16 Pros and Cons of Living in Wilmington, NC

Located along the coast of North Carolina, Wilmington is a port city of about 120,000 people. If you include the entire metro area of Pender and New Hanover Counties, then you’ll be living with about 275,000 people. The community was settled along the Cape Fear River by the English, and the historic downtown does an excellent job of fusing history with modern amenities. The 1.75-mile Riverwalk allows you to enjoy the water, and you are just minutes from several nearby beaches.

Wilmington is also sometimes called the “Hollywood of the East” because of its emphasis on film and television. EUE Screen Gems Studios is the largest domestic production facility for the entertainment industry outside of California. Notable movies that have been produced here include Iron Man 3, while shows like One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek were made as well. If you want to break into this business, then the city offers an affordable alternative compared to what you’d find in the LA area.

The city has always been outspoken in its beliefs as well. They were vehemently opposed to new taxes from the Crown in the 1760s, eventually leading to a repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. It is that independent spirit which thrives here still today, and is one of the reasons why living in Wilmington is such a fantastic experience.

List of the Pros of Living in Wilmington, NC

1. The food in Wilmington is incredible.
Life in Wilmington involves being on the water as much as possible. That means you’re going to have plenty of culinary options that involve fresh seafood as well. You’re going to find that there are several old-school, country-style cooking places that are in the city, with some of them operating for more than 100 continuous years. If you like the idea of Southern comfort food right away in the morning, then make your way to Market Street. The Dixie Grill has been putting out excellent food since 1906. Then take a walk along the waterfront to enjoy the cool air in the morning.

2. Wilmington is a dog-friendly city.
If you are going to be living in Wilmington with your dog, then you will find the city to be a warm and welcoming place. You can take your pet almost anywhere, including the beach. Take a stroll along Topsail Beach to meet fellow dog lovers who are enjoy a brisk walk along the waves. There are several restaurants and bars in the city that encourage you to bring your pup along for the night out if you’re willing to be in one of their outdoor dining areas.

3. There are plenty of ways to meet people when living here.
The people who live in Wilmington are typically warm and inviting in a genuine way. You won’t find the false pretentiousness of “keeping with tradition” like you can in other parts of the south. If you’re there, then the folks see that as an intentional act, treating it for what it is. You’ll have Meetup groups that can help you to meet others with the same interests. Another great time is the Azalea festival in the spring. There are several craft workshops and art shows that happen throughout the year as well.

4. The housing market is surprisingly affordable in Wilmington.
When you hear people complaining about the cost of housing in Wilmington, they are comparing what the average price is in the city compared to what it is in the rest of the state. The median home cost in North Carolina is only $185,000, but you can expect to pay about $228,400 when living in this city. That means it is only a little more than the average cost you’ll find in the United States. Using the U.S. national average as a 100 for an index, the housing costs in Wilmington are 114.1.

You’ll find that the prices on food, utilities, and other needed household items are very affordable as well.

5. Wilmington has several great schools from which to choose.
The educational opportunities in Wilmington are excellent for people of any age. The hub of activity for this advantage is UNC-Wilmington, which is part of the state’s university system and considered to be one of the best colleges in the state. They are the Seahawks, and you will find their colors plastered all over the city. Other reputable schools in the area include Wrightsville Beach Elementary, Eaton Elementary, and Isaac Bear High School. You’ll want to check the neighborhood assignment before moving with your family, but there are relatively few concerns in this area.

6. There are plenty of events to enjoy when living in Wilmington.
It always seems like there is something going on when you start living in Wilmington on a full-time basis. There are several large festivals held in the city each year, including the River Fest that lets you explore the best riverfront in the United States. You’ll find concerts happening at the beach, downtown, and at the Green Field amphitheater all of the time. There is an excellent nightlife here, and the afterhours scene is known for its activities and overall fun.

7. You can embrace the history of the city when you start living here.
Because Wilmington has served as an integral port city since the very beginning of its history, you have over 200 years of ancestry to explore when living here. It was one of the original melting pots that formed America, bringing people of different cultures together to create an atmosphere all its own. Some of those individuals where brought to the city against their will, so it is essential to remember that part of history as well.

You’ll find plenty of jazz clubs, piano bars, museums, and other nods to history when you walk the streets of Wilmington. Check out Fort Fisher while you are there, which served as a Confederate base, and other elements of the Civil War since it was a stronghold for the states that seceded in the 1860s.

