Historic downtown Wilmington and the island beaches of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach all have something to savor. From fresh and creative seafood and other local fare to a variety of events and activities, the Wilmington area ( www.gowilmingtonandbeaches.com) is welcoming year-round.
Wilmington’s newest farm-to-table restaurant, Pembroke’s ( www.pembrokescuisine.com), opened in late 2013. Chef/owner James Doss hails from Charleston and is the chef/owner of popular Rx Restaurant ( www.rxwilmington.com) in downtown Wilmington.
Hot Pink Cake Stand ( www.hotpinkcakestand.com) in downtown Wilmington, recently opened its second location in Monkey Junction. In addition to its signature sweet treats, the new locale also serves sandwiches, soups and light bites. Wine and beer cupcake pairings are gaining in popularity at both places.
Cameron Art Museum ( www.cameronartmuseum.org) recently opened CAM Café ( www.camcafe.org), featuring executive chef Jessica Cabo, who is committed to a fresh dining experience featuring handcrafted dishes that use a variety of locally sourced foods.
Downtown Wilmington is a food lover’s paradise and it’s easy to see why on the Heart of Downtown Culinary Tour ( www.lizbiro.com) hosted by Port City foodie Liz Biro. She offers many other tasty tours.
Tasting History Tours ( www.tastinghistorytours.com) features Carolina Beach walking tours of about 2 1/2 hours that visit five or six local restaurants.
The Crystal Pier at the Oceanic ( www.oceanicrestaurant.com) recently reopened after a renovation that preserved the 1930s wooden pier – while giving it a structural facelift, extending it 30 feet, and expanding outdoor dining, live music and free public fishing.
Many outdoors-oriented events make Wrightsville Beach ( www.visitwrightsvillebeachnc.com) an active destination year-round. Options include: lots of varied fitness-driven events (including triathlons and the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon); fishing tournaments; surfing competitions.
Even if there’s not a specific event, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk ( www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com) is a great place to head. It was recently ranked as one of America’s top 10 boardwalks by Food & Wine magazine; Travel magazine listed it one of “America’s Most Awesome Boardwalks.”
Along with lessons and other offerings, Tony Silvagni Surf Camp (April to September; www.surfschoolnc.com) also runs popular weeklong surf camps at several beaches that include 10 hours of professional surf instruction and more.
The butterflies are coming! In April, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher ( www.ncaquariums.com) welcomes a new butterfly house that will feature exotic species from around the world. The house will be home to hundreds of butterflies and will be open April through September.
There are family-friendly “Free Sunday Movies” ( www.pleasureislandnc.org) at Carolina Beach Lake from May to August.
The second helping of the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival (May 2-4; www.wilmingtonwineandfood.com) will take place at Bellamy Mansion and feature lots of wines and creative cuisine.
The Carolina Beach Street Arts Festival (May 17; www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com) celebrates the visual, culinary, and performing arts and features artist vendors selling their wares, as well as a wide variety of demonstrations and educational programs provided by artists, shops, and chefs.
The Carolina Beach Music Festival (June 7; www.pleasureislandnc.org) is one of the oldest beach music festivals in the country. You can shag barefoot on the sand or sway to the beats while standing in the surf. It features the hottest beach music bands in the South.
Thanks to Fireworks By the Sea & Boardwalk Blast (June through August; www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com), fireworks aren’t just for July Fourth! Every Thursday night during the summer, you can enjoy free music and then dazzling fireworks right over the ocean on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
The Port City Rib Fest (Aug. 15-17; www.portcityribfest.com) at Battleship USS North Carolina Memorial Park ( www.battleshipnc.com) features outstanding ’cue with all the fixings, plus live music. Lynn Seldon