This year has been far from normal and has us all wanting to spend time outdoors as long as the weather permits. This holiday season, don’t get your tinsel in a tangle – head to Wilmington to participate in special holiday traditions that keep being outdoors in season through the holidays and beyond. Wilmington is here to bring you cheer and doing so with safety in mind, so head to the coast to participate in festivities like a “reindeer-drawn” carriage ride and enchanted gardens adorned with millions of twinkling lights, along with holiday events and shopping by the sea.
Enchanted Lights & Holiday Sights
Holiday lights brighten up festive nights in Wilmington. Wander through Enchanted Airlie to discover more than 67 acres of seasonally decorated gardens complete with one million twinkling lights, holiday flowers and musical entertainment the entire family will love. Tickets are still available through the Enchanted Airlie hotel package and includes guaranteed admission, a hotel stay and transportation to the gardens. This year’s event is taking place from Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 4-22. Or, visit the Cape Fear Festival of Trees at Mayfaire Town Center from Nov. 21 through Dec. 24 to vote on your favorite tree, take a few festive photos or find the perfect holiday wreath or commemorative ornament to add to your collection.
Hop aboard a “reindeer-drawn” carriage or trolley ride Dec. 18-19 and Dec. 23-24 to carol along the cobblestone streets of historic downtown Wilmington. The perfect excursion for the whole family, Santa may even make an appearance with a special treat for the little ones! Or, download the Wilmington History Tours app to embark on a self-guided walking tour of the historic district and check out homes adorned in holiday style.
Experience the holidays coastal style by setting sail on the water with Wilmington Water Tours’ Spirit of the Holidays Cruise, Nov. 27 & 28. Start a new holiday tradition as you cruise along the Cape Fear River taking in the sounds, sounds and smells of the holidays with live music and holiday cheer from the boat’s full bar.
Escape the mall madness and take the stress out of holiday shopping at one of Wilmington’s holiday markets, outdoor pedestrian-friendly shopping villages or local shops found downtown. Peruse a variety of vintage, retro and up-cycled antique treasures set against the backdrop of a historic church at the Holiday Flea at the BAC Dec. 4-6, where you’ll also find food trucks, a coffee shop and a bar to keep you fueled for a full day of shopping. Visit Lumina Station, an open-air, pedestrian-friendly shopping village, to wander through a collection of charming, locally-owned boutiques complemented by beautiful landscaping, whimsical sculptures and storybook bridges. Or, find the perfect gift for the art lover in your life at Cameron Art Museum’s gift shop.
Head to downtown Wilmington to visit The Cotton Exchange or Chandler’s Wharf Warehouse Shops & Galleries, both offering a unique collection of shops perfect for knocking out shopping for the whole family in one stop.
Get in the holiday spirit at A Christmas Shoppe, Wilmington’s only year-round Christmas store, to find traditional and coastal decorations to help you deck your home’s halls. And don’t head home without a stop at Barr Evergreens Christmas Trees to pick out the perfect Fraser fir.
Voted “Best Gift Shop in Wilmington” year after year and located in midtown, you’ll find the best of local artisans at Blue Moon Gift Shops. With more than 100 artisans, craftsmen and retailers offering handmade wares, there’s something to satisfy even those hard-to-shop-for friends.
Historic Home Events & More
Visit the past to explore one of downtown Wilmington’s beautifully decorated historic homes. Step back in time at the Colonial Christmas Open House & Market at the Burgwin-Wright House on Dec. 12 to experience the holidays like the home’s original residents in the 1700s. In addition to holiday décor, period live music and costumed interpreters, enjoy holiday shopping at the outdoor garden market featuring more than 20 local vendors.
Artist-made lanterns light up the season at Art of Illumination 2020, an exhibit marking the transition of seasons and the year’s end at Cameron Art Museum from late November to early January. Or, visit the annual Night of Lights Holiday Open House Dec. 17-20 to wander through Bellamy Mansion and take in festooned mantels, elaborate gasoliers and ornately decorated Christmas trees. Father Christmas will even be making a socially distanced appearance at the event.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the season, Wilmington is here to spread holiday cheer. For even more holiday events and things to do, head to our nearby island beaches – Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beaches.