How often do you have the chance to walk through the woods at night? This is not just any woods – this is Airlie Gardens adorned with lights! Airlie continues to amaze visitors with its breathtaking combination of formal gardens, historic structures, sculptures, water views, more than 100,000 azaleas and the grandeur of the nearly 500-year-old Airlie Oak. In December, the Blockade Runner Beach Resort offers its guests a limited run pass to the sold-out self-guided walking tour, Enchanted Airlie, the garden’s annual Holiday lights celebration.
Airlie Gardens is a public garden, located on Bradley Creek, just a five minute drive from Wrightsville Beach. The place is a popular destination for weddings and is also home of the North Carolina Azalea Festival. Originally built in 1886 for Pembroke Jones, a social leader and financier, this cascading Southern Garden is the real deal with massive and ancient live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, thousands of camellias, azaleas, magnolias and wisteria.
Every December, the trees and gardens are decorated with the latest technology in lights, creating a beautiful way to connect with spirit and family during the holidays. (This year includes a laser light beam projector that casts out lines of light that made beautiful textures against a magnolia leaf canopy!)
Upon entering the self-guided tour, the first place you walk into is a greenhouse tent full of poinsettias and smells of popcorn! Local brewery, Wilmington Brewing Company has a keg and bar set up so you can enjoy craft suds and popcorn while you wander underneath the colorful lights hanging from the ancient trees.
Airlie Gardens is adjacent to Bradley Creek with a small pier that you can walk out on and observe a natural oyster bed.
Renowned artist Minnie Evans, gatekeeper of Airlie Gardens for the better part of the 20th century, used the setting as inspiration for her work. As an homage to Evans, Airlie Gardens is home to another timeless Southern tradition: the Minnie Evans bottle garden. Traditionally, bottles are placed over the branches of a tree, in the hope that by hanging the bottles in a tree, evil spirits will find their way into the bottles and become stuck. Since they wouldn’t be able to find their way back out again, they would remain in the bottle until morning. The morning sun would then destroy the spirits.
Open to all ages and handicapped accessible.
- December: 8th-22nd
- 5:00-7:00PM and 7:00-9:00PM