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Thursday, May 23, 2024

15 ways to celebrate July 4th in the tri-county region

Fireworks marked the end of the 34th annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Fireworks abound across the Port City for July 4th. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The tourists are in full swing at area beaches and the celebrations are aplenty as Independence Day draws near. 

READ MORE: Outdoor concert guide: More than 100 (mostly free) summer shows in tri-county region

After swimming and soaking (with sunscreen) in the sun, grilling the burgers and dogs, area beach towns, municipalities and businesses have made plans for fireworks, patriotic tunes and more to keep people entertained.

Below are 14 ways to get the most out of July 4, 2023.


Wilmington Pops!
Live Oak Bank Pavilion, 10 Cowan St. • Free

The City of Wilmington’s annual free celebration will have more than 100 musicians celebrating Independence Day.

Tens of thousands of people flock to downtown Wilmington annually, with gates opening at 5 p.m. Performing will be guest artist Maxwell Snyder, Opera Wilmington artists John and Shannon Dooley, and a quartet from Wilmington Voices. 

The main concert begins at 7 p.m. featuring the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Dominic Talanca. WSO will blend patriotic tunes with classical selections from Bernstein, Copland and Williams and current pop songs.

There also will be DJ competitions; by 9:05 p.m., fireworks will be raining down over the Cape Fear River. They will be launched from a barge at the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers, just north of the USS North Carolina.

Boardwalk Blast and Music
Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Carolina Beach Ave. S • Free

Carolina Beach celebrates July 4 through its weekly Boardwalk Blast events, which features fireworks and free music. One takes place Friday, June 30, with The Carl Newton Review performing at the gazebo stage on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Then on Thursday, July 6, The British Invaders (a ’60s British tribute act) take the stage. Around 9 p.m., fireworks launch beachside after the music; all shows are free. For more in Carolina Beach celebrations, including free Movies at the Lake every Sunday and family nights on select Tuesdays, check the event website here

Stars and Stripes 
Wilson Center, 703 N. Third St. • $20

Annually, the N.C. Symphony hosts a patriotic celebration of sounds, to take place July 2 at downtown’s Wilson Center. Led by conductor David Glover, with baritone Scott MacLeod joining, the concerts will feature high-spirited classics and symbolic tunes. The show will last about an hour-and-a-half and tickets are $20; takes place at 6:30 p.m. The popular event is normally a sell-out.

Battle for Independence Road Race
The Pointe at Barclay, 1450 Barclay Pointe Blvd. • $35

If you’re looking for a healthy way to work off the dogs and burgers to be enjoyed this red, white and blue holiday, then a 5K and 1-mile walk or run is planned at the Pointe at Barclay. 

The July 4 race will bring out participants who want to engage on a fast, flat route along Independence Boulevard on Wilmington’s scenic Cross City Trail. Family-friendly — and wheelchair and stroller friendly — for folks of all ages (dogs not allowed), racers will move from the Pointe to shady Halyburton Park. Awards given for various age groups in 1-mile and 5K, as well as top three best patriotic dressed. 

The $35 registration fees go toward athlete scholarships through Without Limits Youth Cross Country Camp — open to middle and high school cross country athletes to encourage positive reinforcement to make running fun. 

Parking is available in any legal parking spot at the Pointe at Barclay.

July 4th USO Open House
Hannah Block USO/Community Arts Center, 120 S 2nd St. • Free

Thalian Association, which oversees management of the Hannah Block USO and Community Arts Center at Orange and Second streets will host an open house, per the annual Independence Day tradition.

The community arts center will be open 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., with staff donning 1940’s era costumes to greet guests with free coffee and doughnuts; sodas will be sold at the World War II price of 5 cents. As well, a documentary, “Home Away From Home” about the USO, will be screening throughout the afternoon. Produced in 2016 by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Rob Hill, the 5-minute flick honors the 75th anniversary of the building, starting with its WWII history, how it became a community center and continues serving the community today.

Retired Navy captain and renowned WWII historian Wilbur D. Jones Jr. will host an exhibition of Rosie the Riveter memorabilia — the iconic muscle-flexing female factory worker from WWII, featured on many posters declaring “We Can Do It!” 

The Hannah Block Historic USO lobby has been restored to its 1943 aesthetic and has memorials to Medal of Honor recipients Charles Murray and Billy Halyburton, a painting of the building namesake Hannah Block, WWII memorabilia, a tribute to the 9th and Nixon USO, and the National WWII Memorial Giclee.

Bring Your Own Pool Party 
Eagle’s Dare, 420 N. 3rd St. • Free

From 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. downtown’s newest bar at Third and Red Cross streets, Eagle’s Dare, is encouraging patrons to bring their blowup and kiddy pools, or even fill up a truck bed, if so desired, to partake in an Independence Day BYOP Party. Water provided to fill up the pools; cash bar open beginning at noon.

Freedom Fest 
Waterline Brewing, 721 Surry St. • Free

The family-fun Fourth of July celebration at Waterline will bring with it games, prizes, face painting, fairy hair, and the annual water balloon fight. There will also be a reptile petting zoo and food trucks parked. 

