Most people come to Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast for the beautiful beaches, watersports, and outdoor recreation. However, when it rains or it’s just too hot to move, indoor activities or a stroll in a cool garden can save the day. In fact, getting to know the art and culture in the area can actually enhance the vacation.
Cameron Museum of Art
Located on nine acres of wooded parkland, the Cameron Museum of Art is home to an eclectic collection of traditional and contemporary art. The park includes outdoor sculptures, a pond and the site of one of the last battles of the Civil War called the Battle of Forks Road, which was fought after the fall of Fort Fisher.
The museum is a 42,000 square-foot facility designed by renowned architect, Charles Gwathmey. The permanent collections include works by Mary Cassatt and Francis Speight and six to eight traveling exhibitions are presented each year.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for children age 2 to 12.
Racine Center for the Arts
The Racine Center for the Arts is a 23,000 square foot fine art retail, art education, and art exhibition gallery located between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach on Racine Drive. The Gallery features the works of child prodigy George Pocheptsov, sculptor Shaw Lakey and a very familiar name, Dr. Seuss. Limited edition prints from the whimsical children’s books by the beloved author of The Cat in the Hat can be seen as well as some of his more obscure works.
Also onsite is the Firebird Pottery and Art Studio, where budding artists can make pottery and create their own fine art without an appointment, seven days a week.
The Gallery at Racine is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission to the Gallery is free; there is a charge for classes and pottery making.
For over 100 years, Airlie Gardens has been a quiet place to escape the city and smell the roses, azaleas, camellias, and hundreds of other species of plants growing here. Once part of a 155-acre estate, Airlie today is a 67-acre public garden whose focal point is a 450-year old majestic live oak tree. It is a popular place for weddings.
Separate gardens include the Spring Garden, the Camellia Garden, the Pergola Garden, Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden, and the newly opened Butterfly Garden. Ongoing events include the Airlie Concert Series, the Plant Walk, and Wild Adventures kid’s camp.
Airlie Gardens is open seven days a week from March 21 through December and Monday to Saturday from January through March 20. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 children ages 6 – 12.
New Hanover County Arboretum
Designed for local gardeners to get information about native plants, the New Hanover County Arboretum is a service of NC State University and A&T State University Cooperative Extension.
Over 4,000 species of native plants, a Japanese Tea House, a gazebo, a Children’s Cottage, nature trails, and an Ability Garden are located on seven acres between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach on Oleander Boulevard.
The New Hanover County Arboretum is free and open to the public daily year-round during daylight hours. When a beach vacation needs more than sun and sand, try an art gallery, a Cat in the Hat, and a walk among flowers. Wilmington, North Carolina has them all.