5 Best Historic Sites in Wilmington, North Carolina

A wooden boardwalk in Wilmington leading to the water.

Wilmington, North Carolina is a city with a rich history. Here, you can find architectural treasures, brick streets, and a connection to America’s history. Indeed, it’s steeped in history dating back to America’s earliest days. When you visit, here are the 5 best historic sites to see.

A street with a tree in the middle of it in Wilmington.
Spanish moss drips from trees throughout the historic town.

5 Best Historic Sites in Wilmington, North Carolina

The Wilmington River Walk

First, make your way to the riverfront to the Riverwalk. This wooden boardwalk takes you away from the modern street and lets you see the city from the front of the Cape Fear River.  As you walk, you’ll find quaint shops, water taxis, and river view restaurants.

A wooden pier leading to a boat in Wilmington on a rainy day.
Indeed, the River Walk is a don’t miss site when you visit Wilmington, North Carolina
A street light in Wilmington with a sign that says river walk.
In fact, it’s romantic–and safely lit–for evening walks.

The Cotton Exchange

The Cotton Exchange is a historic building and was once the hub of the cotton industry. Cotton growers of the past brought their cotton here to be woven and sold. Today, it is a combination of historically correct building and modern shopping.

A Wilmington sign celebrating 40 years.
You can find local treasures at the Cotton Exchange.
A staircase leading to a room with a painting in Wilmington.
And, you can enjoy local history!

Horse Drawn Carriage Tours

Half a block from the River Walk, you’ll find a horse-drawn carriage tour station. These Percheron horses are rescue horses. The calmest horses are selected from their rescue farm to take riders through the charming and historic homes of the waterfront district. The conductor shares interesting stories about the more colorful residents of Wilmington (think Andy Griffith and Dennis Hopper!). He was also willing to stop to allow this nosy blogger to take photos along the way.

A man standing next to a horse pulling a cart in Wilmington.
These Percheron horses were rescued from a horrible fate–they were being auctioned off to slaughterhouses. They were to become dog food.
A man standing next to a horse pulling a carriage in Wilmington.
Instead, the rescuer found a way to save them and generate revenue to keep them well-fed and stabled. Each horse team only works 5-hour shifts.

The City Market

Before malls crept up on the outskirts of town, Wilmington, North Carolina’s downtown was the place to shop! The City Market was the original shopping hub of the city. Today, you can still shop for goods indoors to escape the heat!

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A sign on the side of a building in Wilmington that says city market.
Indeed, Wilmington’s City Market is a historic treasure.

Tour the Battleship North Carolina

With all the colonial and Civil War-era history in Wilmington, don’t forget to explore Wilmington’s own piece of World War II history. Ride the water taxi across the Cape Fear River and board the Battleship North Carolina. You can see what it was like onboard for those brave sailors.

A battleship is docked in Wilmington.
In addition to the other historic sites, a water taxi ride to the Battleship North Carolina is a must-do!

There’s no shortage of history in Wilmington. In fact, Wilmington offers modern conveniences and blends them seamlessly with nods to its historic past better than many other cities I’ve visited.

A wooden boardwalk in Wilmington leading to the water.
Because it’s adjacent to the Cape Fear River, you’ll see gorgeous views!
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