Wilmington, North Carolina: Battleship and River Walk

Genie Davis October 3, 2011 No Comments

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Wilmington, North Carolina is an off-the-beaten-path destination about two hours from Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a worthwhile stop for families on a road trip through the south, or families who simply enjoy the beauty of a sunset over a beautiful river, a historic and slightly off-beat downtown area, or who want to tour a battleship. Yes, one of the main tourist attractions here is a massive battleship parked on one side of the river.

Wilminton North Carolina River Front

A view of Wilminton, North Carolina’s river front.

Wilmington is part of the Cape Fear region of the state, but there’s nothing to fear here. About twenty minutes outside of town you’ll find the pleasant, dune lined Wrightsville Beach, worthy of a day digging your toes in the smooth white sand or simply taking a walk along the waters edge.

Downtown Wilmington

In town, the walk to take – and a great one for the stroller set – is along the wooden boardwalk that hugs the Cape Fear River. While the view is especially lovely at twilight, do bring the insect repellant at this time of day. Pleasant waterfront cafes line the walk way in the heart of downtown, and the view of docks, water reeds, the lovely river itself is quite beautiful, and has a distinctive, Southern feel to the geography. We ate off the water, on one of several parallel streets above the river which you can tour via a horse drawn carriage ride or on foot. The half hour carriage ride presents a nice view of the local architecture and history of the town, and its capacious homes, historic churches, and shopping district.

This downtown area is filled with restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and small shops. There are a fair sprinkling of second hand and antique stores. We dined at the Bottega Art Bar where my daughter was also playing a set. A gallery setting and a fine wine selection does not make this spot unfriendly to small children, at least not early in the evening. Veggie plates, salads, hummus, and fruit make up a limited but tasty food selection; commodious chairs and sofas make this a great spot to relax and listen to live, acoustic music. Elsewhere you’ll find Tony’s Pizza, an old fashioned red checkered table cloth sort of place, with good, gooey pizza, crayons for the kids, and a pleasantly raucous atmosphere.

Battleship North Carolina

We enjoyed exploring the massive Battleship North Carolina, anchored across the river from downtown Wilmington.

Battleship North Carolina

Two and a half football fields in length, children of all ages will find the Battleship North Carolina impressive. Moored in its location opposite downtown Wilmington since 1961, this ship-shape attraction is well worth exploring. Touring the ship, its easy to imagine both the daily life of a Naval crew stationed on this proud ship, and the combat the crew endured in the Pacific during World War II. Histories, photos and crew mementos fill the ship, and kids will thrill to be able to practice “steering” the massive ship, a floating city designed to house over eighteen hundred crew members. The self-guided tours are easy to follow through the lower decks, and it’s fascinating to see the contrast in conditions between enlisted men and officers. Our kids enjoyed the short film that presented the history of the ship and the rigorous efforts necessary to preserve this behemoth from becoming scrap in the ‘60′s. One caveat for parents with strollers – ladder-like stairs will mean you have to leave these behind or carry them separately from your little ones to adequately explore the ship.

Wilmington North Carolina Sunset View from Best Western Coastline Inn

A view from the Best Western Coastline Inn, Wilmington, North Carolina at sunset.

Launderland – An Unusual Stop

We were also entertained by doing our laundry – we’d been traveling for awhile on the trip that took us to Wilmington, and I’d expected a laundry room at the Best Western Coastline Inn. My expectation was incorrect. The Best Western offers lovely river views from full size picture windows, and modern, clean, if on the small size, rooms. The kids particularly enjoyed the rain shower, something unusual for the motel chain experience. But – no laundry. We were directed to Launderland a few blocks away in the historic district. To our surprise we found it was a – bar. With inexpensive margaritas, a pool table, foose ball, and in the back a few scattered and somewhat ancient washers and dryers. Families were happily co-existing with bar patrons, playing video games that were also somewhat old school, and working that foose ball table. This may not be every family’s idea of a good time, but it was certainly one of the most unique laundry experiences I’ve had, and if you don’t object to the adjacent bar, and need some clean clothes, it’s a memorable stop.

Cape Fear Serpentarium

Another unusual attraction is the Cape Fear Serpentarium. If you don’t like snakes, don’t go, but if you do, or have kids who’ll be fascinated by these slithery creatures, this is a great exhibit of every kind of snake from mamba to cobra, with some lizards and parrots thrown into the mix. Informative plaques give you plenty of reptile information, and we were told that on the weekend the exhibit director offers feedings and snake story telling. We were amazed by a python that was larger in circumference than a grown man. Reptile loving kids will want to stay a long time at this off-beat attraction – unless you lure them out of town with a stop at the beach or another walk along the river front.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions

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