Experience the vibrant showcase of Southern beauty and charm at the North Carolina Azalea Festival, an annual tradition commemorating the blooming azaleas and kaleidoscope of colors that blanket Wilmington and its island beaches each spring. For more than 75 years, the five-day festival has celebrated Wilmington's exceptional artwork, gardens, rich history and culture. Taking place in the heart of Wilmington’s River and Historic districts, festivities kick off on Wednesday with the arrival of Queen Azalea at the Queen’s Coronation.

Family-Friendly Events

More than 250 vendors grace the streets of historic downtown, offering goods, food and entertainment during the NC Azalea Festival Street Fair, Friday through Sunday. Families can explore kid-friendly activities and enjoy performers at the Children's Area adjacent to The Performing Arts Stage on Saturday and Sunday. The festival's main highlight, the Azalea Festival Parade, begins its march up 3rd Street at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, featuring the recently crowned Queen Azalea and her court. Arrive early to secure the perfect spot to view larger-than-life balloons and colorful floats amidst blooming azaleas for free, or reserve paid bleacher tickets. Parking is available in all public parking decks downtown, with entry access to the 2nd Street parking deck available until 8:45 a.m. before the parade starts. Shuttle service is available at Independence Mall near Dillard's (3500 Oleander Dr.) beginning at 7 a.m., with the last shuttle leaving downtown at 1:45 p.m. One-way and round-trip tickets are cash only and available for purchase on-site before boarding.


Festival Concerts

Live music is a staple of the annual festival, which kicks off with national acts at Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park Thursday and Friday evenings. Visit The Eagle's Dare before and after the show for live music, line dancing and food trucks at the official pre- and after-parties. The Street Fair hosts the Performing Arts Stage, offering a free, family-friendly showcase of various styles and performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The After Garden Get Down, a free waterfront party at Bluewater Waterfront Grill in nearby Wrightsville Beach, kicks off Friday at 2 p.m. Guests can enjoy live music, food and drink specials, and capture prime views of the Intracoastal Waterway. Tickets for the mainstage performances are on sale now, with a $10 increase on the day of the show. Tunes and Blooms, a free event, highlights local and regional music throughout the day on Saturday at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, featuring a variety of rock, blues and folk tunes.


Flowers and Fireworks

Airlie Gardens welcomes attendees to explore 67 acres of formal gardens, wildlife and more than 75,000 azaleas during the Azalea Garden Tour presented by the Cape Fear Garden Club. Each year, the tour showcases various private gardens Friday through Sunday and is one of the longest running garden tours in the South. Saturday's festivities conclude with the Battleship Boom & Bloom Fireworks Bonanza! Festival fireworks are presented by the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA from the Battleship fantail. Be sure to secure a prime viewing spot online in advance, as tickets sell out quickly. The tickets also include a take-home pink folding chair, popcorn, music, dancing and a self-guided deck tour of the Battleship. The event begins at 7:30 p.m., with the fireworks show commencing at 9 p.m. Join Wilmington Water Tours for the Azalea Firecracker Cruise along the waterfront, which docks just in time for a front-row view of the fireworks display.


Local Flavors

Fuel up for festival fun at local restaurants and cafes nestled in the heart of the festivities. Kick start your day with a cup of craft coffee and a light breakfast from Drift Coffee Shop & Kitchen. The Basics, situated in the Cotton Exchange, offers a delectable blend of classic Southern staples infused with diverse cultural flavors for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Venture to the Riverwalk to Anne Bonny's Bar and Grill, Wilmington's only floating bar and grill, or visit George on the Riverwalk to watch the sun set over the Cape Fear River. For an Italian dining experience with an unbeatable view, dine on one of Floriana's Romeo and Juliet balconies overlooking the river.


Places to Stay

Discover an array of waterfront accommodations within walking distance of the festivities, such as Hotel Ballast, Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront or Aloft Wilmington at Coastline Center. The Cove Riverwalk Villas, a unique vacation rental community made up of luxury houseboats, offer a unique stay just steps away from downtown Wilmington on the northern end of the Riverwalk. On the opposite end of the action, ARRIVE Wilmington is a low-key luxury boutique hotel where millennials meet mid-century modern, just a block away from the excitement.


Take part as Wilmington's rich traditions and history come alive during the North Carolina Azalea Festival. From live music performances and activities for all ages, immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of Wilmington's coastal culture.