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Wilmington N.C. and beaches prep for visitors now that azaleas are in bloom

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Azaleas are blooming in the coastal community of Wilmington, N.C. which is usually the official sign for the start of the area's spring and summer tourism season. Wilmington will host the 67th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival April 9-13, 2014, and it expects thousands of visitors to kick-off the beach tourism season.

“Based on an increase in visitor inquiries in recent weeks, spring fever has arrived," stated Connie Nelson, Communications/P.R. Director for Wilmington and Beaches CVB. "After a long winter, folks are ready to travel and enjoy our beaches, historic riverfront and spring festivals such as the North Carolina Azalea Festival. Our calendar is chock-full of outdoor festivals and events.”

An annual tradition since 1948, the North Carolina Azalea Festival pays tribute to the rich history, arts, culture and natural beauty of Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. Perennial festival highlights include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Belles who dress in hoop skirts to greet visitors and honor an era past. There’s also an elaborate 3-hour parade on Saturday morning, complete with azalea-laden floats, marching bands, clowns, show animals, local pageant winners and celebrity guests, including Queen Azalea Kirsten Haglund (Miss America 2008).

Visitor traveling to Wilmington for the Azalea festival will also enjoy the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden Tour, April 11-13, one of the South’s longest-running and most popular garden tours. This year’s tour showcases 13 private and public gardens that include a mix of established and new lovingly tended landscapes. Garden tour price includes free admission to Airlie Gardens on Saturday and Sunday.

Another favorite for historic home lovers is the Azalea Home Tour, April 12 and 13, showcasing nine private homes and a church of historical and architectural interest. Homes are chosen to represent the wide variety of architectural styles found in Wilmington.

Many visitors also love the "Hollywood East" appeal of the coastal city. This spring, the city is welcoming the return of cast and crews for CBS's "Under the Dome" and FOX's "Sleepy Hollow," as well as several television pilots.

Three inaugural events will take also place in May: the Wrightsville Beach Waterman Ocean Festival (May 1-4); the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival at the Bellamy Mansion (May 2-4); and a Designer Showhouse at Cape Fear Country Club (May 2-18).

Wilmington and the beaches are a convenient drive along major highways, including I-40 and U.S. 74, both with easy access from I-95. If you are flying in to visit, Wilmington International Airport (ILM) now offers non-stop flights to/from New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Washington, D.C. Wilmington, N.C. is about a two-drive east of Raleigh, N.C.

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