WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC – Three long-running traditions launch the coastal holiday season on Thanksgiving weekend at Wrightsville Beach – Airlie Gardens’ Enchanted Airlie, North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, and world-renowned Zambelli Fireworks.
Airlie Gardens’ 17th annual Enchanted Airlie begins Friday and Saturday, November 25-26, bringing 35 acres of night-time forest and walking trails to life with sparkling lights, seasonal music, and magical holiday displays. In addition to Thanksgiving weekend, the historic garden gates will open for Enchanted Airlie December 2-22.
“Enchanted Airlie tickets sell out very quickly,” said Janine Powell, Director of Donor Relations. Tickets are available November 2 online.
Saturday, November 26, at 6 PM, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla celebrates its 39th maritime parade, featuring beautifully decorated and lighted yachts, sailing vessels, boats of all sizes, and man-powered watercraft. Promptly after the Flotilla, courtesy of lodging providers at Wrightsville Beach, Zambelli Fireworks unleashes a stunning barrage of displays, illuminating the night sky and showering the waterway with vivid colors and booming sounds.
“We are excited to present the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla,” said Levi Boyd, Flotilla Chair. “As in years past, we welcome families from all over the state to come and partake in our annual tradition.”
The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla and Airlie Gardens’ Enchanted Airlie have been recognized multiple times as Top 20 Event winners by the 13-state Southeast Tourism Society. Both are iconic holiday traditions, with each drawing more than 50,000 spectators.
Accommodating early arrivals and centrally located on the Flotilla route, Blockade Runner Beach Resort will host a Grand Thanksgiving Day Buffet on November 24. Reservations are required.
Friday evening, November 25, 5:30-7:30 PM, the Town of Wrightsville Beach officially starts the Christmas season with the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Town Hall. Festivities include a Santa visit, Christmas music, holiday lights, decorations, hot chocolate, and cookies. “We’re so excited to bring back the traditional Town Tree Lighting Ceremony following the drive-thru versions in 2020 and 2021,” said Katie Ryan, Recreation Program Supervisor.
Saturday’s daytime plan, Nov. 26, 10 AM-4 PM, features the popular Day in the Park at Wrightsville Beach Town Hall. Dozens of local vendors showcasing a wide range of merchandise, arts and crafts, food, and drinks will be present. Activities for children, plus a widely attended antique, classic, and special interest car show, are on the schedule.
Spreading the season’s spirit to businesses and residents, the Harbor Island Garden Club (and Town) support a Holiday Decorating Contest with judging in mid-December. The Town’s street pole decorations, featuring classic nautical and sea-life designs, “will definitely be up by Flotilla weekend and won’t come down until after January first,” said Ryan.
Proceeds from Enchanted Airlie benefit the preservation and improvement of New Hanover County’s historic Airlie Gardens.
Click here for accommodations (on the flotilla route)
Wrightsville Beach (and nearby) Holiday Events:
Nov 24 thru Jan 2 – Holiday Decorations at Wrightsville Beach (street poles, homes, businesses)
Nov. 24, 11 AM – 4:45 PM – Grand Thanksgiving Buffet, Blockade Runner Beach Resort
Nov. 25, 5:30-7:30 PM – Tree Lighting/Santa (Wrightsville Beach Park)
Nov. 25–26 & Dec. 2–22 – Airlie Gardens’ Enchanted Airlie
Nov. 26, 10 AM – 4 PM – Day in the Park – Food vendors, arts & crafts, Car Show – (Wrightsville Beach Town Hall Park)
Nov. 26, 6 PM – North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, followed by Zambelli Fireworks
Nov. 27, 11 AM – 2 PM – Holiday Fun Sail (Begin Soundside, Banks Channel, at Blockade Runner Beach Resort, to the Masonboro Inlet Sea Buoy and return)
Dec. 3 – Jingle Bell Run (Wrightsville Beach Museum of History)
Nov 21–Jan 2, 2023 – Cape Fear Festival of Trees (North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher)
Dec 10 – Holiday Open House (Burgwin-Wright House) – Built in 1770, the Burgwin-Wright House is the only structure in Wilmington from the colonial era open to the public.
Dec 11 – 6 PM – Historic Wilmington Holiday Parade (Front Street)
Dec 3 – 8 AM – 5 PM – Battleship Alive! (USS North Carolina)
Dec 7 – 9 AM – 5 PM – Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance (USS North Carolina)
Dec 10 and 11 – 1 PM – 5 PM – 50th Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour by the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society (The Latimer House)
Janine Powell, Director of Donor Relations
Airlie Gardens / Enchanted Airlie
Levi Boyd, Event Chair
North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
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