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Monday, April 23, 2018

North Carolina Azalea Festival

A great time to visit Wilmington, North Carolina is in April so you can join in the fun of the Azalea Festival.

If you are traveling by here by car, read our post, Getting The Car Ready For A Road Trip, before you go.

Welcome To Wilmington - Home Of The NC Azalea Festival.  I had seen this sign more than a few times when my daughter moved here six years ago.  Why is this something that we need to know?  Why would it be called an Azalea Festival?  I don't see any azaleas!  Well, after we moved in 2 1/2 years ago, we were finally in Wilmington in early spring and then I knew why there would be an azalea festival here.  It is a gorgeous sight that lasts only a couple of short weeks, but when the azaleas are in bloom, and the dogwoods at the same time, Wilmington is the most colorful place on earth.  You can't help but feel absolute joy when you are out and about at this time of the year.  It is as amazing a treat of nature as New York's fall always was for us when we lived there.

The 2018 North Carolina Azalea Festival is history now as it happened last weekend but it will be back for sure in 2019 as it has returned year after year since 1948.  It always happens in Wilmington and it is their premier event.  It is a 5 day festival that starts with the traditional arrival of Queen Azalea.  Following the Queen is the Azalea Festival Princess and her court.  You can see them all in the parade that kicks off the weekend festivities along with high school bands from across the state and much more.

If you love music, you can find plenty of musical entertainment to enjoy all during and around the festival.  Big name talents, including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett have all performed here.  More recent headliners include Carrie Underwood, Jason Derulo and Duran, Duran. Daughter, Lisa, had tickets for the concert and asked me to join her. 

This year (2024) it was T-Rain at the main stage. 

Besides for the main music events, there are smaller, but equally entertaining talent in different venues all over the streets of downtown Wilmington.

On Water Street, across from the courthouse, you will find the Multicultural Stage.  This free event showcases different cultures including groups representing China, Mexico, Japan Ireland and more.  You can  marvel at the entertainers in their authentic costumes, dancing and/or musically entertaining their audience.

Are you feeling hungry?  There is so much food here, mostly what you hope to find when you are at a fest, like turkey legs, funnel cake and fried everything!  Fried Oreos, yum!  Come hungry for sure!

Is it arts and crafts you are looking for?  You've come to the perfect place to find them.  You and about 199,999 other people.  (The average number of visitors to the festival each year is about 200,000),  The craftsmanship is really amazing though.  I saw the most creative things for sale.  I am so impressed by someone who can pick up a Coke can and think, "This looks like an airplane to me." and then turn it into one.  I pick a can up and think, "This needs to go into the recycle bin, but first I need to take the tab off and save it for Joan."

Besides for the many craft booths you will find along Front Street, you might find a golden fairy statue who will come alive, when you drop a donation in her basket, and sprinkle you with glitter!

My favorite sight, though, are the Azalea Belles.  The belles are volunteers who must go through a selection process and if selected get to wear an elaborate gown made up of 15 yards of fabric and 40 yards of lace.  You can see the girls strolling around the festival streets with their escorts, in the many private gardens on the garden tour and gracing the front of the mansions on the home tour.  The girls and their dresses are so beautiful and add so much to the festival.   They are as much a symbol of the Azalea Festival as the azaleas themselves.

If you are ever planning a vacation to Wilmington, NC, consider visiting in April so you can take part in all the Azalea Festival festivities.   Does your town host a festival that they are proud of?  When and where is it?  We would love to be a part of it if we are ever in your area!


  1. Thanks for coming by - hope you get to visit the Chagall museum - most of his works are easier to understand (less abstract) than this one! And a big bonus ...you can take photos of the paintings! (very unusual in a museum in Europe).
    Love this festival even though there are no azaleas here:) The wouldbe statue talking to the child is so cute:)

  2. My parents lived in Wilmington for a few years and I heard about the azalea festival but never made it down there to see it. I love all those blooms.

    1. Oh too bad. It was fun, but very crowded! Hope you will make it down one day.

  3. Looks like so much fun! Thanks for sharing on To Grandma's House We Go!

  4. I remember going to that festival as a kid. It was so much fun, looks like it still is. Have a great week!

    1. You must have enjoyed yourself if you still remember going as a kid. Thanks for visiting!

  5. I love visiting festivals like this! Looks fun!

  6. Wonderful place and photos!
    Many thanks for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme.