S. Popular exhibits include impressively-lifelike model train displays and a lifesize version of a 100-year-old steam engine and caboose.

Beautiful Beaches

Wilmington is less than 10 miles from the coast, and there are a number of beach towns waiting to be explored. Wrightsville Beach is one of North Carolina’s premier beach communities and a favorite recreation spot for locals. This coastal locale has all your classic beach activities like surfing (named one of the world’s best surf towns by National Geographic), paddleboarding, and wildlife viewing, not to mention miles of beautiful sandy beachfront for long walks. The pièce de résistance is the Johnnie Mercer Pier, a 25-foot tall concrete fishing pier that juts 1200 feet across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the place to go for fishing and there is also a gift shop, arcade, and restaurant on the pier.

Sunrise on Kure Beach

Another beach town worthy of mention is Kure Beach, located a half hour south of Wrightsville Beach. Kure Beach is a bit more low-key than Wrightsville Beach but offers many of the same activities. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a big draw for tourists and they have a variety of sea creatures from around the globe, including a 200,000-gallon saltwater tank. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is a scenic spot to enjoy a hike or lounge on the beach and in the summer, loggerhead sea turtles nest along the park’s sandy shores.

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Where to Eat and Drink

Wilmington has an eclectic array of restaurants and bars. The Fork N’ Cork is a local favorite and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” They’re known for their handcrafted burgers, southern comfort food, and cocktails. If you’re looking for fresh seafood, Ceviche’s is the place for you. Inspired by his upbringing in Panama, owner Hunter Tiblier serves up delicious seafood and tapas with a Central American flair.

Sunset on Wrightsville Beach

For drinks, it’s hard to go wrong with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, one of downtown Wilmington’s premier watering holes. Their craft cocktails are celebrated by tourists and locals alike and they also have live music regularly. If you’re out on the beach, Jimmy’s in Wrightsville Beach offers a lively atmosphere with live music, friendly staff, and of course, cold drinks!

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