100 FREE Things To Do Wilmington,NC

Family-Friendly, Fun regardless of age

Welcome to your ultimate guide to experiencing the best of Wilmington without spending a dime! 🎉✨ I’ve curated a list of 100 FREE things to do in this vibrant city, so you can explore, discover, and create unforgettable memories without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a local looking for new adventures or a visitor seeking budget-friendly experiences, I’ve got you covered. From stunning beaches to historical landmarks, family-friendly activities to hidden gems, this guide is your ticket to unlocking the abundance of free fun Wilmington has to offer. Get ready to embark on an incredible journey of discovery, filled with laughter, adventure, and endless possibilities. So grab your map, gather your friends and family, and let’s dive into the countless FREE treasures that await in Wilmington!

*Some activities may require paid parking
  1. Watch the sunrise at the beach. Sunrise is typically 6 AM. Parking is free at all beach accesses this early.
  2. Walk to Wrightsville Beach via the Summer Rest Trail and The Loop. Enjoy a free beach day! No need to look for parking at the beach. Instead, park at the old Port City Chop House and enjoy the walk. – View Post
  3. Beach day bucket list:
    • Build a sand castle – Don’t forget to cover up holes in the sand for the turtles.
    • Jump in the waves
    • Find seashells
    • Look for sharks teeth
    • Collect sand fleas in a bucket
  4. Walk on the Crystal Pier located at the Oceanic Restaurant and enjoy the view.
  5. Visit Harbor Way Gardens water feature/splash zone at Wrightsville Beach. Take a photo with the local flowers or play on the nearby playground. – View Post
  6. Walk to “The Mailbox” an iconic spot located in front of Shell Island Resort. Leave a love note or read others and reflect at the beauty of the beach.
  7. View the bird sanctuary in front of “The Mailbox” and see what type of birds you see.
  8. Walk the North End at Wrightsville Beach during low-tide. Small tidal pools form and its always fun for the kids to enjoy calmer water.
  9. Walk “The Loop” at Wrightsville Beach. – View Post
  10. Stop by South Channel Drive Mini-Park and dip your toes in Banks Channel. – View Post
  11. Visit the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History. View post
  12. Visit Wrightsville Beach Park Playground. View post
  13. Park and dip your toes in the water at Causeway Park. Every hour watch the Wrightsville Beach bridge open to allow vessels to pass. View post
  14. View or venture to Palm Tree Island. – View post
  15. Visit Airlie Gardens during their free admission days. Residents of New Hanover County are free the first Sunday of every month. –View PostRegister here
  16. Take a scenic drive down Airlie Road. Can you think of any movies filmed on this road? Pass by restaurants, where a few movies were filmed and enjoy the panoramic views of the intracoastal waterway.
  17. Attend free community events at Wrightsville Beach. Check out Summer Concert Series, Movies in the Park and educational events like Turtle Talks. Website

