New Hanover County residents can visit and take part in numerous attractions and activities Sunday for free during the 18th annual “Be a Tourist in Your Hometown” Residents’ Appreciation Day.
Presented by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, the county’s tourism development authority, the day offers free admission to participating attractions and encourages residents to learn more about their community.
As stated on the bureau’s website: “It’s a fun way for residents to find out more about our travel destination so they can become tourism ambassadors for Wilmington and our island beaches. It’s also a rewarding way for the attractions to thank residents for their support.”
Free admission is offered during specified hours (see list below), and restrictions apply for certain events. Participating attractions and events include the following, compiled from the bureau’s website:
- Special guests at the Riverfront Visitor Information Booth: 12-3 p.m. weather permitting, Cape Fear Riverwalk (Water and Market streets), 341-4030. Stop by to meet special guests including “Sledge” of the Wilmington Hammerheads pro soccer team (noon to 3 p.m.), Azalea Belles, courtesy of the Cape Fear Garden Club (1-3 p.m.) and storyteller/musician John Golden (1-3 p.m.). Residents can also get a “Hometown Tourist” sticker and a list of attractions/tours offering free admission. Team and event mascots will greet residents, hand out schedules/flyers, pose for photos, and sign autographs.
- Airlie Gardens, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 300 Airlie Road, 798-7700. Stroll through the winding paths of this century-old garden by the sea. Enjoy 67 acres of gardens, including the 468-year-old Airlie Oak.
- Bellamy Mansion Museum, 1-4 p.m., 503 Market St., 251-3700. Visit the formal areas and kitchen in the basement of the mansion, hear the history of the original slave quarters and its restoration, and peruse the gift shop.
- Burgwin-Wright Museum House, 12-5 p.m., 224 Market St., 762-0570. The house will not be open; however, visitors may tour the historic gardens and visit the colonial kitchen and the former jail. A self-guided garden tour is available, with layout, historic facts, plant identification, etc.
- Cameron Art Museum, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 3201 S. 17th St., (corner of 17th and Independence Blvd.), 395-5999. Visit the museum shop and view three exhibits: “From Gatehouse to Winehouse: Inside the Artist’s Workplace,” “Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: The Artwork of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald” and “The Transformative Power of Friendship.”
- Cape Fear Museum of History & Science, 1-5 p.m., 814 Market St., 798-4350. Discover the history, science and cultures of the Lower Cape Fear. Visit the museum’s newest exhibits: “Shopping Around Wilmington,” “Collection Selections: Breakfast,” and the award-winning “Fragments of War” exhibit combines the stories of wartime symbols with the more intimate histories of some local men who served in the Confederate military.
- Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington (New Hanover County ID and advance tickets required). Meets at Cape Fear Riverwalk at Market and Water streets, 233-7630. Guided tours start at 5:30 p.m. only; advance tickets required. Tickets must be picked up at the Black Cat Shoppe at 8 Market St. on Saturday, March 2, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. No tickets will be given out the day of the tour. Guide will take larger than normal groups and tour will be somewhat abbreviated. Space is limited.
- Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington (New Hanover County ID and advance tickets required). Details same as ghost walk above.
- Haunted Cotton Exchange Tour, 10 a.m. Meets at The Cotton Exchange next to the German Café, 409-4300.Take a 20-minute tour of the Haunted Cotton Exchange, one of the most haunted locations in Wilmington. Tour limited to 50 people.
- Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, 1-4 p.m., 5320 Oleander Dr., 791-0666. Choice of one of the following activities to each participant: one game of Jungle Golf, one free Grand Prix go-kart ride or one free Sky Tower ride.
- Tour Old Wilmington History Walking Tours, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Meets at the foot of Market and Water streets, 409-4300. Take a 30-minute tour of historic downtown Wilmington. Learn fun and interesting facts about Wilmington during the Victorian era. Tours limited to 50 people.
- Trip with Triplett—Oakdale Cemetery Guided Tour, noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Meets at Oakdale Cemetery, 520 N. 15th St., 392-6753. Stroll through tranquil Oakdale Cemetery with Robin Triplett, a retired Cape Fear history teacher, and learn about the lives of the people who rest there.
- Wilmington Railroad Museum (New Hanover County ID required), 1-4 p.m., 505 Nutt St., 763-2634. Railroad history and features for everyone, all in an authentic 1883 railroad building.
