November 22, 2013


Sparkle and shine. Dazzle and delight. Lighting up the holidays is a hallmark of Wilmington, North Carolina and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. During this festive time of year two colorful nighttime flotillas illuminate our waterways: the 30th Annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach on Saturday, November 30 and the Island of Lights Holiday Flotilla at Carolina Beach on Saturday, December 7. The boat parades feature brightly lit sailing vessels, ranging from tiny rowboats to luxury yachts.

While flotillas can occur any time of the year, the holidays are perfect for nautical festivities. Each year thousands of visitors travel to Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach to line the waterways and cheer for the twinkling boats as they drift by in competition for the coveted “Best in Show” prize. Captains and their crews go all-out to please the crowds, decorating their boats from stem to stern in themes that range from traditional to contemporary. This originality reflects the independent spirit and creative energy that defines Wilmington, N.C.’s historic river district and island beaches.

A Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event for November 2013, the time-honored flotilla kicks off the holiday season the weekend after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29-30). To celebrate its 30th year, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla promises an impressive show with a record number of glimmering boats. Visitors can celebrate all weekend, beginning Friday night when the island’s official Christmas tree is lit at 5:45 p.m., followed by visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Town Hall. At 7:00 p.m., there’s an Atlantic Marine Launch Party at the Blockade-Runner Beach Resort with live music and heavy hors d’oeuvres (admission charge for gala). On Saturday, a full day of entertainment begins with a free Festival in the Park from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at Wrightsville Beach Park featuring arts and crafts vendors, antique / classic car show, kids’ activities, food, entertainment, and amusements. Then, at 6:00 p.m. the main attraction—the holiday flotilla—gets underway along Banks Channel, beginning with a fireworks volley, followed by the boat parade and a stunning fireworks show. This year’s event includes a Crowd Favorite winner determined by audience text-votes. Visitors who wish to make the most of their beach weekend can also enjoy the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, narrated cruises, fresh seafood at island restaurants, and shopping at surf and specialty shops. For details about the N.C. Holiday Flotilla, visit, email or call 910-256-2120.

On the first Saturday in December (December 7th), the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla in Carolina Beach features electrically decorated fishing boats and pleasure crafts in a spectacular display of light and sound along the Intracoastal Waterway. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. the merry boat parade cruises from Snows Cut to Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back. The best viewing station is at Carolina Beach Boat Basin. Visitors who arrive on Friday can usher in the holidays during the annual Island of Lights Nighttime Christmas Parade on Friday evening (December 6th). Santa’s official arrival in Pleasure Island is preceded by an elaborate procession of electrical floats, marching bands, queens, and more. The Friday night parade begins at 7:30 p.m. along Lake Park Blvd. from Atlantic Avenue to Federal Point Shopping Center in Carolina Beach. Plan a weekend getaway that includes the parade and the flotilla, as well as a visit to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk for this year’s Christmas by the Sea festivities. While on the island, you can enjoy Kure Beach’s new Ocean Front Park and visit the Fort Fisher State Historic Site & Civil War Museum, Carolina Beach State Park, and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. You’ll also find unique gifts in museum shops and beach boutiques at Carolina and Kure beaches. For details about the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla and Nighttime Parade:

Events such as the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla and the Island of Lights Festival provide a fun and affordable way to experience the holidays coastal-style. More than 50 holiday events celebrate the season in Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. To download a free Holiday Events guide:

For a free Official Visitors Guide, visit, call 1-866-266-9690, or email, or stop by the year-round Visitors Information Center located at 505 Nutt Street, Unit A, in Wilmington’s historic river district.
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