Summer of Love

BY Sandra Chambers

Here are 10 super summer date ideas to get you from June to August. Dont let the recent economic downturn put a damper on your love life several great dates are under $25. And for you big spenders or sometime splurgers we found a few luxury dates for special occasions. Make your reservations because summer is finally here and love is in the air.

$ Under $25

$$ $25-$75

$$$ $75-$150

$$$$ Over $150

To Date Or Not To Date

A gorgeous weekend in June is the perfect time for a romantic late afternoon and evening date at Greenfield Lake Park. Start with a bicycle ride or a leisurely stroll around the 4.5-mile lake trail one of two trails in New Hanover County that is part of the East Coast Greenway (ECG) a designated trail for hikers cyclists skaters and nature lovers that runs from Maine to Florida. Or if you prefer to actually be on the water rent a paddle boat or canoe for a romantic afternoon rowing or paddling across the pond (talk about getting in sync and only $10/hour). Pack a picnic dinner to enjoy while attending the 17th annual Shakespeare on the Green Festival. Always free (and always wonderful) this years performances of the Bards delightful The Merry Wives of Windsor will run every Friday Saturday and Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. during the month of June in the newly renovated Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. ( $ )


Farmers Market Morning

Get up early on a Saturday morning and head down to Wilmingtons Riverfront Farmers Market on North Water Street (8 a.m. to 1 p.m. park for free in the Second Street parking garage). Cruise and peruse displays of local artists and crafters who sell everything from paintings to jewelry to handmade soaps and be sure to take along a cooler to purchase locally grown fresh vegetables and fresh seafood from Natures Way Farm and Seafood (910) 270-3036 for the romantic dinner youll prepare (together) that night. Dont forget strawberries from Lewis Nursery and Farms (910) 675-2394 for dessert. Climb the stairs of the Federal Building toss a coin in the fountain and make a romantic wish then find a spot along the waterfront to cool off with a scoop of wonderful Wilmington Mud from Kilwins Chocolates & Ice Cream (910) 772-1298. ( $ $ )

Day on the Water

Pack a beach towel umbrella plenty of suntan lotion and a picnic lunch for your day on the water. No boat? No problem! Full-day and half-day boat rentals are available from several local marinas such as Reliant Marine LLC (910) 256-0638; Entropy (910) 686-7677; or Nauti Times (910) 262-4386. Head north to Figure Eight Island and play tourist as you cruise past some of the most beautiful and expensive homes on this five-mile long island. Anchor off the sandy tip of the island for a swim. Enjoy your picnic lunch aboard or on the beach under an umbrella while watching brown pelicans and gulls play on a nearby tidal island. Then cruise south to Wrightsville Beach and dock at Bluewater An American Grill (910) 256-8500 for a cold drink and coconut shrimp or at Dockside (910) 256-2752 for their ever-popular crab nuggets. ( $ $ $ $ )

Southport and Orton A Match Made in Heaven

Looking to get out and about with that special someone? We cant blame you. Heres a great way to spend a day: Rent a convertible and drive (top down of course) to Fort Fisher and catch the 30-minute ferry ride to seaside town of Southport (ferry service 800-368-8969). Smell the saltwater and watch the seagulls from the top deck. Once in Southport take in the quaint antique and collectibles shops then have lunch at one of Southports fun and fabulous eateries; the Fishy Fishy Caf (910) 457-1881 or the cool and casual Provision Company (910) 457-0654 both with waterfront dining and laid-back lunches. While heading home via Route 133 take a quick detour and drive down the tree-lined entrance to Orton Plantation (910) 371-6851. A tour of these historic and gorgeous gardens is a serene and special way to cap off your great date. ( $ $ $ )

Segway Any Day

Already done the touristy sightseeing trips? Try a totally new concept in touring via a segway scooter from Cape Fear Segway Tours (910) 251-2572. One- or two-hour guided tours include instruction interesting historical tidbits and either a ride along the Riverwalk or a 5-mile trip through Wilmingtons fabled historical streets. After your tour enjoy a tall glass of Southern sweet tea with lunch at one of the several restaurants overlooking the Cape Fear River: Elijahs Restaurant (910) 343-1448 George On the Riverwalk (910) 763-2052 or the Pilot House Restaurant (910) 343-0200. Then head to Burchetta Glass Blowing Studio and Gallery on Red Cross Street (910) 399-7614 where you can learn glass-blowing techniques and make a heart-shaped glass memento of your date which you can end with oysters at Dock Street Oyster Bar (910) 762-2827. ( $ $ $ $ )

