Top Reasons for Retiring to Wilmington NC
The weather! The location! The cost of living! These are all reasons we hear often from those who retire to Wilmington from elsewhere, as well as those who have lived in Wilmington for years and stay through retirement.
But there are so many more reasons to consider this smallish-but-growing coastal town as a place to enjoy one’s later years.
1. The unbeatable combo of an historic downtown near miles of beaches
The charm and history of Wilmington’s downtown makes for a delightful destination. Shop, dine and stroll along streets that were settled in the 18th and 19th centuries and benefit today from a respect for that historical heritage. Boutiques and cafes merge into a residential area marked by historic plaques, and tree-lined streets (think: Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss).
And that’s to say nothing of the Riverwalk, which lines the Cape Fear River for two walkable miles and has been voted America’s Best Riverwalk for its own combo of attractions – including stunning views of the sunset.
Indeed, the Southern charm of downtown Wilmington would be cliché were it not so authentic and well preserved.
And it’s just minutes from Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure beaches. Each has avoided the skyscraper condos to which other waterfronts have succumbed. Rather, Wilmington’s beaches enjoy the lower density, beach cottage vibe that offers a year-round invitation to enjoy the sea breezes.
By themselves, the beaches are indeed lovely. But, add their proximity to the historic downtown, and suddenly Wilmington checks a lot of boxes.
- 2. A vibrant arts scene…
Wilmington boasts a great mix of galleries and museums to balance its outdoor recreational reputation. The Cameron Art Museum, affectionately known as the CAM, is a stimulating community gathering place to enjoy impressive exhibits, jazz concerts, educational programs and special events.
Galleries and artist co-ops are also plentiful, offering a rich variety of destinations and events for shopping or just delighting in creativity. Wilmington’s Arts Council sponsors a year-round 4thFriday Gallery Walk, encouraging art lovers to come downtown and do just that.
- 3. …and cultural scene ...
Cucalorus Film Festival, now in its 28th year, occurs every November, bringing literally hundreds of not-your-multiplex films to the Port City. It’s home theater, Jengo’s also offers an intimate place to catch festival-type-screenings throughout the year.
Thalian Hall is Wilmington’s beloved historic theater, built in the 1850’s. Once a stop for vaudeville acts, Thalian Hall is now home to many local theater groups, as well as a destination for touring acts, Thalian Hall has something on stage every week.
Not far from Thalian is the Wilson Center, where Broadway touring productions land, along with topflight national and international entertainers.
For a town the size of Wilmington, we are so fortunate to have access to Broadway and multiple local theater companies as a matter of routine.
- 4. And music, too!
Music lovers find plenty to enjoy here. Live Nation manages the city’s two main venues: Live Oak Pavilion, with a capacity for 7,000 fans; and Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, which delights every performer for its intimacy and location beneath a lush tree canopy and beside Greenfield Lake. (Lyle Lovett once silenced his band and the audience just to take in the music of summer cicadas.) These are just the city’s two largest, but live music abounds at smaller venues nearly every night year-round.
- 5. UNCW
Having a university nearby is always an advantage, and UNCW is no exception. From its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and its Office of the Arts to frequent university-led public programs and lectures, UNCW offers tremendous enrichment to the community at large. Plus, if you’re a basketball fan, the Seahawks will happily give you a team to cheer for.
- 6. And, location, location, location.
First location: East Coast ease for getting back to friends and family in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Many of those who retire here have family there. So, it’s nice to be able to come and go. Wilmington’s airport, ILM, offers daily flights to New York, Washington, Philadelphia, New Haven, and Boston, with additional flights to Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, and Orlando.
Second location: The climate. It’s just plain perfect. A little hot in the summer, yes, but that’s when you go to the beach and enjoy the ocean breezes. Many a short-sleeved holiday season has been smugly enjoyed here. Winter lasts just long enough to enjoy cashmere sweaters and blankets by the fire. And that leaves delightfully stretched-out springs and falls. Yeah, pretty perfect.
Third location: Coastal casual. There is a pace of life on the coast, or maybe it’s the South, or maybe it’s just Wilmington. But life here has a very nice tempo. Those who move here from big cities feel it immediately, a real throttling-down. It can be an adjustment for those accustomed to a faster pace, but one that is happily accommodated by most. Fast walking is for exercise only, not for getting from point A to point B.
I could go on. Surely there are as many reasons to retire to Wilmington as there are retirees. But judging from those who have settled here and particularly those who have arrived in Riverlights, these are among the reasons most top-of-mind.