It’s hard to know whether to admire Wilmington’s historic buildings or set off in search of movie stars instead. Located on the banks of the Cape Fear River just 200 miles from Charlotte , the historic port city of Wilmington is hailed for its thriving historic district, world-class TV and movie production studios, and nearness to miles of beaches on the Atlantic coast.
You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride  past homes that date back to the 1700s, shop in a historic cotton mill, watch boats navigate the river over lunch, and visit the locations of award-winning movies.
It doesn’t take long to see that Wilmington has the charm of a small Southern town and the excitement and glamour of Hollywood.
Wilmington has two visitor information centers. A main information center in the New Hanover County Courthouse (24 N. 3rd St., 910/341-4030, www.capefearcoast.com , Mon.–Fri. 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–4 p.m.) has helpful staff along with tons of brochures and maps of the area.
There is also a visitor information booth located on the riverfront (Market and Water Sts., Apr.–May and September–October daily 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., June–August daily 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Mar. and Nov. Fri.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.). There are fewer resources at the small booth but it’s more centrally located, making it easier to stop in and ask a quick question or grab a map.
Wilmington is located about 200 miles southeast of Charlotte ; it’s 3.5 hours by car via U.S. Highway 74E or I-40. Once in Wilmington, the easiest way to get around is on foot or aboard one of the historic trolley tours that run throughout the historic district.
In the historic district, everything is within an easy walk, but you’ll need a car to explore sights on the outskirts of town or to get to Wrightsville Beach .