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
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
2.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
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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© 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
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
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
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
© Andrey Starostin/stock.adobe.com
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
Wilson Arts is a beacon for the art community in Wilson thanks to its staunch support for the artistic community and its many educational programs. In fact, in any given year, Wilson Arts will play host to over six professional galleries or exhibitions, numerous theatrical performances by the youth theater education program a handful of professional performances, and numerous education programs to inspire and cultivate budding artists in the local community. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, visitors can stop by to watch a show, to see some of the pieces created by local and regionally recognized artists through the Wilson Arts Exhibit, or to see some of the visiting galleries in their visual arts section. No matter, it's a guaranteed treat for lovers of art.
204 Nash Street S, Wilson, Noth Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-291-4329
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10.Eyes on Main Street
Wilson is home to a budding photography community with many photographers gaining recognition and acclaim for their work. One of the best ways to see their work is by visit Eyes on Main Street, a popular Photo Gallery that showcases new exhibits regularly from their roster of artists in residence. The gallery is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and showcases art from many media in addition to photography. Additionally, the gallery is responsible for what is likely the biggest photography festival in the state which is also named Eyes on Main Street. This outdoor photography festival is known for displaying gigantic photos along the streets of Wilson.
126-128 Goldsboro Street, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 708-271-3042
11.Freeman Round House Museum
© Freeman Round House Museum
There is a beauty and wonder to be had about the cultural traditions and contributions that the African American community has made in Wilson. The best place to gain an understanding and appreciation of this is at the Freeman Round House Museum and African American Museum. Established in 2001, the museum exists to preserve, shed light on, and promote African American art, culture, and history to all those who come to visit. Though most of the museum’s exhibit is indoors, be sure to walk around the grounds as the museum’s namesake, Oliver Freeman, was an extremely creative man. As such, many of his works can be seen around the museum including the iconic dinosaur statue.
1202 Nash Street East, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-296-3056
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Are you competitive? Let your competitive streak reign supreme at West View Lanes, a popular bowling alley that has been called a spot full of “fist-pumpin’ ball-rolling fun” for visitors of all ages. Open every day of the week, Westview Lanes features 24 lanes within a privately owned center. Known for its friendly and helpful bowling community, Westview Lane hosts league bowling the whole year, fundraisers, and special bowling events like its Glow Bowl which takes place every Friday and Saturday night. The bowling alley also offers a full-service grill that dishes up spectacular grill favorites such as burgers, pizza, wings, salads, and even six different beers on tap.
1700 Ward Boulevard, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-991-6054
13.Deans Farm Market
© MC Messner/stock.adobe.com
Dean’s Farm Market has been Wilson County’s go-to local farm-to-shop market since 1965. Family-owned, the market carries spectacular fresh produce, great canned goods, and delicious prepared foods. The market has even been known to carry some gorgeous Southern home decorations and fashionable apparel. In addition to providing Wilson citizens with great produce, Deans Farm Market also aspires to keep the local economy vibrant while also providing educational opportunities to visitors of all ages about farming, agriculture, and all the work that goes into this humble but crucial vocation. Keep an eye out for their event’s calendar while you’re at it as they host seasonal family-oriented events right on their gorgeous farm grounds.
4231 NC 24 W, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-237-0967
14.Wedgewood Public Golf Course
Get some time under the sun, some exercise, and see just how good of a par you can get at the Wedgewood Public Golf Course. Located conveniently on Old Stantonsburg Road, this golf course is jointly owned by the Wilson City and the Wilson County. It features a challenging 18-hole course layout frequented by locals as well as a driving range, two putting greens, a picnic area with a playground for golfers visiting with their children, and even a pro shop and a concession stand. Additionally, the Wedgewood Public Golf Course also offers club fitting services and golf lessons for beginners.
3201 Old Stantonsburg Road, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-237-4761
15.North Carolina Baseball Museum
© North Carolina Baseball Museum
There’s no denying that baseball is a beloved pastime in Wilson City. This love for baseball and a love for history intersect at the North Carolina Baseball Museum, a museum boasting 3,328 square feet of exhibition space and a historic location at the Fleming Stadium. Visitors to the NCBM will be treated to memorabilia from native North Carolinian pros like Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Luke Appling, Buck Leonard, Hoyt Wilheim, and other inductees to the Hall of Fame. Be sure to stop by key features of the museum like the “Walk of Fame” which pays homage to the many players, fans, and their dedicated families that made the sport what it is in the state of North Carolina.
300 Stadium Street, Wilson, North Carolina 27893, Phone: 252-296-3048
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15 Best Things to Do in Wilson, North Carolina
- Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Photo: Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
- Wilson Botanical Gardens, Wilson, North Carolina, Photo: Wilson Botanical Gardens
- Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina, Photo: Barton College
- Imagination Station, Photo: Imagination Station
- Wilson Rose Garden, Wilson, North Carolina, Photo: e_polischuk/stock.adobe.com
- Boone's Antiques, Wilson, NC, Photo: Boone's Antiques
- Marty's BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina, Photo: Marty's BBQ
- Something Different, Wilson, North Carolina, Photo: Andrey Starostin/stock.adobe.com
- Wilson Arts, Photo: Atlas/stock.adobe.com
- Eyes on Main Street, Photo: schankz/stock.adobe.com
- Freeman Round House Museum, Photo: Freeman Round House Museum
- Westview Lanes, Photo: liderina/stock.adobe.com
- Deans Farm Market, Photo: MC Messner/stock.adobe.com
- Wedgewood Public Golf Course, Photo: StefanoT/stock.adobe.com
- North Carolina Baseball Museum, Photo: North Carolina Baseball Museum
- Cover Photo: City Government of Wilson, NC
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