  18. Explore the Battleship North Carolina Memorial. You can walk around the ship for free. You’ll also have a wonderful viewpoint of Historic downtown across the river. Additional fees apply to tour inside of the ship. View PostWebsite
  19. Stroll along the scenic & Historic downtown Riverwalk. Parking is free the first 30 minutes in the parking decks. See what wildlife you notice along the river. More details on parking can be found here.
  20. Take a free tour of the Wilmington Convention Center. The hallways have a timeline of Wilmington history. – Website
  21. Kids 5 and under are free at Burgwin-Wright House, Latimer Houser and the Bellamy Mansion. Burgwin-Wright also hosts several free art shows throughout the year making the tour free for adults too!
  22. Hop on the free Port City Trolley for a 40 minute ride around historic downtown. You can catch the trolley at Padgett Station (located on 4th Street between Campbell St. and Red Cross St.) or simply wave to the driver along the route to signal them to stop. More details on the route and schedule can be found here.
  23. Explore The Cotton Exchange. – 3 hour parking is free for customers with validation from shops and restaurants. The buildings have a rich history, so be sure to read up before visiting or watch the short video on their website. Website
  24. Walk to Riverfront Park also know as Live Oak Bank Pavilion. A small climbing structure and water feature during the summer. This would be a good spot to walk from The Cotton Exchange since parking is scarce. – View Post
  25. Stop by the Riverfront Farmers Market downtown, The Wilmington’s Farmer Market at Tidal Creek, Frankie’s Outdoor Market, Wrightsville Beach Farmers Market (Mondays) or Poplar Grove Plantation (Wednesdays).
  26. Attend the free 4th Friday Gallery Walk in downtown Wilmington. – Click Here
  27. Visit the Wilmington National Cemetery and pay your respects to those who have passed serving our country. Memorial Day they hold a special ceremony. View Post
  28. Explore the historic downtown district.
    • Find the oldest building in Wilmington.
    • Find the Chandlers Wharf stream and waterfall.
    • Read historic signs on homes or the historical markers located on main roads.
    • Take a photo next to the Second Street Mural.
    • Can you find the old Nickelodeon painting?
  29. Explore the exhibits at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science on their free day, which is the first Sunday of each month for residents of New Hanover County. You can also secure free passes with your library card through New Hanover County Library. – View post
  30. Visit the Wilmington Children’s Museum with the free admission pass through the New Hanover County Library or NHC Smart Start. The Attractions Coupon Book also has a BOGO coupon. – View Post
  31. Go to Dram Tree Park and watch the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Look up the schedule to see when it opens. Read up on Dram Tree too.
  32. Take a walk around Greenfield Lake Park. For a small fee, you can also rent paddle boats at the boat house. Download the free audio tour here. – View Here
  33. Watch skaters at Greenfield Lake Skate Park
  34. On Sundays, Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic district with the help of the Wilmington Historic Foundation. – Click Here
  35. Take a self-guided tour of the historic Oakdale Cemetery. See if you can find each of these graves. – Click Here
  36. Take a self-guided tour of the Wilmington Murals. Treat it like a scavenger hunt and see who finds the most.- Check out this map
  37. Visit Earl Jackson/ Northside Splash Pad. The attached community pool, Earl Jackson, is also available for a small fee of $3 adults + $1 kids. – View post
  38. Tour the Wilmington Police Museum & Education Center. Details here.
  39. Watch Little League or Youth Baseball, Softball, Soccer at Long Leaf or Ogden Park. We love to take snacks and watch the games.
  40. Find a Little Free Library – donate your old books or take a new one to read. Find one near you.
  41. Explore Ogden Park. Play on the playground, walk around the pond, watch the geese and turtles and see what other animals you see. View Post
  42. Visit Empie Park and walk the Cross City Trail to a hidden bridge. View Post
  43. Stop by River Road Park. Launch kayaks or simply take in the views on the pier. See if you can find fiddler crabs. View post
  44. Visit the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. View the mounds & learn the history. – View Post
  45. Explore Fort Fisher Battery Buchanan and The Rocks at Fort Fisher located at the end of Fort Fisher Blvd South.
