Top Events and Festivals in North Carolina
Explore this selection of the top annual events and festivals, fairs and celebrations (listed in calendar priority) in North Carolina.
Please note: Top Events USA does not include every single event on offer in North Carolina – only those recognized as the best by residents of North Carolina, visitors to the "Old North State", the team of travel writers working for Top Events USA and officials of North Carolina too.
North Carolina was nicknamed the “Old North State” in 1710 when Carolina was divided into South Carolina and the older settlement of North Carolina.
North Carolina Jazz Festival (NCJF)
Wilmington, North Carolina
A popular event for more than 32 years, the North Carolina Jazz Festival (NCJF) in Wilmington, North Carolina offers a wide range of the greatest traditional jazz musicians from around the globe, concerts/workshops with all star musicians, a jazz education program, and the ever popular half-hour concerts featuring an all-star musician lineup in our traditional presentation of 7 sets, each with a different leader.
For more information about the North Carolina Jazz Festival (NCJF) visit:
North Carolina Azalea Festival
Wilmington, North Carolina
A springtime tradition celebrating Wilmington's exceptional artwork, gardens, history and culture, activities at the North Carolina Azalea Festival include headline concert entertainment, a 3-day riverfront street fair with arts & crafts, food, a spectacular parade, triathlon and more. Since its inception in 1948, the Festival has blossomed into an extended weekend celebration attracting more than 300,000 people to become the largest festival of its kind in the state.
For more information about the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington take a look at:
or visit: http://www.ncazaleafestival.org
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Winner of the gold award in the IFEA/Haas & Wilkerson Pinnacle Awards (a competition drawing entries from among the world’s top festivals and events), recognized by the North Carolina Association of Festivals & Events as an event of the year, and named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast, the popular 3-day Dogwood Festival includes local and national entertainers and musicians, artists and their displays, arts and crafts, food vendors and several events for children. As the Dogwood Festival says – “Something for Everyone.”
For more information about the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival visit:
North Carolina Pickle Festival
Mount Olive, North Carolina
Good, green family fun salutes the agricultural heritage of this area, home to the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. Get free pickles and don’t miss Mr. Crisp, an eight-foot pickle. Whether your idea of fun is biking in the "Tour de Pickle," participating in the Pickle Derby, cheering on the N.C. Pickle Princesses, dancing to beach music or helping your kids with the Pickle Treasure Hunt, there are two full days of activities to suit all tastes.
For more information about the North Carolina Pickle Festival in Mount Olive visit:
Biltmore Festival of Flowers
April / May
Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore's gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, are alive with color as spring arrives. Guests enjoy special events and the beauty of tulips, azaleas, and countless other flowers during the Festival of Flowers. On the weekends, Biltmore Winery joins the celebration with a commemorative Festival of Flowers wine and music, wine programs, and children’s activities. In the Farm Village, blacksmiths, woodworkers, and farmers demonstrate their skills on Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information about the Biltmore Festival of Flowers in Asheville see:
or visit: http://www.biltmore.com
Rogallo Kite Festival
early – mid June
Jockey’s Ridge State Park – Nags Head, North Carolina
A popular event since 1982, the Rogallo Kite Festival offers two days of kite flying to honor Francis Rogallo, NASA scientist and inventor of the flexible wing, the technology of which is used for many of the stunt kites seen today in various kite events around the USA. Highlights of the Rogallo Kite Festival include opportunities for free kite making, power kite lessons and a wide selection of very different kites such as the 100 foot octopus, an 80 foot scuba diver and a 50 foot fish.
For more information about the Rogallo Kite Festival visit:
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is an exciting Crystal Coast tradition. The tournament is fished by approximately 100 competitors in substantial cash categories. During this week-long event visitors can view the live weigh-ins, pig out at the pig pickin’, enjoy the Captain’s Party, and fireworks.
For more information about the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Atlantic Beach visit:
American Dance Festival
mid June to late July
Durham, North Carolina
The largest and most influential modern dance festival in the world features more than a dozen modern dance companies. The American Dance Festival is heralded as “One of the nation’s most important institutions” by the New York Times, and the festival has been called “The world’s greatest dance festival” by the New York Post.
For more information about the American Dance Festival in Durham take a look at:
or visit: http://www.americandancefestival.org
Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games
Linville, North Carolina
A tradition for over 57 years, the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans, held at the spectacular highland setting at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, presents a colorful celebration of Scottish culture. Considered one of the best highland games in America, and with the goal to foster and restore interest in traditional dancing, piping, drumming, athletic achievement, music and Gaelic culture, the festivities attract brawny athletes, delicate dancers, noisy bagpipe band parades, rocking Celtic music and visitors from across the country.
For more information about the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games neark Linville visit:
Waynesville and Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Folkmoot USA, North Carolina's Official International Festival, is a two-week celebration of the world's cultural heritage through folk music and dance. Held each summer across the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina, Folkmoot features performances, parades and workshops by more than 350 performers from a dozen or so countries. Performers demonstrate cultural heritage through colorful, authentic and original reproduction costumes, lively dance and beautiful music. During its 25-year history, over 200 folk groups from more than 100 countries have shared their heritage and culture at Folkmoot USA.
For more information about Folkmoot USA visit:
National Black Theatre Festival
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
An international media event, the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem has been a success for over 12 years showcasing the very best in black theatre. A popular event attracting more than 60,000 visitors, the National Black Theatre Festival features more than a hundred theatrical performances by more than 50 respected celebrities, an Opening Night Gala, the Readers' Theatre of New Works, the Youth/Celebrity Project, International Colloquia, the International Vendor's Market, a poetry slam, and various workshops and seminars.
