1. Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum:
Where a windy day takes on new meaning. Vollis Simpson created sculptures that, with the slightest breeze, would come alive –spinning, dancing. Vollis found harmony in marrying the unexpected to form the fantastic. He called these works of folk art Whirligigs. Today, his work can be found in museums around the world. But the largest collection of his Whirligigs are right here in Wilson. Inside the park that bears his name you’ll find 31 kinetic sculptures. Some are over 50 feet in height. Stop by and look at the sky on a windy day. You’ll be amazed and inspired. You’ll never think of junk the same way again.
2. Wilson Botanical Gardens:
Where beauty is always in bloom. Eleven acres and 18 gardens are there for the exploring at Wilson Botanical Gardens. Discover new blooms and learn a bit at this educational garden where the staff are friendly and helpful. They can tell you what plants grow best in warmer climates. They can tell you what plants will attract birds. But what most visitors see is a whole lot of pretty. The facility hosts thousands of varieties of plants. There are flower gardens, hosta gardens and pondside gardens. There’s even a secret garden with raining sunflowers, a dino dig and garden tunnel for the young or young at heart. Drop by to learn more. Or just to relax and bask in the pretty.
3. County Line Raceway:
Where adrenaline comes with a “ZOOM” attached. There’s something hypnotic about watching a race at County Line Raceway. Maybe it’s the sound of the engines reaching deep for that next lap. Maybe it’s the tension of multiple cars lined up bumper to bumper, one wrong move away from a crash. Maybe it’s the cheers of the crowd, yelling encouragement and back-seat driving from the stands. Maybe it’s all those things combined. But when you’re here, you don’t want to be anywhere else. For that brief moment you’re locked on that clay oval –watching, hoping, waiting for the checkered flag to crown a winner and end your suspense. That’s racing in Wilson.
4. Parkers Barbecue:
Where napkins are never in short supply. When Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson, NC opened in August 1946, a door connected two buildings, providing access to two very different dining experiences. To the left, there were oysters, which you could pair with whatever liquor you packed; to the right, barbecue and sweet tea. Today only the Barbecue remains. Each week, Parker’s smokes about 150 whole hogs — which are chopped and seasoned with a vinegar-and-red-pepper sauce — and fries about 8,000 chickens for 20,000 customers. We suggest you head over early to grab a space in line. You may also want to grab a fist full of napkins. If you’re not getting messy eating this barbecue, you’re not doing it right.
5. Imagination Station:
Where curiosity is the queen bee. With spinning whirligigs and galleries lining its streets, Wilson is a town that rewards imagination. So it’s only fitting that there is a Museum in the heart of Downtown called Imagination Station. Here, kids young and old can explore, create, ask questions and leave boredom on the sidewalk. Hop on a snowboard machine to test your balance. Race a friend up the climbing wall. Watch Honey Bees inside their hive and try to spot the Queen. Give your mind a chance to play without guardrails and who knows how you could change the world.
6. Wilson Arts Center:
Where local art takes on a bigger meaning. Walk into the immense space at the Wilson Arts Center and try not to gawk. Formerly a Roses department store, this lovingly restored, bright gallery space now features a cleverly curated display of art exhibitions and a large gift shop. The gallery welcomes a rotating cast of community and professional artists and their works. The gallery shop contains some one-of-a-kind gifts. Some are so tempting you many want to treat yourself.
7. Beefmastor Inn:
Where tailgating becomes part of the meal. Beefmastor is a small, ten table restaurant that has attracted local and national attention. It doesn’t offer combo meals. You won’t find seasonal specials or a catch of the day. In fact, this little restaurant in Wilson is known for not really having a menu at all. They serve ribeye steak, a baked potato and salad. That’s it. The owners wanted to keep things simple and concentrate on doing one thing well. Judging by the size of the crowds tailgating in the parking lot, it seems to be working out for them. So if you’re hungry for ribeye, and only ribeye, pop on over for a not-so-quick bite.
8. Boone’s Antiques:
Where the inventory is measured in acres. When you can talk about your inventory in terms of acres, you’re not just a store. You’re a destination. Such is the case with Boone’s Antiques. This Wilson store holds the largest treasure trove of antiques on the East Coast, if not the entire country. Their inventory is procured from all over the world. Looking for an early 19th century French Gilt Console table? They have it. Need a Vernis Martin style grandfather clock? They have that, too. Give yourself a day or more to browse and decide what you’re taking home. Boone’s ships globally. So there’s no need to worry about how to get that antique armoire in the backseat.
9. Wilson Doughnut Shop:
Where donuts have been a fixture since God was a boy. They say you can’t buy happiness. But you can buy donuts and that’s kind of the same thing. That’s why we recommend you stop by the Wilson Donut Shop. This place has been a fixture in Wilson since God was a boy. They serve a full menu for breakfast and lunch. But who are we kidding? You’re here for those circular bites of heaven. Grab some chocolate iced and cream filled donuts. Or pick up some giant eclairs and blueberry poppers. Either way, your sweet tooth will find just what it’s craving.
10. Lake Wilson:
Where 320 acres of outdoors is only minutes from downtown. This park covers over 320 acres and has some of the best hiking and biking around. Visitors will find two looping trails that circle the lake. The inner loop is about 1.33 miles and the outer loop 1.76 miles. The trails are mostly flat except for one hill about halfway around. Along the paths a bridge will take you over the back of the lake and around the bottom side of the dam. The trails start and end at the parking lot. So just when you think you’re getting tired, you’re back at your car.