Music & Nightlife Heat Up After the Sun Goes Down

Year-round, live music is at the forefront of a welcoming social scene in Wilmington and our island beaches. From country legends like Willie Nelson to indie rock groups and symphonic tributes, the variety of musical acts and venues in the area is impressive. You’ll find outdoor venues, concert halls, pubs featuring local acts and more, with music festivals to suit every taste held throughout the year. Nightlife options include dance clubs, cocktail and cigar lounges, rooftop bars, riverfront and boardwalk stages and intimate listening rooms, which means there’s never a shortage of venues to experience live music at the coast.

Get grooving below, or view the full list of nightlife and music venues.

Tunes with a View

If you like your music accompanied by scenic views, any of the area’s outdoor venues will suit you perfectly. Hugh Morton Amphitheater at Greenfield Lake Park hosts regional and national acts in a picturesque lakefront setting. Artists from Warren Haynes and Tift Merritt to Michael Franti & Spearhead and the legendary Willie Nelson have played the popular venue, which offers seated and standing-view options. Newer to the scene is Pier 33 Entertainment Venue at Port City Marina which has hosted Dwight Yoakam and Aaron Lewis. Perched atop a riverfront pier nearly surrounded by water, the venue also hosts local acts. During the summer months, catch the Downtown Sundown Concert Series along Wilmington’s Riverwalk and jazz in the courtyard of the Bellamy Mansion Museum, an exquisitely restored mid-1800s home.

Eat, Drink and Enjoy Live Music

It’s no secret that Wilmington is a burgeoning destination for foodies and craft beer lovers, but most people don’t know some of these fabulous eateries are also home to live music. Head to Reel Café’s rooftop bar for views of the riverfront and plenty of great tunes. Local musicians frequently play on the back deck at Ogden Tap Room, a family-friendly restaurant with 40 beers on tap and a lawn. To experience a one-of-a-kind bar, craft cocktails and phenomenal acoustics, experience a night at Bourgie Nights. In South Front District, Satellite Bar and Lounge offers Signature Sunday Evening Live Bluegrass Jam for guest to dance the night away indoors and on the outside patio with their favorite beer or wine in hand. If craft beer is the name of your game, local musicians are known to frequent Waterline Brewing Co., Wrightsville Beach Brewery and Edward Teach Brewing.

Sing-Along Indoors

Wilmington is also home to more formal, indoor venues. The Wilson Center – the largest and most technically advanced performance center in Eastern North Carolina – proudly hosts Broadway shows, symphonies, concerts and more. If you’re looking for a historic venue, check out Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts, operating since 1858. The facility hosts more than 500 performance events annually featuring musical genres ranging from pop to folk and jazz to country. As home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), the city also attracts internationally acclaimed performers to Kenan Auditorium on the UNCW campus.

Jam in Unique Settings

Sometimes, good times are found in unexpected places. Check out funky artwork and hear a bluesy band at night at Beale Street Barber Shop. Art and music lovers should check out Cameron Art Museum to hear performances by piano and voice students of local teachers. These concerts are held a few times each year and feature music from Beethoven, Bizet and Chopin, as well as modern-day selections. They are held in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s (UNCW’s) Department of Music and are listed on the calendar section of the museum’s website. For a nationally acclaimed band performance in a 123-year-old refurbished church, visit the Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews.

Festivals for Music Lovers

A winter tradition, the annual North Carolina Jazz Festival brings world-class artists to Wilmington for three nights of unforgettable performances. The event is one of the largest traditional jazz festivals in the Southeast and brings hundreds of jazz enthusiasts to the area.

Nearby at our island beaches, enjoy a lineup of nationally recognized blues & jazz performers at the annual spring Seafood, Blues & Jazz Festival – an island tradition for more than 25 years – at Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area in Kure Beach. Get your dancing feet ready for one of the country’s largest running music festivals and the biggest and only music festival held along the North Carolina coast at the Carolina Beach Music Festival in June.

Experience the Nightlife

To get a taste of Wilmington’s nightlife scene, head to local speakeasies that require a membership card at a minimal fee like Blind Elephant, a 1920s Prohibition-style bar that serves timeless cocktails and signature elixirs or Earnest Money & Sons that invites its guests to taste refreshing, thoughtfully made libations, unique wines and beers. Cape Fear Wine & Beer strives to provide the best selection of beer and wine possible with 300+ different varieties of canned and bottled beverages to choose from and 25 beers on tap. With a fast rotation of taps, Cape Fear Wine & Beer also provides an ever-changing supply of cask ale and hosts a weekly trivia night on Wednesdays. Enjoy a beverage and decadent dinner in the stylish dining area at 1900 Restaurant & Lounge before becoming a dance machine in the seamlessly transformed first-class lounge with music from a DJ after 10 p.m.

Wilmington's only full-time comedy club, the Dead Crow Comedy Room offers laughter all year long. The unique, intimate atmosphere hosts nationally and locally acclaimed live comedy in a basement venue in the heart of downtown Wilmington.

For more tunes, concerts and nightlife beach venues, check out all that nearby Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach have to offer those looking to hit the town once the sun goes down.