Mother's Day (Sunday, May 12) is a time to celebrate Mom and show her how much you appreciate all she does for the family. Why limit the fun to just one day when you can celebrate all weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach? It’s the ideal Mother’s Day getaway with great shopping and dining, affordable accommodations, and lots to see and do from the river to the sea. To help plan Mom’s special trip, visit www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com or call 1-866-266-9690 or and request a free official visitors guide.
Here’s a sampling of events and activities to enjoy with Mom:
May 10: Birding Tour. 9am. Impress Mom by taking her on a birding tour with a NC Audubon naturalist. Free. Public Access 43 (South end) at S. Lumina Ave. & Jack Parker Dr., Wrightsville Beach. 910-686-7527; www.ncaudubon.org
May 10: Outdoor Concert. 6pm-8pm. Does Mom love music? Take her to hear a free acoustic rock concert with music by The Other Guys & A Gal. Free. Mayfaire Town Centre, Wilmington; www.mayfairetown.com
May 10: National Public Gardens Day. Treat Mom to a blooming good time at world-class Airlie Gardens’ 67 acres of historical gardens and lakes. Admission is free today in observance of National Public Gardens Day. Free (today only), Airlie Gardens, Wilmington. 910-798-7700; www.airliegardens.org
May 11: Super Saturday Fun Time-Theatre: 11am. Is Mom into history and mysteries? Take her to a family-friendly live adventure and variety show where Dock the Dog and the Dock Street Kids solve this week’s history-mystery. Admission charge. Theatre Now, Wilmington. 910-399-3NOW; www.theatrewilmington.com .
May 11: National Migratory Bird Day. Celebrate National Migratory Bird Day with a day filled with bird hikes, presentations, and craft activities for kids. Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach (a NC Birding Trail site). Free. 910-458-8206; www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/events-calendar/national-migratory-bird-day/
May 11: Family Farm Day. 9am-12pm. Introduce Mom to life on the farm: meet farm animals, ride ponies, plant herbs, make butter, create art and enjoy milk-and-cookies during story time. Admission charge. Wilmington Children’s Museum, Wilmington. 910-254-3534; http://www.playwilmington.org/index/page/family-farm-day.
May 11: Farmers' Markets. Saturdays 8am-1pm. Rise early for regional produce, plants, herbs, and fresh flowers. The Riverfront Farmers’ Market (Downtown Wilmington) & Carolina Beach Farmer’s Market (Carolina Beach Lake) feature local farmers, artists, crafters, food, music. Free admission; charge for food and products. www.wilmingtonfarmers.com & www.facebook.com/CarolinaBeachFarmersMarket
May 11: Confederate Memorial Day. Give Mom a history lesson with a tour of Fort Fisher, followed by a special memorial service at 4pm to honor Confederate soldiers. Free. Fort Fisher State Historic Site, Kure Beach. 910-458-5538; www.nchistoricsites.org/fisher/fisher.htm.
May 11 & 12: N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher: Moms love our aquarium and appreciate its special programs: “AUARIST APPRENTICE” (2pm, Sat.); “BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR” (1pm, Sun.) and “SALT MARSH & CRABBING” (2:30pm, Sun.). Admission/program charges apply. Pre-registration required for all programs. NC Aquarium at Ft. Fort Fisher, Kure Beach. 910-458-7468; www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher.
May 12: Mother’s Day Riverboat Luncheon Cruise. 1pm-2:30pm. Board an authentic riverboat and treat Mom to a deli buffet lunch and narrated scenic tour of the Cape Fear River. Admission charge. Pre-paid advance reservations required. Boarding begins at 12:30pm. Henrietta III, riverfront at S. Water & Dock Streets. Cape Fear Riverboats celebrates 25 years in 2013. 910-343-1611; 800-676-0162; http://www.cfrboats.com/proddetail.php?prod=1020.
May 12: Mother’s Day Cruise of Harbor Island. Moms cruise FREE on Mother’s Day (with at least two paid $20 passengers in her party). 1-hour historic harbor cruises depart at 11am, 12pm; 1pm; 2pm; 3pm; 4pm; 5pm. Sunset cruise at 6:30pm. Reservations recommended. Wrightsville Beach Scenic Cruises, Waynick Ave. (across from Blockade Runner Resort), Wrightsville Beach. 910-200-4002; www.wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com.
May 12: Mother’s Day Dessert Cruise. 1pm & 2:30pm. Treat Mom to a 90-minute narrated dessert cruise of the storied Cape Fear River. Admission charge. Advance reservations. Boards at 12:45pm & 2:30pm from Riverwalk at 212 S. Water St., between Orange & Ann streets, Wilmington. 910-338-3134; www.wilmingtonwatertours.net .
