WILMINGTON / WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC – Thanksgiving week, known as flotilla week in Wrightsville Beach, launches the coastal Carolina holiday season with two long-running traditions, the 36th annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, and Airlie Gardens’ 15th annual Enchanted Airlie.
A highlight of the weekend, Saturday night’s flotilla unveils a procession of beautifully decorated yachts and watercraft, each glittering with thousands of lights, slowly motoring past an estimated crowd of 50,000 revelers.
Immediately following the parade, a stunning and captivating 20-minute, 4,000-round fireworks display illuminates the night sky and showers the waterway with sound and color.
The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla weekend is filled with family options, including Friday’s tree lighting ceremony with a visit from Santa, and the evening’s Flotilla Launch Party featuring the Jack Jack 180 dance band.
Saturday’s schedule includes the well-known Festival in the Park with nearly 100 pop-ups featuring arts, crafts, treats, and local merchants. Activities onsite offer bouncy houses for the children, slides, climbing walls, the Shriner’s Arab Choo Choo, live music, and The Antique, Classic, and Special Interest Car Show.
Early arrivals during Flotilla week begin the celebration Thanksgiving Day with a seafood-centric feast at host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort. Harbor Island tours depart the resort’s docks 3-times per day with Cape Fear Naturalist, Captain Joe Abbate. Prominently located on the flotilla parade route, Blockade Runner is within easy walking distance of all activities on the island.
Airlie Gardens’ Enchanted Airlie is open 19 evenings this year, including Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30 during flotilla week, and every night Dec. 6 thru 22. There are two event times per night, 5-7 PM, and 7-9 PM. Enchanted Airlie tickets are available on the Airlie Gardens website, or Blockade Runner guests may contact the hotel to make arrangements.
“We are very excited to be celebrating our 15th year for Enchanted Airlie,” said Janine Powell of Airlie Gardens. “Each year, we sell out faster and faster, and this year we’re approaching the half-million mark for cumulative attendance.”
Created by the Airlie Gardens Foundation, Enchanted Airlie brings to life 35-acres of night-time forest with more than one million sparkling lights, holiday displays, and seasonal music. The walking trails offer an indoor visit with Santa, plus food and beverage vendors with hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn, cookies, unique local brews, and more.
“Enchanted Airlie has gained national and international prominence, attracting visitors from across the country and many nations,” said Powell.
“Visitors should make a plan. We will sell out all dates and times.”
Proceeds from Enchanted Airlie benefit the preservation and improvement of New Hanover County’s historic Airlie Gardens.
Powell, Director of Donor Relations
Enchanted Airlie, Airlie Gardens
North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
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