The Wilmington Riverwalk district of Wilmington, North Carolina was created to enhance the downtown area and revitalize the riverfront area. The advent of the Riverwalk increased tourism and appreciation of Wilmington’s Historic River Area for cultural events, businesses and leisure activities for both residents and visitors. The efforts to highlight and maintain the historic areas in downtown Wilmington began in the early 1970’s. Discussions of building a shopping mall downtown, and business relocation into the suburbs generated support for the growing initiative to reclaim the essence of the city for future generations.
Through a combined effort of governement and private business, a financial and emotional investment was made to create Riverfront Park and reconstruct portions of historic Market and Water Streets. A revolving loan fund and private donations made the massive project a success. Small businesses thrived in the new environment. Many shop owners harkened to the days of old and began living above their stores, making the riverfront area their home in every sense of the word.
Take a leisurely stroll across the one and fourth mile Riverwalk area. The vibrant waterfront area boasts a multitude if living history performers, live music and artistic sculptures. It will take many visits to this riverfront hub of activity to truly experience all the area has to offer. Scout out the Riverwalk while strolling and develop a mental agenda of all the places which require your attention. Special events and festival occur along the Riverwalk during warm weather months.
Make sure to check the riverboat schedule and plan a river cruise on the Henrietta III or the Maffitt. The nearby Cotton Exchange features a plethora of boutiques with handmade art, women’s resort style clothing and North Carolina heritage gifts. End the day with a sunset horse drawn carriage ride along the Riverfront, and enjoy the romantic serenity of historic wharfs with a majestic backdrop of passing riverboats. Harbor boat tours originate from the Riverwalk area float along the Cape Fear River with guides narrating throughout the trip.
Downtown Sundown Concert Series
The annual Downtown Sundown Concert Series occurs in Riverfront Park, with proceeds benefiting Wilmington Downtown Inc. The organization works to revitalize and promote the Riverwalk and historic downtown areas of the city. Rain or shine, performers gather at the park every Friday evening from May through September. Food and spirits are sold during the musical event. Performers include both local and regional musicians.
The historic Chandler’s Wharf served as a port since the nineteenth century. The Pilot House Restaurant has called the wharf home since 1978. The wharf was once a major stop on the waterway transportation of “Naval Stores.” The “stores” were products made from the sap of Long-Leaf Pine trees that were used to create pitch and tar to waterproof ships. The Pilot House restaurant was built in 1870 by a local cooper and was moved to the wharf from Wooster Street. The wharf’s pier leads out into the water and features umbrella table dining and river watching. Chandler’s Wharf and the Pilot House Restaurant has been featured in Southern Living Magazine and The Washington Post as the best sport for fine dining in the Cape Fear Coast region and cited as the best place for a river stroll. Celebrities in Wilmington to film movies and television shows are often spotted relaxing with a cold drink on the wharf.
There is no shortage of dining opportunities along the Riverwalk. Visitors can choose from a sweet treat to a fine meal of fresh seafood. You can pack a picnic lunch and lounge along the waterfront watching boats go by and enjoying a relaxing afternoon along the water.
Riverboat Landing is located on the banks of the Cape Fear River inside an historic structure which was built in 1856. The restaurant serves lunch, brunch and dinner seven days a week. Arrive before busy meal times and you can dine in a private balcony with views of the USS North Carolina. Nine of the elegant balconies are available for guest enjoyment. The two floor restaurant features a formal dining area on the lower floor and an “al fresco” eating area on the second floor. Riverboat Landing serves southern style cuisine with a combination of Asian, Mediterranean and French influences.
Bella’s Sweets and Spirits is a coffeehouse which offers an inside dining area and an outdoor patio. The casual atmosphere makes this Riverwalk eateries popular with locals and tourists alike. Pull up a chair and relax while biting into a gourmet bagel, browsing the “Build-a-Salad” menu or just chatting with passersby.
Cap off a good meal with an ice cold treat from Cape Fear Shaved Ice. The colorful treats are a perfect way to cool off after a walking tour of the historic downtown area.
The Front Street Brewery serves gourmet hamburgers and an on-site brewmaster, This Riverwalk attraction is the only restaurant and brewery in the city of Wilmington. The restaurant won two “Gold Medals” at brewing competitions. Enjoy a hearty meal and a pint inside the historic building along the waterfront.
The George is an upscale dining experience boasting some of the best seafood and river views in Wilmington.