In Wilson you’ll find history is well preserved - the Whirligig Park, the North Carolina Baseball Museum and antique shops galore. Historic downtown Wilson is also teeming with new energy from the Arts Council of Wilson’s theatrical productions to Imagination Station, a hands-on science museum for all. Our recommendation? Stock up on homegrown produce at the farmer’s market followed by a browse around a local art gallery. Finish the day at one of our local breweries or restaurants!
Several entities exist to promote cultural arts in Wilson County; one being the Arts Council of Wilson. Each year the Arts Council hosts ten or so exhibitions in the galleries of the Wilson Arts Center and Edna Boykin Cultural Center. The Arts Council hosts a variety of live professional performances including dance, music, theatre and more. Interactive programs through the Arts Council include workshops, lectures, gallery tours, outreach programs and many other activities for all ages – you won’t want to miss the Act! For Youth series that showcase local young talent each year.
The Shoestring Theatre in Wilson is sponsored and funded by the Recreation Department under the supervision of a full-time director. The Shoestring Theatre offers workshops and classes and produces full-length plays for and with young people of all ages. The season consists of about seven productions, a mix of musicals, comedies, mysteries and more.
Imagination Station, eastern North Carolina's only Hands-on Science Museum is located in downtown Wilson. The science and technology center exists to be a resource to eastern North Carolina families, schools systems, teachers and students to create an exciting learning environment where everyone has the special power to explore science while having fun.
Known as the 'City of Antiques,’ Wilson is home to enough antique shops to satisfy even the most avid collector! From Boone’s Antiques, Inc. to Fulford Antique Warehouse, you’ll find over 30 stores offering classic design from the 18th and 19th century. The Wilson Visitors Center has a complete list of purveyors of fine (and old!) furnishings from all over the world.
Vollis Simpson & His Whirligigs, Whirligig Park and Restoration
Colorful "whirligigs" created by local folk artist Vollis Simpson rise and whirl high above Wilson commemorating the life and work of a Wilson-born veteran and farmer. Wilson is home to the largest collection of whirligigs in the world with hundreds of the kinetic sculptures sprinkled throughout the county. Simpson’s whirligigs, made from recycled metal machinery, are a distinct fixture in our community’s art heritage. Sound familiar? You may have seen a Vollis Simpson original in your journeys! He has featured in folk art exhibitions in New York, California, Canada, London and Russia. Simpson was commissioned to create permanent installations for the 1994 Olympic Games in Atlanta, The North Carolina Museum of Art, and The Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.
2010 saw the beginnings of an initiative for the restoration and preservation of whirligigs. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum in historic downtown Wilson was developed and opened for the permanent enjoyment of the unique visionary works, and when the breeze is just right, you can hear them singing a mile away! The Park & Museum have breathed new life into the downtown area with numerous projects springing up around it, our office being one such. Nearby you’ll find a local brewery, new coffee shops, an artisan pizzeria, and stylish loft apartments. The Park is home to a summer concert series and the farmers market twice a week. Of course, its headlining event is the Wilson Whirligig Festival, held annually during the first weekend of November. This award-winning arts festival attracts more than 50,000 people each year with local food vendors, artisan design booths and live entertainment.