While relaxing oceanside or perusing Wilmington’s downtown shops are popular options for sunny summer days, the North Carolina coast still gets its fair share of downpours. An afternoon thunderstorm may seem like a damper on vacation, but the Port City offers a plethora of unique indoor activities aside from the typical TripAdvisor recommendations. From touring a rescue facility for local sea turtles to joining a free brewing demonstration, Wilmington offers fun days regardless of the weather forecast.
With eight breweries to see in Wilmington, the safest (and arguably most fun) way to experience a good chunk of them is by joining a tour on the Port City Brew Bus. From three different pick-up locations around town, each tour includes guided tastings and facility tours, as well as beer education, water, and snacks along the way. Each tour hits three breweries depending on pick-up location; guests may visit Broomtail Craft Brewery, Flytrap Brewing, Good Hops Brewing, Wilmington Brewing Company, or Waterline Brewery. Private tours for groups of 10+ can be booked with pick-up and drop-off locations anywhere in the Wilmington area. And should you find a beer you just have to take home—Port City Brew Bus offers a cooler for growlers and crowlers so you can savor them after the tour, too.
Founded by John and Michelle Savard in March 2012, Wilmington Homebrew Supply outfits local homebrewers with all the hops, malts, and equipment they need to create their own craft suds. While the store has since expanded to include Wilmington Brewing Company, where John is brewmaster, the shop still hosts Free Brewing Demos each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Each demo is a different brew, while WHS’ experts teach skills to recreate the beer at home—though you don’t have to be a homebrewer to check out the demo!
MONSOON OF MUSEUMS
From 1941 to 1945, Wilmington’s USO facility hosted big band dances, music recitals and more for 35,000 military visitors per week, inviting service members from neighboring Camp Davis, Camp Lejeune, and Fort Bragg. In years since, the Hannah Block Historic USO Building has been a community center home to Thalian Association Community Theatre, Azalea Festival, and the Arts Council of Lower Cape Fear. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the center is now managed solely by Thalian Association, where they offer classes in visual and performing arts. The auditorium stages plays and musicals by local theater companies. For daily visiting, the World War II Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition maintains the building’s WWII museum, where clothing, newspapers, and more from the era can be viewed.
Home to a slew of oddities and curiosities, the Museum of the Bizarre showcases creepy and strange exhibits such as a Bigfoot imprint, Houdini’s Ouija board, and a Chupacabra hand. Located in downtown Wilmington next to the Cape Fear Serpentarium, the Museum of the Bizarre also features local legends such as the Fort Fisher Mermaid, Joe Baldwin’s Maco Lights signal lantern, and several movie props from the area’s local film scene. Visitors also can take photos to commemorate their trip, such as inside the jaws of a shark or as a mugshot letting friends know where all the fun was had.
Established by opera lovers in 1984, WHQR is Wilmington’s public radio station. Housed in historic downtown, WHQR’s studios provides the public with a custom-designed library and gallery for performances and exhibits. The art gallery is named for MC Erny, an enthusiastic supporter of WHQR from its beginning. It features monthly rotating exhibits from local artists, with opening receptions during Wilmington’s Fourth Friday Gallery Walks from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
When visitors can’t hit the beach, they can visit Wrightsville Beach’s museum to learn about one of North Carolina’s most renowned beach towns. Located in the old Myers Cottage, the museum offers a scale model of Wrightsville Beach circa 1910, during Lumina Pavilion’s heyday. Guests also can learn about the town’s hurricane history and the relationship between people and the natural environment of the area.
PRECIPITATION TO PARTICIPATION
Battle House isn’t the run of the mill laser tag facility. Rather, its mission-based “battles” focus on specific gaming scenarios in an urban environment, spaced out between separate two-story buildings and unique structures and obstacles for dodging and navigating. In fact, even the armory is stocked with more than 30 laser tag guns—each varying in size, weight, and capabilities, from sniper rifles to machine guns. Battle House is built to emulate modern warfare video gaming, but the camaraderie that’s culled after a day playing this game surely will be a memory that lasts.
With locations near Mayfaire and in downtown Wilmington, Cape Fear Escape Room: The Real-life Exit Game can easily accommodate visitors no matter where they’re staying. Also known as puzzle or quagmire rooms, escape rooms ensure teams work together to uncover clues to beat the clock and escape the trap. In just 60 minutes, guests will try their luck at breaking free from one of three games: Time Traveler, Cape Fear Manhunt, or Port City Speakeasy. But the team must cooperate to make it out in time!
As part of the Rocky Point Animal Hospital, just outside of Wilmington, Cape Fear Raptor Center is a unique opportunity should your vacation forecast call for rain. Private, advance appointments are required to tour Cape Fear Raptor Center, but once inside guests will meet several educational ambassadors and may even experience an ongoing treatment or surgery on one of the rescued birds of prey, such as Bald Eagles and owls. Additionally, CFRC Experiences can be booked in advance to check out the hawks, ospreys, and more up close.
Located in Topsail Island, the Karen Beasley center works toward the conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles—both in the water and on the beach. During their work to educate the public about the threat of extinction for sea turtles, the volunteers often must rescue, rehabilitate and then release sick or injured turtles. The Topsail Turtle Project watches over nests and mothers and hatchlings along the island’s 26 miles of coastline. Tours of the rehab center run Thursdays and Saturdays until June, when the hours increase through the fall.