We’ve all been there-planned a few special outdoor activities and confirmed the weather report, when suddenly, things change. Clouds roll in and those pop-up thunderstorms or scattered showers that are so common in the Cape Fear region, force us to choose “Plan B”. In times such as these, it is hard to appreciate that the Port City’s lush landscape can always benefit from a little rain or recall the cheery words of our old camp counselor, “Oh…it’s just liquid sunshine!”
If a rainy day forces you to rethink your original game plan-no worries. The Greater Wilmington area is full of wet-weather options. Here are a few general suggestions and some specific destinations that will make Plan B…Better!
Museums and The Serpentarium
Cape Fear Museum at 814 Market Street, just before getting into “downtown proper”, you’ll find the oldest history museum in the state, The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science. Along with its permanent collections, there are ever-changing exhibits and special events that guarantee hours of interesting, educational fun.
Wilmington’s Cameron Art Museum is another top choice for a place to duck a shower or two. It features two centuries of American art, a major collection of the works of Mary Cassatt, a variety of revolving installations, art classes, lectures, films, concerts, and kids’ activities. You can even grab a bite to eat at the Cam Café or get in a little retail therapy at the museum shop.
An imaginary visit to the Amazon rainforest may sound like a contradictory way to escape a rainy day. However, with over 80 species of exotic and indigenous reptiles, a trip to downtown’s Cape Fear Serpentarium promises to thrill, intrigue, and terrify anyone, including ardent herpetologists! All the big names are here: King Cobra, Bushmaster, Green Mamba, Gaboon Viper, plus several impressive lizards and crocodiles. You may hope the rain never stops as the distant sound of panpipes and djembes leads you from one breathtaking exhibit to the next.
“Rain-Rain-Stay All Day-So We Can Play!”-That’s what you’re likely to hear from the kids in the crowd after a stopover at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. And who can blame them? This is a place where the fun never stops, rain or shine, thanks to its vast array of imaginative things to see and do, including a giant pirate ship with working cannons, Teddy Bear Hospital, Toddler Treehouse, puppet theater, art studio, and so much more. From arts and crafts to the Kid’s Club Cooking Class or science activities, there is always something going on.
Blending history and good old-fashioned fun, the Wilmington Railroad Museum has been a favorite destination for young and old for 35 years. Located just one block from the Cape Fear River in the Coastline Center, the museum has an outdoor display that showcases a 100-year old steam locomotive and a bright red caboose. However, on a wet day, there’s plenty to see inside! A combination of actual artifacts, photos, and real life profiles of railroad pioneers, like George Pullman and Thomas Edison, traces the roots and impact of Wilmington’s railroad industry. There is also a Thomas the Tank play area and over 20 operating scale model trains that chug magically through miniature towns and their surrounding countryside.
The Port City has an amazing downtown area to explore. In addition to its historic side, there are charming shops, delectable dining spots, cozy cafes, pubs and wine bars, plus a few rainy day standouts. One of them is certainly The Cotton Exchange. Comprised of eight restored buildings that contain shops and restaurants, it is located at 321 N. Front Street and is a wonderful place to spend a rainy afternoon.
Another perfect getaway from persistent showers is the Old Wilmington City Market. A variety of eclectic, many handmade and always unique items can be found in this quaint collection of shops, which is all under one roof and located at 119 S. Water Street.
“When life gives you a rainy day, play in the puddles.”
Of course, suiting up in the appropriate rain gear and locating a trusty umbrella, will open the door to even more possibilities! Should you decide to make like a duck and carry on, be sure your footwear has traction and exercise caution and whenever there is thunder or lighting. Here are more suggestions for making the most of a rainy day, whether you choose to be inside or out:
- Front Street Brewery Tour-Call 910-251-1935 for info.
- Stroll along the Riverwalk, which winds for 1 mile along the scenic Cape Fear.
- Old Books on Front Street-249 N. Front Street-An idyllic spot to discover something new or track down an old favorite.
- Stop by the ever quirky, fun and funky shop, Planet at 108 N. Front St. This review says it best, “Where else can you find gas masks, MDC tee shirts, cute lace dresses and sushi wallets under one roof?”
- The Castle Arts and Antiques District is full of one-of-a kind shops and galleries that are easy to pop in and out between showers! Peruse the stacks of vinyl at Gravity Records and enjoy fabulous food and great coffee at Jester’s Café.
Other Fun Activities
- Visit one of the local “Paint Your Own Pottery” studios and make a keepsake for a special person.
- Three “Big-Box” arts and craft stores call Wilmington home and frequently offer weekend and evening “Make It and Take it” classes for all ages.
- Get a little exercise at one of the Port City’s skating rinks or bowling alleys. For aspiring Olympians, there’s even an ice rink.
- Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park offers plenty of alternatives to its water park, mini-golf, and go-kart track. Inside, there’s laser tag, a climbing wall, huge arcade, kid’s jungle, and snack bar: http://www.junglerapids.com/index.php
“Everything is better at the beach, even the rain.”
- Visit the arcade along the Carolina Beach Boardwalk and if you are in luck, the legendary Britt’s Donuts will be open. They have been enticing passersby since 1939, with their mouthwatering homemade donuts. Made fresh on site and served warm, they taste even better on a rainy day! http://www.carolinabeach.net/britts1.html
- The N.C. Aquarium at Ft. Fisher is one more local attraction that educates and entertains. Special programs take place throughout the year along with daily activities, such as Creature Feature, Ocean Odyssey, and Dialog with a Diver. Plan your visit: http://www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher
- The Ft. Fisher museum and historic landmark is a must-see for history buffs. If wet weather prevents exploration of the entire site, the captivating Civil War museum will not disappoint: http://www.nchistoricsites.org/fisher/fisher.htm
- FYI-Beachcombing is always more rewarding after stormy seas have brought all sorts of unusual treasures to the strand!
- If precipitation is on the horizon for several days on end, there’s always Independence Mall, scores of movie theaters, and one of the best places to while away a rainy day-one of the four new Hanover County Library branches, where there are mountains of books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and special programs: http://nhcpl.libguides.com/about/hours