Wilmington, NC: Spring break can seem an eternity away during the winter months. Fortunately, a “pre-spring” getaway to Wilmington can provide a winter respite to bridge the gap. Locals and return visitors to Wilmington and its island beaches know that there’s a sweet spot between the holidays and the onset of spring when there’s an abundance of things to see and do—which is why we love Wilmington in the winter. With average February temperatures in the 50s, it’s pleasant to get outdoors and enjoy Wilmington’s historic riverfront and three nearby island beaches where ocean sunrises and dolphins greet the day, and uncrowded beaches invite leisurely walks and invigorating runs.
During late January, Encore’s Wilmington Restaurant Week entices with 12 days of fixed-price menus from more than 30 restaurants (January 23-February 3). February starts on a high note with the 39th Annual North Carolina Jazz Festival (January 31-February 2) at the riverfront Hotel Ballast Tapestry Collection by Hilton, which opened last spring. Visitors will be entertained by all-star jazz artists in the hotel’s beautiful ballroom. The following weekend, beach music lovers and shag-dancers will convene beachside for the East Coast Shag Classic at the Holiday Inn Resort at Wrightsville Beach. And in March, craft beer aficionados can enjoy dozens of brew-theme events during Cape Fear Craft Beer Week (March 22-31), which concludes with its signature Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine beer and food pairing event at Airlie Gardens. Dozens more events during February and March include arts and cultural happenings, home shows, races and family-friendly activities.
Here’s a sampling of “pre-spring” events from the river to the sea:
January 23-February 3: Encore’s Wilmington Winter Restaurant Week. Choose from more than 30 restaurants during this seven-day event featuring prix fixe menus at a special price for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
February 1 & 2: North Carolina Jazz Festival. One of the largest traditional jazz festivals in the Southeast, this STS Top 20 Event features more than a dozen traditional and swing jazz musicians who perform for three evenings in an intimate cabaret-style setting. Admission charged. For hotel reservations and festival rates, contact the Hotel Ballast Tapestry Collection by Hilton: 910-763-5900; hotelballast.com. For festival tickets and schedule: www.ncjazzfestival.org.
February 7-10: East Coast Shag Classic. Beach music lovers along the East Coast travel to Wrightsville Beach for a weekend of shag-dancing, live concerts, a silent auction, social mixers, complimentary dance lessons and more. Tickets required. Holiday Inn Resort, Wrightsville Beach.
February 23: Tidewater Camellia Show & Sale: 10am-5pm. With a reputation as one of the largest and best attended shows in the U.S, more than 1,000 blooms will be evaluated by the American Camellia Society judges. Expert growers will answer camellia questions. Free. New Hanover County Arboretum, Wilmington. tidewatercamelliaclub.org
February 23: Wilmington Wine & Beer Walk. Self-guided tasting tour of downtown restaurants and drinking establishments. Tickets required. Begins at Front Street Brewery, Wilmington. wineandbeerwalk.com/wilmington--february.html
March 1 & 2: Cinema Sisters International Film Festival. This laid-back festival focuses on films and videos of any genre made by women from around the globe. Jengo’s Playhouse, Wilmington. wilmffilms.com/chick-flicks-film-festival
March 16: Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival. Come join the music, dance and fun with Wilmington Police Pipes & Drums, The Blarney Broughs, The Molly Malones, The Walsh Kelley School of Irish Dance, Slainte UNCW Irish Dance Club and more. Parade starts at 11:00 am at Red Cross and N. Front Street. The annual St. Patrick's Day Festival begins at noon. Riverfront Park, Wilmington. wilmingtonstpatricksdayfestival.com
March 22-31: Cape Fear Craft Beer Week. A weeklong showcase of local breweries, bottle shops, restaurants, and craft-centric businesses. Events highlight beer brewed in the Cape Fear region and venues where craft beer is served. Various venues, Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach. capefearcraftbeerweek.com
March 22-24: Eyecon Convention One Tree Hill. America's first “One Tree Hill” convention, EyeCon, returns to Tree Hill at the Wilmington Convention Center for its final reunion of fans and celebrities of the hit TV series which was filmed in Wilmington. eyeconfla.com/othx/index.html
March 23: Coastal Living Show. This STS Top 20 Event features 60-plus home and garden vendors with products and services for seaside living. Wilmington Convention Center, Wilmington. coastallivingshow.com
March 30: Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine. A premiere food and beer event in an elegant coastal garden setting that pairs fine cuisine prepared by local chefs with local and N.C. craft beer. Airlie Gardens, Wilmington. capefearcraftandcuisine.com
March 31: Wilmington Vegfest. Wilmington’s VegFest celebration will have over 50 vendors, speakers, music, family fun zone, cooking demos, and loads of sampling! Coastline Convention Center. www.facebook.com/events/2020002204920975/
And that’s not all…There’s music, theatre, art, dance, museums, and more!
