Wilmington, North Carolina: This year there are three great reasons to visit Wilmington, North Carolina’s Historic River District and Island Beaches during February. Three signature events on back-to-back weekends create one enticing month: the Wilmington Wine & Chocolate Festival (Feb. 1-3), the 33rd annual North Carolina Jazz Festival (Feb. 7-9), and the Wilmington Garden Show (Feb. 16-17). Visitors will have the best of all worlds when they can savor fine wines and gourmet chocolate, then enjoy live jazz performances the following weekend, and satisfy their garden hobbies on the third weekend. Catch one, two or all three events that take place in Wilmington’s historic river district. The storied Cape Fear River provides a stunning backdrop with its mile-long Riverwalk and more than 200 shops, restaurants, attractions and tours. Perhaps best of all, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach where visitors can rent a beach cottage by the week or month, or take advantage of off-season rates at hotels and B&Bs.
February gets off to a decadent start with the Wilmington Wine and Chocolate Festival at the Coastline Event Center (503 Nutt Street, Wilmington). Connoisseurs can sip, nibble, sigh and buy as they sample delectable delights from superb regional wineries, chocolatiers and artisans. A Friday night Grand Tasting gala (7:00 p.m.—10:00 p.m.) kicks off the event with live music and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Wilmington’s own Sharp Nine Jazz Ensemble featuring Nina Repeta, Roger Davis and Madafo Lloyd Wilson, will entertain while wine and chocolate purveyors tantalize with tastings. On Saturday (11:00 a.m.--7:00 p.m.) and Sunday (12:00 p.m.—4:00 p.m.), the wine and chocolate marketplace features fine vintners, chocolatiers and artists in a casual atmosphere. Products will be available for sampling and for sale. Culinary demonstrations will take place in the adjacent Riverview Terrace. The Festival is produced by the Volunteer Older Citizens Action League and proceeds benefit the New Hanover County Senior Center’s programs to meet the needs of local senior citizens. Marketplace admission is $20 in advance/$25 at the door on Saturday and $15 in advance/$17 at the door on Sunday. Friday’s Grand Tasting tickets cost $50 in advance/$55 at the door, based on availability. Tickets are also available at Wilmington-area Harris Teeter stores. For festival details and ticket information: www.wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 910-742-0120.
Each February since 1980, the North Carolina Jazz Festival (a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event) has brought world-class jazz musicians to Wilmington, North Carolina. On February 7-9, 15 traditional jazz artists will arrive in Wilmington from such diverse places as Australia, Italy, British Columbia, New Orleans, New York City, Maryland and New Jersey to perform in an intimate cabaret-style setting at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside’s ballroom. Now in its 33rd year, the 2013 North Carolina Jazz Festival kicks off on Thursday night with a concert featuring “Jazz Strings” performances, including a duet with senior jazz anchor Bucky Pizzarelli and young jazz violinist Jonathan Russell. Frank Bongiorno With Strings (a ten-piece ensemble) will also pay tribute to “Charlie Parker with Strings.” Other renowned musicians at this year’s festival include Rossano Sportiello on piano, along with David Boeddinghaus. On horns are jazz anchors Ed Polcer, plus Randy Reinhart, David Sager, and Bria Skonberg. Australian jazzman Adrian Cunningham will be joined by Dan Levinson on woodwinds. Bassists Nicki Parrott and Kerry Lewis, along with Kevin Dorn and Chuck Redd will make up the rhythm section – Chuck will double on drums & vibes. NOLA lady Banu Gibson, with a worldwide reputation for her “Hot Jazz” is the featured vocalist.
Cabaret-style seating and all-star musicians distinguish this traditional jazz festival. Other highlights include expanded workshops and master classes with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), Jonathan Russell (violin), Bria Skonberg (trumpet), and Adrian Cunningham (reeds & flute). A Patron’s Brunch on Saturday features the All-Star musicians and a jam session that affords patrons who are musicians to jam with the All-Stars. All events take place at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.
One of the oldest traditional jazz festivals in the country, the North Carolina Jazz Festival often sells out; advance reservations are recommended. For tickets and details about the N.C. Jazz Festival, call 910-793-1111 or visit www.ncjazzfestival.com. Tickets can also be purchased via mail: N.C. Jazz Festival, 233 Racine Dr. #95, Wilmington, NC 28403. Individual concert ticket prices vary: Thursday ($35 per person); Friday and Saturday ($50 general admission; $25 military rate, each night); student tickets ($15 each night). Patron tickets ($175-$200 each) include admission to Friday/Saturday concerts and the Patron’s Musical Brunch with all-star musicians. For tickets and details, call 910-793-1111 or visit www.ncjazzfestival.com. For hotel reservations and special rates, call the Wilmington Hilton Riverside at 910-763-5900 or visit www.wilmingtonhilton.com.
The weekend of February 16-17, the 20th annual Wilmington Garden Show, the southeast Coast’s premier garden show, will feature dozens of vendors selling hundreds of plants, products, services and gift items for plant and flower enthusiasts at every level of expertise. It’s a one-stop shop for spring gardeners. There will also be special gardening activities for children. More than 40 new and returning vendors will offer gardening and landscaping displays, plants, decorative items, helpful tips and more. Both days feature a full schedule of guest speakers who will provide demonstrations and lectures on a variety of topics. There will also be a raffle for a stainless steel gas grill. All events take place at the Schwartz Center (601 N. Front Street, Wilmington) on Cape Fear Community College’s downtown campus. Garden Show hours are Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. General admission is $7; children under 12 are free. For more details, please call 910-798-7670. To print out a discount coupon and for more information, visit www.nhcgov.com/Arboretum/Pages/WilmingtonGardenShow.aspx.
From the historic banks of the storied Cape Fear River to the luminous shores of beautiful island beaches, there’s always something fun to experience in Wilmington, NC’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. For a free 2012 Official Visitors Guide, please call 866-266-9690, email visit@WilmingtonAndBeaches.com or visit us online at www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com for visitor information and a complete event calendar.