Thanksgiving week, known as flotilla week in Wrightsville Beach, will launch the Carolina holiday season with two long-running traditions, both distinguished as *Top 20 Events by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Flotilla week, packed with festivities and family activities, highlights the 34th annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, including a massive 20-minute Zambelli Fireworks display, and the 13th annual Airlie Gardens’ Enchanted Airlie. Both events combined attract over 100,000 spectators during the holidays.
Located on the flotilla parade route and providing transportation and tickets to Enchanted Airlie, host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort begins the celebration with a traditional and coastal feast on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2017. During flotilla week the Holiday Harbor Island Tour departs the docks three times per day with Cape Fear Naturalist Captain Joe Abbate, and features a history narrative of the Wrightsville Beach Harbor and surrounding barrier islands.
Flotilla week’s itinerary is packed with Friday’s tree lighting ceremony, a visit from Santa, and the Holiday Flotilla Launch Party featuring the Embers. Saturday’s schedule includes Festival In the Park, bustling with bouncy houses, slides, climbing walls, the Arab Choo Choo, live music, an antique auto show, and an estimated 100 booths featuring local merchants and arts and crafts vendors. Enchanted Airlie will open both Friday and Saturday.
Created by Airlie Gardens Foundation, Enchanted Airlie brings to life 35-acres of walking trails in the nighttime forest with an estimated one million colorful lights, holiday displays, and seasonal music. The half-mile stroll also offers an indoor visit with Santa plus food and beverage vendors with hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn, cookies, a unique local brew, and more.
Enchanted Airlie has gained national and international prominence, attracting visitors from 50 states and over 40 nations.
Saturday night’s North Carolina Holiday Flotilla features a procession of creatively decorated yachts and watercraft, each glittering with thousands of lights, slowly motoring past an estimated crowd of 50,000 revelers. Text voting continues this year with the People’s Choice Awards determined by spectators and presented to the winners on Sunday.
Immediately following the flotilla, a 20-minute, 4,000-round fireworks display illuminates the night sky, showering the waterway with sound and color.
Enchanted Airlie is open to the public Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, 8-10, and 13-22, 2017. There are two reservation times each evening, 5-7 and 7-9 p.m. Enchanted Airlie tickets are available on the Airlie Gardens website, or Blockade Runner guests can call the hotel to make arrangements.
Airlie visitors should plan ahead. “We will sell out all dates and times,” said Janine Powell, Airlie Gardens Director of Donor Relations.
Proceeds from Enchanted Airlie benefit the preservation and improvement of New Hanover County’s historic Airlie Gardens.