Connect with us


Fire Up the Sky: Where and how to spend July 4th across southeastern NC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Every July the flags come out and the grills fire up and the fireworks light up the sky as we cheers to our nation’s independence. On the southeastern coast, it means celebrations galore, from North Carolina’s official 4th of July Festival in Southport to the Battleship’s display of fireworks over downtown ILM to military bands playing patriotic tunes to the numerous spinoff events around the city. We’ve culled a list of things do and see to brighten up the summertime holiday.

The NC 4th of July Festival Parade begins at 11 a.m. along the streets of Southport, NC. Courtesy photo

The NC 4th of July Festival Parade begins at 11 a.m. along the streets of Southport, NC. Courtesy photo

Downtown Southport

In 1772 what began 30 miles south of Wilmington as the Festival of Free Men has evolved over 200 years to become North Carolina’s official 4th of July Festival. Street closures take place all over the sleepy beach town as 50,000 people descend to celebrate our nation’s freedom.

Events include a reading of the Declaration of Independence, Naturalization Ceremony, flag-raising and retirement ceremonies, veteran’s recognition, military band concerts, fire fighter’s competition, not to mention hundreds of arts, crafts and food vendors.

On Thursday, July 4, the annual parade gets underway at 11 a.m., and will travel from Moore to Howe Street to Fodale Avenue, featuring multiple organizations, nonprofits, politicians, plus princesses and queens galore, such as Miss NC. The parade will air on WECT as well.

In Franklin Square will be children’s games and live stage entertainmen. Plus, there will be an art show, classic car show, voter registration, Old Jail tours, Lions Club Boat raffle drawing, Cape Fear Yacht Club’s Commodore Regatta, St. Philip Church’s self-guided tours, Old Smithville Cemetery tours, and more. And don’t forget the night’s blaring fireworks over the water.
Check the official website for more details.

ARRIVE Wilmington, 101 S. 2nd St.

Just before the fireworks blast from the Battleship overlooking downtown ILM, folks can head to Wilmington’s newest boutique hotel, ARRIVE, and enjoy pre-gaming. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. there will be dancing with local DJs The Beehive Blondes, who spin retro tunes and encourage the best moves from every hip. Sips and bites will be available for purchase at the outside gazebo bar, adjacent to Dram Yard restaurant, which is taking reservations for dinner as well ( Only two blocks from the Cape Fear River, it’s a short walk to Water Street to catch the sizzles and booms once 9 p.m. rolls around.

Pier 33, 10 Harnett St.

Nothing says NC fun like bluegrass, beer and barbecue. Pier 33 has the fourth wrapped up with all three, including Massive Grass blaring live tunes. The fun kicks off at 6 p.m. and the music will break at 9:05 p.m. for the fireworks, but kick back up until 10 p.m. Folks are encouraged to bring blankets to lay out on, but chairs and outside food and beverages are prohibited. Food and drinks will be available through Port City Marina; the event is free to attend!

Note: Onsite parking is limited; however the Wilson Center lot at CFCC will be open, as will the other CFCC and Wilmington Convention Center parking decks.


Fireworks will fly over the Cape Fear River and the USS Battleship NC on Thursday at 9:05 p.m.

Downtown ILM Riverwalk

In previous years the City of Wilmington has hosted a street fair and July 4 concert as part of Independence Day celebrations. Yet, here we are again with construction taking over Riverfront Park along North Water Street, which means no street fair or concert this year. However, the fireworks will continue on, as hosted by WECT News, which will air the show (and replay it at 10 p.m.), and 102.7 WGNI, which will simulcast the show and have radio personality Ray Wagner on the Riverwalk at the foot of Market, giving away prizes.

The fireworks display begins at 9:05 p.m. Pets are not allowed, and folks are encouraged to arrive early and expect delays per parking and traffic. On-street parking will be free all day; however, decks will begin charging after 2 p.m. Downtown street closures will take place beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Pointe at Barclay,
1450 Barclay Pointe Blvd.

Want to work off those dogs and burgers before you even put the first forkful to your mouth? The Battle for Independence begins their 5k at 7:30 a.m. and their 1 mile run at 8:15 a.m. at The Pointe at Barclay. Participants will compete along Independence Boulevard on the Port City’s scenic Cross City Trail. Proceeds benefit Step Up for Soldiers and Team RWB. Step Up For Soldiers is an all-volunteer nonprofit that assists disabled veterans, who experience limb loss and mobility problems. Team RWB enriches lives of veterans by connecting them to community through physical and social activity.

