Monthly Archives: April 2013

USS North Carolina Battleship

USS-North-Carolina-Battleship

Did you know that Wilmington is home to World War II’s greatest sea weapon? The USS North Carolina Battleship, a massive naval vessel that saw many battles in WWII, is moored on the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington.  Most of the ship remains open for visitors to walk aboard, search the decks, and explore a piece of living history. All ages will enjoy touring the ship and learning about its crew and their functions. The battleship accurately depicts shipboard life of the period for visitors to experience. You will learn facts and read personal testimonials from enlisted men while seeing firsthand what the crew experienced in day-to-day life on the ship during WWII. Some highlights include: a barber shop, pharmacy, shoe repair shop, dentist and doctor’s offices, indescribably cramped sleeping quarters, and even an ice cream parlor. It is truly a unique and tangible experience of history. You will leave the battleship moved and educated; it is a definite must do in Wilmington.

Location

You can see the battleship from downtown Wilmington; it is located at the junctions of highways 17, 76, 74, 421 on the Cape Fear River across from historic downtown. Simply drive over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, take an immediate right, and follow the signs for the battleship.

Visitors will also enjoy the beautiful setting and views of historic downtown from the battleship.

History

Commissioned on April 9 in 1941, the USS North Carolina was the first of ten fast battleships to join American fleet in World War II. The official website states: “Armed with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, North Carolina proved a formidable weapons platform. Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines.”

During WWII, the USS North Carolina served in every major naval battle operation in the Pacific. It was one of the most decorated battleships in WWII, earning 15 battle stars. The battleship was a protector of aircraft carriers and known for its performance in the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in 1942, where it saved the carrier Enterprise.

The battleship was hit by a Japanese torpedo on September 15, 1942 while protecting aircraft carriers Hornet and Wasp. Despite an 18 by 32 foot hole in the side and following a short period to counter flood, the ship resumed a speed of 25 knots to regain position to protect the assigned aircraft carrier. By war’s end, the ship lost only ten men in action and had 67 wounded.

The battleship North Carolina is now a memorial for the 10,000 North Carolinians of all the armed services who gave their lives in WWII. It is also a growing museum and a major tourist attraction. The USS North Carolina is a National Historic Landmark.

Battleship Tour Info

Much of the ship is accessible and the tours are self-guided so that you may see it all at your own pace. You can roam free and hangout in any area of the ship for as long as you would like.

The self-guided tour takes you to nearly every part of the ship; the bridge, engine room, mess hall, sleeping quarters, sick bay, arsenal storage, and so much more. Along the way, you will find memories from actual sailors who served on the ship and their personal stories of victory, tragedy, and daily life aboard. The sailor’s comment on everything from the food served on board to mail call. History comes alive throughout the tour, showing all aspects of life on this great battleship of the 1940’s.

You should allow about two hours to walk through the Battleship. Also, beware that you are going down steep ladders into spaces that feel quite small. You will need to be fairly mobile to climb/descend the stairways.

General Info

  • Hours of Operation: The Battleship is open every day of the year, including holidays. Summer:  8:00am-8:00pm; Winter: 8:00am- 5:00pm
  • Tickets: Adults: 12 and over: $12.00; Seniors: 65 and over: $10.00; Children: 6 through 11: $6.00; Children: 5 and under: Free; *Ticket sales end 1 hour before closing.

For more information visit the official website or call 910-251-5797.

Sources:

http://www.battleshipnc.com

http://www.hnsa.org

The Azalea Festival

North Carolina Azalea Festival Wilmington NC

Held in April at the height of Azalea blooming, The North Carolina Azalea Festival is a celebration of Wilmington’s exceptional gardens, artwork, rich history and culture. During its five days of entertainment the festival includes a parade, street fair, circus, concerts, pageantry, and garden tours. There is something for every member of the family at this charming Southern event.

History

First held in 1948, the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington was created to showcase the beauty of local gardens in the city. Today over 300,000 people attend the festival and it has grown to become Wilmington’s biggest annual celebration. Held in the beginning of April, when the Azaleas have begun blooming; this five-day event showcases exquisite gardens, great artwork and our city’s southern cultural history and heritage.

The North Carolina Azalea Festival has several events that cover a period of five days. Such events include street fairs, concerts, athletic events, art shows, a parade, a circus, and tours of homes and gardens. The main event of the festival is the garden tour which highlights Wilmington’s most beautiful gardens; showcasing both private homes as well as publicly established garden’s like Airlie Gardens. In the tradition of southern belles, young women wear traditional antebellum, or hoop-skirt dresses and serve as hostesses of the gardens in the festival.

The Southeast Tourism Society recently selected the North Carolina Azalea Festival as one of its Top 20 Events.  It is a springtime tradition that has grown to be nationally recognized and enjoyed, drawing in thousands of visitors to Wilmington year after year.

