Posted on: December 1st, 2023 Posted in Around ILM, Events

Wilmington, North Carolina, nestled along the Cape Fear River, and a quick drive from the River Bluffs community, is a city that breathes life into every season with its vibrant events and coastal charm. Whether you’re a local looking for new adventures or a visitor planning your trip, Wilmington has something for everyone.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best holiday events the city has to offer throughout the season. These include the Holiday Flotilla, Various Tree Lightings, Christmas Markets, and more.

Let’s take a look at the best Wilmington, NC activities for people of all ages!

Enchanted Airlie
Step into a magical wonderland at Airlie Gardens on November 24th for the enchanting Enchanted Airlie event. Stroll through the gardens adorned with millions of festive lights, holiday flowers, and enjoy musical entertainment suitable for the whole family. To secure your spot, purchase carload tickets online in advance. Prices range from $30 for a carload to $55 for an XL van (10-15 people). Large vehicles like buses or limos require special reservations, so be sure to check Airlie Gardens’ website and social media for updates.

Downtown Wilmington Holiday Tree Lighting
Join the festive fun in downtown Wilmington on November 24th for the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony. Entertainment begins at 5:30 p.m., leading up to the exciting tree lighting at 6:25 p.m., followed by a special visit from Santa. Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit as you stroll among shops and restaurants, marking the official start to the coastal-style holiday season.

40th Annual NC Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach
Celebrate the holidays coastal-style at the 40th Annual NC Holiday Flotilla on November 25th. The festivities kick off with a Tree Lighting ceremony on Friday night, followed by a day filled with arts and crafts vendors, an antique car show, inflatables, festival food, and more on Saturday. The highlight is the spectacular lighted boat parade starting at 6:00 p.m., followed by a fireworks show. The event is free for spectators, and don’t forget to vote for your favorites via text during the parade.

Santa by the Sea
Experience the enchantment of Christmas by the Sea as Carolina Beach transforms into an island of lights, with homes and businesses along the famous Boardwalk and Gazebo creating a sparkling spectacle from late November to the New Year. Take a leisurely stroll to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, enjoying delightful activities. The Boardwalk, adorned in sparkling splendor, invites you to bask in the holiday glow with special Holiday Happenings on select days at 5:00 p.m., providing a fantastic opportunity to create cherished memories with loved ones. Celebrate the festive season in style at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk!

Tree Lighting: City of Wilmington
Get into the holiday spirit with the City of Wilmington’s Christmas Tree Lighting on November 30th at the Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverside Park. The family-friendly event features festive songs, a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the Mayor, and free visits with Santa. Capture the moment with your phone and kick off the holiday season with joy. Admission is free, and the event runs from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Nutcracker: NY Ballet for Young Audiences
Experience the magic of The Nutcracker presented by the NY Ballet for Young Audiences on December 1st-2nd. This classic holiday ballet tells the enchanting story of Clara’s adventures in a magical land. Tickets start at $35, so plan ahead to secure your seats for this captivating performance that sells out quickly.

Illumination 2023
Returning for its ninth year, Illumination 2023 promises a mesmerizing show inspired by traditional lantern festivals. Artists from across America contribute lanterns that explore the theme “The Light That Shines from Within.” Witness unique illuminations using silk, handmade paper, recycled plastics, glass, clay, and metal. The exhibit reflects on the past while looking towards the future, symbolizing transformation, enlightenment, and epiphany.

20th Annual Wilmington Holiday Parade
Join the festivities of the 20th Annual Wilmington Holiday Parade on December 3rd. Watch brightly lit marching bands, floats, entertainers, and, of course, Santa Claus parade through the streets. Starting at North Front and Walnut Street and traveling south on Front to Church Street, the parade promises colorful costumes, twinkling lights, and festive cheer. The event is free for spectators.

Traditional Menorah Lighting
Celebrate the Holiday season with the customary Menorah lighting on December 7th, marking the commencement of Hanukkah (Chanukah), the Jewish Festival of Lights. Join us at the Riverwalk, located at the intersection of Market Street and Water Street, as we illuminate the Menorah at sundown in this uplifting annual event.

Colonial Christmas Open House & Craft Market
Step back in time at the Colonial Christmas Open House & Craft Market on December 9th at the Burgwin-Wright House. Admire the 1700s colonial Christmas decorations and explore the house during regular daytime tours. The outdoor garden market features over 30 vendors offering local crafts, handmade items, and more. The evening brings an open house with free admission and festivities from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Nutcracker Ballet
Don’t miss the chance to be enchanted by The Nutcracker Ballet on December 16th-17th. Set to Tchaikovsky’s stunning score, this holiday classic features intricate set designs and over 100 dancers. Professional guest artists, including Wilmington native Dara Holmes, bring Clara’s journey to life in a winter wonderland. Tickets start at $25 for this unforgettable holiday performance.

Wilmington, North Carolina, is a city that truly knows how to celebrate the holiday season. The events mentioned in this guide are just a glimpse into the rich tapestry of experiences that Wilmington has to offer this winter. And speaking of experiences, if you’re interested in the idea of living in this coastal paradise, consider exploring the master-planned community of River Bluffs. Contact River Bluffs today to find your dream home. We look forward to speaking with you.

Browse the full holiday event schedule here: