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City Review: Wilmington, North Carolina

Leg one of our cross-country road trip is officially done! On Friday, November 27, the day after Thanksgiving (and Black Friday if you're in to that kind of thing), we flew from Sacramento, California to Wilmington, North Carolina, experiencing a three hour layover in Dallas, Texas. This was my first time flying since the start of the pandemic (the last time I flew was to Mexico back in February), so I was a little anxious about the experience of being on a plane during these weird times but I'll say aside from the discomfort of wearing a mask for 12+ hours, it was perfectly fine.

Our fist flight to Dallas (on American Airlines) was completely FULL but our connecting flight to Wilmington was practically empty so we kind of experienced both ends of the spectrum.

Upon landing in Wilmington we were both struck by how SMALL the airport was. It's not the updated LAX or even SMF that I'm used to but it has a quaint charm about it. We were already experiencing those small town vibes.

After picking up our rental car we stopped at Target in town for some supplies for our two week road trip before checking in at ARRIVE Wilmington. Thankfully both Target and ARRIVE were quite close to the airport, only about a 15 minute drive.

While it was raining upon arriving in Wilmington, it wasn't as cold as I expected it to be! Out of all five of our stops, I definitely expected to be coldest in Wilmington and was certain I would regret not bringing anything heavier than my little Nike sherpa jacket however it was quite comfortable the entire time we were there. In fact there was a time in which I regretted wearing a sweater AND a jacket. Please take into account I'm naturally extremely warm-blooded but it never dropped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

With two full days in Wilmington, we used the first day to explore the Historic Downtown area which was the area immediately surrounding ARRIVE Wilmington. Don't worry, there will be more to come on all the ARRIVE locations (saving that post for the end).

It was a beautiful day - yes, this was the day I was too warm for a sweater AND a jean jacket - and we began that Saturday morning the best way we know how, with donuts. ARRIVE is really great at offering recommendations for the surrounding area so with those recommendations in mind in addition to my research before our trip, we knew that Wake n Bake donuts was a must-visit and thankfully, within walking distance of our hotel.

I had the Fruit Loops donut and Adam had one covered with Fruity Pebbles but I will mention that by the time we arrived (probably between 10am-11am) there were only four varieties of donuts left!! I mean, it was a weekend so it makes sense and at least there were still some delicious ones leftover. The icing was unlike anything I've experienced on a donut. It was comparable to the best cake frosting you've ever consumed in your life - yes, that good!

Once our tummies were full with delicious donuts, we bopped around town popping in and out of shops that looked promising. Here's the full list of places we experienced during our two full days in Wilmington.

Divine Vintage immediately caught my eye with its selection of vintage and designer bags on display in the window. While I didn't bite the bullet and purchase any on this trip, I would highly recommend checking this spot out if you're in to vintage/consignment clothes and accessories like I am.

The Black Cat Shoppe was a fun little toy and gift shop. They even sold tickets to the infamous ghost tour inside (no, we didn't get the chance to check it out this time but next visit!).

Candles, Etc. had a robust offering of local candles and scents like North Carolina Coast and great local vibes.

Edge of Urge had a line just to get inside the door (COVID restricted the store to six customers at a time) so I knew it had to be a worthwhile stop. This female-owned gift shop is the perfect destination to pick up unique gift items for the whole family. By far my favorite visit of the trip.

Hey TVM is a local t-shirt store across the street from ARRIVE. We happened to visit when the owner (and artist/designer) was working and we fell into conversation with him. Trever (TVM are his initials), is not only an incredible and passionate creative but a great guy. He even gave us a tour of his "soon to be" Secret Garden at the back of his shop. We picked up a couple tees and look forward to visiting once that Secret Garden is officially open.

USS North Carolina is a battleship memorial docked in Wilmington, North Carolina. As a visitor of this memorial you can explore all nine levels of the ship including the mess decks, berthing areas, engine room and more! Take a step back in time by stepping foot on this enormous Battleship and take a peek behind the curtain as to how the thousands of US Navy men lived during World War II.

