With all of the pent-up energy many of us are feeling to get away, vacations within driving distance can become very appealing. My husband and I just attended a beautiful wedding in Wilmington, NC, and decided to turn the event into a mini vacation.
As with many hotels these days, our receptionist informed us upon check-in that our room would not be serviced during our 3-night stay. Nothing was wrapped in cellophane, so it was hard to know how sanitized everything might be, though everything “looked” extremely clean. Any towels or other needs have to be requested in person at the front desk. The breakfast options are limited to things like cold cereals, muffins, whole fruit and bagels.
Like so many people these days, our work is mobile, meaning it’s hard to truly turn off and take a real vacation. Since my husband was officiating the wedding, he went to a rehearsal first thing in the morning. While he did that, I grabbed a cup of coffee and worked from our hotel room. But it was a stunning October day with temperatures in the mid 70’s to low 80’s, so we were anxious to get out and do something.
Wilmington has some great golf courses, but many are very pricey. Based on the recommendation of someone in one of the pro shops, David decided to play the Wilmington Municipal Golf Course, a classic Donald Ross design at only $27 to walk ($38 to ride). He was put together with a two-some and enjoyed both the course and the company.
I decided to visit something in Wilmington I had not yet toured. In previous trips, I’ve walked through the town and along the Riverwalk, but have never visited any of the historical museums. The Bellamy mansion, recently fully restored, caught my attention. For $12, I was able to download the walking tour to my phone (it helps if you bring some headphones!) and meander through the guided tour of the carriage house, slave quarters, mansion and small garden, at my own pace. The tour pointed out fascinating aspects of the house, such as the brilliant pre-electric air-conditioning system, as well as the incredible skill, that was never compensated, of slave artisans.
After touring the mansion, I walked several blocks to the waterfront for some lunch. The George, ever popular, was open and taking full advantage of an abundance of outdoor seating. So I enjoyed a meal overlooking the river, watching tourist boats come and go along the Cape Fear river, and yachts arrive for a boat show the next day. I also stopped into the new Gelato shop, called GelaRto, along the river front that offered about 6 options for vegan ice-cream. All but one was also gluten-free, so I was super excited to have a rare opportunity to enjoy a mint chocolate chip ice-cream!
The evening rehearsal dinner/reception was at a fun, local brewery called Wrightsville Beach Brewery. This modern brewery and restaurant, run by a local couple, features local seafood, artisanal pizzas, their own selection of craft beers and other interesting dishes. They have a large outdoor area, sometimes featuring live entertainment, that is perfect for eating out during these Coronavirus days. They even happily accommodated my gluten and dairy allergies with a GF hamburger bun and goat cheese on my burger (which was delicious)! This is definitely a fun local place worth visiting when in the area.
The next morning, after working for a bit, we decided it was time to visit the water. However, there was a pretty strong wind and paying for over-priced parking just to walk along the beach didn’t appeal to us. Going on the recommendation of my mom, who used to live in the area, we headed 30 minutes south to Carolina Beach State Park (a Regional State Park of the Year in 2015). The park office is open and staffed with rangers. We stopped in, grabbed our trail maps, found where we should begin and headed out to the marina to the trail head. We hiked various combinations of trails, through sand, forest beds, prairies and along the river. Insects were out and biting if we stopped even for a few seconds, so we kept moving unless we were standing in a breezy area!
Our combination of trails lead us through 5 miles of all the different ecosystems in the park (with a grand total of 50 feet in elevation gain! Ha!). My favorite part was when we suddenly saw the large lily pond open up in front of us, though scenes along the river were also very picturesque.
We decided to have lunch overlooking the ocean, so we headed 3 miles south to the Ocean Grille and Tiki Bar right on Carolina Beach. We had intended to eat outside, but there was such a strong wind that we went upstairs and enjoyed the views of the dunes, pier and ocean from the large picture windows instead. The food is simple, but good and features seafood as well as typical American fare. However, I thought the shrimp on my salad was particularly tasty.
The wedding venue, Wrightsville Manor (in case anyone is seeking one), was absolutely beautiful. There were plenty of tented outdoor spaces, as well as a large indoor area. Everything was gorgeous and well executed. The band, the Parks Brothers, was imported from Charlotte. Wow- their incredible talent, energy and sheer joy in performing would make anyone feel the need to get out on the dance floor (yes, even my husband!). Of course, most importantly, Chelsea, the bride, was glowingly lovely and gracious.
There are a few activities we didn’t do this time, but have enjoyed in Wilmington in the past, include touring the USS North Carolina, shopping in some fun and unique downtown shops, taking a boat tour along the river, meandering through Airlie Gardens and just hanging out at the beach.
There’s a great mini vacation just waiting for you right here in North Carolina! Let me know how I can help you get away!