Take a stroll through Wilson’s art community. Stretch your abstract thinking with avant-garde sculptures made from found objects. Reimagine the tobacco leaf as a signature piece. Awaken your senses with palette pleasing confections and fresh from the tap new craft beers. This small town holds a large amount of talent.
2 days | 16 stops
STOP 1: Treat Yo’Self
Make every day a treat day. Step into this modern, chic artisanal bakery and bring a hanky for the drool. Try a signature cupcake–brilliant concoctions inspired by swiss roll snack cakes, Cap’n crunch berries–or pick from some traditional flavors. What’s available depends on the baker’s imagination that week. You’ll also find heavenly breads, scones, cookies, and pastries with the best coffee in town. There’s always something new on the menu, so stop in, treat yo’self, and discover why it was voted Wilson’s favorite bakery by Reader’s Choice Magazine.
STOP 2: Iconostar
Inside the stark white, former gas station that holds Iconostart Art, you’ll find bright, bold, beautifully provocative art. Giant, mosaic sculptures will be the first thing to catch your eye. The signature pieces of artist Elizabeth Laul Healy fill this contemporary working studio and shop. Get up close to appreciate the intricate detail. Spend some time studying the vivid paintings, t-shirts, and jewelry--they’re anything but boring.
STOP 3: The Selkie
Shop The Selkie and walk away with funky, artisan pieces to customize your wardrobe and your home. Just a short walk from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, this unconventional gift shop celebrates North Carolina creatives from across the state. Don’t miss the handmade leather jewelry by owner Amanda Duncan or the interactive Art-o-mat machine which dispenses miniature art.
STOP 4: Bills' Grill
Everyone loves a good home cooked meal, and Bill’s Grill loves serving them. Their family-style restaurant serves comfort food made with fresh and homemade ingredients. Their portions are large, so come hungry. Try the hamburger steak plate with okra and onion rings. Regulars love it for the friendly service and their favorite cheeseburger. Visitors will soon be repeat customers once they taste the homemade cakes and brownies.
STOP 5: Sugar Plum Shoppe
If you have a hankering for a great Southern sandwich like pimento cheese or chicken salad, head straight to Sugar Plum for their boxed lunch. Each comes with a deviled egg, chips, and a beverage, just the way your grandmama served it. Peek in the case at the day’s selection of baked goods. Butterscotch pretzel cookies? Carrot cake cupcakes? Don’t mind if I do.
STOP 6: Wilson Arts Center
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.
STOP 7: Artisan Leaf
See tobacco leaves transformed into art. Wilson’s local fields once overflowed with thick, hairy stems and large simple oval leaves. Today, their fields are not quite as abundant with tobacco, but one local store has found a new way to bring this cash crop back to life and, in the process, pay respects to local history. In this gallery, tobacco leaves are not cured and smoked. They are manipulated into various works of art. They are pressed into tables. They are affixed into wall panels. They are transformed into amber-veined tabletops, mugs, plates and vases. Each piece is as unique as the leaf it was created from.
STOP 8: Brewmaster
There is no doubt, and once you have their sandwiches or pizza, you’ll agree Brewmaster's food is pretty amazing.The signature sandwich, “The Wilsonian,” is as ‘Wilson’ as it gets. They use only use the best Boar’s Head meats and cheeses and they pride themselves on their craft sandwiches and their rotating taps of craft beers.This is not some high-end, razzle-dazzle joint, but a down-to-earth family-oriented restaurant that prides itself on delicious food and exceptional customer experiences.
STOP 9: Whirligig Park/Museum
Vollis Simpson created sculptures that, with the slightest breeze, would come alive --spinning, dancing. Vollis found a 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.
STOP 10: Barnes Corner Gallery
Looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member? How about a beautiful glass sculpture or a one-of-kind portrait of your child or pet? Look no further than the Barnes Corner Gallery. Find pieces from local and regional artists the moment you walk through the door. From pottery to paintings, every piece of art tells a story in a different medium. Even the building itself has a story to tell. . .first built as a saloon in 1900, it was a furniture store, and even a funeral home before it became an inspiring space that celebrates the arts.
STOP 11: Eyes on Main Street
The windows of two storefronts of Goldsboro Street give you a glimpse into one of Wilson’s most intriguing galleries. Eyes on Main Street showcases exhibits from local and international artists. Each fall, the exhibit takes to the streets and visitors are invited to walk through an outdoor gallery of epic proportions at the annual Eyes on Main Street Festival. Nine city blocks in the downtown historic district showcase large-scale photographs in storefront windows, on walls, and buildings. Brilliant snapshots of life from other parts of the world stand out in stark contrast to the historic buildings that act as their gallery walls. Starting in October, the festival runs for 150 days and showcases 100 photographers from 38 countries. This mile-long art walk is not to be missed.
STOP 12: Ruckus & Redemption
When the drink menu includes a signature cocktail called Gunshot Bicycle Man, you know the meal is going to be a topic of conversation. That’s exactly what you get at Ruckus & Redemption. Located right in Downtown Wilson, this unpretentious little restaurant offers some big flavors to satisfy any appetite. The food is American with a Southern kick. Burgers are served topped in Pimento Cheese. Brussel sprouts are fried with pork belly. Cocktails go down easy. Maybe too easy. Come hungry and with a belt you can loosen a couple notches.
STOP 13: The Edge
The Edge embodies the ethos of 'pushing the edge' through new ideas, challenges and finding solutions through creativity. Using art to bring people together in discussion and thoughts is the main reason this space has been created. Come inside for original art or studio experiences.
STOP 14: Rummage Warehouse
10,000 square feet of vintage treasure hunting. If you need more reason than that to head to the Rummage Warehouse know that their stock changes weekly as they comb estate sales and find the signature pieces you’ve been looking for. If you’re always on the lookout for holiday items, stop in Culbreth and Company. Catering to the Christmas season year-round, here’s the spot for ornaments and Christmas collectibles, and everything you need to make your home merry and bright. Two shops under one roof, now that’s a fun find.
STOP 15: The Gallery NC
This funky shop features luxury streetwear clothing with a Wilson twist, and art exclusively from local artists. Owners Greg Boseman and Alexander Anthony collaborate with local artists to present their work–abstract floor art, poured paint creations, and more. Hours are by appointment only.
STOP 16: Casita Brewing
Across from the Whirligig Park, check out the giant mural at Casita Brewing Company. The mural was a community art project--and made a valiant attempt to earn a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records for the most contributions to a paint-by-numbers painting. Get up close and take a look. Grab a brew while you’re there and leave a generous tip if you’re inclined, 25% of all tips are donated to a different nonprofit each month.