There's no limit to the wonderful imagination and limitless energy of kids. They want to know everything from "Why is the sky blue?" and "How come Santa's handwriting looks like yours?" to "What's for dinner?" and "What is there to do around here anyway?" Now that's one question you can easily answer. There really is no better place to visit or to raise a family than along North Carolina's beautiful coast. Being near the ocean means you'll find numerous water activities to engage in. And this area cherishes its history and fosters the arts, so there are many exciting educational activities too. Among a parent's greatest area resources for entertaining kids are the various museums, which offer classes and workshops in arts and crafts, and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which also offers classes and workshops as well as outdoor activities. Opportunities for adolescents to learn boating skills, participate in gymnasium and team sports and take part in many other activities, both physical and cerebral, exist with the various parks and recreation departments throughout the area.
The most accessible, most affordable and most attractive sources of fun for kids on the southern coast are the same ones that draw adults in droves: the beaches and nearby waterways. So no matter what your kids' ages, get them down to the water, from Topsail to Calabash. Try a different beach now and then to pique their interest; there's a great difference in character from beach to beach.
Combining activities with beach visits may also be worthwhile. Driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle on the beach at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is a bouncy jaunt most kids love. The area offers pristine surf, calm tidal waters on the inland side suitable for toddlers, great fishing and, just minutes away, a fine Civil War museum and historic site.
North Carolina's southern coast encompasses a wide variety of parks, giving kids plenty of room to run, play and explore. Venerable pine trees surrounded by beautiful flora and interesting fauna make these parks delightful places for families to spend time together
111 N. New River Dr, Surf City
(910) 546-TOUR (8687)
The Buccaneer, Surf City's newest cruise vessel, offers sightseeing cruises that kids will find interesting and fun. The cruises provide an opportunity to see dolphins, osprey and other wildlife as you cruise by Blackbeard's old hideout. Cruises cost $10 per person, with kids younger than 12 paying $6 and kids younger than 5 riding free. Reservations are not required. To guarantee space, stop at the dock to purchase tickets in advance
A farm visit can provide children with a fascinating educational experience that's also a downright good time. From picking fruits and vegetables to learning about the care and feeding of farm animals, kids will enjoy the hands-on opportunities offered by the farms listed below.
5645 U.S. Hwy. 117 S., Burgaw
Ashton Farm is 72 acres of historic plantation about 18 miles north of Wilmington. Owners Sally and Jim Martin provide children ages 5 through 12 with down-to-earth fun. Kids participate in farm life, sports with minimized competition, and nature. Among the activities are swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, softball, hiking, crafts, animal care, rodeos and archery.
Holden Brothers Farm Market
5600 U.S. Hwy. 17 W., Shallotte
Bring the kids to pick strawberries and tomatoes in season. The fields and market are open from April 1 through Christmas and are 3 miles south of Shallotte.
Lewis Strawberry Nursery & Farms
6517 Gordon Rd., Wilmington
Picking berries can be almost as much fun as eating them. In late spring, peaking in May, the strawberries at Lewis' Nursery ripen into succulent concentrations of juicy, deep-red sweetness that almost defy belief. Whether you and the kids pick them yourselves or buy them by the quart, this is a treat you'll want to repeat.
Lewis' Gordon Road location is popular with locals for their strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, with the added attractions of homemade ice cream, potted plants and flowers for sale. Lewis Farms is open to the public only from April through mid-July, Monday through Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM and Sunday from 1 to 6 PM. Gordon Road intersects Market Street (U.S. 17) just south of the Military Cutoff Road intersection and N. College Road near the junction with I-40. Or Pick-Your-Own at their other location along Castle Hayne Road, near the General Electric facility; it's open Monday through Saturday 8 AM to 6 PM and Sunday 1 to 6 PM
Included in this section are physical activities that either apply specifically to young children or are not covered in the sports categories.
Carolina Beach Mini-Golf & Batting Cages
906 N. Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach
After school, weekends and vacation days are popular times for youngsters and teens to spend a few hours perfecting their batting skills, playing a few rounds of miniature golf or trying out some of the many different arcade games at this beach town attraction. Open seasonally every day from 10 AM until late evening, Carolina Beach Mini Golf is set in a beautiful tropical environment with waterfalls, streams and mountainous terrain.
City of Wilmington Sherriedale Morgan Boxing and Physical Fitness Center
302 S. 10th St., Wilmington
(910) 341-7837, (910) 341-7872
Administered by Wilmington Parks, Recreation and Downtown Services, the center welcomes children ages 8 and older to participate in fitness training and professionally supervised boxing. Fitness equipment includes treadmills, stationary bicycles, stair climbers, free weights, weight machines, jump ropes, heavy bags, boxing gloves and scheduled exercise classes, all this for a facility use fee of only $50 per year for Wilmington city residents and $80 for non-residents. Hours are Monday through Friday 9 AM to 8 PM and Saturday 10 AM to 2 PM. Junior Olympic boxing is available for ages 8 to 16; call for competitive boxing information and fees.
Fit For Fun
302 S. 10th St., Wilmington
This program, sponsored by Wilmington Parks & Recreation Department, affords children from birth through 5 years the opportunity to play with parental involvement. The cost is $3.50 per child. Hours are Monday through Friday 9 AM to noon and 1 to 4 PM and Saturday 9 AM to noon.
Jelly Beans Family Skating Center
5216 Oleander Dr., Wilmington
Roller skating can be family fun at its best and perhaps simplest, and Jelly Beans appeals especially to kids and their parents. Grown-ups may appreciate the Top-40 music on Thursday nights. The rink is a clean, well-kept place with a well-stocked pro shop providing rentals, sales and repairs. Also available is a snack bar and the Stuff Shop, which sells toys and novelty items. Jelly Beans also hosts skating birthday parties, has an after-school program and a summer day camp. Jelly Beans hosts its own in-line hockey league for kids 14 and younger (see the Sports and Fitness chapter for more details). It is near the intersection of Oleander Drive and Forest Park Road, 5 miles from downtown.
260 Sneads Ferry Rd., Sneads Ferry
Skater's Choice offers roller skating Friday nights (7 to 10:30 PM), Saturday nights (6:30 to 10 PM) and Saturday afternoons (1:30 to 4 PM). Regular cost for evening skating is $5 and includes skates. The fee, including skates, for the matinees is $3. The charge to rent inline skates is $1 more. The rink is available for parties on Saturday and Sunday. The snack bar sells popcorn, drinks and prepackaged sandwiches and snacks. Skater's Choice is open year round.
Topsail Beach Skating Rink
Anderson Blvd, Topsail Beach
Located over the Topsail Beach Post Office, this rink is open on weekends from 7 to 10 PM in April and May. During the summer it's open nightly. The cost for admission and to rent skates is $5. Inline and traditional skates are available. Drinks and snacks are are sold at the concession stand.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Center
401 S. Eighth St., Wilmington
In the summer months, the Wilmington Recreation Intervention Division sponsors basketball for kids ages 6 to 17, divided into appropriate age groups. The center now offers Tae Kwan Do for kids as young as six, all the way up to adults. Other activities include field trips and games as well as a soccer league. The center has two seven-foot pool tables, bumper pool, Foosball, Ping Pong and air hockey. During the school year, the center is open Monday through Thursday for after-school homework time and games. Every second Friday the center features live entertainment in the afternoon.
Scooter's Family Skating Center
341 Shipyard Blvd., Wilmington
Scooter's is the current name for this classic rink, founded in 1959. Once you pass through the door, however, you walk right into the 21st century, complete with disco lighting show, sound system, special glow-in-the-dark carpeting and black lighting throughout the entire rink. Scooter's is a full-service roller skating center with a complete pro shop, snack bar and lots of video games to round out your night of fun. Birthday parties and fund-raising events are more than welcome.
The rink is open Wednesday from 7 to 9 PM. On Friday night Scooter's skates from 7 to 11 PM; Saturday the rink is open from 1 to 11 PM with an all-day MegaSkate, an afternoon session from 1 to 6 PM and a night skate from 6 to 11 PM; on Sunday public skating is from 2 to 5 PM. For further information or to book a party, call the number listed above.