- Wilmington Trolley, 1-4 p.m. Downtown Wilmington, 763-4483. The trolley will offer free shuttle service between the participating attractions in the downtown area. This is shuttle service only, not tours.
- Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Taxi (New Hanover County ID and advance tickets required), noon and 1 p.m., Banks Channel across from Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach, 200-4002. The Cape Fear Naturalist, Joseph Abbate, explores the tidal creeks of Masonboro Island. The one-hour tour focuses on water bird and shorebird identification. Topics include shorebird identification, salt marsh function and water quality issues. Advance reservations required; space is limited.
Other free events and attractions that offer free admission Sunday, and every day, include:
- Arboretum at New Hanover County Cooperative Extension, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., 6206 Oleander Dr., 798-7660. Explore six-plus acres of demonstration and trial gardens to discover the newest and best plants for area landscapes and gardens.
- Black Cat Shoppe, 1-5 p.m. 8 Market St., 251-6663. Drop by to see some magic, hear some true Wilmington pirate stories or to have your fortune told. Space is limited; first-come, first-served.
- Blue Moon Gift Shops, noon-5 p.m., 203 Racine Dr., 799-5793. A Wilmington shopping destination that offers shoppers an eclectic mix of charming and diverse boutiques under one roof. Tastings from various shops all day.
- Capt’n Bill’s Backyard Grill, noon-9 p.m., 4240 Market St. (behind North 17 Shopping Center), 762-0173. Free volleyball and corn hole. Grill will be open with food and drink specials.
- Carolina Beach State Park, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 1010 State Park Road, Carolina Beach, 458-8206. Bring picnic, fishing supplies. Explore nature trails, visitor center, marina and more. Boat ramp/campsite rentals not included.
- Federal Point History Center, 1-4 p.m. 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach, 458-0502. Enjoy exhibits and audio-visual presentations portraying periods in the Federal Point community, including prehistoric, colonial and Civil War eras and development of Carolina and Kure beaches and Seabreeze as tourist attractions. Refreshments offered.
- Fort Fisher State Historic Site, 1-5 p.m. U.S. 421, Kure Beach, 458-5538. Visitors to the site of the Civil War fort will enjoy the scenic quarter-mile tour trail, wayside exhibits, a reconstructed palisade fence and a partially restored gun emplacement. The visitor center offers audio-visual programs and artifacts from blockaders and blockade runners, as well as a fiber-optic map that shows the final battle for the fort.
- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (free four-wheel-drive access), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 1000 Loggerhead Road off U.S. 421, Kure Beach (near N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher), 458-5798. Visitor center, free access to the four-wheel-drive beach and four-mile stretch of undeveloped beach for shell-seekers, bird-watchers. Must display valid New Hanover County driver’s license. Four-wheel-drive access free to county residents only and county employees with ID.
- Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, 1-5 p.m. Second and Orange streets, 793-6393. Listed on U.S. Register of Historic Places. Spend a WWII history afternoon at one of the few remaining USO buildings. Tour the restored building, theatre and mini-museum of the home front in Wilmington, “America’s World War II City.” Visit the HBHUSO/CAC Community Art gallery exhibiting works from local established and emerging artists.
- Halyburton Park, open all day. 4099 17th St. 341-0075. Walk the handicap-accessible 1.3-mile hike/bike trail circling the perimeter of the park and natural hiking trails that delve into the heart of the parks natural areas.
- Hugh MacRae Park & Nature Trail, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Oleander and South College Road, 798-7181. Playgrounds (lighted for five- to 12-year-olds), lighted tennis courts, athletic fields, picnic areas, nature trails. Free every day except for shelter, horse ring, baseball fields and garden rentals. Baseball fields must be reserved in advance. Walk the 1.55-mile trail in the park or visit the Hugh MacRae Nature Trail located across the street, behind the New Hanover County Senior Center.
- N.C. Military History Museum, noon-4 p.m. 116 Air Force Way, Kure Beach, 477-0499. Artifacts, memorabilia, displays from WWI through Desert Storm, with photos, documents, letters, uniforms, field gear, hats, helmets, gift shop.
- Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, 1-5 p.m. 303 W. Salisbury St., Wrightsville Beach, 256-2569. Visit this 1909 beach cottage and feel what life at the beach was like 100 years ago. Step back in time as you walk through a 1930s kitchen, see our model of Wrightsville Beach in 1910, and rock on the shady porch.
More information, including details on an online drawing for a Hometown Tourist goodie bag, can be found at the Wilmington and Beaches CVB website.