Wilmington, NC is known for hosting the Azalea Festival, but there are a ton of festivals in Wilmington. We collected all of them in this guide to help you plan your trip to the Port City.
For more help planning your trip, check out all of our posts about Wilmington, NC.
Wilmington, North Carolina is a great city to visit. There are a ton of great restaurants, over a dozen local breweries, and beaches nearby.
And, if you time your trip right, you might be in town for a festival. There are a bunch of large festivals that Wilmington is known for, like this month’s North Carolina Azalea Fest. And then, there are smaller festivals that pop up on the calendar as well, like Wilmington VegFest (also happening later this month).
We included all the large and small festivals on this list. We didn’t includes things we consider to be just “events” like the twice-annual beer and wine walks in downtown Wilmington. And we didn’t include festivals that haven’t occurred in the last two calendar years, like the food truck rodeo from a decade ago. We enjoyed that event, but it hasn’t happened in years, so it’s not on our calendar below.
And, finally, we don’t include any festivals that have only happened once because those could be one and done events.
If you’re coming to Wilmington for a festival, that’s not all you’re gonna do in town. For more to check out, check out our Wilmington, NC Travel Guide.
A Guide To Festivals In Wilmington, NC
To make this list easy to digest, we put the festivals together chronologically, according to the month they’re usually scheduled.
Next festival: February 1 – 3, 2024
Location: Hotel Ballast
Jazz is the highlight of this three-day festival, which celebrated its 43rd year in 2023. There’s a showcase with multiple styles of jazz on the first night, followed by 15 performances (with bands of six or seven members) on the next two nights.
There’s also a patron’s brunch on the final day of the festival where diners are treated to music while they eat. Then, after the meal is over, patrons (with musical talent, of course) can join the patrons on stage. It’s the perfect festival for jazz lovers.
Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge
Next festival: February 24, 2024
Location: Waterline Brewing
Each year, Waterline Brewing hosts the Cape Fear Hooley Under The Bridge as a fundraiser for the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival.
A large stage is set up in the brewery’s parking lot and Irish bands, Irish dancers, and more take the stage. There’s always a few food trucks selling food, including The Black Sheep, the food truck of The Harp, an Irish restaurant in downtown Wilmington.
Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival
Next festival: TBD (But the 2023 festival was on March 11)
Location: Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park
If you like beer, bourbons, and barbecue, this festival is for you. Admission gets you a sampling glass, which allows you unlimited beer and bourbon tastings.
The barbecue, however, is not included in the ticket prices and you’ll have to purchase that separately (but, great news: you’re actually able to bring in your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy at the festival).
There’s also live music at the event, so you’ll have something to do other than drink and eat.
St. Patrick’s Day Festival
Next festival: March 16, 2024
Location: Front Street, then Waterline Brewing
St. Patrick’s Day is a fun excuse to have a festival. And Wilmington has a great one annually. It kicks off with the Downtown Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day Parade then follows with a huge festival, with music and food vendors, at Waterline Brewing.
It’s very similar to the Hooley Under The Bridge, just a little bit of a larger scale.
Get more details in our Wilmington, NC St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade Info post.
Next festival: TBD (But the 2023 festival was on March 18)
Location: The Cotton Exchange
After a decade hiatus, the Feast Of The Pirates returned in 2023 to rock The Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington. Pirates invaded the historic building to search for treasure, tell stories, play games, and more to bring back the festival that began in 1927.
This is hosted by the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust.
This is different than the pirate festival that happens in neighboring Belville in the fall, but that is put on by the same group.
North Carolina Azalea Festival
Next festival: April 14 to 16, 2023
Location: Front and Water Street
The North Carolina Azalea Festival is the biggest festival in downtown Wilmington. The most well known portion of the festival is the street fair, with a kid’s zone, food vendors (my favorite part!), and other vendors selling their wares.
There are also two concerts (most years there are three) of nationally touring bands and artists at the main stage at Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park. There’s also live entertainment at Tunes & Blooms at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater as well.
