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25 Christmas Things To Do In Wilmington, NC (Updated 2021!)

This 25 Christmas Things To Do In Wilmington, NC post is updated for 2021!

If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out all of our Wilmington, NC posts.

Butterfly tree in Airlie Gardens, decorated for Christmas, with the words "25 Christmas Things To Do In Wilmington, NC" written on top.

It’s Christmas in Wilmington, NC and although it feels different this year, there are still a ton of ways to celebrate. In fact, we put together this great list of 25 Christmas Things To Do In Wilmington, NC.

I tried to add some ongoing seasonal activities to the list so that even if you’re not in town for one of the specific Christmas events in Wilmington, NC, you’ll still be able to enjoy some Christmas things when you’re in town.

25 Things To Do In Wilmington, NC At Christmastime

The majority of this list Wilmington, NC Christmas activities. A couple of them are in Carolina Beach, which non-locals pretty much think is an extension of Wilmington anyway.

And a couple are in Brunswick County, NC because we actually live in Bruns Co and we are closer to downtown Wilmington than Carolina Beach is.

Watch a Christmas show at Thalian Hall

We love Thalian Hall (310 Chestnut St). A couple years ago, we saw an amazing production of Green Day’s American Idiot. There are a ton of theatrical performances there, and during December, there are a lot of Christmas themed performances planned.

Thalian Hall’s Christmas schedule is as follows:

  • Celtic Angels Christmas: December 1 at 4 pm and 7:30 pm
  • Ballet for Young Audiences: The Nutcracker: December 3 at 4 pm and 7 pm and December 4 at 10 am
  • The Raleigh Ringers Holiday Concert: December 4 at 7:30 pm
  • Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!): December 9 to 19
  • Elf The Musical: December 10 to 19
  • It’s A Wonderful Life (11th Annual Special Screening): December 23 at 4 pm and 7 pm

Tickets must be purchased ahead of time and you can get them here.

Stockings hung on a fireplace inside the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, NC.

Tour the Nights of Lights at The Bellamy Mansion Museum

Usually, The Bellamy Mansion Museum (503 Market St) hosts a free to the public event called Nights of Lights where you can tour the historic home when it’s decorated in traditional Christmas décor.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Bellamy Mansion’s Nights of Lights 2021 is canceled.

However, the mansion will still be decorated for Christmas and you can see the decorations when you take a tour during the museum’s regular tour hours: Monday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

View the decorations at the Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Wilmington Railroad Museum (505 Nutt St.) usually has a light show, Polar Express events, and Santa to celebrate the season. Last year, that all had to be canceled. But (as far as we know) these events will be taking place from November 26 to December 18. As the dates get closer, we’ll be able to update this with more information.

There will also be decorations outside (which you can see for free as you walk by) and the model layouts inside the museum will be a winter wonderland.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and military personnel, $5.50 for kids ages 2 to 12, and kids under 2 are free.

Grab a pint of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Ale at Front Street Brewery

Front Street Brewery (9 N Front St) is Wilmington’s oldest brewery. There are a ton of flagship beers at the brewery, but of course, there are seasonal ones as well.

And come December, Tiny Tim’s Christmas Ale is always on tap. You’ll be able to order it as a glass on draft or you can fill a growler with it to take home.

See the Parking Meters on Parade in Carolina Beach

Most people aren’t crazy about seeing parking meters. That generally means you have to part with some of your hard earned quarters. But this is different.

The town of Carolina Beach hosted “Parking Meters on Parade” in 2020. Various parking meters around town are decorated by businesses and locals.

There were meters designed to look like the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, the Grinch, and more.

We don’t know if they’re doing it again this year, but we will update this as soon as we know.

Shop at a Holiday Market

Cool Wilmington is hosting the Really Cool Stuff Holiday Market in the South Front District. Food and craft vendors will be set up on South Front Street.

I’ve been told by the event planners that this event will take place in December, but I don’t have a set date from them yet. When I do, I’ll let you know.

Mayfaire Towne Center (6835 Conservation Way) is hosting the Holiday Market Extravaganza on Saturday, December 11 from 10 am to 7 pm showcasing local vendors, giveaways, and more.

Enter the Holiday Sandcastle Competition at Carolina Beach

Forget snow. Wilmington is known for sand and beaches (even though technically there aren’t beaches in Wilmington).

Carolina Beach is swaps snowmen for sandcastles during the Holiday Sandcastle Competition.

You can watch the competition from the oceanfront gazebo, then hang around and see who wins.

The date for 2021 hasn’t been announced yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as it is.

