Looking for a unique Christmas or birthday gift for a child in the Wilmington area? I have you covered! Feel free to send Santa or Grandma this list. These experiences are truly the gifts that keep on giving all year around.
Check out the top suggestions below along with all the details:
# 1 – NC Aquariums Annual Membership
Members receive unlimited free admission for one or two years at all three North Carolina Aquariums (Fort Fisher, Roanoke Island and Pine Knoll Shores), plus discounts or free admissions to reciprocal zoos and aquariums nationwide!
- Family memberships receive free admission for two adults named on the card and their children or grandchildren under the age of 18.
- Curator members receive the same Family benefits, plus free admission for one guest per visit (perfect for babysitter or grandparents).
- Members also receive free walk-on admission at Jennette’s Pier, gift shop and program discounts AND reciprocity with 150+ Other Zoos & Aquariums, which means FREE admission into the NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC (worlds largest natural habitat zoo). This is the one reason why we get this pass every year. It pays for itself!
Annual Pass Cost: $89
Basic family, but check out the website for other options.
Insider Tip*We ask for this membership each year from our family for Christmas because it’s the perfect indoor activity and we visit the NC Zoo at least once a year. It pays for its self!
# 2 – Airle Gardens
Your membership to Airlie Gardens brings insider perks and rewards; including, advanced member-only ticket offers and year-round fun. Your support as a member helps the Garden continue to be a valued local attraction and allows Airlie to provide public programs, education and special events to our community.
Current Members: Please DO NOT renew your membership more than 60 days prior to your current expiration date. You will receive an emailed and mailed renewal notice as a reminder starting 60 and 30-days prior to your expiration.Your Membership Card will be mailed to you, please allow 7-14 business days for processing. Use your E-receipt to redeem membership benefits immediately.
Annual Pass Cost: $75 – family
See website for other options
Insider Tip* Enchanted Airlie tickets are offered to members first in October. This allows you to get the time and date you wish to attend without the hassle of logging in early in hopes of securing a ticket. Also, depending on which membership level you get, your tickets will be free or discounted.
# 3 – Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park really is the only place in town that offers so many activities for kids in one place. Dry activities include Jungle Golf (outdoor putt-putt), mini bowling, spin zone, laser tag, arcade, rock climbing wall, outdoor go karts, Kid Jungle Gym (for kids 8 years and under).
The waterpark has 2 body water slides, a large wave pool and lazy river, The Super Bowl slide, The Sidewinder, The Rapid Racer and Volcano (check out my Jungle Rapids post) and also a large Kids Splash zone with several slides.
The season pass includes access to the waterpark, which is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Once the water park closes, your pass will allow you ONE free dry activity every Sunday between 4PM – 9PM from October – March (excludes laser tag). Children 2 and under are free and do not need an annual pass.
Annual Pass Cost: $160
Insider Tip* Jungle Rapids offers a discounted ticket for $160 if purchased before December 31, 2022. After that date, season passes increase to $180+. Keep in mind children 2 and under are free and do not need passes to the waterpark.
#4 – DefyWilmington
Defy is a indoor trampoline park that has basketball
Let them get in on the crazy fun happening at DEFY all year long with our Black Friday Annual Pass. Get 90 minutes of Flight Time every day — all for way less than $1 a day! Don’t miss out on our biggest deal of the year!
Annual Pass Cost: $119
Insider Tip* Don’t forget the Defy Grip Socks to avoid spending more money when you visit.
#5 – Children’s Museum of Wilmington
- Free access to Daily Programs
- Birthday party, Exclusive Adventure Pass & Camp discounts
- E-newsletter subscription
- Add a third adult to any membership for $25 (excludes Wanderer)
- Priority & discounted tickets for in-house Special Events (excludes fundraisers)
- 10% off at Front Street Brewery, Gelarto & Wilmington Water Tours with proof of membership
- 1/2 price tickets at Museum of Coastal Carolina & Ingram Planetarium
- Access for two named adults and all children in the household
Annual Membership Cost: $110
*Other tiers are offered
# 6 – The Little Gym
An Annual Family Membership at The Little Gym of Wilmington, NC enables your child to participate in weekly classes. Each time they attend, they’re presented with opportunities to master new skills and accomplishments. As a parent, you benefit as well! Membership allows you to take advantage of several special privileges, including:
- Participation in Priority Enrollment
- Member Discounts:
- Awesome Birthday Bash parties
- Events & More Fun
Annual Membership Cost: $50
*Note that the $50 grants you access to membership perks – classes are typically $85 per month
# 7 – Wilmington Railroad Museum
If you have a train lover on your hands, this may be the best place in town for you! The Wilmington Railroad Museum is a fun interactive museum located in downtown Wilmington along the riverfront. Watch and learn about trains and how important they were to the Port City long ago.
