Boats may not be the most obvious backdrop for Christmas decorations, but every year the folks behind the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach create a winter wonderland on the water. As North Carolina’s most accessible beach, Wrightsville Beach serves as the perfect setting for this event that draws an estimated 50,000 visitors each year. Even more are expected to turn out this year as it is the 30th anniversary of the event which will go down November 29-30th.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the word flotilla as “a group of small ships.” An otherwise boring definition is brought to life in the form of this two-day festival featuring some of the South’s best entertainment and food, fireworks exploding over the Intracoastal Waterway, and the main event—30 boats decked out in full holiday regalia including plenty of beach-y references of course. Add an antique car show to the agenda, and the ultimate something-for-everyone weekend is complete. For those unable to make it to the Flotilla, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this region of coastal North Carolina between now and the New Year.
Just a 30 minute drive south of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington one finds Pleasure Island—home to two of North Carolina’s most storied beaches—Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Pleasure Island is home to its own Christmas Flotilla which will be held on Saturday, December 7, but the best part is that the highlight of the season for Carolina and Kure Beaches lasts all season. Known as “The Island of Lights,” Pleasure Island is transformed into a Christmas-light lover’s paradise every year. Starting with the Lighting of the Lake ceremony held the day after Thanksgiving, these over-the-top outdoor light displays live on through December. While the one-mile loop around the lighted lake is impressive, nothing—not even Christmas Eve— can compete with the anticipation of watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
Times Square’s New Year’s Eve celebration has overwhelming crowds and freezing cold temperatures, but Carolina Beach’s celebration has a family-friendly atmosphere and milder temperatures. It’s not surprising then that they use a beach ball in the official drop. That’s what makes these beaches worth visiting. The character and the characters are unlike any you will find in the Southeast, and the sea-side setting is unrivaled when it comes to accessibility and natural beauty. Whether you spend Thanksgiving weekend taking part in the 30th Anniversary of the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach or ring in 2014 at Carolina Beach, you will leave longing for more. Not that this is a problem as we all know that there is no better place to spend the summer in the South than at the beach. The only question is, which one?
For more information on the holiday happenings and each individual beach, please visit http://www.visitwrightsvillebeachnc.com/, http://www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com/, and http://www.visitkurebeachnc.com/.