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One Day in Wilmington, NC: Perfect 24 Hours Itinerary

Wilmington Riverwalk, one of the places to see during one day in Wilmington, NC
One day in Wilmington, NC

Do you have one day in Wilmington, NC, and do you want to make the most of it?

Even though Wilmington is a city where you can easily spend many days without getting bored, you’ll be surprised how much you can do and see in 24 hours.

You can see the most interesting sights, have great food, and enjoy entertainment if you’re in the city for a day. To help you plan your trip and have the best time in the city, I made this itinerary for a day in Wilmington, NC. I included all the highlights of the city and more in this guide.

How To Get Around Wilmington

When you are spending one day in Wilmington, you don’t have to worry a lot about how to get around the city.

That’s because the different sights and attractions that you will go to during this time in the city are very near each other. This means that you can go from one place to the next on foot.

But there are some places that require that you travel a bit further. For this, it is most convenient to travel by car or taxi, but there are other options too.

There is a good bus network in Wilmington, NC that you can use to get to many places in the city. Riding the bus is very affordable, but it will take you a bit longer to reach your destination in comparison to when you travel by car.

Buildings in Wilmington
View of buildings in Wilmington

Itinerary for One Day in Wilmington

Airlie Gardens

Path and nature at the Airlie Gardens
Path at the Airlie Gardens

When you arrive in Wilmington, NC, I recommend checking out the Airlie Gardens first.

This is a public garden that was founded in the year 1886 as a private garden. The garden used to be owned by the Pembroke Jones family.

You can find a lot of beautiful plants, trees, and other nature in the gardens.

For example, there are magnolias, wisteria, palms, and there’s much more.

You can also find the Airlie Oak here. This is a live oak that is more than 500 years old, which makes it a very special tree to see.

Besides that, the size of the tree makes it amazing to see as well. The tree has a circumference of 21 feet.

Address: 300 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403

Explore the Historic District and the Wilmington Riverwalk

People at the Wilmington Riverwalk
People walking along the Wilmington Riverwalk

After spending time at the Airlie Gardens, I recommend going to the Historic District of Wilmington.

This is a historic district with hundreds of beautiful and historic buildings.

Many of the buildings that you can find in this part of the city date back to the 18th century.

For example, you can see the Smith-Anderson House and Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens here.

Furthermore, there are many beautiful churches that can be very interesting to check out when you are in Historic District.

Besides being packed with beautiful buildings, the Historic District contains numerous stores and other venues as well. This makes going to the district nice as well.

You can also find the Wilmington Riverwalk in this area.

This is a 1.75 miles riverwalk that runs along the Cape Fear River.

From the riverwalk, you can enjoy great views of the river, and there are many stores, restaurants, and attractions that are located on the Riverwalk.

Lunch in the Historic District

People, trees, buildings and horse-drawn carriage in the historic district of Wilmington
Horse-drawn carriage in the historic district of Wilmington – Bennekom /

After this busy morning, you might be wondering when you can get lunch.

I recommend getting lunch at a restaurant in the Historic District.

There are many good restaurants to choose from that I’m sure you’ll like when spending a day in Wilmington.

For example, you can go to The Copper Penny for a delicious burger. Or you can check out Rebellion NC. Both of these restaurants offer fantastic food, but there are many other good options to choose from in the historic District too.

Also, you could get delicious ice cream at Boombalatti’s Homemade Ice Cream. This place serves many different delicious flavors of ice cream and there are a lot of vegan options as well. This place also can be great to go to if you like milkshakes.

Go to the Bellamy Mansion Museum

Outside of the Bellamy Mansion Museum
Bellamy Mansion Museum from the outside – Dawn Damico /

Now that you had lunch, it is time to continue with this itinerary.

After lunch, I suggest you go to the Bellamy Mansion Museum. This is a must-see if you’re one day in Wilmington.

This is a museum that is located inside the Bellamy Mansion and it is about the mansion.

Bellamy Mansion is a good example of antebellum architecture. The building was created in the year 1860 and it has a Greek Revival and Italian architectural style.

Nowadays, the mansion is a museum of history and design. Inside, historic furniture and many other objects can be seen.

Address: 503 Market St, Wilmington, NC 28401

See Battleship North Carolina

Battleship North Carolina on the water
Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington

Battleship North Carolina is the next highlight of this one-day itinerary for Wilmington.

Battleship North Carolina is an American battleship that participated in many operations during World War II, and the ship earned 15 battle stars in total.

Nowadays, Battleship North Carolina is a place where you can learn about Naval history, and the ship functions as a World War II memorial for North Carolinians that died during the war.

The ship can be explored through a self-guided tour. During this, you can see the many different decks of the ship, including the engine room and the bridge, by yourself.

Also, you can get great views of the Cape Fear River from the decks of the ship.

See the Wilmington Railroad Museum

Front of the Wilmington Railroad Museum
Outside of the Wilmington Railroad Museum – Red Lemon /

Another interesting place to go to this afternoon is the Wilmington Railroad Museum.

This is a museum where you can learn about the railroad history of Wilmington and surrounding areas. Also, you can learn about the people that worked on the development of the railroad here.

The collection of the museum includes historic locomotives and all kinds of objects related to trains.

Also, there are fun train models at the museum.

What’s great about this museum too is that it is a great place for both adults and children. There is a special hall for children where children can play with interactive train models. So if you’re 24 hours in Wilmington with kids, this is great.

Address: 505 Nutt St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Dinner in the Historic District

View of a restaurant and boats in the historic district of Wilmington
Restaurant in the historic district of Wilmington – zimmytws /

Let’s head back to the historic district to have dinner!

Again, like lunch, there are many good options to have dinner in Wilmington.

A very good restaurant in this part of the city is Marina Grill.

This is a waterfront restaurant where you can have delicious food while enjoying a view of the Cape Fear River at the same time.

Most of the ingredients that this restaurant uses are local and seasonal.

Also, what’s nice about Marina Grill is that there is often live music, which makes the experience of having dinner here even better.

You can get delicious burgers, sandwiches, and other dishes here.

Besides that, there are many other good restaurants in the Historic District, and you may want to have dinner at the restaurant where you had lunch as well if you liked the food!

See a Concert at the Thalian Hall

Your day is not over after dinner and there’s still a lot that you can do in Wilmington. For example, you can go to one of the theaters in the city.

The historic Thalian Hall is a place that I recommend you go to during this one day in Wilmington.

This is a historic performing arts theater in downtown Wilmington that has been in operation since the year 1858.

Many good live theater shows take place at the theater.

Also, it is often possible to see great movies in the hall. For example, there is a film series during which you can see independent movies.

The building itself is also very beautiful to see from both the inside and the outside. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Address: 310 Chestnut St, Wilmington, NC 28401

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24 Hours in Wilmington Tips

There are some ways to make your one day in Wilmington a bit better.

This itinerary is perfect if you want to see the highlights of the city, but there may be slight adjustments that you want to make.

For example, I chose certain museums that you can check out, but you could decide to switch one of these museums with other museums in Wilmington.

Also, to make getting to the places on this itinerary easier, you can use the map below. Each marker on the map marks a different activity of this itinerary and you can also save the map to Google Maps.

Street with houses and trees in Wilmington
Houses and trees in a street in Wilmington

One Day in Wilmington Map

This was my itinerary for one day in Wilmington, NC. I hope I helped you plan your trip!

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