mother/daughter trip, wilmington in august

Cotton Exchange brick building in Wilmington, NC

My mom and I were feeling low on quality time together lately, so we stole a few of our extra vacation days and planned a short trip to Wilmington, NC. Even though it’s only a couple hours from Charlotte, I’d never been there, so Mom flew into town first to meet me here. Eric and I picked her up at the airport, had lunch, and swung by the house so she could visit her grand-puppy before we hopped in my car and headed East.

Mom and I like walking on vacation, so we opted for the Hilton Wilmington Riverside right in the heart of everything. We specifically said we didn’t want to overplan before we got there (something we are both guilty of), because this was a trip for us to relax and catch up – do what we wanted, when we wanted. The hotel was nice, had a great location, and had a restaurant and pool on site if we didn’t feel like venturing out. It was right on the riverfront where you can see the historic Battleship NC just across the water. We had a wonderful view of downtown from our room and settled in for a bit.

I was feeling a little tight from the drive and looked up Wilmington yoga classes on a whim, thinking there wouldn’t be much on a Sunday. Instead I found a sunrise yoga class held over the ocean, and asked Mom how she felt about getting up at 6 am on vacation to go do yoga. She agreed to set our alarms and see how we felt in the morning. I figured we would sleep in, but we both quietly got up on the first alarm the next morning and took a short drive over to Wrightsville Beach before the sun was up. Except for some surfers warming up for the day’s competition later, the beach area was deserted. There was only one long pier leading off an old beach restaurant, so we walked all the way down it to find an energetic yoga instructor and three other sleepy women. You could barely hear him over the breeze on the pier and the crashing of the ocean. Being all the way on the end of the pier, you could feel the wood move ever so slightly with each crashing wave. It was the most peaceful exercise experience of my life and even Mom (who is much more of an aerobic exerciser) enjoyed it in that setting.

We were getting hungry after the workout and thought the restaurant on the base of the pier we were on looked to be a historic establishment with good ratings. It didn’t open for another hour and a half, so Mom and I drained our water bottles as we walked up and down the beach collecting seashells. We walked right in as they opened and we sat out on the pier again for a satisfying lunch. It started to rain just as we got the check, so we ran to the car and drove back to our hotel to shower off.

We went and sat out by the pool for a while, but it started to drizzle again and we figured it was time to get ready for dinner. The rain hadn’t let up even by then, so instead of venturing out we went and got a table at the hotel restaurant.

The next morning we woke up, grabbed some coffee, and drove over to Airlie Gardens, recommended by my aunt who had visited recently. With 67 acres to explore, Mom and I strolled through the gorgeous gardens, historic Oak trees, and living art spaces. The Butterfly House was empty so Mom and I spent a long time looking for all the different color ones from the informational signs. The glass bottle chapel was my favorite part though; I must have walked around it ten times looking at all the different ways the light shines through it.

Airlie Gardens bottle chapel

We saw several swans on the lakes, and got a little turned around trying to make our way back. It worked out for me though, as we ended up passing an open, yet abandoned and eerie entrance to an old graveyard. With a little tug, I got Mom to walk through it with me so I could look at the old tombstones from hundreds of years ago.

Airlie Gardens graveyard

It was getting really warm and muggy by this time and we were a bit tired from all the walking, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch, fix up some drinks in the room, and spend a few hours by the pool to recharge. Once we were rested and showered up, we walked up from the river and window-shopped while pointing out restaurants that looked good. We went with an Irish Pub for a late dinner before walking back to the hotel and falling immediately asleep.

Tuesday morning we woke up and got ready for a day on the Battleship NC. While we stuck to our goal of not overplanning the trip before it happened, touring the ship was the one thing I really wanted to do while we were in town. From our time at the pool adjacent to the river, we realized that there is a Water Taxi that actually runs direct trips between the Hilton and the Battleship. I bought the tickets on my phone as we waited on the dock, and we were the only people aboard on either trip. It was also quicker than driving, and dropped us off right at the visitors center to buy our tickets.

The ship itself is magnificent and I was in awe the entire time. I mean gasping, mouth-dropping, ladder-climbing, tearing up awe – I was almost embarrassing, haha sorry Mom! They have done a marvelous job in not on preserving so much of the original history in the ship, but also made much of it open and tactile to the public. You can sit in the seats, climb into the bunkers, and operate the gunner stands. It’s an inspiring piece of American history.

Battleship NC

Jess Pendergrass on Battleship NC

Again exhausted from a long morning of walking around in the August sun, we spent another afternoon by the pool talking, reading, maybe napping a little. We decided to dress up for dinner, even if we didn’t know where we were going yet. We got ready together in our hotel bathroom and then walked up to the shops again, but down the other side of the road this time to catch places we had missed the first time. Even with a late checkout the next morning, Mom had a flight to catch out of Charlotte in the afternoon so we only had time for one last walk around and lunch before heading back home.

Mom and I had such a great time together that we decided to try and make it a yearly tradition for the two of us. We’re already talking about where we may want to go together next year, but I’m looking forward to another getaway with her.