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We’re a week away from Thanksgiving and that can only mean one thing: it’s holiday time! If you’ve been shopping in the last month, the holiday music has made sure you know that already. 🙂 Along with the holidays come the get togethers with family and friends. Sure, you can sit around the living room or in a kitchen and chat it up, but what if you want to get out and experience a holiday event? What’s going on? We’ve got you covered. Here are 8 Wilmington NC holiday events that are great for the whole family.

Enchanted Airlie

Ask the locals what there is to do and one of the first answers is likely to be Enchanted Airlie. Airlie Gardens has been celebrating Christmas with Enchanted Airlie since 2005. They decorate their grounds with festive holiday lights and festive displays. Guests can take in the sights with a self-guided scenic walk through 1/2 mile of beautifully decorated garden paths.

Enchanted Airlie runs from 5pm-9pm on November 24-25 and again on selected dates in December. To reserve your tickets, visit

Wilmington Railroad Museum Train & Lights Spectacular

If you’ve never been to the Wilmington Railroad Museum before, now would be an excellent time to make the trip. Starting on December 2nd and running every Friday and Saturday evening through December 23rd you can catch the Train & Light spectacular. Bonus shows on December 26th, 29th and 30th. All shows run from 6:30pm – 8:00pm.

The event definitely lives up to its “Spectacular” moniker. It features 11,000 lights, music, special seasonal decorations, visits with Santa, hot cider and of course, lots of train stuff including a HUGE model train setup!

Tickets are $5 per person. Kids two and under get in free.

For full dates and times visit

Christmas Tree Lighting Events

If you love tree lighting ceremonies, you have some choices to make. There are three chances to catch a lighting ceremony on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Pick your favorite destination: Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, or Wilmington.

  • Carolina Beach: The Island of Lights Festival in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach kicks off with Lighting at the Lake at Carolina Beach Lake Park. The event features an opening ceremony with the President of the Island of Lights Committee, Pleasure Island elected officials, and musical entertainment. Santa makes an appearance and free refreshments are available. Local Cub Scouts provide the Honor Guard and display the flag for the singing of the National Anthem. Starts at 7:00pm at Atlanta Ave. and S. Lake Park Blvd. in Carolina Beach.
  • Wrightsville Beach: Begins at 5:30pm at Wrightsville Beach park with special guest, Santa Claus! Bonus: After the tree lighting ceremony you can walk down to the Intracoastal and watch the NC Holiday Flotilla!
  • Wilmington: If downtown is more your jam, you can catch a tree lighting event at Riverfront Park in Historic Downtown Wilmington. Things kick off at 5:30pm with the tree lighting happening around 6:25pm. There will be caroling and a holiday marketplace. If you’re looking for Santa, he’ll be there too!

NC Holiday Flotilla

If watching a parade of beautiful boats decorated with Christmas lights sounds like a good idea to you, and trust me, it is, bring the whole family to the 34th Annual Flotilla weekend – Friday and Saturday, November 24th and 25th, 2017. The boats are just the start of Flotilla. The event also has a Launch Party with The Embers featuring Craig Woolard, an annual tree lighting ceremony with a visit from Santa on Friday, along with the Festival in the Park for families and children on Saturday afternoon prior to the actual Flotilla. For full information and/or to enter a boat, visit the NC Flotilla website.

Cape Fear Festival of Trees 2017

This year, the Cape Fear Festival of Trees is being held at the Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Everybody that buys a general admission ticket to the Aquarium from November 20th – December 31st will automatically be able to see the Festival of Trees.

Proceeds from the event go to benefit the Lower Cape Fear Hospice Foundation. More information at

Christmas Parades

  • At the Wilmington Holiday Parade, schools, bands, community groups and businesses parade through downtown beginning at 6:30pm, Sunday evening December 3, 2017 in Historic Downtown Wilmington.
  • The Oak Island Christmas By The Sea Parade happens on Saturday, December 2, 2017 and starts at 2 p.m. The parade travels 2.4 miles from Oak Island Town Hall, traveling Oak Island Drive to McGlamery Street.
  • 2017 Carolina Beach Christmas Parade happens on Friday, December 1st at 7:30pm on Lake Park Blvd in Carolina Beach. The parade proceeds from Atlanta Ave. down Lake Park Blvd. to the Federal Point Plaza in Carolina Beach. Floats, bands and Santa Clause will be there to add to the festivities of the season and provide a night of entertainment for families. Click here for more information.

Christmas Stroll at Bellamy Mansion

Join the Bellamy Mansion Museum, the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens, and St. James Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 9, 2017 from 4:30pm – 8:30pm for a Christmas Stroll Through the Past. A luminary path lights the way between the sites as you enjoy holiday decor, historic interpreters in period dress, musical performances, a petting zoo, hot beverages and snacks, and children’s activities. Tickets are $20 plus tax for adults and $10 plus tax for children ages 3+. Children under 3 are free. For more information visit

The Island of Lights New Years Eve Countdown

The New Year’s Celebration is always held on New Year’s Eve and begins at 9 PM. The location rotates between Carolina & Kure Beaches. This year the festivities happen at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Don’t miss the giant beach ball being dropped at midnight followed by a spectacular fireworks demonstration.

This free family-friendly event will feature a DJ and dancing with refreshments and party favors available for purchase. In an Island of Lights tradition there will be a raffle, with the winner taking home the original artwork for the Island of Lights 2017 official Christmas card and ornament. For more information visit