The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is a quick, sprawling walk at Piney Ridge Nature Conserve in Wilmington. Inspired by Rehder's fascination with and love for carnivorous plants, this outdoor spectacle is home to various carnivorous species such as Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants and Sundews. While it was a beautiful walk during our visit, I can imagine it's even more spectacular during summertime. We also somehow didn't catch any Venus Fly Traps during this particular exploration so we'll have to look into when's the best time to spot those carnivorous wonders.

Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods was our coffee and breakfast destination for our second morning in Wilmington. This neighborhood hotspot was packed on a Sunday morning with travelers and locals alike. While we only tried their coffee, it was quite delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed the bright, airy and industrial atmosphere. Definitely a great spot for freelancers to bring their computers, too!

Crust Kitchen and Cocktails was probably our favorite food destination while in Wilmington. While not a five star restaurant, this newer, local hotspot offered a great variety of grilled cheeses, sandwiches, etc. and a fun selection of drinks as well. We were craving a grilled cheese on that rainy Wilmington night and while neither of us actually got a grilled cheese (LOL), we both enjoyed our warm sandwiches and fries. Great atmosphere, simple, classic food and really friendly staff.

The Cotton Exchange is located in the heart of historic downtown Wilmington and is home to a variety of shops and restaurants. With some local, touristy stores it's a great place to grab a souvenir or two for friends or family back home but more than anything it's a beautiful, historic building worth visiting.

Speaking of beautiful, historic buildings, The Murchison Building is right around the corner from The Cotton Exchange and something we completely stumbled upon by accident. This eleven story brick and marble building has been in the area for nearly a century and was originally built for and by the Murchison National Bank. Definitely worth walking by this stunning feat of architecture.

The Cargo District located in Downtown Wilmington is the first shipping container community. Yes, that's correct, essentially a community of tiny houses, formerly shipping containers. It was about a mile and a half from ARRIVE and while it's certainly a unique housing community worth checking out just to see this design feat, it didn't feel like the surrounding area was necessarily the best neighborhood. We stumbled on a market located in the area which was filled with young, trendy patrons on a Sunday morning but we didn't stay very long. Not sure it's worth the trip.

Going back to beautiful architecture, The Bellamy Mansion is absolutely stunning. According to it's website, "The Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to interpreting the social and architectural history of the Bellamy Mansion and promoting a greater understanding of historic preservation, architectural history and restoration methods in North Carolina." While we didn't go on an official tour it's worth walking by at the least.

The Husk in Downtown Wilmington was a random light bites stop for us after walking a significant amount on Sunday afternoon. This sports bar has lots of indoor and outdoor seating and is a great place to enjoy Sunday football or just a beautiful afternoon. We definitely took advantage of their cheap drinks ($2 domestics and $4 mimosas - don't mind if I do) but I wouldn't recommend getting actual food beyond fries, tots, pretzel bites, etc. Definitely a better stop for cheap drinks and bar food, not necessarily anything beyond that.

While I'm sure there's plenty more that Wilmington has to offer, as two tourists in a brand new city I was pretty happy with what we were able to see. We both thoroughly enjoyed our time in this quaint little town and would definitely recommend adding it to your list of places to explore! Should you find yourself traveling to Wilmington, I would definitely recommend staying at or near ARRIVE Wilmington. While we were fortunate to have a car on this trip in particular, being that we're driving cross-country, we were grateful to have the option to walk to so many destinations versus having to hop in the car and drive.

Another thing I would make note of is the weather. As I mentioned earlier I was half expecting there to be snow on the ground this time of year but was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a mild winter. It did rain a bit while we were there but for the most part we enjoyed cooler days, blue skies and sunshine.

Be sure to check back in for my other City Reviews in addition to my final Road to ARRIVE review once our trip is complete.

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