There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than to immerse yourself into holiday festivities. From taking in classics like the Nutcracker and It’s a Wonderful Life to shopping in decorated markets, and seeing homes decked out in their holiday best, it’s impossible to not feel the season. While you can certainly do some of these activities right in your hometown, a getaway to Wilmington and its Island Beaches is a great excuse to get out of your holiday comfort zone and enjoy this year’s holidays, coastal-style.

Holiday Markets

Holiday Flea Market at the BACThose seeking artistic pieces for the art lover on their gift list should check out Art for the Masses on Nov. 18. The community tradition sells 100 artist’s unique pieces for $250 or less. If you’re someone that loves the beach and the holidays (and who doesn’t?), then a trip to the Kure Beach Holiday Market is a must. Stop by the oceanfront market on Nov. 18 or 25 to shop handcrafted items that will make the perfect thoughtful gift for your loved ones. Continue your holiday shopping at the Cape Fear Academy’s annual Holiday Market Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. In addition to the market – which offers items ranging from clothing and accessories to home décor and gourmet foods – there will be a Sip & Shop Preview Party on Thursday and a Holiday Mingle on Friday (age 21+ only). If the people on your list are a bit more eclectic in their tastes, the Holiday Flea at BAC might be just what St. Nick ordered. Billed as the “ultimate vintage flea,” this three-day event (Dec. 1-3) has a variety of vintage, retro, antique and upcycled treasures, along with local food trucks, a coffee shop and bar to keep you fueled while you shop. Holiday Flea takes place in the middle of Wilmington’s Brooklyn Arts District at its namesake Brooklyn Arts Center, which dates back to 1888. For another shopping experience in a unique setting, visit the Arts, Crafts & Gift Show at Poplar Grove Plantation Dec. 9-10. One of the last remaining plantations in North Carolina will come alive with more than 100 holiday vendors. Plus, kids can visit Santa’s Workshop or visit with Poplar Grove’s farm animal residents.

Holiday Flotillas Parades

Holiday Flotilla FireworksTo shake up your holiday experience and celebrate a non-traditional Thanksgiving, come out to the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach on Nov. 24-25. Voted a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event, this weekend-long celebration culminates with a lighted boat parade and fireworks along the Intracoastal Waterway unlike any other holiday parade you’ve experienced. If your Thanksgiving plans don’t allow for a getaway, enjoy the Christmas Flotilla at Carolina Beach on Dec. 2.

Holiday Tours & National Register Historic District

Enchanted Airlie treesFor a different kind of holiday home tour, venture to the Cape Fear Festival of Trees at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Guests can wander through a winter wonderland of holiday elegance, that’s also home to some of the most unique underwater animals, from Nov. 20 through Dec. 31. Take in the sparkling sights and festive sounds of the season at Enchanted Airlie on Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, 8-10 and 13-22. The garden holiday celebration takes guests through a spectacular array of over one million lights and holiday displays while strolling through picturesque Airlie Gardens. You can even find the jolly man himself, Santa Claus.

Spanning 230-plus blocks, Wilmington’s National Register Historic District is one of the largest in the country. Explore some of these private homes, churches and historical sites during the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour on Dec. 2-3, a tradition since 1973. Get a closer look at Bellamy Mansion during the Jingle Belles Holiday Tea on Dec. 3-4. This formal tea takes place in the parlors of this historic home and includes food, tea, champagne and live entertainment. Then, the Burgwin-Wright House, Bellamy Mansion and St. James Episcopal Church will treat Bellamy Mansion at Christmasvisitors to an old-fashioned Christmas with an evening filled with music, dancing and costumes during A Christmas Stroll Through the Past on Dec. 9. Poplar Grove Planation will also offer Candlelight Tours Friday and Saturday evenings during the first three weekends in December. Eight rooms – including the morning room, bridal suite and always-popular children’s room – in the Manor House will be decorated by theme and color. Other activities include a bonfire for roasting marshmallows, a letter writing station for wishes to the North Pole, the Grinch’s Toy Junk Shop and outdoor screenings of holiday favorites like The Polar Express.

Holiday Arts

The Nutcracker liveThe spirit of the season will come alive when Mannheim Steamroller comes to The Wilson Center on Nov. 21. Thalian Hall, one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in the country, will be the festive setting for several holiday experiences you won’t find at home. The New York City Ballet for Young Audiences will present the holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, for three shows on Dec. 1-2. In the mood for a laugh? The tale of a boy and his famed Christmas present comes to life in A Christmas Story: The Musical on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 8-17. For one show only on Dec. 14, attendees can enjoy a unique blend of virtuosi instrumental talents, beautiful vocals and stunning step dancing, with an Irish twist, during Cherish The Ladies: Celtic Christmas. Finally, it doesn’t get much more iconic during the holidays than It’s A Wonderful Life. On Dec. 21, this Christmas classic will be shown as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen.