Wilmington, N.C. & Island Beaches, December 28, 2016: Cheer, cheer the New Year is near! It’s time to bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017. Since December 31 falls on a Saturday, it’s the perfect excuse to take a New Year’s getaway to Wilmington and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Where else can you say ‘goodbye’ to 2016 as the sun sets over the Cape Fear River, then greet New Year’s Day with a glorious ocean sunrise?  Between sunset and sunrise, there are many ways to celebrate. Beginning at 9:00 p.m., this year’s Island of Lights New Year’s Eve celebration starts rocking at Kure Beach Ocean Front Park with a family-friendly street dance/countdown party and a giant lighted beach ball drop, followed by midnight fireworks. Adults without children can make reservations for a New Year’s Eve party cruise with music, dancing, party favors, fireworks and a champagne toast. From the river to the sea, there are galas, theatrical productions and variety shows, as well as nightlife festivities. Many outstanding restaurants offer New Year’s Eve menus and entertainment, as well as traditional “good luck” meals on New Year’s Day. On January 1, visitors can “Toast the Coast” at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher or spend the day outdoors during First Day Hikes at our two state parks. To help plan a New Year’s getaway, visitors will find hotel specials and packages at www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/packages-deals.  

Here’s a preview of New Year’s events in Wilmington, N.C. & Island Beaches:

Dec. 31 - New Year's Noon Countdown at the Children's Museum. 9:00am-12:00pm. Celebration begins at 10:00am with crafts (streamers, crowns, glittery slime), music and dancing. Families count down the New Year at 12:00pm (Noon) with streamers, confetti toss & juice toast! Admission charge. Children's Museum of Wilmington, 116 Orange St., Wilmington. 910-254-3534; www.playwilmington.org   

Dec. 31 –Island of Lights New Year’s Eve Countdown Party & Fireworks Extravaganza.  9:00pm-12:30am. This unique New Year’s celebration features a deejay and dancing, followed by the lowering of a giant lighted beach ball at midnight and spectacular fireworks by the ocean. Festivities for all ages begin at 9:00pm. Free. Kure Beach Oceanfront Park, Kure Beach. www.pleasureislandoflights.com/the-new-year-celebration.html   

Dec. 31-New Year’s Eve Party Cruise aboard the Royal Winner Princess II. Boards at 10:30pm; returns 12:30am. Cruise aboard the triple-decked Royal Winner Princess II to experience midnight fireworks with dance music, party favors, champagne toast and the best view for the Island of Lights New Year fireworks.  Cash bar. Departs from Carolina Beach Marina, Carolina Beach. Admission charge. Reservations required. 910-458-5356; www.winnerboats.com/tours-cruises.  

Dec. 31—New Year’s “Sister Act” Musical Broadway & Gala. 7:00pm-1:00am. Cape Fear Theatre Arts, LLC presents “Sister Act,” a Broadway musical gala to benefit Thalian Hall. Enjoy a buffet dinner, drinks and live theatre. After the show, ring in 2017 with dancing, dessert, party favors and a midnight toast. Admission charge; advance reservations. Thalian Hall, Wilmington. 910-632-2285 or 800-523-2820; www.thalianhall.org.


Dec. 31—New Year’s Eve: Bacchanalia! Two seatings: 6:00pm & 9:30pm. Tickets include a multi-course meal and show with aerialist, music, comedy, fire performers, party favors, and champagne toast. Advance reservations/tickets required. TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th St., Wilmington. 910-399-3669; www.theatrewilmington.com

Jan. 1—Toast the Coast. 9am-5pm. Pint-size revelers and adults can “Toast the Coast” on New Year’s Day at the Aquarium. The coastal theme party lasts all day with crafts, ocean resolutions and programs. A noise-maker craft and kid parade precede two beach ball drops during the daily dive programs at 10:30am and 2:30pm. Admission charge. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach. 910-772-0500; www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher

Jan. 1—First Day Hikes. N.C. State Parks will celebrate the first day of the new year with First Day Hikes, a National Park initiative. Start the day at 10:00 a.m. with a First Day Hike at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (near Kure Beach) to explore the 2-mile basin trail through maritime forest, black dune and salt marsh habitat. Rangers will stop along the way to share fats about the plants, animals and the historic WWII bunker. Then travel down to Carolina Beach State Park to meet the ranger at 2:00 p.m. at the marina trail head parking lot for a 2-mile hike to Sugarloaf Dune. For both hikes, wear hiking shoes and bring water, sunscreen and bug spray. First Day Hike reservations are required. To register, call Fort Fisher State Recreation Area: 910-458-5798 and Carolina Beach State Park: 910-458-8206.  AND be sure to enter the N.C. State Parks Photo Scavenger Hunt Challenge! To enter, email state park photos by Jan. 2, 2017 to ncparkphotohunt@gmail.com.


City + Beaches: See where the water takes you in 2017! From Wilmington’s river district to the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach (and the city in-between), visitors will find one destination with four unique settings. It’s a convenient drive along major highways, including I-40 and U.S. 74. The Wilmington International Airport (ILM) offers daily flights to/from major hubs. For visitor information and a complete event calendar, visit www.WilmingtonAndBeaches.com/seasonal-page or call 1-866-266-9690 to request a free official Visitors Guide.