From music to critters to summertime eating to year-round fun, festivals run the gamut across the Tar Heel State. You want to celebrate it? Chances are you’ll find it.
Eclectic Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hosts Bele Chere during the last full weekend of July. This downtown celebration of music and arts spreads to venues located throughout the town. The festival features entertainment from local and national performing artists, jugglers and magicians. Other attractions highlight local breweries, artisans, children’s activities and arts and crafts.
North Carolina Azalea Festival
Wilmington is home to one of the biggest state festivals at the beginning of April every year. The Azalea Festival’s street fair hosts more than 200 arts and crafts vendors and 40 food vendors. Parasol-toting Southern belles in hoop skirts can be seen against a beautiful backdrop of thousands of pink, white and purple azaleas. There is a large children’s area that includes big inflatables and face painting. The street fair is free but certain events, such as historic house tours and a circus, require tickets.
North Carolina Festival by the Sea
This seaside festival, located in Holden Beach, begins with a parade that crosses the 1,800-foot long bridge from the mainland to the island. This Saturday and Sunday event, held in October, highlights local music, arts and crafts, and plenty of seafood, including shrimp, crab and flounder. Children can enjoy amusements such as rides, face painting and kite flying.
The White Squirrel Festival
Named the Best Spring Music Festival by the Asheville Citizen-Times, the White Squirrel Festival occurs every Memorial Day weekend in the mountain community of Brevard. Besides the folk, country and bluegrass music, activities include a derby race, 5K and 10K races, and a photo contest emphasizing white squirrels, indigenous to the region.
Charlotte Irish Summer Festival
Everything is Irish at this festival, from the dancing to the drinks. Occurring in September in uptown Charlotte, activities include crafts, games and music. The Charlotte Irish Summer Festival is not only family friendly but pet friendly, too (as long as they are on a leash). Release your inner Riverdancer by learning a jig and enjoying the scenery of the city.
North Carolina Watermelon Festival
Debuting in the 1970s, this week-long festival in Fair Bluff is celebrated in July. This quirky festival features parades, beauty pageants and a watermelon seed-spitting contest. The highlight is the much anticipated watermelon weigh-off, where farmers from all over the Southeast compete for bragging rights of the biggest melon.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts BugFest every September. Entertainment includes displays, presentations and interactive exhibits inside and outside the museum. This one-day festival — the largest of its kind in the country — lasts throughout the evening, when nocturnal insects are emphasized through hands-on activities.
Alyssandra Barnes contributed to this article. She is a photojournalist and assists the authors with photography, writing and research.