As the winter holidays cast their enchanting spell, the Crystal Coast in North Carolina comes alive with festive charm and coastal cheer. Whether you're a local planning your seasonal traditions or a visitor seeking a fun holiday getaway, this guide tells you the best things to do during the Christmas season on the Crystal Coast.
Kickstart the holiday season in the town of Swansboro. Join the Swansboro by Candlelight event in mid-November, where the streets transform into a whimsical winter wonderland. Immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas lights, live music, and enchanting Nutcracker dances performed by the local ballet. Don't miss the chance to explore businesses open late, offering mulled cider, hot chocolate, and a cozy atmosphere straight out of a Hallmark movie.
Experience the joy of the season with the Emerald Isle Christmas Parade, a vibrant spectacle held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Floats adorned with festive decorations, candy canes, and the coastal spirit make their way through downtown Emerald Isle, creating a delightful atmosphere for families and friends. While you are there, you should take the time to stop at South Swell Surf Shop for some Christmas shopping to have the best presents to offer.
Extend the parade magic to the water with the Swansboro Christmas Flotilla on the Friday of the parade. Boats decked out in twinkling lights cruise down the White Oak River, infusing the waterfront with holiday spirit. The Crystal Coast Flotilla in early December, from Morehead City to Beaufort, is another must-see event featuring beautifully decorated boats on the water.
3. Santa Sightings: Whiskered Wonders by Boat and Garden
Catch sight of Santa's arrival in Beaufort, typically by boat or fire truck the Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ll find Santa in his workshop at John Newton Park right on the waterfront in Downtown on Saturdays (11am-3pm) and Sundays (1-3pm) throughout December. Another magical encounter, head to Carolina Home and Garden in Newport, where Santa poses for photos against a beautifully decorated fireplace on Saturdays and Sundays.
Experience the magic of a lighthouse at night with a visit to Cape Lookout National Seashore. Hop on the Island Express Ferry for a Night at the Cape, departing around sunset. Witness the Cape Lookout Lighthouse illuminated by spotlights, enjoy the ferry ride, and revel in stargazing on this enchanting holiday excursion.
Secure your golden ticket to one of the most coveted events on the coast – Chowder and Cheer in downtown Morehead City. This culinary adventure, usually selling out within minutes, invites ticket holders to sample delightful soups, chowders, desserts, and signature beverages from local businesses. Embrace the festive spirit by dressing up in your best Tacky Christmas sweater and embark on a delightful exploration of downtown.
Extend your holiday lights tour to Harker’s Island, where the Core Sound Museum dazzles with Christmas displays. Cruise through the town adorned with Crab Pot trees and lit-up anchors, capturing the essence of a coastal Christmas. The museum's massive tree made from Crab Pots is a sight to behold, making Harker’s Island a hidden gem for festive lights.
Step into the past with Beaufort’s Candlelight Christmas Tour on the second Saturday in December. Hosted by the Beaufort Historic Society, this tour grants access to beautifully decorated historic homes, churches, and private residences. Traverse the town on a double-decker bus, accompanied by local carolers, and soak in the elegant holiday decorations, turning Beaufort into a Christmas masterpiece.
Join the Gingerbread Festival in Morehead City, a three-day family fun event beginning on December 9th. Stroll through a winter wonderland filled with holiday-themed crab pot Christmas trees and the sweet aroma of gingerbread creations. Enjoy Santa visits, holiday entertainment, and vote for your favorite gingerbread creation and tree.
While on your Christmas coastal adventure, take advantage of holiday shopping on Emerald Isle. Explore one-of-a-kind boutiques, uncovering treasures like coastal apparel, jewelry, surf accessories like at South Swell Surf Shop. Don't miss the Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair on December 3rd, featuring handmade items from local artists and perfect gifts for your loved ones.
Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for Santa by the Sea on December 10th. Let your children share their Christmas wishes in a unique coastal setting. Enjoy arts, crafts, special treats, and games. Take in the wonders of the aquarium and make it a day of family fun.
This curated guide ensures your Christmas on the Crystal Coast is filled with joy, wonder, and coastal magic. From the glittering lights of Swansboro to the historical charm of Beaufort, each experience contributes to the tapestry of holiday memories. Whether you're indulging in festive treats, admiring Christmas parades, or creating gingerbread masterpieces, the Crystal Coast offers a magical holiday escape for everyone. Embrace the coastal cheer and create cherished memories that will warm your heart for years to come.