Only a short distance outside of the hustle and bustle of North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh, the town of Wilson offers its own variety of fun things to do year-round. One of the main draws in town for visitors is the Whirligig Park, but there’s much more to Wilson than this one-of-a-kind park. The town boasts that it has “Southern culture focused on the arts,” which can be seen in the many unique craft shops, festivals, and more. Wilson, North Carolina is also a great place for anyone who loves exploring gardens. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
© Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park is home to numerous quirky spinning structures that stretch towards the clouds and is a unique place to spend some time while in Wilson, North Carolina. These “whirligigs” helped put the town on the map and have received a number of international artists’ commendations and awards, and were even included in the public art of the Olympic Games in 1996. The inspiring story of the park is that Vollis Simpson, a machine repairman, experimented with sculpture during his retirement and these sculptures eventually became the whirligigs of today, drawing more visitors as more were built.

301 Goldsboro St S, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-243-8440

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2.Wilson Botanical Gardens, Wilson, North Carolina

Wilson Botanical Gardens, Wilson, North Carolina
© Wilson Botanical Gardens

The Wilson Botanical Gardens were designed for showcasing the array of plants that are able to be used within a home landscape. A handful of the gardens highlight herbal and medicinal plants, ornamental grasses, and mixed plants, as well as turfgrass, hosta, flowers, and daylilies. The Children’s Secret Garden is geared towards small children, offering something interesting for younger guests, while other gardens, such as the Arboretum, cater more towards visitors who enjoy viewing different shrubs and trees. The Wilson Botanical Gardens are open to the general public Monday to Friday from 10:00am until 5:00pm.

1806 Goldsboro St S, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-237-0113

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3.Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina

Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina
© Barton College

Barton College is a small college in Wilson with around one thousand students. While its main focus is on its nationally recognized programs in social work, nursing, and education, the college also has its own theater and athletics that draw visitors to the 65-acre campus. The Kennedy Theatre is particularly popular among visitors, home to Barton College’s dynamic theater school that hosts a variety of world-class performances throughout the year, including international performers, musicals, concerts, and much more. An array of student performances can be seen at the theater as well. The campus is also great to just walk around.

400 Atlantic Christian Col Dr NE, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-399-6300

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4.Imagination Station

Imagination Station
© Imagination Station

Imagination Station aims to make the idea of science and museum more interesting and fun for both kids and their parents. Home to numerous different interactive exhibits, this “science museum” has a focus on how many of the common machines and objects of everyday life work. Open Monday to Saturday, visitors can check out the Honey Bee Observation Hive to find out how honey is made, or view the revolving sphere simulating what planets look like at the Science on a Sphere exhibit. In addition to exhibit, Imagination Station also offers daily live science demonstrations and programs.

224 Nash St SE, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-291-5113

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5.Wilson Rose Garden, Wilson, North Carolina

Wilson Rose Garden, Wilson, North Carolina
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The Wilson Rose Garden pays tribute to the beautiful rose with more than one thousand individual plants, including around 180 different species, throughout the grounds. Visitors will discover many different types of roses they have probably never before seen in person, such as hybrid roses, climbing roses, and miniature roses. The Wilson Rose Garden provides an idyllic and beautiful place for a stroll, to take pictures, or just to relax. Since the roses in the garden bloom seasonally, guests will find the grounds at their most beautiful from the month of May through the month of October.

1800 Herring Ave E, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-399-2261

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6.Boone's Antiques, Wilson, NC

Boone's Antiques, Wilson, NC
© Boone's Antiques

Boone’s Antiques was originally established back in 1952, growing over the years to now be the home of one of the largest retail and wholesale collections of accessories and furniture from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries in North America. This unique antiques dealer in Wilson, North Carolina has become a must-see place for any fans of antiques. Encompassing around four acres of countless antiques, the aisles and rooms of Boone’s Antiques are full of distinctive pieces of just about any kind, such as Queen Anne furnishings, European and Chinese porcelain, rugs, grandfather clocks, and much more.

2014 US-301, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-237-1508

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7.Marty's BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina

Marty's BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina
© Marty's BBQ

Marty’s BBQ in Wilson specializes in fried chicken and Eastern North Carolina Barbeque. The mouthwatering barbeque dishes served here come with a variety of typical, yet tasty southern sides, such as hushpuppies, collards, and slaw. With more than thirty years of experience, the locally owned and operated barbeque eatery has become a staple in the area and is known for serving some of the best barbeque in the state of North Carolina. Named for Marty Ellis, once a beloved member of the community, Marty’s BBQ is a place for barbeque lovers of all ages with its family-friendly atmosphere and friendly service.

2643 Ward Blvd, Wilson, NC 27893, Phone: 252-281-1709

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8.Something Different, Wilson, North Carolina

Something Different, Wilson, North Carolina
© Andrey Starostin/

The Something Different Cafe is, as the name would suggest, something different in the way of restaurants in Wilson, North Carolina. The family-owned and operated business has been around for more than twenty-five years, serving lunch in the cafe Monday through Friday from 11:00am until 2:00pm, as well as catering services for groups or events with anywhere from five to three thousand people. Originally founded as the Swiss Colony in 1988, Something Different has expanded and changed over the years, but the quality service and traditional food has remained the same through all of it.

3342 Airport Blvd NW, Wilson, NC 27896, Phone: 252-291-0889

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8 Best Things to Do in Wilson, North Carolina

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