Series: Planning for 36 Hours in Wilmington, NC

About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!  

About the visit: In discussions of historic Southern port cities, Savannah and Charleston tend to get most of the attention. However, Wilmington, NC, has slowly become a world class destination in its own right. Situated along the Cape Fear river and minutes away from several beaches, it has long been lauded for its natural amenities. Lesser known, though, are its rich history, delicious food, and local spirit which await travellers. So whether you want to tour the site of the largest amphibious Civil War battle, eat fresh seafood, or simply catch some sun on the beach, 36 hours in Wilmington will be time well spent.



Located conveniently in downtown, Foxes Boxes is close to the action and great for a quick bite to eat. Although not technically a brunch place (the earliest it opens is 11am), the Bacon Egg & Cheese Waffle Stack is too good not to include. The menu is simple; there are three different sizes of “boxes” that each come with one protein and one side. With options as cheap as $6, you can walk away with a full stomach and a full wallet.

The Bacon Egg & Cheese Waffle Stack at Foxes Boxes is as delicious as it looks. Photo Credits: Luke Lowry



At the heart of downtown Wilmington is Front Street, a historic street which contains an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and shops. Fittingly, one of the best breweries is Front Street Brewery. The beer is fantastic, and there is also an extensive and affordable offering of food. With over 400 bottles of whiskey, the brewery also claims to have the largest selection of whiskey in North Carolina, and each of its beers comes with a recommended whiskey pairing.


Front Street is the historic heart of downtown Wilmington and is dotted with shops, restaurants, and bars. Photo Credits: Luke Lowry



After experiencing downtown Wilmington, there’s no better way to relax than by heading to one of the many beaches in the area. Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach tend to attract the most vacationers, but Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is a hidden gem. While the other beaches are dotted by resorts, houses, and shopping centers, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is undeveloped and remains a haven for nature and wildlife. The remains of Fort Fisher, the site of one of the most decisive Civil War battles in North Carolina, are also open to the public.

Compared to many of the beaches in the area, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is a calm retreat. Photo Credits: Cape Fear Visitors Guide


Fun Planning Fact

Downtown Wilmington is built along the Cape Fear river due to its function as a port city. In an effort to reverse the conditions of a declining downtown, the city conceived the idea of a Riverwalk to take advantage of the Cape Fear waterfront. The project has been a huge success; numerous shops and businesses, many of which have used formerly dilapidated industrial buildings, have sprouted up along the route. In 2014, USA Today gave Wilmington the title of having the ‘Best American Riverfront’. 
For many new visitors, the Riverwalk and the surrounding architecture will have an uncanny familiarity. That’s because Wilmington is a major film industry location, often being called “Hollywood East” or “Wilmywood”. In fact, Wilmington has the largest full service motion picture facility east of California. Many popular shows such as One Tree Hill have used the Riverwalk and other downtown locations as the backdrop for various scenes.

The Riverwalk along the Cape Fear River has been a huge success, and many industrial buildings have been renovated and repurposed. Photo Credits: Luke Lowry


Featured Image: Cape Fear River at sunset. Photo Courtesy of Luke Lowry. 


About the author: Luke Lowry is a first-year master’s candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning with a specialization in Transportation. He is particularly interested in pedestrian and bicycle planning as a means to increase equity and create vibrant communities. A lifelong resident of North Carolina, he enjoys spending time in the mountains near his hometown. He also enjoys reading, staying active, and finding new coffee shops to fuel his caffeine addiction. Luke received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from UNC Charlotte.