20 March 2015

Do's and Don'ts of North Carolina

The America Series

This is the fourth post in my America travelling series. If you’d like to catch up on part one, two and three, you can do so here, here and here.

My sister and I get a lot of people asking us ‘why did you go to North Carolina? What’s there?’ The truth is: we wanted to visit the filming locations of some of our favourite TV shows including One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek.

We did just that – but firstly there were a lot of obstacles in our path. If you ever travel to America purely for this reason, then please learn from our mistakes! Here are my do’s and don’ts for visiting North Carolina.

Do your research and make sure you get a flight to the right place.

America was my sister’s first travelling trip (not a holiday might I add, a budget travelling trip) and she was in charge of booking the flights while I was away on my first travelling trip. She didn’t read up on where the filming locations were, she listened to some spiel from our contact at the agency we went through and hey presto, before we knew it, we were travelling to Charlotte (not Wilmington where OTH and Dawson’s Creek were actually filmed). Shit.

Don’t stay at the Hilton Gateway Village hotel in Charlotte…

…Unless you want to pay ALL OF THE MONEY in taxes that they add onto your stay. When I was looking for a hotel in Charlotte, this was the best option at the time in terms of location and value for money. Had I realised just how much it was actually going to cost in the end, I might have stayed somewhere else. Having said that, there was nothing wrong with the hotel apart from the cost - in fact, it was pretty damn nice!

Do call up Greyhound buses the day before you travel with them.

Whilst researching how to get to Wilmington, I found Greyhound to be the most cost-effective travel method. Sure, we were going to be on a bus for eight hours for £35 return – but it beat getting an hour and a half flight for £200 return. However, we turned up on the day and found out that the bus timetable had changed and nobody from the company had thought to inform us. Hence us having to wait SIX AND A HALF HOURS for the next bus. Cheers, Greyhound.

Don’t expect a line of taxis to be queueing up outside Wilmington bus station.

We arrived at 10pm to a completely deserted bus station. If it wasn’t for the nice American man who found a taxi number on his phone and let us share his cab, then we would have been stranded in a strange place when we were tired and cranky from the day’s events.

Do go to Waffle House on Market Street.

Now having those bad boys for breakfast the next day would put a smile on anybody’s face! DE-LIC-IOUS! Plus it’s as cheap as chips.

Don’t be surprised if the locals are shocked to hear you’re from England.

When visiting Dunkin’ Donuts, a young American guy was listening to us debating whether we wanted a Valentines-themed pink heart-shaped donut or a cookie-dough-filled round donut. (It's a tough decision.) He then proceeded to cry out in alarm, ‘OMG ARE YOU BRITISH?!’ You’d think he was genuinely excited if it wasn’t for the look of disgust on his face. He must not get many British people coming into his workplace and he must not like them. Needless to say, we grabbed our donuts and ran.

Do the Hollywood Film Location Walk in Downtown Wilmington.

This two hour walking tour around Downtown Wilmington was excellent and so cheap for a tenner! Our guide took us to multiple filming locations of OTH, Dawson’s Creek, A Walk to Remember, We are the Millers and Iron Man 3 amongst many other movies and TV shows! He was so down to earth, friendly and knowledgeable – I couldn’t recommend this tour enough!

Don’t expect the local bus to take you directly to Wrightsville Beach.

For all those who don’t know, Wrightsville Beach is where they shot multiple scenes in Dawson’s Creek – including the Opening Credits montage under the pier. On the day of our mission to Wrightsville Beach, we were told which bus to get, where from and when to get off. What the bus driver failed to mention to us was the fact that the beach was an hour and a half’s walk from where she dropped us off. Once we’d figured out where we were going, we eventually got there and man… It was so worth it.

Do have a wander around Downtown Wilmington.

Downtown Wilmington is quite small but big enough to fill a few hours. It’s on the river front so it’s very pretty, and there are tons of cute little shops, bars and restaurants to explore. We went to a café/restaurant for brunch and ended up staying there for three hours! It had fab food, great music and an even greater atmosphere.

Don’t expect to get in a taxi without the taxi driver wanting to know your life story…

…This is Americans all over. I absolutely adore how warm and friendly there are though. Britons are miserable in comparison (or most Britons anyway)!

Do explore the nightlife in Downtown Wilmington.

We’d met someone in LA who was from Wilmington and he told us to check out Side Bar. We pulled up outside, got out and were ready to go in – then we heard some commotion across the road. What we saw was a little bar packed full of people drinking, laughing and having a good time, so naturally we decided to go in there instead. There was a cover charge as a band were about to go on stage, but my sister and I love live music so this didn’t faze us. We paid the cover charge and in we went! We met some really fun guys, danced along to the band and ended up having one of the best nights out we’ve ever had! I’ve since learned that the bar is called The Whiskey and the band was Flannel Rebellion. Not to sound like a total American but THANKS, YOU GUYS!

Don’t go out the night before you’re supposed to be taking a Greyhound bus.

This results in sleeping through your alarm and having to arrange alternate travel plans whilst hungover. These plans are likely to be worse than your original plans (i.e. a three hour bus, two hour wait and then a four hour train) and make you die a little bit inside. Seriously peeps, don’t do it!

We had an amazing time in Wilmington and felt really sad that we had to head back to Charlotte to catch our flight out of North Carolina. I would love to go back to Wilmington someday but I would give Charlotte a miss as there wasn’t a lot to see or do (in my opinion). We were told by one of our taxi drivers that Charlotte is a relatively new city and the perfect place to get to on your way to somewhere else as the travel connections are really good. But, other than that, there’s not a lot going for it.

Next time I will be sure to book the flight directly to Wilmington! (Face palm!)


(Have you been to North Carolina before? Do you like the look of Wilmington from my photos? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)


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