Visit Santa

Santa makes some of traditional stops in the Port City. The big man will be at Mayfaire Town Center (L135 – 865 Inspiration Dr) from December 2 until December 24.

He’ll be there Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm; Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm; Sunday from noon to 5 pm. On Christmas Eve, Santa will be around from 10 am to 1 pm then 2 pm to 5 pm. He does take breaks daily to “feed the reindeer.”

Visits with Santa will be accordance with local guidelines and a hand sanitizing station will be available.

Santa will also be at the Independence Mall (3500 Oleander Dr.) from days from November 29 through December 21.

That’s for kids. If you want your pet to take a photo with Santa, you can do that on the following days: November 29 from 4 pm to 7 pm; December 6 from 4 pm to 7 pm; December 13 from 4 pm to 8 pm; and December 20 from 4 pm to 8 pm.

Visit A Light in the Darkest of Nights & An 18th Century Christmas

The are two events at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site (8884 St Phillips Rd SE, Winnabow) that you don’t want to miss.

On Saturday, December 11, from 4 pm to 7 pm, there’s the A Light in the Darkest of Nights event. Everyone is invited to St. Philips Church at Brunswick to view its holiday decorations, complete with candlelight and greenery. The event is free.

The next day, Sunday, December 12, is the 18th Century Christmas event from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Costumed interpreters will give guided tours of the church and attendees will enjoy 18th century inspired refreshments, participate in traditional games, make 18th century themed crafts, and more. There will be an authentic period candlelit service at 5 pm. This event is $5.

Marvel at the Island of Lights Festival

One of my favorite annual traditions is to head to the Island of Lights Festival at the lake at Carolina Beach (intersection of Atlanta Ave and Lake Park Blvd).

There annual parade will take place on Friday, December 3 at 7:30 pm. Santa arrives at the end of the parade.

The lights around the park will be lit from then until the end of the year.

Enchanted Airlie is Airlie Gardens' beautiful, after hours, walking tour where the gardens are lit up for Christmas. Find out more in this Enchanted Airlie review on

See the lights at Enchanted Airlie

Each year, Airlie Gardens (300 Airlie Road) hosts Enchanted Airlie. The entire botanical garden is filled with lights.

Admission is $30 per carload, and tickets must be reserved ahead of time.

We went last year and it was amazing. We do already have our 2021 Enchanted Airlie ticket.

Check out our full Enchanted Airlie review.

Ride with Santa on his horsedrawn carriage

Santa and his “reindeer” do the horsedrawn carriage tours in Wilmington in December.

The tour starts at Market and Water Streets in downtown Wilmington. There are blankets to keep you warm while you ride around downtown, hear about the city’s history, and check out Christmas lights in Wilmington, NC’s downtown area.

Tours will take place December 17, 18, 23, and 24 from 6 pm to 10 pm. Tickets are $14 for adults and $6 per child (and children get free candy canes!).

Take a Holiday Harbor Cruise

The Christmas lights on the water are such a spectacle to see when you take a Holiday Harbor Cruise on the Carolina Runner. It leaves out of  the south dock of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort (275 Waynick Blvd; Wrightsville Beach) and takes you around the harbor for an hour.

The cruise is $45 for an adult and $25 for a child.

The Holiday Harbor Cruise can be booked between November 29 and December 4 at either 5 pm or 6:30 pm each night.

Recreate Hallmark’s “USS Christmas”

Last year’s new Hallmark movie, USS Christmas, was filmed in Wilmington. The majority of the plot takes place at the USS North Carolina in Wilmington.

You can visit the USS North Carolina (1 Battleship Road) and recreate scenes from the movie, tour the battleship, and learn its history.

Watch The Nutcracker

You have two options to see The Nutcracker at The Wilson Center this year.

You can see City Ballet’s The Nutcracker on December 5 or you can see The Great Wilmington Nutcracker (the 20th annual show) on December 18 and 19.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Join the Jingle Bell Run

This is not for me. I don’t run. At all.

But if you run, you can sign up for the Jingle Bell Run on December 11. The timed, in-person race starts at the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History
(303 West Salisbury St.).

You are encouraged to dress in holiday apparel, since it is a holiday-themed run, but even that won’t get me running.

Check out the Cape Fear Festival of Trees

This year, the Cape Fear Festival of Trees will be held at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (900 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach) from November 26 to January 3.

The festival, which benefits the Lower Cape Fear LifeCare’s Cape Fear Festival of Trees, features a ton of trees decorated and donated by local businesses.

Visitors can purchase wreathes and ornaments, plus vote on their favorite tree.

The festival will be held from Sunday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. It’s closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Admission to the aquarium is required, but there’s no additional fee to see the trees.

Leave a letter for Santa at the Cotton Exchange

Santa usually makes a stop at The Cotton Exchange (321 N Front St), but he couldn’t find a way to safely do that last year, so we’re not sure if he’ll be back this year.

But, instead of getting to chat with the big man, kids are able to leave him a letter in the mailbox located within The Cotton Exchange.

Donate to a family in need

The church we attend, the Basilica Shrine of St. Mary in Downtown Wilmington, usually has an angel tree up each year and parishioners are able to purchase gifts for families in need.

Even if you’re not a parishioner, you can still head inside the church, take a leaf off the tree, and sponsor a family in need.

Drink and sing at Waterman’s

Waterman’s Brewing (1610 Pavilion Pl) is hosted a Christmas-themed version of Cape Fear Beer and Hymns‘ staple event. Which is exactly what you think. People get together, drink beer, and sing hymns.

Cape Fear Beer and Hymns meets every fourth Sunday at Waterman’s, so we can only hope the event is back for 2021.

Look at the lights in Leland

Leland is the town over from Wilmington, but often gets overshadowed by its larger neighbor. But, not to be outdone, Leland has its own light display.

Leland in Lights will be up at Founders Park (113 Town Hall Drive) beginning on December 4. There’s a Candy Cane Forest, a waterfall of lights, forest critters, and of course, Santa.

Admission is free. The displays are up all day long, but they’re only lit at night.

Check out our full Leland In Lights review for more.

Visit the downtown Christmas tree

The Christmas tree in downtown Wilmington (at the end of Market Street) is being lit during the tree lighting event on November 26 at 5:30 pm.

There will be live entertainment, free hot cocoa, a visit from Santa, and more.

Drive to see the entrants in the Holiday Decorating Contest

Last year, Wilmington Parks & Rec hosted a huge Holiday House Decorating Contest. Residents decorated their homes and a first and second place winner were selected.

There was a map available so you could see all the holiday decorating in Wilmington. You could easily type the addresses into your GPS and drive around to see all the showcased homes.

Hopefully the event will come back for 2021.

Drink the Holiday Blend at Port City Java

No trip to Wilmington is complete without a stop at Port City Java. It’s the area’s most popular coffee chain (totally beating out Starbucks).

In December, Port City Java brews a Holiday Blend, so you can ask your barista for it by name — or order a bag of it online.

A shop with the words Visit Santa on top and "Where To See Santa In Wilmington, NC" digitally written on the bottom.

Where can you see Santa in Wilmington, NC?

If you’re trying to figure out where Santa is in Wilmington in 2021, we have you covered with this list here.

Venus Flytrap sculpture in downtown Wilmington, NC.

Looking for other things to do in Wilmington NC in December?

Wilmington has a lot of things to do whenever you come to visit, including a lot of free things to do and things to do when it rains. You can check out this Wilmington events calendar to find things to do in Wilmington, NC this weekend.

If you’re wondering what to do in Wilmington, NC, check out our post here.

And, if you’re looking for places to eat and drink in Wilmington and the surrounding area while you’re enjoying the Christmas festivities, we have a few posts to help you out:

Looking for more Christmas things to do in the south?

Christmas decorations on a lightpost in front of the Market House in Fayetteville, NC with the words "25 Things To Do In Fayetteville, NC at Christmastime" digitally written on top.

Christmas things to do in Fayetteville, NC

If you’re in the area, check out our list of 25 Christmas Things To Do In Fayetteville, NC.

You’ll be able to find carriage rides, Christmas beers at local breweries, a German Christmas Festival, and more.

Lit Christmas tree with the words "Christmas Things To Do In Myrtle Beach, SC" digitally written on top.

Christmas things to do in Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach is filled with Christmas things to do, like visits with Santa, drive in movies at Ripley’s Aquarium, tree lightings, and more.

Check out all the Christmas things to do in Myrtle Beach, SC.

A home decorated for Christmas in Charleston, SC with the words "Christmas Things To Do In Charleston, SC" written on top.

Christmas Things To Do In Charleston, SC

Charleston is known for its charm, and that charm is dialed up a notch during the Christmas season. Homes are decorated, trees are lit, and markets switch to holiday gifts. There are tons of holiday things to do in the area.

Check them out in our Christmas things to do in Charleston, SC post.

Christmas lights with the words "Night Of A Thousand Candles" digitally written on top.

Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens (Murrells Inlet, SC)

Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens is an annual must see. There are over 2,500 candles, countless lights, holiday carolers, and more at the botanical garden.

Learn more in our Nights of a Thousand Candles review.

Which of these 25 Christmas things to do in Wilmington, NC are you looking most forward to?