OTHER MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND IDEAS
OUTDOORS & MORE: There are many ways to explore the natural beauty of Wilmington, NC and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. Learn to surf or standup paddle. Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle around our marshes, rivers, inlets and the Intracoastal Waterway. Watch for birds at one of the NC Birding Trail sites (www.ncbirdingtrail.org) or take a leisurely paddle-boat ride on scenic Greenfield Lake and Carolina Beach Lake. Ride a bicycle or surrey along the Carolina Beach Boardwalk or Carolina Beach Lake. Stroll along the Riverwalk, fish from an ocean pier, or charter a boat for offshore fishing. Hike a nature trail at area parks/gardens, including Carolina Beach State Park. Walk The Loop fitness trail around Wrightsville Beach Park.
BLOOMING GOOD TIMES: Dazzle Mom with beautiful spring flowers at the world-class Airlie Gardens (www.airliegardens.org). Other showcase gardens are at Latimer House (Victorian), Burgwin-Wright House & Gardens (Colonial), and Bellamy Mansion (Antebellum). There’s also a free arboretum with 4,000 species of native plants on seven acres (www.gardeningnhc.org). In addition there are public parks and gardens, and a university ‘arboretum’ campus (www.uncw.edu). You can search for rare Venus Flytrap and other carnivorous plants at Carolina Beach State Park. Just outside of town, the grounds of Poplar Grove Plantation are lovely in the springtime.
THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE: DINING, SHOPPING, DAY SPAS: Introduce Mom to regional cuisine served at casual bistros, upscale restaurants, old-fashioned diners, and outdoor cafés. Restaurants from the river to the sea serve Sunday brunch. Mother’s Day is a busy day so reservations are strongly encouraged. On Saturday, treat Mom to a Heart of Downtown restaurant tour (2:30pm-5:30pm; www.lizbiro.com/tours.html). For restaurant listings, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/restaurants. Find a unique gift at specialty shops, beach & downtown boutiques, custom jewelers, museum shops, antique shops & art galleries. Or, Mom can rejuvenate at a day spa.
TOURS DU JOUR: Impress Mom with a guided tour. Downtown tours that depart at the foot of Market & Water streets include: Horse-drawn carriage/trolley tours (www.horsedrawntours.com, 910-251-8889); Wilmington Trolley Company (www.wilmingtontrolley.com, 910-763-4483); Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro (Sat. 2:30pm-5:30 pm; www.lizbiro.com/tours.html; 910-545-8055); Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington (www.hauntedwilmington.com, 910-794-1866); Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington (www.hollywoodnc.com; 910-794-7177); Tour Old Wilmington walking tour (http://touroldwilmington.blogspot.com; 910-409-4300). Just a few blocks north: Cape Fear Segway Tours (www.capefearsegway.com; 910-251-2572).
MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS: Explore the history, art and culture of the Wilmington region at one of our fine museums!
Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts: “IVEY HAYES RETROSPECTIVE” art exhibit (thru May 17). Admission charge. Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington. 910-251-3700; www.bellamymansion.org
Cape Fear Museum of History & Science: “CAPE FEAR STORIES: LAND OF THE LONGLEAF PINE” (ongoing); “IMPRESSIONS OF THE LOWER CAPE FEAR” (through Oct. 27, 2013); “COLLECTION SELECTION: BREAKFAST” (opens February 11, 2013), collection includes more than 100 artifacts that document how Wilmingtonians made breakfast at home and also represent the Port City’s breakfast eateries of the past and present. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4350; www.capefearmuseum.com.
Cameron Art Museum: “HERE & NOW: A DECADE OF CONTEMPORARY AQUISITIONS” (through July 21, 2013). Admission charge. Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington. 910-395-5999; www.cameronartmuseum.com
Wilmington Railroad Museum: Learn about Wilmington’s railroad history, climb aboard a real train, operate a scale model railroad, and participate in a scavenger hunt. Admission charge. Wilmington Railroad Museum, Wilmington. 910-763-2634; www.wrrm.org
Family-friendly activities abound in Wilmington, N.C.’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. Before traveling great distances for an event, please contact organizer/venue directly to confirm details. To find out about special offers, events and experiences in Wilmington, N.C. and its island beaches, visit www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com, www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com, www.visitkurebeachnc.com, and www.visitwrightsvillebeachnc.com. For a free Official Visitors Guide, call 1-866-266-9690 or visit www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com.