Horse-drawn Carriage Tours
Cobblestone streets overhung with stately shade trees are central to Wilmington's's downtown charm, and on any given day you'll see a horse-drawn carriage clip-clopping along with a driver who stops, starts, points, gestures and impedes traffic in every direction at numerous points of interest in the course of delivering a historic narrative peppered with restaurant recommendations.
Springbrook Farms is a charter member of CONA, Carriage Operators of North America, and has been touring downtown streets for 22 years, using rescued horses that are humanely treated. Your tour guide is likely to introduce the horses before introducing himself, and one of the first things he'll tell you is that, on a rotating basis, pairs of its 12 percheron draft horses pull carriages of tourists through the waterfront district, on average about one day a week. During the rest of the week, they spend their days in a pasture. That's an enviable work schedule.
The standard carriage tour begins on Market Street between Water and Front streets. It moves south along Water Street, pointing out the vintage buildings on the riverfront that once were warehouses and now are shops and restaurants. The guide will point out Governor Dudley's mansion, the first popularly elected North Carolina governor, and an oyster bar he thinks is the best in town. It's not the most all-encompassing tour you will find, or anywhere close to it; for that you'd need to look at some of the faster-moving conveyances. But for atmosphere it would be real hard to beat.
At Easter time, the horses are decked out with bunny ears. They wear holiday-appropriate accessories for the Halloween Ghost rides, the Thanksgiving Turkey rides, and the Christmas Reindeer rides.
Reservations are not needed for 45-minute daily tours that run year-round, April through October, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and, November through March, from 11 a.m. through 10 p.m. Special pick-ups and smaller, more intimate carriages are available on request.