The leaves are turning, the sun is peaking and thermometers are rising. It’s festival season in North Carolina, and that means great food, film, music, time with the family and more.
North Carolina is no longer our little secret. From the mountains to the coast to that one-stoplight town you purposefully detour through so you can grab a world-famous hot dog on your way home, North Carolina offers a lot of charm for just about everybody.
What’s your cup of tea? Food? The outdoors? Antique shopping? Cups of tea? With all the great festivals kicking off this spring, North Carolinians and out-of-towners alike are sure to find their good time. (Keep reading. There’s even a festival for pickle lovers.)
Here’s a taste of what festival season in North Carolina has to offer.
Parades, pageants and a performance by Ludacris
The NC Azalea Festival, despite its flowery name, is an annual five-day-long all-around community celebration in Wilmington, NC. Each April, a full week of natural beauty, big-name entertainment, festive galas, fun family events and Southern hospitality come together to showcase the charms of the Wilmington area. Check out some of the free events you can attend.
- North Carolina Azalea Festival
- April 11-15, 2018
- Wilmington, NC
Beer, beer and more beer
- Hickory Hops Brewer’s Festival
- April 21, 2018
- Olde Hickory Station, Downtown Hickory, NC
Nature’s favorite holiday
April 22 is Earth Day. Celebrate this important day in Durham from noon to 5 p.m. for a day filled with an eclectic mix of music, food and hands-on environmental education activities. Learn more.
- Earth Day Festival
- April 22, 2018
- Durham Central Park, Durham, NC
A pickle’s favorite holiday
We weren’t kidding when we said NC was home to a pickle festival. The NC Pickle Festival is held in Mount Olive, NC, home to the Mount Olive Pickle Company. This festival draws in large, diverse crowds to experience all things pickles (and more).
- NC Pickle Festival
- April 28, 2018
- Mount Olive, NC
Dance, music and healing
Shakori Hills Community Arts Center supports local music and arts community through cultural events and outreach to our local schools, while teaching environmental awareness and sustainable living practices. The Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance brings together music, dance and more to move forth this mission. Advance ticket sales end Monday, April 30.
- Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance
- May 3-6, 2018
- Pittsboro, NC
Thrifting, antiquing and shopping galore
For thrifters, antiquers, furniture refurbishers, yard salers and more, nothing’s better than the Raleigh Flea Market, held at the NC State Fairgrounds. The Raleigh Flea Market is open every weekend (except for the month of October when it closes for the State Fair) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine, with free parking and free admission.
- Raleigh Flea Market
- Every weekend except October
- NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC
Artists & artisans
Visit the 17th annual Under the Oaks Festival in Corolla, NC. On the beautiful waterfront grounds of Whalehead in Historic Corolla Park located in Corolla, NC, this festival features the unique talents of quality artists and artisans, with a wide variety of media plus local food concessions and a silent art auction. Admission is free!
- Under the Oaks Festival
- June 19-20, 2018
- Outer Banks, Corolla, NC
Christmas in July
Yep, we said it. It’s Christmas in July in West Jefferson, NC, just half an hour outside Boone. In 2015, Ashe County, NC, was named the number-one Christmas tree producer in the U.S. Hence the 32nd annual Christmas in July Festival, one of the best, old-fashioned summer festivals in the South, drawing thousands to historic West Jefferson, NC, each July. The festival began in 1987 as a celebration of the Christmas tree industry Ashe County, NC, is known for. You can experience vendors, live mountain music, handmade arts and crafts, festival food and, yes, even a Christmas tree contest. Believe it.
- Christmas in July Festival
- July 7, 2018
- Downtown West Jefferson, NC
Music, mountains and bluegrass
Take a weekend trip to the 44th annual North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival. The 2018 music lineup includes: Dailey & Vincent, The Earls of Leicester, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The Little Roy & Lizzie Show, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, The Malpass Brothers, The Primitive Quartet, The Gibson Brothers, Po' Ramblin' Boys, Terry Baucom's Duke's of Drive, The Crowe Brothers and more.
- North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival
- August 16-18, 2018
- Tom Johnson's Camping World, Marion, NC
It doesn’t end at Labor Day
Though many local shops wind down and shorten their hours after the Labor Day holiday, September certainly isn’t the end to festival season in NC. As long as the weather holds out, North Carolinians will be sure to find a way to celebrate.
We want to hear from you—are there other festivals in NC that you’re looking forward to this season? Put them on our radar: comment below or on Facebook.