If you missed it last week, check out Part 1 to this two-post series about our recent trip to North Carolina. In the first post, I shared with you all of our favorites around our beach house in Wrightsville Beach. This second post will highlight things to do and eat in the neighboring Wilmington area. There's a lot to find in this city, and below are some things I think you should do during your trip to Wilmington.
Eat Ice Cream: When you're on a summer trip, you must treat yourself to ice cream...at least twice. We found this amazing homemade ice cream parlor not too removed from the beach, called Boombalatti's. If you can choose only one place to indulge on vacation, choose Boombalatti's. The ice cream is probably the best I've had...ever. Seriously. My favorite ice cream shop by far. The flavors are super interesting, the consistency is spot on, and it's all fresh, fresh, fresh! I'm going to have a separate post detailing more on Boombalatti's later, because it's definitely worthy of it's own mention. But, here me now: YOU.MUST.GO! (Order the sampler.)
Pamper Yourself: My sisters-in-law and I went out one evening to pamper ourselves with a mani/pedi. We were scheduled for family photos the next morning, so we wanted to look "purrrdee". Although it might be weird for me to mention it here, we were totally impressed with the place we chose to get our nails done - Five Star Nails. You wouldn't think much of it, but after the last few visits I've had to a few of my local places, this place was definitely refreshing to me! The price was right and the service was phenomenal. Super clean and tasteful. It's completely roomy and fully staffed. We plan on making this our girly tradition each time we visit.
Book a Family Photographer: As I mentioned above, we booked a photographer for an extended family photo session. Since we're all together only once every two years, we wanted to make sure we got photos of everyone. The only way to do that was to hire a professional. We hired Katie Bork and did our session downtown Wilmington.
I have mixed feelings about the session. It was scheduled for the morning, which is great...because kids. But, Judah was extremely shy and cried most of time, not wanting his picture taken. I was wishing the photographer would have been a little more engaging with him and try a little harder to get him to feel comfortable...you know, pull a teddy out of her backpack, give him a sucker, do a little dance...lol! But, I felt like it was left up to me to calm him down. It was so hot and sticky, even though it was like 8:00AM, so I know it was hard on everyone.
I was also a little bummed that she only snatched one photo of the entire family together, and then not many candid of my little family (again, that's more Judah's fault, though). I feel like she could've been a little more creative and personable with us. That said, I would recommend Katie's services because her portfolio is great and I liked how my sister-in-law's photos turned out and the cousins picture above. Her kids are born for the camera! 😉 Also, Katie's prices are reasonable, including the full rights to your digital files so you can print them whenever and wherever. I think my family just didn't click/mesh with her, which doesn't always happen, but is important.
Go on a Family Bakery Hop: I convinced my siblings-in-law and my husband to go on a bakery hop with me. Before leaving for our trip, I researched the area online and mapped out a few sweet shops and bakeries. Because we had Simon with us, we didn't get to go to every place I had on my list, but the ones we made it to were super fun and delicious! And, even though one of my brothers-in-law moaned and groaned about going on a bakery hop, he was totally pumped by our first stop! Here's where we went:
South 'n France - This was my favorite - and I think everyone's favorite - stop of the tour. South 'n France is a bon bon shop, owned by a couple who runs the business right out of their home. I was quite surprised when looking through the shop that I was actually starting to invade their private dwelling! The bon bons they make are a mixture of southern flair and a French delicacy. The "South" is the wife, Charlene, who is from Wilmington, and the "France" is the husband, Pascal, who is from France. Together, they have created the perfect combination of flavors for their chocolate covered treats! It was the first place we visited, because we wanted to be there right when it opened since they were having their "Bon Bon Voyage" sale. I'll have a separate post about our visit to South 'n France, so stay tuned for more details on our thoughts of this marvelous little Wilmington secret!
Hot Pink Cake Stand - Our second stop was for cupcakes. I had a few places marked for cupcakes, but this was the closest and most convenient from where we were. It ended up being the only cupcake shop we visited from our list because we spent so much time at South 'n France that Simon was reaching his limit. Hot Pink Cake Stand has a cupcake shop in downtown Wilmington, which is where we stopped. But, they also have a location in Monkey Junction, with a wine bar and full menu. The lady working the counter told us it's worth the trip to visit the Monkey Junction location, so I'm hoping to go next time! The cupcakes here were good. Very well made, fresh and top notch ingredients. Everyone's favorite was the Vanilla Lavender.
Shuga Shak - Although South 'n France was our favorite stop, Shuga Shak was probably the most fun. This shop was closer to our beach house, located in a cute little yet very brightly painted house. My sister-in-law chose this place because she had driven by it many times but never stopped. Um, great pic, girl!! Be careful when you walk into this place, as it's just a tiny little room with displays of sweet treats like cupcakes, macarons and sugar cookies. You'll want to buy it all! But, get this, they set out samples of pretty much everything! We met our favorite baker shop girl here, who also works at a farm to table restaurant where we decided to have dinner that night per her recommendation. More on Shuga Shak in a later post... let's talk about dinner.
Eat Dinner Local: We wanted to have dinner together as a family one night, somewhere nice but kid friendly, with GREAT food. Kristen, from Shuga Shak, recommended this lovely little farm to table restaurant called Rx Restaurant & Bar. We made early reservations (because kids) and ended up being one of the only families in the restaurant because it was so early! But, that was nice because we got the full attention from the staff. 🙂 Again, this is another place that is worth it's own post, so I'll save more details for later. But, count on having amazingly fresh food, locally produced ingredients, and a nice southern twist on some classics. Let's just say that the adults wanted to eat up all of the kids' french fries because they were more than just regular fast food fried potatoes. 😉
Run a Race: My sisters-in-law and I signed up to run the Wilma Dash, a 5K in downtown Wilmington. This is another event that I hope we make a tradition. If you don't want to run, then walk it! There's something about doing a race with family that is so fun and worth bonding over. Having your family and kids there rooting you on is also a fun rush. My one sister-in-law is an avid runner and I was pumped to have her with me, encouraging me the whole time. She's a super star! My other sister-in-law did an amazing job, too. She even ran a full marathon a few years ago! Man, I got a lot of work to do to get as awesome as my super amazing sisters-in-law!! So glad we had this time together!
Take Notes For Next Time: Since we visit this area every other year, I like to take notes of what to check out the next time we visit. During our bakery hop, we parked near this restaurant called Copper Penny. After checking out their website, I totally want to try this place next time! Kids eat free on Mondays, which tells me it's family friendly. And, the burgers and fries look AH-mazing, as does the rest of the menu...Greek dip? YUM!
There you have it. My tips for Wilmington, North Carolina. Also check out my Pinterest board where you can find our favorite places in and around Wrightsville Beach.
Have you visited Wilmington or Wrightsville Beach? What are your favorite places or things to do there?