Wilmington is an adorable North Carolina town brimming with holiday cheer. With stately historic homes featuring classic architecture, moss-draped oaks, and glowing holiday lights, a delightful landmark downtown with brick-paved streets, lovely gardens, and community fun, Wilmington and the surrounding beach towns are guaranteed to serve up a holiday celebration straight from your favorite Hallmark movie.
This North Carolina town, with a walkable downtown filled with shops and restaurants, offers the classic small-town charm that is a hallmark of Southern towns. At Christmas, with so many options, Wilmington and its surrounding beach towns come to life.
Visit Wilmington & The Beaches provided a hosted stay and experiences. All opinions are my own.
During the holiday season, you will have your pick of events. From holiday tree lighting to a railroad Christmas, a flotilla dressed in holiday lights, to spectacular gardens, you’ll be entertained in delightful Wilmington and the surrounding beach towns.
1. Airlie Gardens
Millions of lights adorn the garden each year. Musical entertainment is found throughout the park, adding to the holiday feel. You’ll feel transported into a Hallmark movie as you stroll the gardens hand in hand with your partner as a chill permeates the air.
Everywhere you look are holiday lights and decorations — flowers, whimsical garden creations, and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to hop aboard the garden tram as it winds through the spectacular holiday.
2. Christmas Flotilla
The highlight of the Christmas season in the Wilmington area is the Christmas Flotilla. Located right on the beach, the Blockade Runner Resort is the only hotel on the flotilla’s route, making it an ideal location to see this amazing boat parade, as well as stay and play to explore this Hallmark movie-worthy area.
The flotilla is made up of boats of all kinds and sizes. They’ve been working for weeks on their decorations and they are ready to show off their creative displays for you.
Over the years, Jim and I have seen and participated in many holiday flotillas. They are so exciting to view!
Boats line up one behind the other, and as they slowly make their way around the coastline, their sparkling decorations come into view. You’ll see strings of sparkly, glittery lights all over the boats, and with sailboats, they even string the lights up the mast!
Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see a canoe or paddleboard in the flotilla! Don’t slip away early because the event ends with a jaw-dropping Zambelli fireworks display over the waterway.
If you have never seen a Zambelli fireworks show, boy, are you in for a treat! These firework displays are a total sensory experience, and you’ll walk away amazed!
Fun Fact: Zambelli is known as the first family of fireworks. They put on some of the top events across the U.S.
Snuggle up on the sound side lawn of the Blockade Runner Resort (guests only) to watch the boat parade. Grab a cup of hot cocoa or cider to warm yourself, watch the boats lit up in lights, and you’re transported right into a Hallmark movie!
3. Blockade Runner Resort
The Blockade Runner is the perfect home base for a beautiful Christmas experience! Wrightsville Beach will wrap you in enchantment, and you’ll be surprised with your holiday experiences at the beach.
The Blockade Runner has been crafting holiday memories and traditions for almost 60 years. It’s the perfect holiday destination to slow down, enjoy family, and soak in the spirit of the holidays. Enjoy the relaxed coastal Christmas that will rival your favorite Hallmark holiday movie memories. The resort offers several holiday packages to elevate the holiday experience.
4. Battleship USS North Carolina
The Battleship USS North Carolina is fearsome with her foredeck guns and massive superstructure. But when she gets dolled up for Christmas, she is breathtaking!
This gigantic ship is a sight to behold. You’ll see her decked in lights, strung from the bow to the stern and up the masts. No matter where you are on Wilmington’s waterfront, this massive, majestic warship of the waterfront can be seen in all of her glittery, sparkly Christmas glory.
Take a trip through history and experience what the Christmas holidays were like in 1943 for the sailors aboard the USS North Carolina. There are living history guides that enact the daily duties and drills of the men who served onboard. There is an admission charge for touring the battleship and she is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fun Fact: The Hallmark movie USS Christmas was filmed in the area. I can just picture the USS North Carolina as the starring ship!
5. Cape Fear Festival Of Trees
You’ll find a most unusual Christmas holiday experience can be found at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Head over to the North Carolina Aquarium for Cape Fear’s Festival of Trees. The Aquarium transforms itself into a winter wonderland filled with glistening, glittering trees, decorated by local businesses and organizations, and art by local artists completes the Christmas transformation.
6. Wilmington’s Historic District
Wilmington’s downtown commercial historic district comprises approximately five blocks on both Market and North Front Street. As you walk the old brick streets lined with historic homes and stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss, you can see scenes from Hallmark Christmas movies flash through your mind.
A vast majority of the local shops will decorate their windows for the holidays, making it fun to stroll the streets as the sun sets, and the lights glow softly through the windows, bathing the holiday window decorations in light.
A carriage tour is one of our favorite holiday traditions and Wilmington’s Horse Drawn Tours does not disappoint! It is the perfect way to add a touch of romance to your holiday visit!
Snuggle together under a warm lap blanket and listen to the smooth rhythm of the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves adding a pleasant backbeat to the holiday carols swirling around you. You’ll enjoy the Christmas lights twinkling like stars. This is the perfect recipe for romance!
Can you picture the scene of a horse-drawn carriage and a couple snuggling with hot cocoa in a Hallmark movie?
7. Nights Of Lights At The Bellamy Mansion
Stroll back in time at The Bellamy Mansion Nights of Lights. The mansion and original slave quarters are decked out in vintage lavish Victorian holiday finery. You’ll see mantels draped in greenery, holly, and ornately trimmed Christmas trees. Who knows — you might even encounter Father Christmas! I’m reminded of some holiday classics from long ago as we stroll through the home. It creates a yearning in me for the simpler times of years past.
8. Burgwin-Wright House And Gardens Holiday Craft Market
Built in 1770 and constructed on the ballast stone walls of the 1744 city jail; the Burgwin-Wright house still features architectural touches from its former life. The outdoor and sub-basement jail cells and a freestanding kitchen house with a gigantic hearth are all reminders of its former life.
The Burgwin-Wright home occupies an acre of prime downtown real estate. Colonial-style gardens include a pomegranate and fig tree orchard, a kitchen garden, and a rose garden.
During the holidays, there is a Holiday Craft Market and Open House featuring 30 local artists and artisans with unique handmade products.
With its coastal location and centuries of history, Wilmington is an ideal destination for Hallmark movie fans! Many Hallmark movies and television shows were filmed in this coastal area of North Carolina.