At Cape Fear Riverboats, we’ve been giving Cape Fear River cruises for 25 years, and we have seen some changes in downtown Wilmington! Recently we reflected on a few of the changes we’ve seen since we started the 21st century. Here are just a few of the ways downtown Wilmington NC has changed since 2000.

New Arrivals on the River

Pier 33 and Port City Marina arrived, enlarging Wilmington’s downtown. The marina offers floating docks for yachts up to 250′, an on-site store, and a complimentary airport shuttle. Pier 33, surrounded by water on three sides, will host concerts and private events.

Goodbye to the Henrietta

Henrietta In Review

We sailed the Henrietta III on the Cape Fear River From 2000 – 2015. The ship was named for the first Henrietta, a steamboat that ran between Wilmington and Fayetteville from 1818 until 1848. We miss her, but we love the Capt. J.N. Maffitt, the John Knox, and our newest boat, Jacob’s Run!

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Third Street Expands

The recently-finished bridge from Martin Luther King Parkway into Third Street in downtown Wilmington includes four travel lanes and a center turn lane, with space for bicyclists and extra-wide sidewalks. The MLK Parkway was extended into downtown just a few years ago.

Film Industry Explodes—and Declines

Wilmington’s reputation as Hollywood East soared with new films and TV shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. More recently the industry has declined, but Screen Gems Studios and some other stalwart film companies and workers remain, hoping for a comeback for Wilmywood’s talent.

Craft Breweries Come to Town

Waterline Brewing Company on Surry Street is the latest in a long list of craft breweries setting up shop in downtown Wilmington. Look for New Anthem and Edward Teach Brewing to open soon.

Ziggy’s Changes Hands, Again

The concert venue that was most recently Ziggy’s by the Sea will be known as The Throne Theater after an extensive renovation. The building opened as the Manor Theater in 1941 and showed movies until 1985. More recently the site was a series of nightclubs including The Brikhouse, Hammerjax, and Jacob’s Run.

Storefronts Come and Go

Old Books on Front Street moved a block up after shifting in the walls during road construction on Front Street. The Soapbox, Wilmington’s music venue and laundromat, is gone, but downtown Wilmington welcomed three grocery stores on Front Street (Gourmet Market, Village Market, and Downtown Convenience Stop) with another on its way (Farmin’ on Front).

The Many Restaurant Changes


Our favorite new restaurant is the expanded River Grille, of course! At the foot of Dock Street across from our ticket booth, this waterfront eatery serves up casual fare as well as beer and wine in an open-air, covered venue that lets the river breeze in. Join us!

Other changes include Slice of Life, which moved into more spacious quarters across Market Street, and the addition of Chops Deli, Platypus and Gnome, and Pinpoint. Mangia!

These are just a few of the changes we’ve seen in recent years. What other changes have you seen in downtown Wilmington since 2000?

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