Costs to run are $20 to $30. All finishers receive a medal but top three overall in multiple categories are recognized. Sign up at or email

Community Arts Center,
120 S. 2nd St.

Thalian Association Community Theatre oversees Community Arts Center / USO at Orange and 2nd streets. As part of the patriotic holiday, they’ll host an open house at the USO for folks to see 1940’s-era costumes, free coffee and Krispy Kreme, plus free swing lessons from The Cape Fear Swing Dance Society at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing and the Collegiate Shag).

They also will screen a 5-minute movie produced by Rob Hill, the documentary “Home Away From Home,” in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Historic USO. The USO houses the Wilmington Film Museum in the gallery, which will be open for tours all day long. The grassroots project looks to preserve film and TV history and education across the Cape Fear. Folks can see artifacts, images, and trivia from films made in Wilmington and across NC.

802 S. Anderson Blvd.

Every Thursday, Topsail Beach hosts a craft market featuring local artisans selling their wares. On July 4 the fun continues, as they welcome 24 vendors, plus Island Crush will sell Italian ices to ward off the heat.

Casa Blanca Coffee Roasters,
7409 Market St.

The sleekest coffee shop our town has ever seen opened on North Market Street in the spring. Now, they’re throwing a summertime bash for the Independence holiday for customers to enjoy camaraderie, food and beverages.

They’ll grill out beginning at 1 p.m. and will have activities for kids and adults. Food served will include all dietary options: gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. Consider carpooling as the lot has limited space. It’s only $12 for all you can eat!

Cape Fear Riverboats, 101 S. Water St. #1 •

The 4th of July will be unforgettable once folks board the Henrietta—back again on our waters after departing a few years ago. The cruise provides fireworks up, close and personal over the Cape Fear River, with boarding beginning 6:30 p.m. and departing at 7 p.m. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cold drinks will be served from the bar. Folks can enjoy the open-air upper deck or the air-conditioned dining room.
Tickets are $75 for adults and $60 for kids.

Bottega, 4th and Brunswick streets

From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bottega’s weekly drum circle will get underway on Thursday. For July 4th, they’re evolving into a circus—more palpatations, more rhythms, more enjoyment. It’s dance-inducing, mind-freeing and free to attend. Bring a drum to join or your dancing shoes to move.

Cloud 9, 9 Estell Lee Place

One of downtown Wilmington’s hottest views comes from the Embassy Suites’ Cloud 9 rooftop bar. They’ll have a special July 4th celebration, featuring live music by Wolf Moon from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. At 9:05 p.m. the best view of the fireworks will impress those who have a seat. There is a $10 general admission and table rentals are available, first-come, first-serve.

Surfer Dog is one of many popular Trolly dogs, with cheese, bacon bits and mayo. Courtesy photo

Surfer Dog is one of many popular Trolly Stop dogs, with cheese, bacon bits and mayo. Courtesy photo

Flying Machine Brewing Company
3130 Randall Pkwy

Our Deal of the Week comes from our readers’ poll winner for Best Hot Dog, Trolly Stop. In celebration of July 4, readers can score $10 gift certificates to their Fountain Drive location for a mere $5 (; see page 5).

Also celebrating the glorious hot dog will be Flying Machine on Randall Drive. Trolly Stop food truck will be parked at their brewery from noon to 3 p.m. on July 4th. It’s the perfect meal to pair with perfect locally crafted brews.

Anne Bonny’s, 106 S. WATER ST.

Presented by Opera House Theatre Company, Anne Bonnys has one of the hottest views of the Battleship NC, meaning the hottest views of the fireworks shooting above, hands down. Thanks to the barge bar being parked literally on the Cape Fear River, it’s sure to be a major hotspot come Thursday, wherein The Feebs take the stage from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. There’s no cover, but there will be kids activities, plus barbecue plates and funnel cakes, and ice cream from Lazy Jacks Shack next door. Arrive early to secure a seat.

Newsletter Signup
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome Home, Heath:


WELCOME HOME: Annie Tracy celebrates her latest EP back in ILM



Best Of Wilmington

ILM RESTAURANT WEEK: January 29 – February 9, 2020


Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

Newsletter Signup

© 2019 | "Your Alternative Weekly Voice"

Newsletter Signup

Thank you for signing up for our newsletter.