Wheel Fun Rentals
107 Carolina Beach Ave. N. at the Boardwalk, Carolina Beach
Also located at Carolina Beach Lake Park, corner of Lake Park and Atlanta
Kids of all ages will love this. For a reasonable rate, the whole family can spend an hour or even a day riding Deuce Coupes, Choppers or Surreys. Popular anytime, and equipped with lights, four-wheeled covered Surreys come in two sizes, the large one can seat up to six adults and two children. Also available are cruisers, mountain bikes and tandems. For the water enthusiast, surfboard, boogie board, kayak, water bikes, paddle boats, beach chairs and umbrellas are also available. Owners Duke and Tracee Hagestrom promise a fun ride, no matter what you choose.
Summer is the main anticipation of almost any school-aged child, but it can be tiring for parents, especially those who work, to invent fun, imaginative activities for their children day after day. Summer camps are a great antidote for this problem. The southern coast offers many different camps for you and your child to choose from. Day camps and sports camps (rather than overnight camps) are the norm in the southern coastal region. For sports camps, children must own basic personal equipment, including protective gear. Team items such as bats and balls are provided. Day campers generally need only swim suits, towels and sneakers to get the most out of their camp experiences.
An extremely useful publication, Summer Alternatives, lists dozens of summer activities for school-age children in our area. It is distributed in late April by the New Hanover County Schools and may be obtained free by calling the Community Schools office at (910) 254-4221, or you can pick one up at your child's school.
Ashton Farm Summer Day Camp
5645 U.S. 117 S., Burgaw
Ashton Farm, established in 1975, is 72 acres of historic plantation about 18 miles north of Wilmington. Owners Sally and Jim Martin provide children ages 5 through 12 with down-to-earth fun. Kids participate in farm life, sports with minimized competition, and nature. Among the activities are swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, softball, hiking, crafts, animal care, rodeos and archery and more.
One-week sessions from June to August are available (daily with permission). Discounts apply for additional weeks and/or additional children registered. The camp provides round-trip transportation to Wilmington, camper health insurance and drinks; children should pack their own lunches. Single-day camps have been added to coincide with teacher workdays.
Brigade Boys & Girls Club
2759 Vance St., Wilmington
Serving area children since 1896, the Brigade Boys & Girls Club is a popular place for summer activities. Between the last day of school and the first day back, kids enjoy a wide variety of games, sports competitions of all sorts, reading, plus arts and crafts. The regular summer program runs Monday through Friday from 6:30 AM to 6 PM. Youngsters are divided according to age groups: 6 through 11 years and 12 to 18 years. A swimming pool with certified lifeguards makes this a great place to spend a hot summer day; some swimming instruction is available. Free breakfasts and lunches are provided.
Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Department
Building M, Government Complex, Bolivia
(910) 253-4357, (800) 222-4790
Activities at this camp include swimming, water parks, miniature golf, pottery creations and more. Participants meet at the Brunswick County Government Complex in Bolivia each morning of camp, which runs Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Day camp registration is subject to availability and is taken on a first- come, first-serve basis, starting in April (call for dates). Payment is expected at the time of registration
Cape Fear Museum
814 Market St., Wilmington
A variety of activities involving local history and science are available to children ages 5 through 12 in half-day camps at the museum, five days a week from June through mid-August. Call weekdays between 9 AM and 5 PM for information and to register.
Carolina Coastal Adventures Camp
1337 Bridge Barrier Rd., Carolina Beach
In July through August, week-long fun camps for kids include lessons in surfing, kayaking and fishing plus visits to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, hiking in the state park, and marsh exploration. When the weather doesn't cooperate, kids keep busy with games, crafts and videos with a marine science theme. Has your child developed an interest in kayaking, fishing or surfing? Try one of these week-long, in-depth programs; the Kids Coastal Kayak Discovery Camp provides kayaking adventures and information about kayak safety, the Captain's Fishing Camp takes kids on great fishing and learning adventures, the Surfing Beach Days Camp is a week filled with surfing, body-boarding, surf kayaking, surf fishing and beach ecology. There are some discounts available for early registration (March/April).
