14 Must Attend Holiday Events in Wilmington NC

Photos of Wilmington North Carolina

14 Must-Attend Holiday Events in Wilmington, NC

The holiday season is a special time of year in Wilmington, North Carolina. The seasonal decorations brighten up the evenings as days grow shorter and the temperatures cool. Thanks to a mild winter climate, residents get to enjoy outdoor holiday festivities and some creative events you can only appreciate in a seaside town. 

Are you looking for how to celebrate the holidays in Wilmington? Take your pick of special holiday celebrations to make the most of the season. Here are a few of the best-known and popular events in Wilmington and its beaches for celebrating the holidays. 

Kure Holiday Beach Market 

Where else can you listen to the calming sounds of the Atlantic Ocean as you shop for holiday decorations and locally made crafts? The Kure Holiday Beach Market supports local artisans and provides a beautiful ocean view as you browse the handcrafted items. The market also has live music and food trucks. This year's Holiday Beach Market takes place weekly on Saturdays in November. Attending the market is free.

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach

Kicking off the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a coastal celebration known as the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla. The event kicks off Friday night with the tree lighting ceremony in Wrightsville Beach. Festivities continue Saturday with the Festival in the Park, which has an antique car show, activities for the kids, and arts and crafts vendors. The Flotilla, a lighted boat parade, begins Saturday around 6 pm and is followed by a firework show. Participants can vote for their favorite boat via text once the parade starts. Viewing the parade and attending the Festival is free.

Cape Fear Festival of Trees

Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for the Cape Fear Festival of Trees, occurring daily after Thanksgiving and running through the New Year. The area inside the North Carolina Aquarium transforms into a winter wonderland. Various organizations, local artists, and businesses decorate the glittering trees that turn the aquarium into an enchanted forest. All general admission tickets also enable you to experience the Cape Fear Festival of Trees. 

Christmas Train & Light Spectacular

Visit the Wilmington Railroad Museum for a winter wonderland decorated with over 25,000 lights. The museum has musical animations, twilight model train displays, and visits from Santa. Christmas Train & Light Spectacular takes place on weekends starting after Thanksgiving and running through December. The cost is $5 per person. 

Enchanted Airlie

Starting right after Thanksgiving, Airlie Gardens transforms under the glow of one million festive lights. Designed for the whole family, this is a popular Wilmington event and family tradition since 2005. Roam the gardens to enjoy the holiday flowers, creative light arrangements, and musical entertainment. All tickets must be purchased in advance and online; this event often sells out, so book early. 

Timed tickets give you admittance at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 pm. A carload ticket costs $30 for 2021.

Island of Lights at Carolina Beach Lake Park

Enjoy the Festival of Lights at Carolina Beach Lake Park. Walk a one-mile paved trail to view the beautiful light displays. The event is free for all spectators. 

Christmas by the Sea

The Town of Carolina Beach becomes an island of lights as the various homes and businesses go out of their way to get you in their holiday spirit. The famous Carolina Beach Boardwalk and its gazebo are decked with thousands of lights, transforming the town into a glittering spectacle. Viewing the lights is free for all spectators. Special holiday festivities and performances are scheduled to begin at 5 pm along the boardwalk.

Hark the Herald Angels Swing

With the performance entering its 15th year in 2021, the Opera House Theater Company at Blockade Runner Beach Resort presents its 15th annual Cabaret and Dinner Show. Enjoy a delicious meal and exceptional talent performing seasonal holiday favorites. 

Happening December 17 & 18, 2021, cocktails begin at 6:30, and there is a prix fixe dinner at 7 pm. The admission is $75, and reservations are highly recommended.

Night of Lights at the Bellamy Mansion Museum

The Bellamy Mansion Museum hosts Night of Lights, free to the public, where you can tour the historic home decorated in traditional Christmas decor. You do need to reserve tickets ahead of time due to capacity restrictions. Unfortunately, the event has been canceled for 2021, but the mansion is still decorated for Christmas, which you can see with a regular tour. Look for Night of Lights to return in 2022.

Holiday Sandcastle Competition

Why build snowmen when you can build sandcastles? The Carolina Beach Holiday Sandcastle competition is a fun, three-hour event. Register in advance to make your holiday-themed sandcastle as an individual, family, or civic group. No special additives are allowed, just sand and holiday decorations. 

A Light in The Darkest of Nights

This unique Christmas celebration takes place at the St. Philip's Church in Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson State historic site. It is an annual church service that replicates what the holiday was like in the 18th century. Attending the Light in the Darkest of Nights is a free event. It is scheduled for December 11, 2021, starting at 4 pm. Participating is free.

Holiday Harbor Cruise

Wilmington is always beautiful from the water, but with the additional decorations and sparkle, it's truly something special in the Christmas season. The Carolina Runner takes you out on the water of Wilmington to get a unique look at all the Christmas lights. The Holiday Harbor Cruise lasts for about an hour, and tickets are available daily starting at 5 pm. The cost in 2020 was $30 for adults and $15 per child 12 and under. 

The Nutcracker Performance

An annual tradition for many people, the Wilmington Ballet Company performs The Nutcracker with a mixture of professional dancers and local youth. The 2021 show features Georgina Pazcoguin of the New York City Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem's Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos. Performances are on December 17, 18, and 19. Ticket prices were not published at the time of publication.

Mayfaire Town Center for the Holidays

Mayfaire Town Center hosts a variety of holiday events, including visits with Santa. "A Very Merry Mayfair Christmas" stars Broadway veteran Brian Whitted for an evening of song and holiday favorites. Shows start on Friday, November 26, and run through Sunday, December 12. General admission tickets are $25. A Charlie Brown Christmas hosted by the Opera House Theater Company starts November 27 and runs through December 12. General admission tickets are $12. 

Wilmington for the Holidays

As you can see, Wilmington, North Carolina, has lots to do during the holiday season. In addition to these listed events, you will find holiday parades, holiday-themed road runs, and more light displays hosted by various businesses and communities. 

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