Winter on a North Carolina Beach

What in the World - Beaches

Wilmington Beaches

When winter blues set in, the longing for a beach getaway can become as persistent as the pounding of waves on the sand. While tropical islands are the typical go-to destinations, a seaside escape to a stateside beach can offer a new perspective on resort cities that fill with beachgoers during the warm months of summer. 

When crowds are low, visitors have a chance to see Wilmington, N.C.and its three nearby beaches—Carolina BeachKure Beach and Wrightsville Beach—in a different light. For the next few months the spotlight is on historical happenings like the exciting events to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s fourth year, museums such as the Serpentarium that is home to dozens of venomous snakes (including bushmasters) from around the world, special events such as the Cape Fear Beer Festival.


2014 will mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s fourth year: a year of fighting in 1864 led to the first bombardment of Fort Fisher and the Battle of Forks Road. Events throughout the year will commemorate milestone events. 

Civil War buffs will want to mark their calendars for two upcoming events. First up is Fort Fisher’s anniversary event on January 18. Each year, the reenactment of the fall of Fort Fisher – the South’s largest earthen fort and site of the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War – attracts visitors from across the nation, and this year's 149th anniversary will be no different. The event will focus on Civil War medicine and surgery of both sides of the struggle. Then, on February 8-9, Cameron Art Museum will commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Forks Road. Interact with Confederate and Union living history actors; enjoy battle skirmish, sutlers, period music, family art activities and more. History enthusiasts can also learn about the pre-historic, colonial and Civil War periods in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach at the Federal Point History Center.

Museums and Attractions

Wilmington is home to a wide variety of museums ranging including kid-friendly destinations like the Children’s Museum of WilmingtonWilmington Railroad Museum, and Cape Fear Museum of History and Science. The Cape Fear Serpentarium is an especially fascinating attraction. Enter only if you dare: it features dozens of exhibits that offer visitors an up-close encounter with the world’s rarest and most dangerous snakes, crocodiles, lizards, dragons and more. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher – which was just named as one of the Best Aquariums in the U.S. by the Travel Channel for the second time – is home to a variety of other creatures such as an endangered green sea turtle, bamboo sharks, an albino alligator and many more.

For those people traveling without kids, the Wilmington area is home to a variety of historic homes and plantations, some of which have been transformed into museums that are open to the public. Take the Bellamy Mansion, for example: built on the eve of the Civil War by free and enslaved black artisans, the mansion was inhabited by Federal troops as their headquarters following the fall of Fort Fisher in 1865. Now one of N.C.’s most spectacular examples of eighteenth-century architecture, the house has been restored into a museum of history and design arts. Or Poplar Grove Plantation: one of the oldest existing peanut plantations in the state, Poplar Grove Plantation was built in 1850 and was home to the same family for more than six generations. The grandiose farmhouse is now a museum preserving the homestead of a successful farming family. 

Fans of the underwater world will want to leave time to check out the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center. This hidden gem features exhibits on dive sites and maritime history dating from prehistoric to the Civil War to the present.


Winter is a great time to enjoy some indoor retail therapy: experience one of the South's most charming shopping destinations. From chic beach boutiques and upscale malls, to eclectic emporiums and avant-garde art galleries, you’ll find it all here. 


From jazz to beer to model trains, Wilmington has you covered this winter. The Cape Fear Model Railroad Show and Sale, a Southeast Tourism Society “Top 20” event, will feature model railroad dealers with a variety of scale layouts on January 25-27. The 34th Annual North Carolina Jazz Festival on February 6-8 is one of the largest traditional jazz festivals in the Southeast. And the Cape Fear Beer Festival, taking place on March 1, will offer unlimited tastings of top quality beers made by the world’s most enthusiastic and enterprising brew masters.

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