The holiday season is upon us and you have a multitude of holiday events and parties to attend.  And to break through the clutter, we have pulled together some seasonal off the beaten path and special coastal traditions to try first-hand in Wilmington, N.C., and our island beaches.

Here’s a roundup of unique coastal holiday experiences from the river to the sea:

Seasonal Shows in One-of-a-Kind Performance Venues

Performing ArtsOur version of A Carolina Nutcracker is the area’s only full-length ballet staging of the holiday favorite with performances taking place in the brand new CFCC Humanities & Fine Arts CenterCoastal Carolina Christmas, a concert of carols by the Wilmington Boys Choir and selections from Handel's Messiah by the Choir of St. Paul's, soloists and chamber orchestra, will take place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, known for its splendid Gothic-revival sanctuary with two magnificent pipe organs. Thalian Hall – one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in America – will host the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol.

Family Holiday Events Festivities Found Only at the Coast

Jingle Bell RunThe newly renovated Carolina Beach Boardwalk is the site for this year’s Christmas by the Sea. Activities include visits from Santa, storytelling around a fire pit, a live nativity scene, holiday movies at the gazebo, ornament making and more. The Wilmington Railroad Museum features a new train display for its perennial Christmas Train & Light Spectacular. Kids can type up their Christmas list on a vintage typewriter using authentic WWII radio message paper as part of a new event taking place at the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, A Very Merry Showboat. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher’s Holiday Elf Camps delight children with holiday crafts and educational programs.


Historic Holiday Charm and an Old-Style Christmas by the RiverHorse Drawn Carriage

Visit elegant historic homes and other sites during the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour. The Southeast Tourism Society has voted this event as one of its Top 20 Events. Luminaries will light your way as you explore a Christmas Stroll Through the Past. Go back in time for an old-fashioned Christmas with period decorations, costumed interpreters and even a miniature animal petting zoo. Make sure you leave time for some holiday magic: Christmas Caroling with Santa and his “Reindeer” is a very special holiday horse drawn carriage tour of Downtown Wilmington.

Luminous Lights Make the Wilmington Area one of the Brightest Destinations in North Carolina

Enchanted Airlie ColumnsAnother “Top 20” event according to the Southeast Tourism Society, Enchanted Airlie has been a Wilmington tradition since 2005, featuring 750,000 lights. It’s the 25th Anniversary of the Island of Lights Festival featuring lights along Carolina Beach and Kure Beach with signature events such as the Christmas Parade, the Holiday Flotilla and the New Year’s Eve Countdown Party with a DJ and giant lighted beach ball drop with fireworks at midnight. In Downtown Wilmington, there’s a Holiday Lights Cruise of the river!

To find dates and details for these events and others, please visit the Wilmington and Beaches calendar of events and seasonal Holiday Highlights pages. Here you will find featured events, special offers, event preview videos and a link to a downloadable holiday events brochure with more than 50 themed events now through New Year’s Eve.