Wilson Visitors Center

209 Broad Street, Wilson,

I-95 Exit 121, North Carolina

800-497-7398, 252-243-8440

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Wilson, NC is located midway down the East Coast. Along with its award-winning revitalized downtown, the city offers a wide array of choices of things to interest anyone driving down I-95. There's a vibrant art scene, gardens, an antique district, challenging golf, boating, hiking, fishing, small museums (including one for children) and famous sculptural whirligigs. If you just want to stretch your legs, pick up the brochure for a walking tour at the Visitors Center.

An especially good reason to stop here is for the diversity of restaurants, from everything-on-a-biscuit to Eastern North Carolina barbecue, rib eye steaks or upscale Southern dining. Choose from their list to find restaurants which serve steaks, Japanese, Mexican, seafood, Indian, American, Italian or Chinese food and more.

Festivals in Wilson include: Theater of the American South in the Spring and the Whirligig Festival on the first weekend of November, while Downtown Alive concerts are held from May through September, and you can always count on Fridays on the Lawn.

Incorporated in 1849 as a farm market, Wilson has taken great care to preserve its past and embrace the future. Cited as one of North Carolina's most beautiful cities, Wilson is full of fun, historic sites and modern comforts. Start your visit at the Wilson Visitors Center in a newly restored 1916 bungalow, the CW Stokes House, designed by architect S.B. Moore. The 1.5 story brick house features an unusual double clipped gable roof with an engaged front porch supported by butressed tapers on brick plinths, heavy brackets and stuccoed gables with half-timbering. It's located in the Broad-Kenan National Register Historic District at 209 Broad Street. Open for free tours to the public Monday-Friday 9-5 pm. Closed Holidays.

- Antiques: Wilson is truly a City of Antiques, best know for English Antiques - there are more than 25 antique shops. The quantity, variety and quality of antiques and authentic reproductions will delight you whether you are looking for a particular piece for your collection or just window shopping.

- Gardens: Wilson Rose Garden shows off 165 varieties of roses. Wilson Botanical Gardens & the Children's Secret Garden are on one property together offering perennials, shrubs, trees, annuals, and a fossil hunt, tree house, water features and whirligig. The Library Rose Garden concentrates on 24 varieties of Hybrid Tea Roses.

- Whirligig Folk Art Sculptures:
Wilson has the largest collection of Whirligigs anywhere in the world. There are sixteen on street corners throughout downtown Wilson, and there are two parks which house Whirligigs in the historic area. There are both large and small whirligigs on display at the Wilson Visitors Center and at the restoration headquarters building (which is open for tours), where you can see the largest examples of folk artist Vollis Simpson's work. Those structures will be placed with his existing five in the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park downtown.

- Museums: Children of all ages can enjoy the Imagination Station Science & History Museum, with its hands-on science learning. "Race the Wild" to see if you are faster or slower than a variety of animals, or see optical illusions in the "Mirror Magic" exhibit. Animal lovers can slither'n slide with live animals. Look for the Sphere Exhibit "world globe" which interacts with our planet showing weather patterns and more.

The North Carolina Baseball Museum showcases baseball memorabilia from ball players who played in North Carolina, such as Catfish Hunter, Hoyt Wilhelm, Gaylord Perry, Enos Slaughter, Rick Ferrell and Buck Leonard. Players who have played at Fleming Stadium include Ted Williams, Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts.

Rail buffs will love The Railroad Modelers Train, which operates over a double-track main line that extends seven scale miles long and traverses 65 modules. Children can take a ride on the miniature train fan and adults can take the Amtrak train for special tours in downtown Wilson.

The Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House, built in 1946 by a local black stone mason, features artifacts depicting the culture and contributions of African Americans in Wilson.

In nearby Kenly, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum demonstrates how families lived and worked in the tobacco industry. Visit an authentic farmhouse and smell the sweet aroma of cured tobacco.

- Walking Tours: Wilson Visitors Center is the starting point for the Historic Walking Tour of downtown. The 20th century Broad-Kenan National Register Historic District contains 280 properties, and over 60% are bungalows. Handouts for the Historic Walking Tour are available at the Visitors Center.

Wilson also offers Porch Tours through Historic Neighborhoods. The architectural treasures include ornate brackets, turned, chamfered, fluted & tapered columns, large wrap-around Victorian porches and bungalow homes. Or perhaps you might be interested in a nature trail. Click here for list of parks.

- Culture: Galleries and Theatre. The Arts Council of Wilson leads the community in the arts, and itself hosts a variety of exhibits throughout the year along with activities for all ages. Children can explore, grow and create through programs such as Art & Theatre Camp. The Kennedy Theatre at Barton College offers performances year-round, and the Boykin Theater in downtown Wilson offers local performances plus professional series all through the year.

- Local Shopping and Farmer's Markets: You can spend your time shopping at 14 different shopping areas or enjoy the fresh produce at 2 Farmers Markets in Wilson County.

- Lodging: Wilson has a wide variety of accommodation options, from camping to Bed and Breakfast to traditional motels which cater to any budget and lifestyle. You can click on a lodging on the web list to view details of the 24 properties, 2 bed & breakfasts and 2 campgrounds.

- History: When the first English American settlers reached the region that is now Wilson County in the mid-18th century, they began to transform the dense woodland by chopping the trees for naval stores and planting crops. By the mid-19th century the area was chosen as the county seat for the County of Wilson. At this time, the railroad in Wilson County provided access to the port of Wilmington and the cultural center of Richmond; the city and county prospered as a trading center at the heart of this vital railroad line. Following the Civil War, farmers turned from cotton to tobacco, and by the early 20th century Wilson had become the world's largest bright leaf tobacco market.

The City of Wilson and Wilson County have continued to grow and prosper. Today, the county farmland produces crops valued over $100 million annually. Cultural, social and educational opportunities for citizens of the region have more than kept pace with the growth of the city and the county. They enjoy excellent schools, invigorating recreational activities and rich cultural and artistic experiences.

Historic Downtown Wilson has invested over $30 million into new business, retail, renovation projects of LOFT apartment living, restaurants and the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project.

Visitors' Guide: Download one now or order a printed copy. Then head to Wilson, NC