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 with 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.
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 – Holiday Open House (Wrightsville Beach Museum)
Dec. 1–30 – Christmas Train and Light Spectacular (Thursdays and Fridays–Wilmington Railroad Museum)
Dec. 2 – Battleship North Carolina Alive–Christmas Edition
Dec. 2, 9, 16, 17, and 23 – Polar Express (Wilmington Railroad Museum)
Dec. 11, 6 PM – Historic Wilmington Holiday Parade (Front Street, Wilmington)
Dec. 13 – Kids’ Christmas Program – (Wrightsville Beach Museum of History)
Dec. thru Jan. 2 – Cape Fear Festival of Trees (NC Aquarium, Ft. Fisher
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