School is out and summer is officially here. It s prime time to pick from our list of sightseeing adventures, surfside activities and ocean water sports.
1. Pose beside a turret for a photo op at the USS North Carolina Battleship, one of the most highly decorated battleships to see combat during World War II, earning 15 battle stars. The ship is open every day for tours.
2. Head to Water Street in downtown Wilmington for July Fourth festivities beginning with food, music and entertainment at 5 pm and culminating in the Battleship Blast fireworks display over the Cape Fear River at 9:05 pm.
3. Savor Wrightsville s culinary offerings from pizza and hot dogs, to shrimp and grits or crab nachos.
4. Boat to Masonboro Island, the 8.4-mile undeveloped island that s just a 5-minute boat ride away from Wrightsville. Pitch a tent and camp out under the stars.
5. Ride the ferry from Fort Fisher to the quaint town of Southport for an afternoon of antique shopping and dining. Explore the town where Nicholas Sparks Safe Haven was filmed.
6. Listen to riverside tunes by various cover bands at Wilmington s Downtown Sundown Concert Series, which takes place at Riverfront Park every Friday from 6 to 10 pm now through August 29.
7. Search for carnivorous Venus Flytraps in their native habitat, Carolina Beach State Park.
8. Learn to shag, an up-tempo offshoot of the jitterbug, then head to Red Dogs in Wrightsville Beach on the first and third Saturday of every month for beach music beginning at 7:30 pm.
9. Collect giant Atlantic cockle shells on the north end, where they are most likely to be found at low tide, especially after a rain storm. If you find live organisms, toss them back in the tide.
10. Bike the River to Sea course from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach, a 20-mile scenic trek.
11. Pick up your racket for tennis classes at the Wrightsville Beach Park Tennis Courts. Group lessons are available for tots, youth and adults. Download the registration form at the Town of Wrightsville Beach s website.
12. Cross the bridge to Pleasure Island for Fireworks by the Sea, a free show near the Carolina Beach Boardwalk every Thursday at 9 pm now through August 21.
13. Stroll through Wrightsville Beach s past at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, open for tours Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm; Saturday noon to 5 pm; and Sunday 1 to 5 pm.
14. Shop for local goodies like fresh fruits and veggies, herbs, baked goods and handmade crafts at the Wrightsville Beach Farmers Market, Mondays from 8 am until 1 pm through Labor Day; or the downtown Wilmington Farmers Market, Saturdays from 8 am to 1 pm through November 22.
15. Visit recovering sick and injured sea turtles at the Karen Beasley Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City, open for summer tours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.
16. Slither into the Cape
Fear Serpentarium in downtown Wilmington for a look at some of the world s most venomous snakes, like the Gaboon viper, the Central American bushmaster, the puff adder and many others.
17. Bring your binoculars and walk around the perimeter of the south end s nesting shorebird sanctuary to spot least tern, American oystercatcher and black skimmer chicks.
18. Meet Luna, the rare albino alligator, at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. While you re there, stop by the touch tank to be tickled by a horseshoe crab and the new butterfly exhibit to be surrounded by colorful winged beauties.
19. Stop and smell the roses at the New Hanover County Arboretum, the beautifully landscaped 7-acre park. Bring the whole family to explore the Japanese tea garden and pick out some potted native flowers to plant at home.
20. Jog, power-walk or run around Wrightsville s 2.45-mile John Nesbitt Loop. Walk the dog early in the morning, before temps reach 85 degrees or more. Don t forget the pet waste bag!