Explore the Carolinas: In the two states to our south, you’ll find beaches, cities, and mountain towns that make for idyllic vacation spots. Before you pack the car and head down I-95 this summer, get the lowdown on some new-to-you locations in North and South Carolina — and find out what’s new this year at your old favorites.
Did you ever watch Dawson’s Creek and wonder why the characters seemed so desperate to leave a town so beautiful? Chalk it up to teenage angst and narrative arcs because Wilmington, where most of the iconic 1990s drama was filmed, is just as lovely in person as it appears on screen, with all the historical sites, romantic restaurants, and waterfront strolls you could wish for. With the show’s 25th anniversary this year and “set-jetting” a major travel trend of 2023, it’s the perfect time to visit the city sometimes called Hollywood East and known for hosting more than 400 film-related projects since 1983.
Fans of shows including One Tree Hill can take self-guided tours of shooting locations, as well as private and group tours. The 2-mile Wilmington Riverwalk on the Cape Fear River is made for sunset ambles and lined with shops and restaurants. Cinephile or not, you’ll want to check out the Black Cat Shoppe, which appeared as a CD store in One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek. It’s now a quirky gift shop with everything from mystical merch to show souvenirs. Pop into nearby Edge of Urge for trendy fashions, home goods, and more from independent local, national, and international makers.
Take a break from shopping to enjoy barbecue oysters and an olive oil–washed martini at downtown hot spot Seabird, from Dean Neff, a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast, and his wife, award-winning pastry chef Lydia Clopton. The standout cuisine and atmosphere will have you wanting to return again and again. Try Savorez for Latin American fare in a casual, cool setting and Gazebo Bar for handcrafted cocktails in the courtyard gardens of the recently renovated Arrive Wilmington hotel. Oceanic Restaurant in Wrightsville Beach is worth the short drive for ocean views and coastal-inspired dishes. Sit back and watch surfers ride the waves as you feast on crab dip and Carolina grit cake.
Guests interested in architecture and history will enjoy a leisurely tour of the Bellamy Mansion Museum. The reality of life in the 1860s is detailed in every room of the opulent 10,000-square-foot house and the contrast of its slave quarters — one of the few remaining preserved brick slave quarters in the country. Other buildings you might spot on a walk or tour of the Wilmington Historic District include the first synagogue in North Carolina and one of Woodrow Wilson’s childhood homes.
Many of Wilmington’s Queen Anne–style Victorian homes now operate as bed-and-breakfasts. The C.W. Worth House is a prime example of a B&B that’s been updated to suit the needs of the modern traveler. In addition to a farm-to-table breakfast, guests are treated to a daily wine happy hour in a stylish lounge with jazz playing in the background. Consider it the elevated version of the Potter B&B.
Feature image by Starboard and Port, courtesy visitnc.com
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