South Brunswick Islands
Along North Carolina's southern coastline, the term "nightlife" may have very different meanings to area natives and to visitors enjoying the sights. Plenty of residents spend summer nights away from the crowds by searching the beaches for loggerhead turtle nests and helping protect the ones they find. Others prefer the nights for offshore fishing. Many youngsters enjoy surprising ghost crabs with their flashlights as the little critters (the crabs) make their nocturnal runs on the beach. Of course, there's little more romantic or peaceful than a leisurely stroll on the beach under a Carolina moon.
If going out on the town is more your style, area nightlife is primarily concentrated in Wilmington, with its numerous restaurants, nightclubs, bars and theaters. Outlying areas, especially the South Brunswick Islands, are famous for their quiet family atmosphere, but hot spots definitely do exist at Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Surf City and on Oak Island, particularly in summer.
Stroll the Riverwalk along Water Street and Front Street in downtown Wilmington. There are plenty of places along the way to pause for a toast or to hear live music. A horse-drawn carriage tour of downtown Wilmington is an exciting and informative introduction to the city too.
Billiards (see listings in this chapter) and bowling (see our Sports, Fitness and Parks chapter) are fun alternatives to the usual bar scene. Browsing our Attractions chapter will reveal more ideas -- for instance, evening cruise opportunities on the Cape Fear River.
The last couple of years have brought a local resurgence of interest in jazz, blues and other musical genres, evident in the increasing number of restaurants and bars offering live music in the evenings, typically between Thursday and Sunday. Venues worth a visit for blues include The Rusty Nail, Tomatoz American Grille and Water Street Restaurant.
Wilmington's busy theater scene, with Thalian Hall as its crown jewel, offers quality entertainment year round. In Brunswick County, the Odell Williamson Auditorium provides another venue for live performances and dramatic productions. Fans of classical music take note of area presenters that sponsor evening concert programs year round. See our chapter on The Arts for more information on both concerts and theatrical productions.
You will find some private nightclubs throughout the region. In order for an establishment to serve liquor, it must either earn the bulk of its revenue from the sale of food, or it must be a private club open only to members and their guests. Membership to most clubs is inexpensive, usually about $5 per year. At some venues, weekend visitors applying for membership should know that a three-day waiting period must elapse before you can become a full member, but it's easy to be signed in as someone's guest at the door.
What follows is a sampling and by no means the last word on the area's nightlife. At the end of the chapter is a section on movie theaters, for those whose nightlife tends toward the cinematic, and a section of a more literary persuasion.