For more information about the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem visit:
North Carolina Apple Festival
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Western North Carolina’s premier family festival for over 60 years, the North Carolina Apple Festival is held on Labor Day Weekend each year to recognize the importance of the apple and the apple industry to Henderson County and North Carolina. Highlights of this 4-day event include freshly picked apples, arts & crafts, festival food, the King Apple Parade on Labor Day and more free entertainment at the Historic Courthouse.
For more information about the North Carolina Apple Festival in Hendersonville visit:
Wilmington, North Carolina
Attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year, the increasingly popular three-day Wilmington Riverfest event offers a wealth of free, family entertainment including performances on various stages, dance competitions, Saturday night fireworks, the River 8K marathon, the Great Wine Waiter’s Race and several extreme sports demonstrations and competitions, hundreds of craft vendors and more than 40 concession booths, as well as a special Children’s Area.
For more information about the Wilmington Riverfest visit:
North Carolina Seafood Festival
Morehead City, North Carolina
A tradition for over 22 years, and the second largest Festival in North Carolina, the North Carolina Seafood Festival features seafood, free national and regional musical entertainment and the cultural heritage and traditions that surround commercial fishing. The event also includes arts & craft vendors, an 8K road race, and rides.
For more information about the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City take a look at:
or visit: http://www.ncseafoodfestival.org
Carolina Renaissance Festival
weekends - early October to late December
Charlotte, North Carolina
One of the largest attractions in the Carolinas and one of the biggest renaissance themed events in the USA, the Carolina Renaissance Festival takes place in a story-book Renaissance village filled with charming cottages, castles, kitchens and pubs, all with simulated architecture and design of a 16th century European village. Within the walls of this fictional village called Fairhaven villagers, artists, crafts-people, musicians, performance troupes and food vendors gather to create a marketplace festival in celebration of the arrival of their visiting King and Queen.
For more information about the Carolina Renaissance Festival visit:
Q City BBQ Championship
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte’s 11th annual BBQ festival has moved back to Uptown Charlotte (Tryon Street between Trade Street and Stonewall Street). Formerly known as BBQ & Blues, the Q City BBQ Championship is the largest Memphis Barbecue Network (MBN) sanctioned competition in the entire Southeast. The competition draws fans in the hundreds of thousands, both of BBQ and music, for tastings, craft beer, soulful tunes and more. More than 100 teams compete for more than $35,000 in prizes at this competition. Top names always headline the event with their soul, blues and rock n’ roll sounds.
For more information about the Q City BBQ Championship in Charlotte visit:
Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF)
Black Mountain, North Carolina
One of the top small festivals internationally, the Lake Eden Arts Fetival (LEAF) offers a global music line-up with over 50 cultural genres, as well as over 40 healing arts workshops such as Yoga & Tai Chi, folk art, juried handcrafts, a National $1,000 Poetry SLAM, talent contest, fiddle contest, mountain drum circles, over 30 Performers & Wacky Games in the Kids Village including Kids Bedtime Stories, jam sessions, gourmet food and more!
For more information about the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) visit :
Woolly Worm Festival
Banner Elk, North Carolina
Since 1978, the residents of the village nestled between the Carolina's two largest ski resorts have celebrated the coming of the snow season with a Woolly Worm Festival. Races up a three-foot length of string determine which worm will have the honor of predicting the severity of the coming winter. The event includes 140 craft vendors, food, live entertainment and rides. This family event captures the attention of 20,000 attendees looking for a good laugh and the opportunity for their Woolly Worm to make the winter forecast.
For more information about the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk visit:
Lexington, North Carolina
Lexington is said to be the Barbecue Capital of the World, and the annual Barbecue Festival has been ranked as “one of the top ten food festivals in the USA” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Everyone is invited to come and enjoy the exhibits, exciting entertainment, sporting events and some of the best barbecue in North Carolina. There are an estimated 100,000 people and more than 11,000 pounds of Barbecue served each year.
For more information about the Barbecue Festival in Lexington visit:
Seagrove Pottery Festival Weekend
Seagrove, North Carolina
Known as the handmade pottery capital of the United States, Seagrove is home to artisans who create handcrafted pottery inspired by the traditions that began here more than 200 years ago. With nearly 100 shops and galleries scattered throughout the area, you will find everything from traditional tableware to folk and collectible art pieces and historical reproductions. The festival weekend features a potters market, an auction of signed and dated pottery, demonstrations, and food vendors.
For more information about the Seagrove Pottery Festival Weekend visit: www.HeartofNorthCarolina.com/
Christmas at Biltmore Estate
November and December
Asheville, North Carolina
Internationally applauded as a “Top 100 Event in North America” by the American Bus Association for the last four years, and one of Southeast’s most popular holiday travel destinations, Christmas at Biltmore Estate takes place during the day and at night at what is recognized as America's largest home. It comes complete with dozens of Christmas trees and miles of festive garlands and lights, fine ornaments and priceless treasures, live music and inspirational holiday demonstrations.
For more information about Christmas at Biltmore Estate visit:
First Night Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina
Recognized as Charlotte's most exciting, imaginative and uplifting cultural event of the year, First Night Charlotte features a fantastic array of events and activities for all to enjoy in a safe, alcohol-free environment. First Night Kids has jugglers, puppet masters, mascots and a kid’s countdown. The First Night evening has aerial dancers, a hip-hop violinist, international performances, comedy shows, musicians and a headline band performing for the countdown to Midnight.
For more information about the First Night Charlotte event visit: