There are plenty of twists on holiday traditions befitting a charming coastal destination like Wilmington. Get in the spirit this season with a magical getaway filled with holiday cruises and flotillas, bright lights, unique shops and a variety of ways to celebrate. 

Festive Lights & Sights

See the season in a new light with Cameron Art Museum's “Art of Illumination”. The popular show and exhibit returns once again from Dec. 3 through Jan. 9 to delve into the metaphorical concept of light from the perspectives of a variety of artists from across the country. Drawing inspiration from traditional lantern festivals which mark the transition of seasons and the end of the year, the show features lanterns illuminated in unusual ways.


Stroll around Historic Downtown Wilmington to see decorated houses lining picturesque streets. Stop into beautiful homes from days past decked out in historically accurate holiday decorations, like the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens, Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design or the Latimer House Museum. With a hot chocolate or specialty holiday latte in hand from 24 South Coffee House, you’ll have everything you need to experience the charm and magic of our riverfront town.


Take in holiday classics like “The Nutcracker” Dec. 3-4, “ELF the Musical” Dec. 10-12/16-19 or “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 23 at historic Thalian Hall. Or, head to The Wilson Center to celebrate the season with Mannheim Steamroller Nov. 29 or hear holiday favorites with a doo wop twist during Hip to the Holidays: Under the Streetlamp Dec. 7.


Magical Tours, Cruises and Flotillas  

Experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the holidays as you cruise down the Cape Fear River with Wilmington Water Tours on a Spirit of the Holidays Cruise. Take in scenic views of the Riverwalk’s shops and cafes decorated with lights aboard the catamaran while you listen to local musicians perform holiday tunes and sample yuletide cocktails and appetizers. Tickets are available each weekend from Nov. 26 through Dec. 26.


Just across the drawbridge in Wrightsville Beach, start the season with the NC Holiday Flotilla Nov. 27. From a festival in the park complete with food trucks and activities for kids to a lighted boat parade and dazzling fireworks display, the flotilla is an event the entire family will remember.


Or, head to nearby Carolina Beach Dec. 4 to watch as fishing boats and pleasure crafts decked out in their holiday finest light up the Intracoastal Waterway during the annual Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla.


Take a ride through Historic Downtown Wilmington to see charming neighborhoods all lit up for the holidays while you stay warm beneath lap blankets. Santa himself will be your guide on these “Reindeer” Drawn Carriages or Trolleys. Tickets are available for the evenings of Dec. 17-18 and 23-24.


Unique Holiday Shopping

Wilmington is full of prime shopping spots to snag unique gifts for loved ones. Find locally owned boutiques, restaurants and one-of-a-kind cafes at pedestrian-friendly Lumina Station. This delightful shopping village offers a storybook setting filled with award-winning contextual design, fairytale bridges and whimsical sculptures perfect for an enchanting holiday shopping experience.


For a variety of vintage, upcycled and antique treasures, check out The Holiday Flea at the BAC, a three-day holiday festival at the Brooklyn Arts Center. Featuring more than 50 vintage vendors, the festival takes place Dec. 3-5.


At Blue Moon Gift Shops, more than 100 local artists, craftsmen and retailers come together under one roof, each bringing their own personalities to their shops. Make the most of your holiday with a trip to this beloved shop, from browsing memorable home décor and art to jewelry and so much more.


Shop your favorite brands in an outdoor setting at Mayfaire Town Center, where you’ll hear holiday classics performed by former Broadway star Brian Whitted as you shop various days in November and December.


Find everything you need to deck the halls at A Christmas Shoppe, Wilmington’s only year-round Christmas store. From Olde World Christmas Ornaments, a variety of Santas, ornaments from local artists, decorative pillows and more, plus a large selection of nautical and coastal décor, A Christmas Shoppe has everything you need to bring your holiday vision to life.

Promising all the magic of the season with twists on classic traditions, a holiday getaway to Wilmington is one to experience.

Check out even more holiday fun in our nearby island beaches – Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville