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Wilmington, North Carolina for Families ~ Beach, Play & Treats for Kids

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Wilmington, North Carolina may not scream “exotic” like, say, Rio de Janeiro or Hong Kong might. Yet, there is so much to do and see in this town on the southeast coast of North Carolina. Plentiful beaches, kid-friendly attractions, and fun food options make Wilmington a wonderful spot for a family getaway.

North Carolina Beach with kids

Rana's daughter, Stella, at one of the beaches near Wilmington

Beach Options Near Wilmington

Let’s start with the water. There are quite a few beaches to choose from, but my favorite is Carolina Beach. It's also referred to as Pleasure Island and is located very near Wilmington. To get around the island, rent a Jeep, bicycles, or a golf cart (completely street legal!).

The north end of the island is very relaxed and a tad less touristy. The beach is a bit more flat there so you can park the family right by the water and let the kids loose to explore.

For an easy and fun day at the beach, be sure to call on Pleasure Island Rentals. They will set up and take down your choice of beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, and tons of other beach necessities for very reasonable rates. You can pay them by the day or week.

Carolina Beach has plenty of vacation houses available to rent on the cheap. Pelican Watch is a condominium rental option located right on the water. It offers a community pool and rental units with newly remodeled full-service kitchens.

Kure Beach (the locals say curry, like the spice), is further south by 10 minutes and also has some awesome beach houses. Wrightsville is about thirty minutes away, and some venture to say is a little more luxurious. Wrightsville offers fantastic hotels, but parking for the beach is expensive.

Wilmington Attractions for Families

Wilmington is brimming with fun things to do with the kiddos. For starters, the outstanding Children’s Museum of Wilmington is full of interactive play stations sure to entertain children for hours.

The Cape Fear Serpentarium is resplendent with snakes and amphibians. If you can stomach it, they have feedings every day at 3-4 pm.

Tregembo Animal Park, located near Carolina Beach, is home to over 10 acres of exotic animals like giraffes, lions, tigers, zebras, bears, and monkeys. You can buy bags of corn and peanuts on-site to feed the more docile animals. There is also an extensive gift shop on-site (just warning you!).

Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is an outdoor water park for those summer days when you tire of the beach. It can get expensive, but it's your one-stop-shop for fun. Not only are there water slides, but also go-karts, laser tag, and a rock climbing wall. While food is available for purchase, you may want to pack a picnic lunch for tastier fare.

If you’re looking for something more relaxing, try Greenfield Park with its cool playground and a picturesque 150-acre lake. You can rent paddle boats here…but beware of the alligators! Try the 4.5-mile walk around the water; it’s such a sight to see. Concerts are offered in the amphitheater on select nights in the summer.

Greenfield Park in Wilmington, North Carolina for families

Mama and baby out for a stroll at Greenfield Park

Eats and Treats in Wilmington for Kids

During your visit to Wilmington, you HAVE to try Flaming Amy’s. There are a few locations in town, with slight variations in concept. Here’s how it works: fill a bowl with your favorite veggies and meat at the toppings station and then give it to the chef to cook right there in front of you. They will ask you what kind of noodles (or rice) you want and what type of sauce as well. It’s very affordable and unlimited so you can go up as many times as you like.

For dessert try Cold Culture, a frozen yogurt shop that offers a slew of toppings. You can stay healthy by choosing from an array of fruits or go wild with the pound cake, brownie, and cereal toppings!

In Carolina Beach, make sure you hit Pop’s Frozen Custard for some homemade ice cream and fried goodies. Located on the boardwalk, Britt’s Donuts is a local favorite – they’re cheap, too.

No matter what you do in and near Wilmington, I hope you have a fabulous time with your family…and grab a donut from Britt’s for me!

Headed to North Carolina with kids? You might want to read this story about Asheville with kids before you go!

Do you have a favorite Wilmington beach, attraction, or treat? Tell us about it in the comments!

Rana Mancini Cavanaugh is a new mom to her daughter, Stella, and a recent college grad who just got married to her childhood sweetheart. While following her dream career, traveling every chance she gets, and learning this mama thing, she recently moved to North Carolina. Check out her blog, Chic Traveling Mama.

Comments

  1. Great post Rana! I’ve become a huge fan of the Wilmington area beaches and attractions in recent years. Tregembo park in particular is a family favorite. My family makes it out every chance we can. There are a lot of other ideas on this post I plan on checking out soon. Thanks for the post!

  2. Wilmington is so beautiful, we just relocated for my husbands work and are still settling in, we moved to a new D.R. Horton home here and the people have been very welcoming but I have 2 kids and they are having a hard time adjusting. I am looking forward to trying many of these ideas with them. Thank you so much

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