Emma Anderson Memorial Chapel Youth Program
1101 S. Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach
(910) 328-1619, (910) 328-1532
This long-running program by the Emma Anderson Memorial Chapel has families planning their vacation around program dates. Daytime activities for children and youth ages 6 to 19 are offered Monday through Friday during the summer months. A schedule of events is prepared weekly, and activities can include beach volleyball, fishing on the pier, miniature golf, pizza parties, a cookout, basketball, volleyball, billiards, ping pong and more. Participants can come for one day or the whole program. There is no cost to attend this program, which often offers opportunities to include parents and other family members.
Girls Inc. Day Camp
1502 Castle St., Wilmington
Girls Inc. offers half-day and full-day camps in Wilmington and Brunswick County from one week after school lets out for summer break until one week before school resumes. Activities include sports, crafts, swimming, computer classes, sewing, field trips, career exploration, science projects and cooking. Guest speakers are brought in from time to time. The Wilmington camp accepts girls from kindergarten to age 18. Call (910) 763-6674 for information and to register.
Jelly Beans Family Skating Center
5216 Oleander Dr., Wilmington
Jelly Beans' summer day camp, for kids ages 5 through 12, is especially convenient (and affordable) because your child can just drop in for a single day at a time. While roller skating is a natural part of regular activities, Jelly Beans concentrates heavily on outdoor and educational field trips
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
(910) 458-8257, (910) 458-7468
Aquarium summer camps promise learning and fun for youngsters in three age groups Â– 5 and 6 years old, 7 through 9 and 10 through 12. Schedule Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, sessions are offered in June and July. Each group of 12 campers will enjoy age-specific, fun-filled outdoor activities, including crafts and programs that help kids understand and appreciate aquatic environments.
UNCW Athletic Department
601 S. College Rd., Wilmington
UNCW sponsors day and overnight summer sports camps in baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball and soccer. These sessions give younger players a good foundation for the sports and emphasize fundamentals. Call for information early in the season, as these camps tend to be quite popular.
601 S. College Rd., Wilmington
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Division for Public Service and Continuing Studies invites kids to become part of MarineQuest, one of the most unique marine and environmental education programs in the country. MarineQuest encompasses a wide variety of marine and education programs for ages 6 through adult. For information about Summer by the Sea Camp (for kids ages 6 through 9), Coast Trek (ages 12 through 13), OceanLab (ages 14 through 15), Positively Reactive Chemistry Camp (ages 8 through 12), among others, call the information line at (910) 962-2386.
City of Wilmington Recreation Division
Adventure Pathways Summer Camp
302 Willard St., Wilmington
For kids who truly enjoy challenging physical activities and like being on the move, the Adventure Pathways programs are just the ticket. Guaranteed not to be boring, the week-long excursions, held in June, literally go in three different directions. Sessions for boys and girls ages 10 to 14 include exploration, watersports, hiking, climbing and overnight camping. Space is limited. Fees range from $175 to $200; registration begins at the end of February and the deadline is May 6.
Wrightsville Beach Parks & Recreation Department
1 Bob Sawyer Dr., Wrightsville Beach
Art Camp, Soccer Camp and Creative Performance Arts Camp are among the fun offerings for kids sponsored by the Wrightsville Beach Parks & Recreation Department. How about surfing or tennis lessons? Call for a brochure and more information.
Wilmington Family YMCA
2710 Market Street, Wilmington
YMCA summer day camps for tots to teens (from kindergarten through age 16) operate June through August on weekdays. The "Y" is open for daytime activities from 7:30 AM to 8 PM. Among the many fun things to do, kids can participate in pool swimming, indoor and outdoor sports, arts and crafts, reading, music and games. Field trips to the beach, local attractions and other kid-friendly places are popular. Stop by to register as spots are limited.
A wide range of child-care facilities, preschools and programs is available in the greater Wilmington area. While we cannot list all of them here, we've provided a starting place. We encourage parents/guardians to visit facilities they are considering at least once and preferably several times prior to enrolling their youngsters.
Below we have listed child-care facilities with four or five stars as indicated on the Child Advocacy Commission website and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development website in November 2003.