  46. Visit the Coquina Rocks during low tide at Kure Beach. – View post here
  47. Walk on the Kure Beach Fishing Pier and swing on the Kure Beach mini-boardwalk. – View Post
  48. Attend free community events at Kure Beach Ocean Front Park – Website
  49. Stop and explore the “bush forts” you can walk inside at Fort Fisher. – View post
  50. Visit the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Walk to the beach and bring a picnic. It’s always free to park, but get there early as spots fill up quickly.
  51. Walk Basin Trail and visit the WWII Bunker home to Robert E. Harrill aka “The Fort Fisher Hermit”. Research “The Fort Fisher Hermit” and learn about his life living off the land View post
  52. Visit the Nature Play area at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher – View post
  53. Ride the Aquarium Path – a paved bike path that begins at the Aquarium & connects to Fort Fisher Blvd. You can also walk the path and see if you spot any alligators in the small pond, which is a short walk from the Nature Play area mentioned above.
  54. Relax on the beaches of Carolina Beach.
  55. Walk the shops/restaurants and arcade on the CB Boardwalk.
  56. Watch the famous Britt’s donuts be made.
  57. Stop by the Mike Chappell Playground and Skate Park. – View Post
  58. Walk the Island Greenway around Carolina Beach. Click here for the route.
  59. Explore the trails at Carolina Beach State Park. Don’t forget bug spray and watch out for wildlife. View post
  60. Walk around Carolina Beach Lake Park. – Visit post
  61. Attend an event at Carolina Beach – Website
  62. Find the Carolina Beach Murals and snap a photo- Website
  63. Stop by the Smart Start Resource Room. Open Monday – Friday, 8AM – 5PM. – View post
  64. Visit Long Leaf Splash Pad. View Post
  65. Take a picnic to Long Leaf Park. Pick up pine cones to help out NHC Parks and Recreation, walk around the park or play on the playground. – View Post
  66. Visit the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden View Post
  67. Bike or walk along the Cross City Trail. Learn about the Gary Shell Cross City Trail, which begins at Wade Park. Click here.
  68. Visit and explore Wade Park. Learn about wetlands and their importance.
  69. Take in the scenery at Trails End Park. View Post
  70. Explore the nature trails at Halyburton Park and visit the Nature Center onsite to view and learn about native animals. View Post
  71. Visit the New Hanover County Arboretum. Bring quarters to feed the koi fish. – View post
  72. Explore the wooded trails behind UNCW, explore UNCW campus and check out the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve. See where to park here.
  73. Walk or bike to a hidden pond near Eastwood Rd. – View post
  74. Attend a community event. Website
  75. Walk the Abby Foy Nature Trail at Poplar Grove Plantation.
  76. Explore Pages Creek Park Preserve – View Post
  77. Visit Northern Regional Park and playground.
  78. Visit Pender Pines Gardens and don’t forget food to feed the animals onsite. Carrots, apples, etc. – View post
  79. Play at Kiwani’s Park in Hampstead View post
  80. Visit Soundside Park in Surf City – Visit post
  81. Go visit the World’s Largest Frying Pan – View post
  82. Visit Moore’s Creek Battlefield Historic Site. Details
  83. Visit the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. View Post.
  84. Check out Belville River Walk. – View post
  85. Enjoy a picnic and hike at Brunswick Nature Park. View post
  86. Explore the trails at Smith Creek Park or ride your bike around the pond. You can also launch a kayak or fish, but do not swim here. – View Post
  87. Visit the North Carolina Veterans Park. Walk around the pond and learn about lily pads and play at the playground.
  88. Enjoy a scenic drive along the River Road.
  89. Visit Arrowhead Park playground.
  90. Explore the trails at the Blue Clay Bike Park.
  91. Explore Ogden Park, walk around the pond, visit the playground and skate park. – View Post
  92. Watch airplanes take off and land at the Wilmington Airport Observation Area. – View post
  93. Walk around the Independence Mall.
  94. Visit Olsen Park playground (fully fenced in)
  95. Sign Up for Kids Bowl Free – Click Here
  96. New Hanover County Library Storytime and other free events. See their calendar here.
  97. New Hanover County Library – Find a book or rent a DVD to take home for a movie party at home! Also check out “Library of Things”.
  98. Kids DIY Workshops: You must pre-register
  99. Watch the sunset over the river downtown or over the ocean.
  100. Star gazing! Check out the “Astronomy Programs” offered with NC State Parks at CB State Park. – Click Here

