Learn More About

Welcome back, !

Click here to update your information


Welcome back, !

Click here to update your information


Family at the beach

06 May . 2024

Welcoming Wee Ones to Wilmington

For those of us lucky enough to call the Wilmington area home, the advance of Spring and Summer means something else is on its way -- company! With three area beaches and a charming historic downtown, there’s just entirely too much incentive for friends and family to visit. 

If your visitors include little ones, it needn’t be a challenge to find places to go and things to do. The Port City is full of fun destinations!

Let’s start near Carolina Beach where the boardwalk is reminiscent of decades past. That time-travelling experience is complete with the sights, sounds and smells conjured from memories of arcade games, street food and amusement rides. During the summer season, you can even catch weekly fireworks and live music. Lots of eateries, of course, with predictable lines waiting for Britts Donuts.  HINT: they’re worth the wait. 

Beyond Carolina Beach is the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. With breathtaking exhibits of plant and marine life, our aquarium delights all ages. Otters, sharks, alligators, stingrays, sea turtles, even a moray eel provide an other-worldly sensation. Recreated habitats offer the opportunity to see a variety of species up close – even close enough for a touch in the touch tank. Reservations are recommended and there’s a restaurant onsite to make a full day of it.

Downtown Wilmington offers several child-friendly hotspots. The Childrens Museum should top any list with its interactive exhibits and programs. Creative and imaginative play are inspired with daily activities that explore art, science, health, the environment and more. Check the website before you venture out to see if there are specific events requiring a timely arrival. Considerations and events are also accommodating of children with varying sensory, developmental, or physical needs. 

Also downtown is the Wilmington Railroad Museum. Climb aboard a caboose or 100-year-old steam engine for life-size play, then visit the Children’s Hall with custom train tables and interactive models. But the highlight will surely be the model train layout that features a number of foot pedals allowing one to interact with the trains and display.  It is considered among the finest model train displays in the country! The Railroad Museum can be enjoyed in about an hour and is open 7 days a week from Memorial Day till Labor Day; closed Sundays, outside the summer season.

You’ll want to allow more than an hour to enjoy the Battleship North Carolina.  And even though this is a blog dedicated to the kiddos, make no mistake, the Battleship appeals to all. Explore all nine levels of the “Showboat,” see where the crew ate and slept, climb inside gun turrets, and wonder at the early computers that guided this ship through every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater of WWII. It’s a most inspiring site that leaves an impact on all. Specific programs allow one to go behind the scenes, below deck or encounter reenactments.  Check the schedule to see if something’s happening to interest your visiting crew.

Heading toward mid-town, stop at the Cape Fear Museum, to learn more about our region’s history. You may have noticed the Giant Ground Sloth skeleton in the museum’s Market Street window. It’s a replica of a creature that lived here up to 1.5 million years ago! (The museum’s skeleton was made from the remains of one found near Randall Parkway in 1991. The original skeleton is housed in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Cool!)  There are lots of opportunities to learn more about the Lower Cape Fear’s ecosystem and natural environment, AND to explore the early years of Wilmington’s Favorite Son, the great Michael Jordan.  

Another favorite spot for all is the New Hanover County Arboretum. The gardens are a marvel year-round given our temperate climate. There is a children’s area that invites raucous play, a Japanese garden with an authentic tea house and a water garden with dozens of colorful and enormous koi that always delight little people. The Arboretum is free to visit and open daily from 8 to 5.

If yours is a family that enjoys the great outdoors, another garden that beckons is surely Airlie Gardens. These historic and public gardens include wonderful exhibits for all: the butterfly house, bottle house, swans a-swimming (not necessarily 7) on the pond, native habitat gardens and the massive beloved Airlie Oak.  Stroll at your leisure; this is meant to be a place where you literally stop to smell the roses.

Just up the road from Airlie and the Arboretum is Jungle Rapids, Wilmington’s destination for putt putt golf, go carts, laser tag, arcade games and water park! And you may think you’re there for the kids, but Jungle Rapids just brings the kid out in everyone. It’s a blast and the best part is the kids will be so tired that the adults can enjoy a quiet peaceful evening – the perfect end to a perfect vacation day!

So much to offer your youngest visitors, you can be sure they’ll be back again – and again, and again.