We celebrated our five year wedding anniversary back in June. Brian and I are not big gift people; we would both much rather have an experience than a possession. This being said, instead of giving presents or going out for an extravagant dinner, we opted for a mini adventure! Crazy as it may seem, in the 29 years of my Raleigh residency, I have never been to Wilmington, NC. For those not familiar with North Carolina, Wilmington is the closest coastal area from where I live - a quick two hour drive down the highway. Brian had never been either, so we started planning our day trip around this destination.
Brian, Lola, and I were in the car by 8:30 AM loaded up with granola bars, water, and dog treats (she is spoiled, what can I say). After the two hour trek, we arrived at our first destination. Since we decided to bring Lola along for the fun, we had to make sure all of our stops in Wilmington were dog friendly. Enter Java Dog Coffee House. This coffee shop allows dogs inside so we were able to sit for a spell in their air-conditioned shop fueling up for the day on iced coffees.
Total spent: $8
We occupied the next few hours by meandering through downtown, basically pressing our faces up against storefront windows and drooling at the menus posted outside of restaurants. Sadly, we didn't get a chance to go into many places since we had our pup with us, but we did venture into the more residential area downtown. Ya'll, the houses in downtown Wilmington are stunners! The architecture alone is gorgeous, but couple that with Spanish moss, antique brick pavers, and fluorescent crepe myrtles, this stroll was a feast for my old-house loving eyes. I would gladly go back to Wilmington just to house stalk, it was that good.
Total spent: $0
After a few hours of walking, we decided it was time for lunch. I really wanted to eat at an establishment on the waterfront, so we checked out The George. I have found that sometimes restaurants with a view slack on food quality since visitors will probably flock there regardless, but The George on the Riverwalk is not in that boat. The food was incredible, especially for the price. The best part about The George is that they have a beautiful outdoor dining area where dogs are welcome with sweeping views of the water. I HIGHLY recommend the veggie burger.
Total spent: $32 with tip
I am a water girl at heart, so I couldn't be that close to the beach without putting my toes in the sand. Fort Fisher, a nearby state park, is about 35 minutes from downtown so we hopped back in the car and headed for the dunes. Fort Fisher is a hidden gem. Tucked away underneath a canopy of weather-beaten trees, the fort offers a maze of boardwalks leading to lovely views of the sound. Just a hop, skip, and a jump across the street, you have - an albeit small - but pristine sandy beach perfect for sunbathing. We took a raggedy old blanket and enjoyed both the ocean and sound sides of the area.
Total spent: $0
For happy hour, we found ourselves back in downtown Wilmington strolling along the riverfront. After lunch, we had passed this adorable little cafe that might of well have been straight out of Paris. We circled back to Le Catalan, a French wine bar nestled into a sunny corner of the boardwalk. We lingered over a bottle of white wine while enjoying a playlist of peppy French music before preparing to head back home.
Total spent: $36 with tip.
Earlier in our trip, we had passed a sign for an establishment called "Elizabeth's Pizza" displaying a giant banner boasting it was voted best pizza in Wilmington. I LOVE pizza, so of course, we had to give it a go. Our half cheese, half jalepeno pizza came out piping hot and was the perfect ending to our Wilmington outing. Give this girl pizza over an extravagant dinner any day.
Total spent: $14
As you may have already surmised, I am a prettttyyyy frugal person. My sister may argue that I am cheap, but I prefer the former term. :) Frugal was the name of the game for our anniversary adventure, and I am happy to report that the whole day (including parking fees of $7 and a tank of gas for $23) cost under $120. One HUGE way to save when traveling is to avoid hotels. I am sure wherever you live there are dozens of adorable little towns within driving distance that are ripe for exploring. A fancy anniversary dinner out would have set us back about the same amount, and I am so glad we opted to spend the day exploring and making little memories.