Sunday, July 21, 2024

Fireworks, music, more: Where to celebrate July 4th across the Cape Fear

Samantha Morris and Will Darrough, both Wilmington residents, watch the Thursday night fireworks show from the patio of the Olde Salty, 9:07 p.m. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
Wilmington residents watch fireworks in Carolina Beach. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — It’s the busiest time of year for the region as tourists descend upon local beaches for sand, surf and fireworks.  

Port City Daily has culled a list where to celebrate Independence Day, from downtown to Surf City, Carolina Beach to Southport. Here is the rundown:

North Topsail Beach

The town has its annual Ocean City Jazz Festival July 1 through 3 under the pavilion tent at the corner of Island Drive and Carver Street (masks are required). Tickets are priced $25 and up (weekend passes available) and celebrate 12 years of bringing top names in jazz to the island.

2022 welcomes Eric Darius, John Brown Little Big Band, Marquel Jordan, Derrick Gardner, Vincent Ingala, Gerald Veasley, and John Brown Quintet.

A cash bar will be available and food trucks will be on site. No fireworks are planned. More info can be found here.

Surf City

Surf City will celebrate on Sunday, July 3, at Soundside Park (517 Roland Ave.) starting at 6 p.m. There will be live music from beach music band The Embers featuring Craig Woolard. It’s free to attend and the fireworks will be launched at 9 p.m.

Parking is located throughout Surf City; a map can be found here. The boat ramp will be closed all day at Soundside Park.

Carolina Beach

The Town of Carolina Beach hosts Boardwalk Blast every week through Labor Day and this Friday, July 1, will be the official Fireworks by the Sea display for July 4. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Beggars Banquet — a Rolling Stones tribute band — will take over the boardwalk stage. Fireworks follow at 9 p.m. and it’s free to attend.

Throughout the weekend, the town also will host its Saturday market, featuring farmers, artisans and makers, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. around Carolina Beach Lake. On Sunday at the lake, family-friendly movie night takes place featuring the classic “Jaws 2.” Weather permitting, the film begins at dusk, with chairs, blankets and picnics welcome, and concessions are also sold onsite.


The City of Wilmington is celebrating in a big way at Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park on Monday, July 4. There will be live music, entertainment, food and fireworks. 

Music will include the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra performing its Pops July 4th Celebration, featuring over 100 musicians. The score will include patriotic faves, classic selections and pop music.

Joining the symphony will be guest artist Alexis Raena, as well as Opera Wilmington performers John and Shannon Dooley, and a quartet of Wilmington voices. The symphony will have a guest conductor in UNCW’s director of bands Dominic Talanca — and Mayor Bill Saffo is also expected to step onto the raised podium.

“I am honored to guest conduct the ‘Stars & Stripes Forever’ performance with these fine musicians,” Saffo said in a city blog.

Free and open to the public, the day’s events begin at 5 p.m. with the local music education center School Of Rock’s house band taking the stage. The Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra, “Rockestra,” will perform at 6:45 p.m., followed by the symphony at 7:30 p.m. 

Fireworks will be launched at 9:05 p.m. from a barge north of the Battleship at the convergence of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers.

Parking will be available at city decks, the Second Street county deck, and the Wilmington Convention Center deck, all for $10.

Parking will also be available at Cape Fear Community College for $15 (cash only). On-street metered parking will be free.

Oak Island

During Covid, the N.C. 4th of July Festival split events between Southport and Oak Island and will continue hosting events between the two towns starting June 30.

Events are scheduled on the island through July 4 and include a paddle parade, horseshoe and corn hole tournaments, a car show at Bill Smith Park, live pro wrestling, sand sculpture and shag contests, plus an arts and crafts fair in Middleton Park.

Live music is also planned throughout the weekend, including Cat 5 Band (July 1), the Southport Jazz Quartet (July 2), and 52nd Street Band (July 4).

At 9 p.m. on July 1 at Oak Island Pier, Oak Island anniversary fireworks will be launched, concluding its beach day which includes a beach volleyball tournament. 

See Oak Island’s full schedule here; most events are free.


In Southport, the state’s largest celebration continues with events planned from June 30 until July 4.

An arts and craft market will be set up in Franklin Square Park July 2 to 4, and there will be children’s entertainment at the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitor Center on July 3, noon to 2 p.m.

Also taking place at the visitor center throughout the weekend will be live music, including the 440th Army Band, NC National Guard. The main stage on Bay Street at the Waterfront will include music from July 2 to 4, from acts like Steel County Express, The Tim Clark Band and Liquid Pleasure. 

The Freedom Flotilla is planned for July 2 at 4 p.m., with boats moving across the Southport Waterfront and west on the Intracoastal Waterway to the entrance of the St. James Marina. 

The official N.C 4th of July parade will take place at 11 a.m. On July 4, 9 p.m., fireworks will be launched over American Fish and Frying Pan Restaurant concluding the festival.

A full schedule of N.C. 4th of July events can be located here; most are free.

Ocean Isle

On Monday, July 4, Ocean Isle Beach will launch fireworks from its pier at 9:15 p.m.

Have comments or tips? Email

Want to read more from PCD? Subscribe now and then sign up for our newsletter, Wilmington Wire, and get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

Related Articles