Live music will be performed by Massive Grass at the end of the night.

It’s free and family-friendly. 

Born in the USA Celebration
Cloud 9 Rooftop Bar, 9 Estell Place • $10

A rewind to the ‘80s will take place at Cloud 9 for the Fourth of July. The rooftop bar above Embassy Suites in downtown Wilmington has views of the Cape Fear River, the perfect spot to see the fireworks display, which will begin around 9 p.m. Local band Juno will play from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There is a $10 cover and reservations are accepted for a table ahead of time:

Easy Honey
Palm Room, 11 E. Salisbury St. • Cover charge

For live music fans who want to head to Wrightsville Beach, the Palm Room will host Easy Honey out of Charleston, S.C. The band started from their college days in Tennessee, with inspiration born from British rock bands The Kinks, Replacements and Radiohead. 

Co-frontmen Darby McGlone (vocals, guitar) and Selby Austin (vocals, guitar), Charlie Holt (drums, vocals) and Webster Austin (bass, vocals) blend surf-rock with singer-songwriter folk.

Ibiza’s Annual 4th of July Party
Ibiza, 118 Market St. • Cover charge

For those who want to dance the night away, downtown’s Ibiza Nightclub will have July 4th celebrations beginning Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1, with Drag Me to Ibiza and Ibiza’s Dance Party. 

On July 4th proper, the upstairs lounge will be open.


North Carolina’s 4th of July Festival
Southport and Oak Island • Free

The state’s official Fourth of July celebration kicks off on Friday, June 30, and lasts through Tuesday, July 4, with hundreds of activities taking place in both the coastal town of Southport and on the nearby beach town of Oak Island.

Southport began celebrating the nation’s Independence Day in 1795, according to newspaper clippings; 228 years later, its going strong. There is a July 4 parade to take place at 11 a.m., at Moore and Howe streets, plus live entertainment across multiple stages on both Oak Island and in Southport. Food concessions are set up and there is a naturalization ceremony, arts and crafts sale, family-friendly activities and more.

The fireworks are slated to take place on Saturday, July 1, as part of Oak Island’s anniversary beach day; the sparks will illuminate the sky from the Oak Island Pier at 9 p.m. Then fireworks take place again on Tuesday, July 4, at Southport Waterfront Park at 9 p.m.  

Also this year will be a 9/11 Remembered Traveling Memorial exhibition on Nash Street.

The full schedule of events can be accessed here.

Ocean Isle Beach Parade Fireworks 
Ocean Isle Beach Pier, 5 W. Third Street • Free

Independence Day on Ocean Isle Beach kicks off at 10 a.m. with a red, white and blue parade. It moves down East First Street this year, starting at W. First and Clinton streets before moving around the roundabout down First and then to Southport Street.

A holiday market will be set up after at 5 W. Third Street, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. That night the fireworks will sparkle over the Ocean Isle Pier at 9:15 p.m.


Surf City Independence Day Celebration 
Soundside Park, 517 Roland Ave. • Free

Surf City is kicking off its party a day early: Monday, July 3, starting at 5 p.m. at Soundside Park. There will be five food trucks on site at 6 p.m., with live music from Jim Quick and the Coastline. The band performs beach music, Motown, pop and country. 

The mayor will give a welcome speech, followed by a flag ceremony and the singing of the National Anthem before more music is performed by Coastline. 

At 9 p.m. the fireworks display will light up the sky. 

The Soundside boat ramp will be closed due to the celebrations; however, water access is available nearby at 613 Lewis Road in Hampstead and 619 Turkey Point Road in Sneads Ferry.

Coolers, picnics, blankets, and lawn chairs are allowed, alcohol is not.

Ocean City Jazz Festival 
North Topsail Beach • Tickets: $90 and up

For 13 years, North Topsail Beach celebrates the Fourth with jazz artists setting up to perform over three days at the Public Works Department (3315 Gray Street) and Onslow County Beach Access #2 (2950 Island Drive).

This year’s lineup features more than a dozen musicians performing Friday, June 30, through Sunday, July 2, including Lao Tizer Band featuring Karen Briggs, Jazmin Gent, Julian Vaughn and others. Tickets start at $90.

The festival began in 2009 when a jazz musician visited the Ocean City community center to perform for visitors. The festival has grown since with the goal to promote the cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee and tourism of Ocean City, located at the northern end of Topsail. 

The town was incorporated in 1949 and was the first place African Americans could purchase coastal property for community development. Part of the Jacksonville Onslow African American Heritage Trail, the Ocean City community attracts hikers, bikers and vacationers, and connects to the Mountain to Sea Trail from the Appalachia to the coast.

Learn more about the festival and town here.

Burgaw’s Fourth of July Town Parade
Corner of Williams and Wright streets • Free

Annually, the Town of Burgaw welcomes residents to join in its community parade for July 4. Golf carts, bikes, roller skates, and non-powered devices are welcome.

There is no need to register; just show up at Williams and Wright streets at 9:45 a.m. for a joy stroll through the town square.

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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.

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