Now that Thanksgiving 2023 is in the books, we can focus undistracted on the Christmas season and all of its associated events.
And while there are plenty of holiday-themed concerts, performances and festivals to take in this weekend in Wilmington, the calendar also includes a number of happenings for those who aren't quite ready to give themselves over to Santa Claus just yet. To wit: a touring Broadway show, a Grammy-winning blues rock guitarist, a local album release concert and reunion shows by two longtime Wilmington favorites.
Read on for all the details. For even more ideas for stuff to do in the coming days, check out our big list of Christmas and holiday events in the Wilmington area.
At the Cameron Art Museum: Ninth annual exhibit of light sculptures and lanterns made by artists from around the area, region and county. "Illumination 2023" includes 37 pieces, all of which use light in some way while addressing a range of themes. Opening reception for museum members ($15 for non-members) on Friday, Dec. 1, includes light bites, a tasting from End of Days distillery and music from Wilmington's Fort Lowell Records. The public opening on Saturday coincides with the 14th annual Clyde's Holiday by the Sea, which celebrates the rustic, often animal-centric work of North Carolina artist Clyde Jones. "Illumination 2023" runs through Jan. 14. For museum times and admission fees, go to CameronArtMuseum.org.
At CFCC Wilson Center: It's time to get Fetch at the Broadway tour of the musical based on the popular 2004 movie about a high school girl who moves to the suburbs and encounters a cruel clique called The Plastics. Book by Tina Fey, who wrote the movie, with music by Jeff Richmond "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and lyrics by Nell Benjamin ("Legally Blonde"). 7:30 Dec. 1-2 with an additional 2 p.m. matinee Dec. 2. 910-362-7999.
OId Wilmington by Candlelight
Downtown Wilmington: Last year marked the 50th anniversary of this annual tour put on by the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, with luminaries marking the paths to historic downtown homes, churches and public buildings that have been decorated for the season, including the LCFHS home base of The Latimer House. Tickets are $50, and are good for both days of the tour Dec. 2-3.
Ballet for Young Audiences: 'The Nutcracker'
At Thalian Hall: Touring performance by this New York City dance company has been coming to Wilmington for many years now. The abbreviated story of young Clara's magical adventures in a mysterious realm is perfect for a child's first experience watching ballet. Features area dancers peforming with professional dancers from New York Ballet for Young Audiences and Ballet Repertory of NYC. 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 1, 10 a.m. Dec. 2. 910-632-2285.
At the Dead Crow Comedy Room: Canadian comic has performed on Comedy Central, "Conan," at Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival and even appeared on late, lamented PBS Kids show "Odd Squad." O'Brien has an antic, edgy stage persona and touches on such topics as whether his mustache makes him look gay and how he doesn't believe in ghosts "as long as it's daytime and I'm around people." 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 1-2, tickets are $20 and $30.
Nashville Country Christmas
At Thalian Hall: Billed as "sleigh ride meets hayride," this touring show, part of the Hall's Main Attractions series, features the songs of popular artists like Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers mixed in with countrified Christmas classics. 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Thalian Hall, 910-632-2285.
Mustaches for Kids
Dead Crow Comedy Room: Have some laughs courtesy of Wilmington comics and help raise a few bucks for area child-centered nonprofits including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Communities in Schools, The Miracle League, the Carousel Center and DREAMS. Plus, marvel at the mustaches grown by the participants representing these various charities. 6:30 p.m. (doors) Nov. 30, $15.
Northside tree lighting
Live Oak Bank Pavilion: After the lighting of the tree at Water and Market streets last weekend, it's the second tree lighting downtown in two weeks. Lighting of the tree in Wilmington's new Northside park and amphitheater features a performance by the Roland-Grise Middle School chorus, visits with Santa and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," along with refreshments for those who show up early. 6-8 p.m. Nov. 30, free.
Second City's 'What the Elf'
First Friday Christmas Jazz Night
At Bourgie Nights: Monthly jazz show with the Jim Ferris Trio gets a holiday twist this month. Expect some jazzy Christmas favorites and a few surprises as well. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, Dec. 1, $10 in advance, $15 day of show.
'The Only Doctor'
At Jengo's Playhouse: Friday Night Films series presents this documentary about the only doctor in Clay County, Georgia, and her fight to keep her practice open and providing care for her patients against all odds. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, $10.
Carolina Beach Christmas Parade
Dec. 1 in Carolina Beach: Official parade of the town of Carolina Beach starts at Carolina Beach Lake and goes north on Lake Park Boulevard. 7 p.m. start time, with tons of floats and candy for the kids.
'This Water Is Life, Vol. III' release show
At the Satellite Bar & Lounge: Release show for the latest in a series of albums from Wilmington-based Fort Lowell Records. Split between Wilmington rappers and indie rockers, "This Water Is Life" is designed to draw attention to our area's water quality issues. Album three in the series features new songs Wilmington rapper Sheme of Gold and low-fi indie-pop songwriter Cydaddy, both of whom will perform live sets for the release show. 7 p.m. Dec. 2, free.
Dancing Queens Holiday Ball
At The Eagle's Dare: Wilmington's dancing DJ duo The Beehive Blondes reunite for this music-filled holiday party inspired by female pop icons, from Beyonce and Taylor Swift to Madonna, Dolly Parton, Debbie Harry, Cher and many more. Formed last decade by Wilmington fashionista Jess James and London DJ Hannah Stewart-O'Hanlon, the Beehive Blondes captured a following with their mix of danceable retro hits and interactive party fun. Stewart-O'Hanlon moved back to England last summer, but is coming back to Wilmington for the Dancing Queens Holiday Ball. Holiday attire (or dressing as your favorite pop diva) is encouraged. 9 p.m. Dec. 2, tickets are $25-$55.
The Beehive Blondes: Blondes, having more fun
Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla
Dec. 2, Carolina Beach Yacht Basin: Boats decorated with lights cruise from Snows Cut all the way down the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin during this well-attended annual event. The flotilla starts at 6 p.m., and winners are picked by a panel of judges as well as by popular vote.
All Tore Up
At Reggie's 42nd Street Tavern: Annual reunion show by the old-school Wilmington hardcore band that formed in the mid 1980s. With opening acts Nervous Systems and Emergency Nothing. 8 p.m. Dec. 2, cover at the door.
Moravian Candle Tea & Christmas Market
At Covenant Moravian Church: Started in Wilmington in the 1980s, this annual event has become a local tradition. Marking the start of Advent and the Christmas season, the tea features refreshments, a market, activities for kids and more. Runs 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 2 at the church, 4126 S. College Road.
N.C. Symphony Holiday Pops
At CFCC Wilson Center: The state symphony brings its annual program of classical and popular holiday music to town. As always, one of the highlights is an audience sing-along. 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3, tickets start at $23. 910-362-7999.
Wilmington Holiday Parade
Downtown Wilmington: It's the 20th year for the Wilmington Holiday Parade, which draws a big, enthusiastic crowd along its Front Street route. Area dignitaries, community groups and first responders all appear in the parade, which is capped off by Santa Claus riding atop a Wilmington Fire Department truck. Runs 6-9 p.m. Dec. 3.
Paul Nelson Band
At the Rusty Nail: Grammy-winning blues and rock guitarist brings his top-notch band to Wilmington's home of the blues. Nelson has played or recorded with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and members of the Allman Brothers. 3 p.m. Dec. 3, cover at the door.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Things to do in Wilmington Nov. 30-Dec. 3 2023: holiday fun and more