'Tis the Season for Lights, Festivals & Flotillas

Ring in the holidays in Wilmington and our Island Beaches with a unique array of historic, traditional and coastal activities and special events that accentuate the most wonderful time of the year. Stroll back in time down the festively decorated brick-lined streets of Historic Downtown Wilmington. Shop at waterside holiday markets and take your holiday spirit to the sea with our classic flotillas. Check out our round up of over 50-plus events in this special holiday brochure. There’s nothing quite like a Christmas or New Year's getaway spent at our coast.



Light up the Season

With festive flowers, local provisions, music and over one million twinkling lights, it’s easy to see why Enchanted Airlie was named a Top 20 Event by Southeast Tourism Society. Brighten up your season with the annual Downtown Holiday Tree Lighting. Take the kids to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, enjoy live music, a holiday market and winter refreshments. Catch a live performance of Christmas classics like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Story at Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts and the Wilson Center. Ring in the season by way of water with The Spirit of the Holiday Cruise aboard a 46’ catamaran featuring yuletide cocktails, small appetizers and local musicians singing seasonal tunes.

From Christmas Past

Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour and A Christmas Stroll Through the Past make the most of Wilmington’s rich history with notable landmarks fully decked in elegant, traditional holiday décor. Step back in time for Poplar Grove's Merry Little Christmas Festival with a candlelight tour of the Manor House, campfire, wagon rides and outdoor movies. Catch a live performance of Christmas classics like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Story at Thalian Hall and Wilson Center.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Fill yourself with more than just holiday spirit, treat yourself to a night on the town with plenty of dining and nightlife options. Dine at one of the 50 Best Southern Restaurants, RX, enjoy elevated comfort food at Fork N Cork and plan a holiday dinner with a view at The George on the Riverwalk. Enjoy cocktails in cozy speakeasies like Tails Piano Bar and Lounge or Blind Elephant, venture to the emerging South Front District and dance the night away to a bluegrass band at Satellite. Mild winters make it easy to get outside for shopping and enjoy the sunshine. Stroll the Wilmington Riverwalk lined with boutiques and cafes then take care of Christmas shopping in the Cotton Exchange.

Deck the Hulls

Our island beaches light up in the spirit of the season as decorations set sail at annual Flotillas. For a nautical take on the classic parade of lights, the annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla is a great reason to spend a long Thanksgiving weekend at the coast with the family. Catch the Tree Lighting and Visit with Santa on Friday then have a day full of fun in Wrightsville Beach at Festival in the Park the following day. After the Flotilla, cuddle on the beach for a stunning fireworks show signifying the start of the Holiday season. Head to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach for the Island of Lights Festival featuring a month of yuletide themed events including the Lighting on the Lake, Christmas Parade, Flotilla and more. Visit the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher for the Cape Fear Festival of Trees.

Happy New Year!

Ring in the holidays in coastal style. Take the celebration seaside at Island of Light’s New Year’s Eve Celebration with a giant beach ball drop at midnight followed by fireworks. Say hello to 2019 in regal fashion at Thalian Hall’s legendary New Year’s Eve Gala featuring dinner and a show, sensational live performances, DJ, dancing and a champagne toast.

While there’s plenty to see and do all season long, don’t forget classic attractions like Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, Cameron Art Museum and Cape Fear Museum of History and Science. With a to-do list as long as your shopping list, start planning your festive getaway now. Book one of our many lodging accommodations located from the river to the sea.