21 Top North Carolina Festivals & Events (For 2024)

North Carolina is a state that knows how to put on a festival. From live music festivals to food festivals to huge cultural events, there is no shortage of North Carolina festivals and events to check out in 2024.

People enjoying an outdoor street festival in Raleigh
Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh

What we love about living in NC is that the state embraces its artistic spirit every month of the year. No matter what the weather or season, there is always something happening.

In this guide, we’ve created a list of our favorite events and festivals in North Carolina that we’ve attended over the years, or plan to attend this year! Each event showcases the best of the state’s art, music, food, and much more.

Top North Carolina Festivals

North Carolina Jazz Festival, Wilmington

Running for over 40 years, the North Carolina Jazz Festival is one of the longest-running annual festivals in the state. In 2024, the NCJF is celebrating its 44th year!

Featuring some of the best traditional jazz musicians from all over the world, including The Port City Trio, a local group from Wilmington, as well as The Emmet Cohen Trio and many more. 

The event takes place in the evening from 7.30 pm from the 1st – 3rd February at the Hotel Ballast ballroom. Be sure to grab tickets in advance, as there is only a limited number.

Beaufort Mardi Gras Celebration

woman and children with purple mardi gras masks on
We attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2017

Mardi Gras is one of the most vibrant and immersive events of the year, no matter where you are in the country. It’s a three-day event that celebrates the Christian holiday, Fat Tuesday, and marks the end of Lent.

The festival is celebrated with parades, parties, feasts and fun! In North Carolina, the place to celebrate Mardi Gras is undeniably Beaufort, which is known for its street carnival and parade.

Dress up in beads, bright colors, and glitter and celebrate this festive period at one of America’s Quirkiest Towns (according to Travel & Leisure Magazine). The parade on Front Street and Middle Lane is the place to be (starting at 3 pm on the first day). There are also some activities for kids including balloon art and face painting.

Dreamville Festival, Raleigh

A lady at a music festival taking a phot of the stage.
At Dreamville in 2023

One of the biggest music festivals in North Carolina is Dreamville Festival, which returns to Raleigh in 2024 at the start of spring. Founded in 2018 and spearheaded by Grammy-nominated rapper J. Cole, this annual event is one of the best festivals for hip-hop and R&B music lovers. 

Although the 2024 lineup is still being finalized, you can expect to see world-recognized names on one of two stages. Previously, artists such as Usher, Drake, and of course the curator J. Cole have topped the lineup.

It’s also held at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, one of the largest parks in the city, making it one of the biggest festivals in the state. Last year, 100,000 people attended the event over the two days.

Watch our video below from attending Dreamville in 2023.

Tuck Fest, Charlotte

curving white water rafting river
Credit: U.S. Whitewater Center

For the outdoor enthusiast, TuckFest is a three-day event that celebrates everything outdoors in North Carolina. Throughout the festival, visitors can witness competitions, and demonstrations, see outdoor-inspired exhibitions, and of course, watch live music.

It takes place at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, but it’s not just whitewater rafting that it celebrates. You can also take part in trail running, kayaking, mountain biking, climbing, adventure racing, and much more.

What makes this festival one of our favorites is it’s open to the public and free of charge to spectate and take part in. However, if you do want to take part, you need to register in advance via the official website.

MerleFest, Wilkesboro

maren morris on stage playing tamborine and singing
Credit: Flattop MerleFest
  • Dates: 25th – 28th April 2024
  • Where: Wilkesboro
  • Official Website: merlefest.org

Rooted in “traditional plus” music, MerleFest has earned its reputation as one of the top country music festivals in the country since its inception in 1988. 

Taking place on the campus of Wilkes Community College, the festival showcases a lineup of exceptional local artists, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Turnpike Troubadours, The Teskey Brothers, and last year, Maren Morris.  

What sets MerleFest apart is its celebration of music from the Appalachian region, celebrating the musical roots of North Carolina.

Beyond the performances, festival-goers can immerse themselves in workshops, jam sessions, and more. This is a family-friendly event with many workshops and activities aimed at kids.

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, Pittsboro

People sitting on the grass at a music festival.
Image by: shakorihillsgrassroots.org

The Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2024, offering four days of captivating performances across four stages and featuring over 50 bands from various genres. 

From folk and bluegrass to world music, the lineup is sure to impress. Beyond the music, you can also immerse yourself in workshops, shop for local crafts from vendors, indulge in delicious food, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Shakori Hills. 

Bear Shadow Festival, 2024

People sitting on grass and under white tents at an outdoor music festival.
Image by: bearshadownc.com
  • Dates: 11th – 12th May 2024
  • Where: Highlands Plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Official Website: bearshadownc.com

Set in the captivating Blue Ridge Mountains is the Bear Shadow Festival. This annual springtime celebration takes place at a time when bears emerge from hibernation, heralding the end of winter with its enchanting mix of Americana folk tunes. 