8. You will discover lots of outdoor activities to enjoy.
When you start living in Wilmington, then a trip to the beach will become a regular part of the routine. The rest of the state has several opportunities for you to explore the outdoors as well. You can head out to the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy a relaxing day at Lake Normal, or take on a challenging course at the National Whitewater Center if you want. There are plenty of hiking, cycling, and fishing choices available so that you can be as active as you want to be. Hunting during the autumn is a popular pastime as well.

9. You can avoid suburbia while living in Wilmington.
With its location in the Outer Banks, Wilmington is the place to be if you love the beach. There are several that are within a short drive of each other when living in the city. It is a charming town that is quaint and historic, even if there are expanding areas that feel more like a modern city. The city encourages locally-owned businesses instead of chain stores and franchises. Small businesses are available at a higher density than in most other areas of the United States. Then you can enjoy the laid-back, slightly eclectic lifestyle that is waiting for you here.

10. There is some incredible beer in Wilmington.
Cape Fear Wine and Beer is going to become one of your next favorite things if you start to live in the city. This place offers massages, bar games, and much more throughout the week. There is an extensive selection of local choices on tap as well. With micro-brews popping up all over the place and a culture that encourages home brewing, you will find that there always seems to be something new to try when living here.

List of the Cons of Living in Wilmington, NC

1. There may be fewer career options for you in Wilmington.
You’ll find that Wilmington is a large metro area with plenty of jobs, but it is not the most career-friendly destination that you will find in the state. It is a service-orientated atmosphere, so many of the positions that are available tend to involve hospitality and tourism. You can find some work in retail and the restaurant industry as well. The only exceptions to this disadvantage are for individuals who hold an educational degree or have a background in science, mathematics, or engineering.

It is usually a good idea to line up a job before living in Wilmington to ensure you can take care of your financial obligations. If you are an entrepreneur looking to build a startup, then the tech influences in the city could be helpful.

2. Crime in the city is a factor that you must consider.
Most people believe that Wilmington is a safe place to live and work. As with most communities, there are some places that are safer than others, so you will want to check the crime stats for your neighborhood. Compared to the rest of the state, it is significantly higher. There are 4,318 reported incidents of property crime and 626 violent crime reports for every 100,000 people here, which is double what you will experience in the rest of North Carolina. Those rates are also more than twice what the national average currently is in the United States, which is why Area Vibes rates the city with a F grade in this area.

3. Rental costs are 7% higher in Wilmington.
If you are used to living in a high-cost area, then the $872 average for rent in Wilmington might not seem like a big deal. When you look at the median cost for renting in the rest of North Carolina, then you’ll discover that you will pay about $60 per month more for a basic apartment. When you combine this disadvantage with the fact that the median home income level of $43,855 is 9% lower than the rest of the state, affordability can become a significant problem to manage for some families.

4. Traffic problems occur frequently in Wilmington.
You won’t find the same traffic problems in Wilmington that you would in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. when living here. What you will discover is an old-style grid system in the city planning that was originally meant for transportation needs before the invention of the automobile. As the city has started expanding into the larger metro area, the amount of people combined with the frequent intersections can make traffic clog up quickly. There are efforts in place to improve this infrastructure, but it will take the city some more time to get those improvements open.

5. You will lose the benefit of four distinctive seasons.
If you move to Wilmington from somewhere further north and more toward the interior of the country, then you will lose the benefit of having four diverse seasons to enjoy. The summers in the city are warm enough that a trip to the beach isn’t always enough to cool things down. Snow is rare in the city as well, but you can travel into the mountains to experience it if you want. This issue might be an advantage if you want warm temperatures all year long, but it can be a problematic change for some people.

6. There is a hurricane risk for you to consider.
Hurricanes sometimes make their way toward North Carolina, so the location on the coast can be problematic if a storm is strong enough. You’ll need to keep an eye on the weather forecasts starting in June, and then the active season lasts until the end of November. Because a typical homeowners’ policy does not cover flood damage, you’ll want to make sure that your insurance is active and fully covers your possessions to avoid the risk of a financial loss. Make sure that you abide by any evacuation orders that are issued for your neighborhood as well.

The pros and cons of living in Wilmington, NC provide a glimpse of the benefits and challenges to expect. You can still find affordable housing here and have access to the beach, but you will want to find a job before moving. You’ll want to be prepared for the higher crime rate as well so that you and your family can stay safe.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.