Azalea Festival weekend brings colorful parade floats, pageant queens, live music, local talent, arts and crafts and all-you-can-eat fair food to Wilmington’s riverfront.
It also brings throngs of tourists and local residents and, with them comes traffic. When crowds converge on the riverfront for the 69th annual N.C. Azalea Festival, getting in and around downtown could get a little tricky.
Again this year, the parade will follow the new schedule – 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. – and route put in place in 2015. The lively procession travels down Third Street, beginning at Market and continuing to Red Cross.
Spectators can bring a chair or claim some curb at any place along the route. Or, VIP bleacher seating is available for $5-$8. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the festival office, 5725 Oleander Drive, Unit B7, or at the parade. The bleachers will line Third Street from Market to Grace. Handicap parking and viewing is located off Chestnut Street between Third and Fourth, next to the City of Wilmington’s main offices.
During the parade, traffic will be rerouted from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway off Third Street and onto Davis Street, down Fourth Street to Chestnut Street. The city can be accessed from the east onto Second Street via Chestnut Street from Fifth Avenue.
Road blocks are already in place for the street fair, which runs 6 to 10 p.m. today and continues from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Fireworks are scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday.
Half barricades will remain in place all weekend at Walnut, Grace, Chestnut and Princess streets where they intersect with N. Second, with entry completely blocked on those thoroughfares, as well as Red Cross Street, where they meet with Front Street. Water Street, the primary staging area for the street fair, will be completely closed from Water to Market.
Additionally, all lanes of Market will be closed just south of the intersection with Second Street and N. Front at Dock.
All the road blocks and rerouted traffic can make it difficult to plan where to park. While on-street parking is free Saturday and Sunday, with no time limits, the coveted spots aren’t easy to come by.
The N.C. Azalea Festival offers shuttle service through WAVE Transit to and from the downtown action from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The shuttle will depart from Independence Mall parking lot (behind Firehouse Subs) and drop off at Fourth Street between Chestnut and Princess.
Shuttle tickets are $4 round-trip. Children 5 and younger and UNC-Wilmington students and employees (with valid ID) ride for free, and a $1 discount will be given to senior citizens 65 and older, individuals with disabilities and students, including those attending Cape Fear Community College.
The following parking decks will be open for $7 per hour throughout the weekend:
- Market Street parking deck at Second Street
- Second Street parking deck between Chestnut and Princess streets
- Library parking deck, 200 N. Second St.
- Cape Fear Community College parking decks (cash only)
- Nutt Street parking deck
The Wilmington Convention Center parking deck is $8. Access to all parking decks will be unavailable from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday due to the parade.