Tag @WilmingtonMom or #FreeInWilmington when you share your adventures!

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Community Pools in Wilmington, NC

Earl Jackson Pool


750 Bess St.
Wilmington, NC
(910) 833-5455

Pool Schedule:
Monday-Friday, 10:30 am-4:00 pm
Saturday-Sunday, 12:00-5:00pm

Daily Rate:

Season Pass:
Month to Month
$40/Family Up to 10

Echo Farms Pool


4112 Echo Farms Blvd
Wilmington, NC  28412
Phone:  (910) 798-7730

Daily Rate:

Season Pass:
$100/Individual;  $175/Family
*More information to come

Pool Schedule:
Tentative Public Swim Schedule (beginning May 28, 2022):
Monday, Wednesday & Friday 1-7pm
Tuesday & Thursday 1-5:30pm
Saturday & Sunday 12-6pm

Legion Stadium Pool


2131 Carolina Beach Rd.  
Wilmington, NC 28412  
Phone: (910) 899-7348 

Pool Schedule:
Monday – Friday 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Saturday & Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Daily Rate:

Robert Strange Pool


410 S. 10th St.  
Wilmington, NC 28401  
Phone: (910) 899-7332 

Pool Schedule:
Monday – Friday 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Saturday & Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Daily Rate:

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Abbey Foy-Moore Nature Preserve

Address: 10200 US-17, Wilmington, NC 28411 (Scotts Hill/Porter’s Neck/Hampstead area)

Located off of US-17 between Hampstead and Porter’s Neck area of Wilmington is Poplar Grove Plantation, known for it’s weekly Farmer’s Market and history which is open to the public for tours. Beside the plantation sits a gravel parking lot that welcomes guest visiting the Abbey Foy-Moore Nature Preserve, which was property donated back in 2008, 62-acres in fact, to the North Carolina Land Trust.

There are several trails that lead to a large pond and dam. This is a great place to take your dog for a run (I know people do that. Not me.) or take your kids on a walk. We typically walk about 2 miles and I carry our little one in a baby carrier. Some trails are stroller-friendly, but it’s much easier to navigate without as the trails are not paved.

  • Parking: Yes, a large gravel parking lot
  • Restrooms: Not Available
  • Stroller Friendly: Not really

Don’t forget the bug spray and watch out for wildlife!

On the weekends this nature preserve gets pretty busy. I recommend to plan your first trip here during the weekday during work hours or after work one afternoon.

If you like being in nature and looking for a nice walk, I highly recommend this nature preserve! Enjoy the trails and if you snap a photo of the pond, tag @wilmingtonmom on instagram.

Your Friend, Amanda
Explore Wilmington

Greenfield Lake Park

Address: 1739 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington

Located close to downtown Wilmington, Greenfield Lake/Park is a must see. This is one of my favorite parks in Wilmington, NC. It’s filled with nature, wildlife and fun activities for kids and adults. Oh and there is a ton of space for dogs to enjoy as well.

Picnic under the covered shelters, on one of the many wooded lookout areas by the lake or on the grass under the huge mature tree. The park offers a lot for every age group and has a 4.5 mile paved walkway around the lake, which is great for a stroller or bike ride. The path easily fits a double stroller and is a great place to walk with a friend.

Watch out for alligators that call this lake home and see how many turtles you can count soaking up the sun or swimming around in the water!

  • Parking: Several parking lots
  • Restrooms: Available near the main entrance/ playgrounds
  • Stroller Friendly: yes!

Other activities offered:

  • 2 Tennis Courts (no lights) behind 302 Willard St
  • Greenfield Grind Skate Park (behind 302 Willard St) 
  • Water Access (no boat motors)
  • Kayak Access
  • Paddle Boats/Canoe Rentals (with a covered awning)
    • We love to rent these when a concert is performing at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
    • Cost: $10 – $15/Hour
    • 11: 00 AM – 5:00 PM, January – November (closed Tuesday)
  • Playground
  • Picnic Shelters
  • Fishing
  • Walking

Click here to view the City of Wilmington Park Map

Check out this great website, which has a “Guided Tour” and Brief History of Greenfield Lake – Cape Fear River Watch Website.

