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WHERE TO GO FOR HOLLY JOLLIES: The Wilmington area hosts a ton of holiday events for the merriment of the season

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What to do and where to go to enjoy all the holiday season has to offer across Southeastern NC.

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Ready or not, here it comes. The season to be holly jolly, merry and bright has begun (for some it may have started the day after Halloween). Christmas and holiday-themed activities and events abound, with location changes to note for some and new traditions added to others. encore has several holiday happenings for locals and visitors alike, starting this week!

HOLIDAY HAPS:  Find all the holiday festivities and events throughout ILM this season, like the Cape Fear Literacy Council’s 12 Tastes of Christmas (above), from now until Christmas. Courtesy photo

HOLIDAY HAPS: Find all the holiday festivities and events throughout ILM this season, like the Cape Fear Literacy Council’s 12 Tastes of Christmas (above), from now until Christmas. Courtesy photo

Wrightsville Beach Holiday Flotilla
Nov. 27-28
After the Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Wrightsville Beach Town Hall on Fri., Nov. 27 at 5:45 p.m., folks can continue to kick off the flotilla weekend at the Atlantic Marine Holiday Flotilla Launch Party at 7 p.m. The night, hosted at the Blockade Runner (9275 Waynick Blvd.), features live music by The Embers, live auction, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and a fully stocked cash bar. Tickets are $30 per person.

Some consider the Festival in the Park the highlight of the flotilla weekend, which will be held on Sat., Nov. 28, from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. at Wrightsville Beach Park (1 Bob Sawyer Dr.). In addition to a large selection of arts and crafts vendors for last-minute gift shopping, this year’s festival will include food and a play area for children. Kids can go from inflatable slides and bouncy houses to a coloring contest, and on to the Arab Choo Choo.

Following the festival, folks have a couple of hours to make their way to a good vantage point for the lighted boat parade that starts at 6 p.m. There is no official location to watch the parade, but it’s advised to park in the Wrightsville Beach Park lot and walk to spots along Banks Channel Bridge, the two South Harbor Island mini-parks, or the west side of Waynick Boulevard.
Fireworks will immediately follow the parade at approximately 7:30 p.m. For more details on the parade route, event locations or parking, visit

Enchanted Airlie
Nov. 27-Dec. 22
Since 2005 Airlie Gardens has attracted and enchanted visitors from all over the region. Enchanted Airlie will return on Nov. 27 for another holiday run. The twinkling lights and festivities are always accompanied by giggling and awe-struck children, who are likely to see Santa Claus roaming about the grounds, too. The self-guided tours span a half-mile trek through the historic gardens, which are lit and decorated for the holidays. Two tour-times per evening are offered at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 28, Dec. 4-6, 10-13, and 16-22. (Nov. 27 is sold out.) A few local food and beverage vendors will be open, serving coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn, cookies, and more.

Prices range from single admission for $12 (includes children under 4), couples passes for $17 and carload tickets (three or more persons in a single vehicle) are $27. All guests must arrive in the same vehicle. Large passenger vans, limos or buses are excluded from carload ticket price.
Contact Airlie Gardens for special reservations at 910-798-7700 or email For more, visit

Holiday Train Expo
Nov. 27-Dec. 27
Get onboard Southeastern North Carolina’s biggest model railroad display at the former Salt Shaker bookstore (705 S. Kerr Ave.) from Nov. 27 to Dec. 27; Fridays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sponsored by the Cape Fear Model Railroad Society, the expo features three working railroad layouts, a large-scale Christmas village, a special Polar Express display, and more. Tickets are $4-$5; children under 2 get in free. For more details visit

Christmas and Candlelight
Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5
Share in one of two Victorian-themed candlelight weekends at the Manor House at Poplar Grove Plantation (10200 US Hwy. 17 N.) from Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5. Each of the eight rooms of the house will be decorated by theme and color inspired by the Foy family’s history, spanning from Colonial through Victorian eras.

A special arts and crafts festival will be open on Saturday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Visitors will find a variety of local items for sale while enjoying kettle corn and hot cider. They can share a wagon ride with a few neighbors and friends before taking photos with the farm animals in full holiday regalia. The South Topsail Elementary School Choir, led by Samantha Rodgers, will fill the air with holiday music and cheer for the evening.

All proceeds from the Christmas and Candlelight tours and the day festival will go towards the continuous preservation of Poplar Grove Plantation. Advanced tickets are required and can be purchased for $10-$12. Tours are limited to 15 guests. Call 910-686-9518 for reservations or visit

Cape Fear Festival of Trees
Nov. 23-Dec. 6
The Lower Cape Fear Hospice’s annual decorated tree display has a new venue this year. The Cape Fear Festival of Trees, scheduled for Nov. 23 – Dec. 6, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., will be at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher (900 Loggerhead Rd.). Dispersed throughout the lower and upper mezzanine areas, at least 25 uniquely decorated trees will be on display and can be viewed with admission to the aquarium.

Tickets range from $8.95 – $10.95. Children 2 and younger get in free. Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discount. Visit

A Carolina Nutcracker
Dec. 5-6
City Ballet’s A Carolina Nutcracker is the area’s only full-length staging of this holiday favorite but with a local twist. Set in Wilmington at the Bellamy Mansion 150 years ago, the show features historical characters from the period, paired with beloved traditions of the original ballet. Performances on Sat., Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., and Sun., Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. will include a live professional orchestra and children’s chorus. It’s the perfect familiy show to take in this holiday season at the new Humanities and Fine Arts Center (411 N. Front St.) in downtown Wilmington. Tickets may be purchased for $15-$30. Find more details at

12 Tastes of Christmas
December 11
Back by popular demand, ILM foodies will flock to the third annual 12 Tastes of Christmas, set for Friday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. All to benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council, guests will sample seasonal bites and sips of festive cocktails, as made by local restaurateurs and eateries. The Blind Elephant, PinPoint, Palate, Caprice Bistro, Flytrap Brewing, Chops Deli, Wilmington Brewing Company, Yosake, Detour Deli, Twist & Stout, Costellos, Soulful Twist, Duck & Dive, and many more are participating. DJ Chill Bill will set the groove throughout the evening at the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.). Tickets are $30. For more details, visit

Christmas Stroll Through the Past
December 12
The Bellamy Mansion Museum, Burgwin-Wright House and St. James Episcopal Church invite folks on a stroll through the past on Dec. 12, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Celebrate the holidays with period decorations, music, costumed interpreters from the Victorian era, a petting zoo, refreshments, and more. The candle-lit walk features paths to two historic homes and one historic church. Architectural historian Edward F. Turberg will be available to answer questions about the structures and their history.

Tickets are $20 for adults 15 and up. Tickets are available at the Burgwin-Wright House (224 Market St.), Bellamy Mansion Museum (503 Market St.), and online at

Polar Express Day
December 19
All aboard the Polar Express! Pajamas are welcome for this morning of Christmas magic on Sat., Dec. 19, 9 a.m., at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington (116 Orange St.). Polar Express Day will start with a reading of the popular holiday book at 10 a.m. Kids also will make train ornaments, write letters to Santa, drink hot cocoa, and receive a Christmas spirit bell. (Pssst: The bell only rings for those who believe.)

Polar Express Day is free with admission ($8.75-$9.75).


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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.

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