This year’s lineup is yet to be announced, but previous editions have featured celebrated artists. 

What makes Bear Shadow Festival unique is that it’s a non-profit organization, and ticket sales go towards local charities and organizations to aid conservation efforts.

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

man throwing a scottish hammer
Credit: VisitNC.com
  • Dates: 11th – 14th July, 2024
  • Where: Linville
  • Official Website: gmhg.org

We’ve all heard of the Highland Games in Scotland, but did you know you can attend these games in North Carolina too?

Put on your kilts and tartan hats and get ready to celebrate the ancient Celtic spirit. It’s the most authentic Scottish Highland event outside of Scotland and takes place in Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina.

The games celebrate the state’s Scottish ancestry over a four-day weekend and feature Scottish music, dancing, and field games such as the famous timber throwing games, as well as food, costumes, and much more. Even if you’re not Scottish, it’s fun for all the family.

Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh

Hopscotch Music Festival
Hopscotch Festival | Source: Visit Raleigh

Another highly anticipated music festival in North Carolina is the Hopscotch Music Festival which takes place here in Raleigh. 

Although this year’s lineup is still to be announced, it promises to be an eclectic mix of genres and talent. Previous years have featured incredible artists such as James Blake, Animal Collective, Flying Lotus, Courtney Barnett, Perfume Genius, and many more.

Running since 2010, the Hopscotch Music Festival promises to be an unforgettable weekend of music and excitement in NC!

World of Bluegrass, Raleigh

People listening to Bluegrass music at a festival surrounded by trees
Bluegrass in downtown Raleigh

For bluegrass fans, don’t miss a chance to step into the enchanting world of bluegrass music at the World of Bluegrass festival. This immersive celebration of all things bluegrass showcases a captivating lineup of legendary artists and emerging talents. 

Each year, Fayetteville Street is closed down to make way for outdoor stages, stretching for five blocks all the way to the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. 

Although 2024’s lineup is still to be announced, previous years have seen acclaimed performers such as Steep Canyon Rangers, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, The Del McCoury Band, and Sierra Hull.

4 musicians playing Bluegrass on a stage
Fayetteville St, Raleigh

Each year, more than 200,000 people come to celebrate this open-air festival in Raleigh. With its lively atmosphere, engaging activities, and exceptional musical performances, the World of Bluegrass festival promises to be an unforgettable experience.

And this is the year to attend, as it’s the last year the festival will be held in Raleigh. But don’t worry, plans are in the works for another music festival to take its place.

Benson Mule Days

parade of mule drawn carriages main st benson
Mule Days Parade | Photo: JoCo Visitors Bureau

How could we not mention something as quirky and unique as an entire festival dedicated to celebrating mules in our top NC festivals guide?

And it’s only an easy day trip from Raleigh in Benson, Johnston County. Benson Mule Days is a legendary 4-day festival, one of the largest in North Carolina drawing in 20,000-30,000 people.

The tradition began in 1949 when Nowell Smith, Jr. and the McLamb Brothers had the idea for a festival that would both celebrate the farmer and foster community spirit by incorporating the town’s main draft animal – the mule.

Expect Rodeos, mule competitions, arts and crafts, food vendors, dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, Bluegrass shows, and musical concerts. Saturday’s Mule Day parade is a highlight!

Carolina Renaissance Festival, Huntersville

If you’re looking for festivals and events in North Carolina to visit with kids, then the Carolina Renaissance Festival is sure to please the little ones.

The event gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a 16th-century European-style extravaganza, celebrating everything Renaissance. It combines history with fantasy through outdoor theater, art, and entertainment. 

See costumed actors, and captivating performances, and walk through a vibrant medieval village, as well as discover unique crafts, indulge in delectable Renaissance-inspired food, and participate in games and interactive experiences. 

North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh

nc state fair raleigh 10
NC State Fair
  • Dates: Oct 17-24, 2024
  • Where: NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh
  • Official Website: ncstatefair.org

The North Carolina State Fair is one of our favorite festivals in Raleigh and is considered the largest annual event in NC and is visited by millions of visitors each year.

It’s an important annual tradition for NC natives who come to the fair to have fun on rides, listen to live music, devour greasy food, and see animals. 

It’s a chance to let loose and create happy memories as a family and is a festival we love to attend. It’s fun for all the family! Our eldest now especially loves to go with her friends!

Watch our video below of the NC State Fair:

Das Best Oktoberfest, Charlotte

Group of friends drinking beer together at Oktoberfest
Beer, anyone?

We’ve all heard of Oktoberfest, the famous German beer-drinking festival that’s celebrated in, you guessed it, October. The best place to celebrate Oktoberfest is at the annual Das Best Oktoberfest in Charlotte, which is running for its third year in 2024.

It features hundreds of craft beers, wines, and schnapps to taste (over 120 to be more precise), as well as places to buy German sausage, schnitzel, and other German foods.