- Coach/ Individual | $50: Free admission for 1 person for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception
- Club Car/ Family | $80: (Best Value) Free admission for 4 persons for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception
- Pullman Pass | $150 : Free admission for 4 persons for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception + 10 free passes for friends/relatives
- Private Car | $250: Free admission for 4 persons for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception + 20 free passes for friends/relatives
- Railroad Baron | $500: Free admission for 4 persons for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception + 20 free passes for friends/relatives + Limited Edition ACL History Book
- Champion | $1,000: Free admission for 4 persons for a year + 10 % Gift Shop discount + Annual Membership Reception + 10 free passes for friends/relatives + Limited Edition ACL History Book + Sponsorship for you or your company
# 8 – Smart Start of New Hanover County
A very inexpensive and worthwhile annual membership. If you have a child 5 and under, this is a must. Stop by the Resource Room, which is free to use any time (to non-members as well). If you are a member, enjoy
For a $5 annual fee, families have access to:
- Theme kits with educational toys and materials
- Laminating supplies and equipment
- Die cut machine
- A two week trial membership to the Wilmington Children’s Museum & Cape Fear Museum
- A wide variety of other books and materials available for check out
Annual Pass Cost: $5 (Yes, you read that correctly)
Insider Tip* Just buy this one. It’s worth every bit of $5.
# 9 – Fit For Fun
Do you ever dream of taking your kid to a indoor facility full of toys that they can play with for hours and that you don’t have to clean up or put away afterward? If so, Fit For Fun is the place for you. Open for kids 5 and under, this large building has ever Fisher Price toy you can dream of, rooms filled with toys and even a fenced in playground perfect for the little tots to explore.
If you’ve never been before, go check it out! For just $5, you can explore the center and see if an annual membership would be something you’d enjoy! They also have special events and activities – check out the calendar on the website.
Annual Pass Cost: $110
# 10 – Cape Fear Museum
Wait! Before you decide you have been to the museum a few times and scroll on, did you know this membership actually gives you access to A LOT more cool museums other than the Cape Fear Museum?
- Free admission to Cape Fear Museum
- Two guest passes to share with others
- Nationwide reciprocal admission to more than 300 participating museums and science/technology centers through Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
- Nationwide reciprocal admission to more than over 750 participating arts, cultural, historical and children’s museums along with botanical gardens and science and technology centers through North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM).
- Reciprocal admission to over 175 participating museums through Southeastern Reciprocal Membership Program (SERM).
- Priority registration and discounts for selected programs
- Subscription to the Museum e-newsletter
Annal Membership Cost: $100
*For $125, you can get the Smithsonian Affiliate Membership which comes with a few extra perks!
Insider Tip* Check out all of the other museums you gain access to with this pass including Discovery Place in Charlotte, Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, and so many other throughout the nation!
Other memberships to look into:
- Carowinds – Located about 3.5 hours from Wilmington – Carowinds has a fantastic annual pass with water park, rollar coasters and a kids section all included. If you have family near Charlotte or visit that area often – I highly recommend checking it out.
- NSEA Swim @ Earl Jackson Pool – A local year-around pool located downtown offers an annual membership for $40 for the whole family!
- YMCA Membership at the Y gives you access to all YMCA facilities Nationwide. You also get member pricing for all of our programs including afterschool, preschool, soccer, basketball, eSports and more. Each branch of the YMCA has different features but at our Nir Family YMCA offers a basketball gym, racquetball courts, indoor pool. They also have cardio equipment, weights, and lots of fitness classes. In addition, they offer child watch during select hours so your children can be cared for while you have time to use the facility.