But, the part of the festival that most people don’t know about are the home and garden tours throughout historic downtown Wilmington — which is basically the azalea portion of the Azalea Festival.
Check out our North Carolina Azalea Festival 2023 Details & Full Schedule post for more info.
Next festival: April 22, 2023
Location: Long Leaf Park
The annual Wilmington Earth Day Festival is actually the first festival I ever attended after moving to Wilmington, so it holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart.
The festival, hosted by the Wilmington Earth Day Alliance, features a Kids Eco-Zone, vegan-friendly food trucks, live music, beer for purchase, and other fun activities that teach the importance of recycling and sustainability.
Next festival: April 23, 2023
Location: Legion Sports Complex
The biggest showcase of vegan and vegan-friendly products and brands happens at the annual Wilmington VegFest. There are a ton of vendors peddling their wares, a children’s play area with face painting and other kid-friendly activities, a ton of vegan food, and more.
It’s a free event, although there are VIP packages available.
Next festival: April 29 and 30, 2023
Location: Waterline Brewing
The Wilmington Coffee Fest has had a few incarnations over the years. At one point, from what I can remember, it was a coffee crawl, similar to a bar crawl. Now, it’s just at one central location where attendees can check out coffee roasters and shops.
For more about coffee in the area, check out our Best Cups Of Coffee In Wilmington, NC post.
Next festival: May 18 to 21, 2023
Location: Jengos Play House and Cameron Arts Museum
Wilmington, NC is know as Hollywood East because of all the filming that happens in the area. So it makes sense for it to be home to the North Carolina Black Film Festival. The festival, now in its 18th year, is a four-day juried festival that showcases Black filmmakers.
All styles of film (short form, animated, features, documentaries, and student films) are invited to the festival with winners awarded. In the past, award winners and honorees have included Ava DuVernay and Giancarlo Esposito.
Next festival: May 19 to 21, 2023
Location: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
The Wilmington Greek Festival has been held in Wilmington for over 30 years. Live music, Greek food, dance performances, and cooking demonstrations are just some of the highlights of the festival. There’s also the opportunity to tour the church (which we’ve done and it’s beautiful).
The last couple years, there’s been a drive-through option where you can drive up and order food instead of attending the full festival. That’s still an option for the 2023 fest.
Next festival: May 27 and 28, 2023
Location: Orange Street
Each year, for the last 27 years, over 80 artists and craft vendors line Orange Street to showcase their talents and sell their projects. The Saturday event always coincidences with the weekly farmer’s market, so we check it out every year.
Cape Fear Blues Festival
Next festival: June 2023
Location: The Rusty Nail
Details for the 2023 festival haven’t been announced yet, but the festival, hosted by the Cape Fear Blues Society, celebrated 25 years last year, so we expect it to be back. Local and national blues acts take the stage to entertain music fans during this multiple-day festival.
The highlight (for Pete, at least) is the open blues jam that’s held during the festival. The Cape Fear Blues Society hosts an open blues jam every Tuesday at The Rusty Nail where anyone can sign up to jam. This festival is a way to give those local musicians another chance to shine.
July 4th Festival
Next festival: July 4, 2023
Location: Over the Cape Fear River
Wilmington doesn’t do a full out festival for the 4th of July (nearby Southport corners the market on that), but it felt funny leaving July 4th off of the list of festivals.
The city of Wilmington does have an annual event where it shoots fireworks off over the Cape Fear River at 9 pm on July 4th.
Next festival: September 16, 2023
Location: Front Street (from Orange Street to Grace Street)
The American Craft Walk Wilmington features over 100 artists (both traveling and local artists) in a variety of mediums, like glass, jewelry, candles, photography, and more.
It’s technically a juried art show so that not too many of one medium is featured.
Next festival: October 6 to 8, 2023
Location: Front Street between Chestnut and Orange Streets
Wilmington Riverfest is basically a mini Azalea Fest, just put on by a different group. It’s on the same streets, has food vendors selling the same foods, has craft vendors selling similar crafts, has a kids zone, and has music.
