Submitted by Scott Pickey on Mon, 12/20/2010 - 1:01pm.

By ROBERT WILLEY Stroll along the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C., and you can feel a little Savannah or Charleston just itching to get out. The city’s downtown has been that way for years: highly walkable, with pockets of real beauty and charm, forever promising a sleepy coolness that never quite materialized. But the area is starting to wake up. There’s a handsomely renovated amphitheater a short hop from the main drag, Front Street. And the dining and night-life scene is finally hitting its stride, with a serious cocktail spot unencumbered by speakeasy shtick, a new farmhouse-inflected restaurant that shows big-time chops in the kitchen, and more. The return of beach weather isn’t the only thing to look forward to around here. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY AND SEE A SLIDE SHOW:

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