The day-long festival takes place in Ballantyne’s Backyard and has two stages with live bands playing. There’s also a Kidstoberfest with a bouncy house and pumpkin painting. 2024 dates are yet to be announced.

Valle Country Fair, Valle Crucis

nc festivals
Image by: vallecountryfair.org

Nestled in the picturesque Valle Crucis in North Carolina is the annual Valle Country Fair. This charming fair celebrates the region’s rich agricultural heritage and offers a delightful array of activities for all ages. 

Similar to the North Carolina State Fair, it features fairground rides and games, as well as live music from local bluegrass bands. You can indulge in mouthwatering homemade treats, and browse through an eclectic mix of artisanal crafts. 

Children can delight in pony rides, face painting, and interactive farm exhibits. What makes the Valle Country Fair unique is that it has a vibrant community spirit and idyllic mountain backdrop, making it a wholesome family-fun event in the heart of North Carolina.

Barbecue Festival, Lexington

A plate of food on a wooden table
BBQ lovers take note!

Another foodie festival in North Carolina to check out is the Barbecue Festival, which is all about, as you may have guessed, barbecue food!

This mouthwatering extravaganza celebrates the state’s time-honored tradition of slow-cooked, smoky barbecue. A lineup of talented local bands will provide the perfect soundtrack as you indulge in a variety of barbecue styles, from tangy vinegar-based to rich tomato-based sauces. 

Beyond the delectable eats, you can witness interactive cooking demonstrations, join lively competitions, and explore the vibrant marketplace filled with artisanal crafts. 

NC Chinese Lantern Festival, Cary

Illuminated dragon on a lake.
Amazing lights display!
  • Dates: November – January 
  • Where: Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • Official Website: boothamphitheatre.com  

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is a spectacular event that blends traditional Chinese artistry with modern technology to create an enchanting experience for visitors of all ages. 

This popular festival takes place every year from November to January and features a stunning collection of illuminated lanterns that depict various themes and stories.

We first visited the NC Chinese Lantern Festival in 2023 and will be sure to return in 2024. Tickets start at $9 which makes it an affordable Holiday event to attend in 2024.

North Carolina Brewers & Music Festival, Huntersville

nc beers on table
Credit: VisitNC.com

The North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival, set to take place in 2024, is a festival for beer and music enthusiasts alike. 

This annual event showcases the state’s vibrant craft beer scene, featuring renowned breweries from across North Carolina. As you sample an array of unique and flavorful brews, you can enjoy live performances by talented local musicians. 

The festival lineup is diverse, with a range of artists spanning various genres, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Although 2024 dates are still to be announced, this is one festival you will want to mark on your calendar.

Folkmoot International Dance & Music Fest, Waynesville

a line of folkmoot dancers in costume
Credit: VisitNC.com

Celebrating its 41st year, the Folkmoot International Dance & Music Fest is renowned for celebrating music and dance traditions from around the world. 

While specific performers for 2024 have not been announced, previous years have featured captivating acts such as The Blue Ridge Big Band, Okinawa Taiko Drums, Celtic Roads Band, and more.

Beyond the stage, visitors can explore a marketplace filled with crafts, indulge in delicious international cuisine, and participate in interactive workshops. 

Yadkin Valley Grape Festival, Yadkinville

hand holding glass with red wine in vineyards
Credit: VisitNC.com
  • Dates: TBA
  • Where: Downtown Yadkinville
  • Official Website: yvgf.com

Experience a delightful blend of wine, entertainment, and local culture at the Yadkin Valley Grape Festival in Yadkinville. 

This annual event showcases the finest wines produced by Yadkin Valley wineries and vineyards, allowing visitors to savor exquisite flavors while enjoying live entertainment from talented performers. From specialty crafts to delectable food options, there is something for everyone at this festival. 

Take part in wine tastings, explore the marketplace, and soak in the melodies of acclaimed musicians as you indulge in the best that North Carolina’s wine country has to offer.

P.S. Did you know we have a winery right here in Wake County? Read more about Cloer Family Vineyards in Apex visit recently.

Guilford Native American Association’s Annual Pow Wow, Greensboro

native american in headdress
Credit: VisitNC.com

For a chance to celebrate the rich Native American heritage of North Carolina, head to the Guilford Native American Association’s Annual Pow Wow, a mesmerizing cultural extravaganza in Greensboro. 

Immerse yourself in traditional music, dance, and vibrant regalia as talented performers from various indigenous nations share their ancestral customs. 

This year’s event is still to be organized and a date has not been announced, but it will likely feature renowned drum groups, captivating performances, artisan booths, authentic cuisine, and a chance to participate in interactive workshops to deepen your understanding of Native American culture. 

Are you planning on attending any of these NC festivals? What else would you add to this list we should check out?

NC Bucket List
45 Unique things to do in NC + 4 destinations not to miss + insider travel tips. 
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