Events

Some of the most noteworthy events of The Azalea Festival are:

  • Queen’s Coronation- The Queen’s Coronation is popular free annual event where the North Carolina Azalea Festival Queen is officially crowned. In attendance are all the Festival Celebrity Guests.
  • Parade– The parade takes place on Saturday morning of the festival in downtown Wilmington. It features elaborate floats, marching bands, clowns, show animals, and is highlighted by visiting celebrities, the Azalea Queen and her court, and the Azalea Princess. This event is viewed by over 100,000 people each year.
  • Street Fair- This is a free, family event with over 200 arts and craft vendors, 40 food vendors, 4 music stages, a children’s area and more. You can eat everything from funnel cake to gyros, have your face painted, or grab a drink and check out one of the concerts. The Street Fair is located in downtown Wilmington on Water, Front, and Market Street.
  • Concerts- Typically every year the Azalea Festival draws in two or three well-known music artists/bands to entertain. These shows take place in an outdoor venue downtown and usually sell out. This year’s festival highlights are Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Avett Brothers.
  • Juried Art Show- More than 100 North Carolina artists and national artists will have their paintings on display at the annual Juried Spring Art Show and Sale. Admission is free.
  • Circus- The Cole Bros. Circus is a favorite event of the Festival. Its combination of costumed characters, exotic animals, acrobatics, clowns, and entertainment acts draw packed crowds each year. The Circus takes place at the Wilmington International Airport.
  • Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour- The main event of the festival is the garden tour which highlights the Wilmington area’s most beautiful gardens. The event begins with a ceremonious ribbon-cutting and the Queen, her court, the Belles, ticket holders and celebrities are all present during the tours. The tour has been featured in Southern Living Magazine and is one of the longest running and most popular garden tours in the South. Tickets are $20.
  • The Garden Party- The garden party takes place on the Friday of the festival, after the garden tour opening ceremony. The Queen and her court make their way to Airlie Gardens around midday for a luncheon with others who were lucky enough to land a ticket. Star News said about the party: “It’s sort of a Who’s Who of Wilmington.  It’s quintessential Old South at its finest, complete with Citadel cadets escorting the Queen and her belles, men in seersucker suits and women in the frilliest spring dresses you’ve ever seen topped with hats of all sizes, colors and shapes.” This party is not open to the public.
  • After Party- As the Garden Party winds down, the party-goers head over to Dockside and The Bridge Tender to continue the fun. These local restaurants along the Intracoastal host what is commonly referred to as the “After Garden Party.” Plenty of locals join in here for an afternoon of outdoor drinking and socializing. Everyone from UNCW college students to Wilmington socialites and the high society crowd can be found mingling at the party. The action usually gets very ‘spirited’ as many guests carry on the festivities here for hours. This is one of the best parties of the year in Wilmington and as many locals know, should not be missed.

This year the 66th annual Azalea Festival will be held from April 10–14. For more information, including the festival’s schedule, concerts and ticket sales please visit http://www.ncazaleafestival.org or call (910) 794-4650.

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher is one of the most visited historical sites in North Carolina. During the Civil War its job was to protect blockade runners containing supplies for the Confederacy en route to Wilmington, NC. The fall of this Fort in 1865 was the event that opened the way for the Union victory.

Today, the Fort Fisher visitor center has an exhibit hall that details the battles and presents the history of the fort. A half-mile outdoor tour trail takes you through the lasting remains of part of the fort. Visitors may enjoy the scenic views of both the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean as they explore the site.

Whether you are a “history buff” or not, a visit to Fort Fisher is a great way to spend a day. Explore the museums at Fort Fisher State Park, take a guided tour of the Fort, witness Civil War history, or take self guided walk through the scenic trail right by the water. Go back in time and experience a monumental part of American history.

Location

To get there from downtown Wilmington:  take U.S. 421 south through Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Fort Fisher will be on the right just south of Kure Beach.

History

Fort Fisher was the “Last Major Stronghold of the Confederacy,” and the scene of the two largest naval bombardments of the Civil War. At the beginning of the American Civil War the Confederacy took control of a part of land in southern North Carolina near the mouth of the Cape Fear River and constructed what was to become the largest and most important earthwork fort in the South.  The official website states that: “Ft. Fisher kept Wilmington’s port open to blockade runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland… this was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. When Ft. Fisher fell after a massive Federal assault on January 15, 1865, its defeat helped seal the fate of the Confederacy.”

Battle Facts

  • Location: New Hanover County, North Carolina
  • Dates: January 13 – 15, 1865
  • Union Commander: Alfred H. Terry, David Dixon Porter
  • Confederate Commander: Braxton Bragg, Robert F. Hoke
  • Forces Engaged: 9,632 Union; 1,900 Confederate
  • Estimated Casualties: 1,341 Union; 583 Confederate
  • Result: Union Victory

Outdoor Exhibits

  • A tour trail with 12 exhibits throughout the remnants of historic Fort Fisher. Trail has gorgeous views of the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean.
  • Shepherds Battery: This restored gun emplacement features a reconstructed, fully operational, heavy seacoast cannon. This is fired for the public during special events.

Indoor Exhibits

  • Fiber-Optic Battle Map: This audiovisual map gives the history of the battle at Fort Fisher.
  • There are several exhibits that display all the history and information you could ever want to know about Fort Fisher. Everything is covered from the soldier’s lives at the Fort to the weapons that were used in the battles. Some of these individual exhibits are:  Blockade-Runners, Fort Construction, Weapons and Technology, Preparing to Fight, The First Assault, The Second Assault, and The Ladies of Ft. Fisher.
  • Numerous notable artifacts from the Civil War are on display inside the museum.

General Information

The visitor center hours are 9-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. You can take your own time and go on a self guided tour; however, if you would prefer a guided tour, these are given daily as well. Monday- Saturday: 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. Sunday: 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. There is no admission fee. Call (910-458-5538) more information.

Sources Used:

http://www.nchistoricsites.org

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/fort-fisher.html