A Child's World Daycare Home, 501 Manet Road, Wilmington, (910) 350-1332
Adventurous Beginnings, 202 Westchester Road, Wilmington, (910) 395-0751
AAI Industries Learning Center, 1206 N. 23rd Street, Wilmington, (910) 254-7384
Brighter Day Daycare Center, 1409 Church Street, Wilmington, (910) 343-9651
Cape Fear Community College Child Development Center, 415 N. Second Street, Wilmington, (910) 362-7336
Charlie's Daycare Home, 4817 Calder Court, Wilmington, (910) 791-5102
Chesterbrook Academy, 4102 Peachtree Road, Wilmington, (910) 392-4637
Child Development Center, 3802 Princess Place, Wilmington, (910) 343-4245
Childcare Network #128, 6640 Gordon Road, Wilmington, (910) 397-9090
Childcare Network #83, 1553 41st Street, Wilmington, (910) 395-5400
Childcare Network #82, 4808 New Centre Drive, Wilmington, (910) 452-4444
Children's Learning Center, 71 Darlington Avenue, Wilmington, (910) 762-7735
Community Action Child Development Center, 527 Red Cross Street, Wilmington, (910) 763-0056
Creative Angels Childcare, 2404 Invergordon Court, Wilmington, (910) 799-1938
Creative World Preschool, 4202 Wilshire Boulevard, Wilmington, (910) 791-2080
Creative World II, 2411 Flint Drive, Wilmington, (910) 799-5195
East Coast Solutions Kelly House, 1507 Martin Street, Wilmington, (910) 251-8944
Grandma & Grandpa's Child Care, 705 S. Third Street, Wilmington, (910) 251-1015
Happy Kids Development Center, 6320 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, (910) 395-5286
Head Start of New Hanover County, 507 N. Sixth Street (Sixth and Red Cross Streets), Wilmington, (910) 762-1177
Helping Hands Family CCH, 712 Autumn Leaves Ct., Wilmington, (910) 799-0995
Hoods Day Care, 419 Rutledge Drive, Wilmington, (910) 799-6266
Kid Cam Preschool, 5901 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington, (910) 799-6882
Little Feats Day Care, 214 Mohican Trail, Wilmington, (910) 392-5564
Little Sisters Day Care Home, 7213 Quail Wood Road, Wilmington, (910) 791-8614
Ms. Peaches Christian Day Care, 1403 Castle Street, Wilmington, (910) 763-1133
Nanatta's Day Care, 1006 N. Eighth Street, Wilmington, (910) 762-2490
Noah's Ark Children's Center, 1501 Beasley Road, Wilmington, (910) 395-0059
Ms. Susan's Child Care, 310 Windemere Road, Wilmington, (910) 791-8048
Park Avenue Preschool, 1306 Floral Parkway, Wilmington, (910) 791-6217
Pat's Toyland Child Care, 613 Fitzgerald Drive, Wilmington, (910) 395-0391
Peek-a-boo Childcare, 4820 Weybridge Lane, Wilmington, (910) 392-6975
Perfect Start Private Childcare, 206 Cherokee Trail, Wilmington, (910) 793-2923
Potter's House Child Development Center, 4918 Randall Parkway, Wilmington, (910) 793-6730
Precious Little Angels, 305 Godfrey Court, Wilmington, (910) 452-2401
Progressive Child Development Center, 4403 Northchase Parkway NE, Wilmington, (910) 313-0083
Rich's Child Care and Learning Center, 625 S. 4th Street, Wilmington, (910) 762-4066
Rich's Child Care and Learning Center #2, 812 D Castle Street, Wilmington, (910) 763-1891
Rich's Child Care & Learning Center #3, 3910 Market Street, Wilmington, (910) 341-7577
Rising Stars Child Care Center, 6743 Amsterdam Way, Wilmington, (910) 452-2231
Sprouts Day Provider for Infants and Toddlers, 805 Sago Bay Drive, Wilmington, (910) 792-9399
Sunny Days Child Care, 1216 Potomac Court, Wilmington, (910) 791-2833
Total Child Care Center, Inc., 4304 Henson Drive, Wilmington, (910) 799-3556
Twilight Child Care, 111 Green Meadows Drive, Wilmington, (910) 262-0917
UCP Developmental Center, 500 Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington, (910) 392-0080
Vic's Child Care, 406 Kingston Road, Wilmington, (910) 313-1597
UCP Developmental Center, 500 Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington, (910) 392-0080
Winter Park Baptist Preschool and Kindergarten, 4700 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington, (910) 799-2029