Where will you be when the clock strikes midnight on Thursday, December 31? Since New Year’s Day is on a Friday, why not ring in the New Year and spend the rest of the weekend enjoying your favorite vacation destination? In Wilmington, North Carolina and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach, you can welcome 2016 “city-style” or “coastal-style.”

From the river to the sea, there are many ways to celebrate. Riverboat and party cruises sail into the New Year with music, dancing, buffets and champagne toasts. Prefer to live it up onshore? The Island of Lights New Year’s Eve celebration begins at 9:00 p.m. with a street dance/countdown party at the newly renovated Carolina Beach Boardwalk, featuring a deejay and a giant lighted beach ball drop withmidnight fireworks. There are also galas, theatrical productions and contemporary variety shows, as well as restaurant and nightlife festivities. Many outstanding restaurants offer special New Year’s Eve menus and entertainment, as well as traditional good luck meals on New Year’s Day. Families can cheer for the New Year at the strike of 12:00 noon on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, then “Toast the Coast” at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher on January 1.


Take advantage of shoulder season rates and stay through the weekend to experience all there is to see and do at our island beaches and on Wilmington’s #1 Best American Riverfront (USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Award). Each morning you can wake up to an ocean sunrise, a river vista or a vibrant city view. For hotel specials and packages, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/packages-deals. You’ll also find great after-Christmas sales at beach boutiques, downtown specialty shops and city-style shopping villages. Take in several year-round museums, attractions and tours. To download a free official visitors guide, visit http://365publicationsonline.com/WilmingtonVG2015/.


Here’s a preview of New Year’s events to suit your ‘style’ in Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach:


Dec. 31 & Jan. 1– New Year’s Noon Countdown at the Children’s Museum. 9:00am-12:00pm. Celebration begins at 10:00am with crafts (streamers, crowns, glittery slime), music and dancing. Families count down the New Year at 12:00pm (Noon) with streamers, confetti toss & juice toast! Admission charge. Children’s Museum of Wilmington, 116 Orange St., Wilmington. 910-254-3534;www.playwilmington.org


Dec. 31 – 25TH Annual Island of Lights New Year’s Eve Countdown Party & Fireworks Extravaganza.  9:00pm-12:30am. This unique New Year’s celebration features a deejay and dancing, followed by the lowering of a giant lighted beach ball at midnight and spectacular fireworks over the Atlantic Ocean. Festivities for all ages begin at 9:00pm. Free. Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Carolina Beach.www.pleasureislandoflights.com/the-new-year-celebration.html


Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve Cruise aboard the Henrietta III. New Year’s cruise down the Cape Fear River. Board 8:00pm; cruise 9:30pm-12:30am; party ‘til 1:30am. Heavy hors d’oeuvre buffet, entertainment, party favors and champagne toast. Admission charge. Prepaid reservations required. Board at foot of Dock and Water streets, Downtown Wilmington. 910-343-1611; 800-676-0162;http://cfrboats.com/product-detail/?prod=1011


Dec. 31-New Year’s Eve Party Cruise aboard the Royal Winner Princess II. Boards at 10:30pm; returns 12:30am. Cruise to watch the midnight fireworks with dance music, party favors, champagne toast and the best view for the Island of Lights New Year fireworks.  Cash bar. Departs from Carolina Beach Marina, Carolina Beach. Admission charge. Reservations required. 910-458-5356;www.winnerboats.com/tours-cruises.


Dec. 31—New Year’s “Memphis” Musical Broadway & Gala. 7:00pm-1:00am. Cape Fear Theatre Arts, LLC presents “Memphis,” a Broadway musical gala to benefit Thalian Hall. Enjoy dinner, drinks and live theatre. After the show, ring in 2016 with dancing, karaoke, dessert, party favors and a midnight toast. Admission charge; advance reservations. Thalian Hall, Wilmington. 910-632-2285 or 800-523-2820;www.thalianhall.org.


Dec. 31— New Year’s Eve: Baccanalia! Two seatings: 6:00pm & 9:45pm. Tickets include a 4-course meal and show with contemporary acts, music, comedy, party favors, and champagne toast. Advance reservations. Admission charge; tickets required. TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th St., Wilmington. 910-399-3669; www.theatrewilmington.com

Jan. 1—Toast the Coast. 9am-5pm. Pint-size revelers and adults can “Toast the Coast” on New Year’s Day at the Aquarium. The coastal theme party lasts all day with crafts, ocean resolutions and programs featuring “What we love most about the coast.” A noise-maker craft and kid parade precede two beach ball drops during the daily dive programs at 10:30am and 2:30pm. Admission charge. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach. 910-772-0500; www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher.


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