The main difference is that Wilmington Riverfest also has a car show aspect to it, which is nice if you can’t wait for Rims on the River later in the month.
Check out our Wilmington Riverfest post for more info.
Rims On The River
Rims On The River
Next festival: October 27 to 29, 2023
Location: Front Street
Rims On The River, the annual celebration of cars (yes, it’s a gigantic car show) takes place on Front Street. Due to construction, the festival hasn’t taken place the last couple years, but it’ll definitely be back for 2023. There’s cars, music, a pinup contest, and more.
Check out our Rims On The River post for more info.
Next festival: October 28, 2023
Location: Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park
Lighthouse is the presenter of the beer and wine festival, which is why it’s known as the Lighthouse Beer And Wine Festival. However, the correct name is the Carousel Center Beer and Wine Festival because the event benefits the Carousel Center, an organization that helps children.
At the festival, attendees will be given a souvenir glass that can be used for an unlimited number of beer and wine samples. The event also has great music and food available for purchase.
Next festival: October 28 and 29, 2023
Location: Poplar Grove Plantation
GooseBumps in the Grove is a fun Halloween festival with lots of children’s activities. There are over 70 vendors there, many of whom have candy at their booths so kids can go trick-or-treating. Kids in costume can also participate in a Halloween costume contest. There are also carnival games and photo opps. For an additional fee, you can walk through the haunted house.
When we’ve gone, there have been beer and wine tents set up for adults who are 21+ and food trucks serving food as well. It’s a great time for the whole family.
Next festival: November 15 to 19, 2023
Location: Various locations throughout the Wilmington area
The Cucalorus Festival, now in its 29th year, is a film festival that will showcase 120 locally-made and international films. The non-juried films will be shown throughout the Wilmington area at different venues, everywhere from theaters to free outdoor movies in the park.
Filmmakers are given a lot of opportunities to meet up at this festival, which makes it ideal for them. Although the causal film goer enjoys it as well.
Next festival: November 4 to 5, 2023
Location: Ogden Park
Festival Latino, a two-day event held in Ogden (right at the edge of Wilmington), is a really great family-oriented celebration of Latin culture. There’s a Kids Fiesta Area, great food from all over Latin America, Latin music and dance lessons, vendors, and more.
It’s the largest Latino event in North Carolina, which is pretty amazing for us to have it in the Cape Fear region.
Next festival: November 4, 2023
Location: St. Stanislaus Catholic Church; Castle Hayne
My favorite food festival in Wilmington is the Polish Festival. Okay, technically it’s in Castle Hayne, but it’s just over the border, so I’m counting it. The best food — homemade pierogies, potato pancakes, and kielbasa — are served and you can sit under a huge tent and listen to polka music all day long.
You can also grab pierogies and kielbasa to go (which we always do) and pick up some Polish knickknacks while you’re there as well.
Cape Fear Festival Of Trees
Next festival: TBA (But the last one was November 18 to January 2, 2023)
Location: North Carolina Aquarium Fort Fisher
Over 50 Christmas trees are decorated and on display at this festival, which benefits the Lower Cape Fear LifeCare Foundation. Admission to the festival is free when you purchase admission tickets to the aquarium. So, if you were planning on visiting the aquarium anyway, time it for this festival.
And, if you are in town during the Christmas season, check out our list of Christmas things to do in Wilmington, NC.
Festivals Near Wilmington:
There are a few festivals in the Wilmington area that aren’t in Wilmington proper, so they don’t get a huge shoutout on this post, but they’re worth adding to your itinerary if you’re looking for something to do.
November 25, 2023 in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Tons of boats are decorated in Christmas lights, then float down the water. It’s really one of the coolest boat parades you’ll ever see.
June 30 to July 4, 2023 in Southport, NC. The multi-day festival is filled with concessions booths with delicious food and bands playing live music, culminating with a gigantic fireworks display on July 4th.
Which of these festivals in Wilmington, NC are you adding to your calendar? Let us know in the comments.