According to Cape Fear River Watch’s website, Greenfield Lake was built in the 1730’s by Dr. Samuel Green to help with rice production. In the early 1900’s the lake became a popular recreation destination for swimming and boating and there was once an amusement park on the park land. In 1925 the city bought the land for $25,000.

Greenfield Lake and Park is one of the most beautiful places in Wilmington. It is a fun place for kids to play and a peaceful place for parents too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Your Friend, Amanda
Explore Wilmington

Smith Creek Park

Address: 33 Shenandoah St, Wilmington, NC 28411

7. Smith Creek Park and Nature Preserve

Located off of Harris Road/Gordon Road in the Ogden area is Smith Creek Park and Smith Creek Nature Preserve. This park is slightly hidden and a nice surprise in midst of the hustle and bustle of the large neighborhoods on this side of town.

  • Parking: A large paved parking lot
  • Restrooms: Yes! Located near the parking lot and playground. Several stalls in the ladies room
  • Stroller Friendly: yes!

The large fresh water lake has a paved one-mile walking trail that wraps around it. The trail is wide enough for a stroller or two, making this a great place to walk with new mom friends. A large picnic shelter is located near the playground which has several of picnic tables and there are a few benches around the lake.

The lake is great for fishing or using the dock to launch a canoe or kayak, but no swimming allowed. If you are looking at the lake from the parking lot, the Nature Preserve is located to the left. An access area goes up a dirt hill to the preserve (so not ideal for strollers). Check out the link below to read about native plants and animals.

Fun fact: Funding for Smith Creek Park came from a half-million dollar grant from the North Carolina Parks & Recreation Trust Fund. The project was also supplemented by selling mined sand that was removed to create the lake. 

Click here for more details.

Smith Creek Park is the go-to place if I want to walk with friends and their babies. The trail is very wide and the area is just so pretty! Be sure to wear sunscreen as most of the trail is in the sunshine. Enjoy my friend!

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Pages Creek Preserve

Address: 1215 Middle Sound Loop Rd, Wilmington, NC 28411

6. Pages Creek Preserve

This is a wonderful place to come if you want to take a walk in nature. It is so quiet and peaceful and an easy walk to the water – Pages Creek. Along the trail, you will find 3 informational signs on local plants, animals and general information about the preserve.

The trail in total is 1-mile, to the water and back to the parking lot. Dogs are welcome, but have to be on a leash. I wore my little one in baby carrier, but a stroller could easily go down the path, but expect it to be a bumpy ride!

  • Parking: The gravel parking lot holds about 10 + cars.
  • Restrooms: Not available.
  • Stroller Friendly: Not really, bumpy path

This is one of the most peaceful and secluded trails to the water. We live nearby and it’s an easy walk to do after a long day. The sunset here is amazing! Enjoy!

– Your Friend, Amanda
Explore Wilmington

Wade Park

Address: 3500 Bethal Rd, Wilmington, NC 28409

Tucked away at the end of Bethel Road in the “Pine Valley” area of Wilmington is James E. L. Wade Park, also known as “Wade Park”. It is a 17-acre wetland park filled with nature, beautiful scenery, a playground, covered picnic area and a .5 mile paved trail. The trail is wide enough to ride bikes around or simply walk around pushing a stroller.

  • Parking – A small parking lot fits ~ 12 cars
  • Restrooms – Available
  • Stroller Friendly: yes!

On my last visit, I saw a ton of red-winged black birds and they were really neat to watch and listen to. As you can see below, this park also is the beginning of the “Gary Shell Cross-City Trail”. As covered on City of Wilmington’s website “The Cross-City Trail is a 15 mile off-road, multi-use trail that runs from Wade Park, through Halyburton Park and Empie Park to the Heide-Trask Drawbridge at the Intracoastal Waterway. The trail provides bicycle and pedestrian access to numerous recreational, cultural and educational destinations in Wilmington.” Click here for more details on the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail.

I hope you find Wade Park as relaxing, scenic and educational as I did. Enjoy friends!

Your Friend – Amanda