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Wilmington, N.C., on a Budget


You won’t need to spend a fortune when you visit Wilmington, North Carolina. This picturesque city, nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, offers relaxed charm, scrumptious dining, fascinating history and amazing outdoor scenery and activities — all for a modest cost.

Thrifty things to do

Whether you love taking in historic sights, perusing museums or spending time at the beach, you’ll find something fun — and inexpensive — to do in Wilmington.

To get acquainted with everything the city has to offer, head first to these two spots: the Riverwalk and the downtown historic district. Offering the perfect mix of scenery, shops and restaurants, the Riverwalk stretches for 1 mile along the Cape Fear River. This area is home to many free events throughout the year, and you’ll also find plenty of spots to just sit and take it all in. The historic district covers more than 230 downtown blocks and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you can stroll the cobbled streets, admire the architecture, discover unique shops or dine and drink at a wide variety of local establishments.

In Wilmington, you can visit numerous museums and attractions that won’t cost you a bundle. A trip to see Cameron Art Museum’s large collection of classic and contemporary works is just $10 for adults — and free for anyone 19 years old and under. Gain insights into the region’s history at the restored Poplar Grove Plantation, where self-guided tours are $9 for adults. Tours are also $9 at the city’s gorgeous Airlie Gardens, which boasts lush garden areas, historic structures, fountains, sculptures and a butterfly house. For something a little more offbeat, check out the Riverfront’s appropriately named Museum of the Bizarre for just $3.

The Wilmington area is justly famous for its barrier-island beaches, located on the Atlantic Ocean just a short drive from the city. The closest one is Wrightsville Beach, a town in its own right. It’s the perfect spot for strolling, sun and watersports of all sorts. A bit farther down the coast is Carolina Beach, famed for its vintage boardwalk, great fishing and laid-back vibes. Its neighbor to the south is Kure Beach, a family-friendly destination ideal for play and learning. Kure Beach is also home to the (free) Fort Fisher State Historic Site, where the Civil War’s largest combined land-sea battle took place.

Economical eats

Even if you’re on a budget, you won’t lack delicious dining options in Wilmington. For breakfast, try the wildly popular Spanish-style omelets at Goody Goody Omelet House or enjoy Southern favorites at Cast Iron Kitchen. For lunch, sink your teeth into a hot dog at one of two Trolly Stop locations, pick up some fried chicken or the famous chicken salad at the Robert’s Grocery deli or experience heaven in a tortilla at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn.
For all-day dining that won’t break the bank, check out the Blue Surf Cafe, which serves everything from waffles and grits to tacos and meatloaf. Or, belly up to Casey’s Buffet for authentic, all-you-can-eat Southern soul food and barbecue.

If you love seafood, you’re in luck — thanks to its seaside location, Wilmington is a paradise for fresh fish, shrimp, oysters and more. For an affordable steamed and grilled feast, head to Dock Street Oyster Bar. Other wallet-friendly spots include two Cape Fear Seafood Company locations, Fish Bites Seafood Restaurant and Ronnie’s Crab Shack.

Boasting unparalleled sun and sand, fresh seafood and vibrant attractions, Wilmington is an attractive — and economical — destination for your next seaside getaway.

This article is presented by East Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
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