February 9: Battleship FirePower Tour. Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, Wilmington. battleshipnc.com
March 30: Flytrap Family Day. Carolina Beach State Park https://www.ncparks.gov/carolina-beach-state-park/
Concerts & Dance
February 1: Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience. Thalian Hall www.thalianhall.org/
February 2: “Whole Lot of Love for Wilmington” Concert. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/
February 7: Jon Hill Quartet. Cameron Art Museum http://cameronartmuseum.org/index.php?c=jazz
February 16: Sarah McLachlan in Concert. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/sarah-mclachlan/
February 19 & 20: Rock of Ages-10th Anniversary Tour. The Wilson Center http://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/
February 23: Storied Past Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/
February 27: Hamlet The Beijing Dance Theatre. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/hamlet/
March 7: Ernest Turner Trio. Cameron Art Museum http://cameronartmuseum.org/index.php?c=jazz
March 7: The Queen’s Cartoonist. Thalian Hall www.thalianhall.org/
March 8: The Chieftains. UNCW Kenan Auditorium https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/
March 17: NC Symphony. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/chopin-mozart/
March 24: Embers, Band of Oz, Chairman of the Board. Greenfield Lake, Wilmington. www.greenfieldlakeamphitheater.com
March 24: The Next Generation Leah. Thalian Hall www.thalianhall.org/
March 27: Silk Road Ensemble. UNCW Kenan Auditorium https://uncw.edu/arts/
March 28: Brasil Guitar Duo. Thalian Hall www.thalianhall.org/
March 28: Murphy’s Celtic Legacy. The Wilson Center http://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/murphys-celtic-legacy/
March 29: Chicago in Concert. The Wilson Center https://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/chicago-band/
March 31: Infamous Stringdusters. Greenfield Lake Park www.greenfieldlakeamphitheater.com
Live Theatre; Film
February 1 & 2: Comedian Mekki Lepper. Dead Crow Comedy Room http://deadcrowcomedy.com/
February 1-16: Dinner Theatre: Senior Moments 2-Betta Daze. TheatreNow
February 4 & 5: Finding Neverland. The Wilson Center http://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/finding-neverland/
February 8: Cirque Eloize Saloon. The Wilson Center http://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/cirque-eloize-saloon/
February 12: “Out of the Shadows” Black History Month Film. New Hanover Library https://library.nhcgov.com/
February 17: Shakespeare Brunch: Love’s Labour’s Lost. TheatreNow
February 19: Move on Up: Black History Month Film. New Hanover Library https://library.nhcgov.com/
February 20-March 3: Agnes of God. Cape Fear Playhouse http://www.bigdawgproductions.org/
March 19-20: Jersey Boys. The Wilson Center http://cfcc.edu/capefearstage/jersey-boys/
March 21-24: NC Black Film Festival. Wilmington, NC http://bellamyrhonda.wixsite.com/black-arts-alliance
March 24: Shakespeare Brunch. TheatreNOW https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=tnow
February 16 & 17: Art For All. Brooklyn Arts Center https://www.brooklynartsnc.com/
February 22: Fourth Friday Gallery Nights. Downtown Wilmington http://artscouncilofwilmington.org
March 9-10: Made in NC 2019. Brooklyn Arts Center https://www.brooklynartsnc.com/
Ready, Set, Race!
February 9: Wrightsville Beach Valentine Run. Wrightsville Beach Park https://its-go-time.com/wb-valentine
February 23: Special Olympics Polar Plunge. Oceanfront Park Kure Beach https://its-go-time.com/polar-plunge/
March 8-9: Wrightsville Beach Marathon. Start: Wrightsville Beach Park to UNCW. wrightsvillebeachmarathon.com
March 16: Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Run. Carolina Beach Boardwalk http://www.lotiderun.org/
March 23: U.S. Open Fat Bike Beach Championship. Blockade Runner Resort http://www.fatcross.com/
Cape Fear Museum Exhibits:
- PlayTime! Ongoing through September 2019
Admission charged. Cape Fear Museum of History & Science, 814 Market St, Wilmington. (910)798-4350; www.capefearmuseum.com
Cameron Art Museum Exhibits:
- A Time When Art Is Everywhere-Ongoing through September 2019
Creating artworks bridging art, science, technology, design and the world of nature, the international artist collective and interdisciplinary group teamLab have created a digital space at the Cameron that expands the viewer’s artistic experience.
- Along The Eastern Sea Road: Hiorshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido-Ongoing until March 2019
Master printmaker Utagawa Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, among the most celebrated works of Japanese art, depicts the spectacular landscapes and fascinating characters encountered on the journey from Edo (now Tokyo) to the imperial capital of Kyoto.
- Nearer to Nature-Ongoing through March 2019
Humans have always been inspired and influenced by our surrounding world. Featuring artwork from Cameron Art Museum’s permanent collection, Nearer to Nature highlights this fascination and contemplation of the natural world.
- Recovery in Flight: The Sculptures of Grainger McKoy-Ongoing through March 2019
From the detailed beginnings of the single iconic feather, Grainger McKoy transforms his intricately carved birds into gravity-defying sculptures that play with form and space.
- Art of Illumination-Ongoing through January 13
The highly popular Illumination Show and Exhibit returns-- drawing inspiration from traditional lantern festivals, marking the transition of season’s change and year’s end-- reflecting on the past while garnering energy for the future.
Museum admission charged. Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S. 17th St, Wilmington. (910)395-5999 cameronartmuseum.org/
Visitors can take advantage of off-season rates during a “pre-spring” getaway. From the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington’s river district, visitors will find festivals, art and cultural events, museums and outdoor activities to cure the winter blues. For special offers and seasonal highlights, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/things-to-do/seasonal-highlights. For a complete event calendar, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/calendar and for a free Official Visitors Guide, call 1-866-266-9690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insider Tips: Event details often change without notice and/or sell out in advance, so please confirm event date, time, place before traveling any distance.