Elegantly Downtown

If youre celebrating an anniversary or birthday that calls for an extra-special weekend date book a night or two at one of the charming local downtown inns such as Graystone Inn 888-763-4773 or The Verandas (910) 251-2212 both members of the Select Registry of Distinguished Inns of North America. Plan to be pampered with elegantly decorated guest rooms gardens and a gourmet breakfast. Explore the historic district and downtown Wilmington at a leisurely pace. Dont forget to reserve your private horse-drawn carriage for a romantic tour (910) 251-8889 before being dropped off for dinner at one of the fabulous downtown restaurants: Deluxe Caf (910) 251-0333 for instance Circa 1922 (910) 762-1922 or Caprice Bistro (910) 815-0810. ( $ $ $ $ )

The Artful Dater

Enjoy a free date night with art and food each fourth Friday of the month. Put on your walking shoes and select from fourteen different downtown galleries and shops that participate in Wilmingtons Fourth Friday Art Walk. (Maps and info available at participating locations). Become an art critic as you browse works in many different mediums all by local artists at such locations as Bottega Gallery and Art Bar Acme Art Studio Montage Gallery New Elements Gallery Port City Antiques Port City Pottery Creations By Justine Gallery and Studio Golden Gallery and more. Hors doeuvres and wine are provided free by participating shops to enjoy while youre “art hopping.” ( $ )


By the Beautiful Sea

Start your WB beach day with a walk around the John Nesbitt Loop stopping at the charming Wrightsville Beach Museum of History (910) 256-2569 for a taste of the days of old. Enjoy some time on the beach collecting shells and then climb aboard for a historical tour of Harbor Island an ecology tour or a birding tour of Masonboro Island (the largest undisturbed barrier island along NCs southern coast) with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours and Water Taxi (910) 200-4002. After youve worked up an appetite head to South Beach Grill (910) 256-4646. Feast on their fried pickles appetizer or their crab and seafood nachos for two. ( $ $ $ )

A Date With History

Holding hands take an early morning stroll to the north end of Shell Island (park in Beach Access No. 2 and walk north for about 20 minutes toward Mason Inlet). Follow the wildlife preserve fence to the bend and youll see a set of stairs just big enough to seat two people and a mailbox containing a little notebook and some pens. Read some of the notes aloud savoring the peaceful setting and then leave your own personal reflections in the notebook knowing your words will become part of Wrightsville Beach history. To end your beautiful peaceful morning stop for breakfast (on the terrace overlooking the ocean) at the Verandah Caf at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort 877-863-4780 or at East at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort (910) 256-2251. ( $ $ )


An Airlie Proposal

For a great date under the stars look no further than the Airlie Garden Concert Series (910) 798-7700 featuring cool jazz the first Friday and dance music the third Friday of each month throughout the summer from 6-8 p.m. Come early and stroll through the beautiful 670-acre gardens (truly a local treasure) then spread your blanket and dip into a delicious picnic from Loveys Natural Foods & Cafe (910) 509-0331 or Sandwich Pail Gourmet (910) 256-8225. Snuggle together as you listen to the best musical talent on the Azalea Coast. And just in case you might be ready to pop the question Airlie has been the site of many romantic marriage proposals! ( $ )

Contact Info


Wilmingtons Riverfront Farmers Market:

Airlie Gardens:

Horse Drawn Carriage & Trolley Tours:

Greenfield Park & Gardens:

Opera House:

Cooking Classes at Poplar Grove Plantation:

Wrightsville Beach Scenic Cruises & water taxi:

Captain Bills:

Burchetta Glassblowing Studio & Gallery:

Blockade Runner Beach Resort:

Holiday Inn SunSpree:

Shell Island Resort:

Cape Fear Segway Tours:

NC Ferry:

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher:

Carolina Brach Parks & Recreation:

Carolina Beach State Park:

Wrightsville Beach Museum:

Orton Plantation:

Wilmington Sharks:

Greystone Inn:

The Verandas:

Four Porches B&B:

Reliant Marine LLC 256-0638

Entropy 686-7677

Nauti Times 452-7676

Puddle Shuttle 367-6020