10 Best Outdoor Festivals in North Carolina

By Alli Hill

10 Best Outdoor Festivals in North Carolina

The great outdoor festivals of North Carolina feature everything from birdwatching to hiking to boating and more. And North Carolina’s varied landscapes brings outdoor enthusiast’s a little bit of everything. To get a little closer to nature, check out the best outdoor festivals in the state! 

1. Memorial Day Celebration at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte, NC

This incredible weekend-long event features some of the best activities of the outdoor world: trail races, rock climbing, SUP yoga, and lots of live music and fireworks to make your weekend a hit. Plus, all the regular water sports like rafting and kayaking will be open.

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2. Beech Mountain Metric, Beech Mountain, NC

This highly-anticipated annual bicycle race is not for those afraid of heights. Riders climb 61 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains before crossing the finish line on the top of Beech Mountain. However, they do offer alternate routes of 23 miles are 44 miles for those who aren't quite ready to conquer the ultimate mountain bike ride.

3. Hook, Line, and Drinker Festival, Sylva, NC

This creatively-named festival is dedicated to all things fishing. Taking place in the Trout Capital of North Carolina, fishing guides and vendors will be on-site handing out their expertise. Craft beer vendors, food trucks, a farmer’s market, and other activities will also join the festival fun, along with live music from A Social Function and Fireside Collective. The event is free to the public—donations are appreciated and encouraged.

4. Mountain Wildlife Days, Sapphire, NC

This wildlife festival brings you closer to some of your favorite animals. Children and adults alike will love seeing bald eagles, reptiles, wolves, bears, and other creatures in person, some of which offer hands-on encounters. Held at the Sapphire Valley Resort, you can combine your visit with a vacation in the mountains and make a fun-filled weekend from your experience.

5. Charlotte Dragon Boat Race and Asian Festival, Charlotte, NC

No, there aren’t any dangerous dragons at this festival, but the dragonesque boats in the water might have you look twice. This one-day festival in May features the ancient Chinese tradition of dragon boat racing, along with Asian dancers and musicians and other cultural exhibits. It’s part sporting event, part cultural festival that will thrill and enlighten.

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6. Chalk Banks Challenge and River Festival, Wagram, NC

Taking place on the scenic black water Lumber River, this water race lets you choose your vessel: raft, canoe, or kayak. Spring to the finish line via the river or embark on a 5K trail run. Other festival activities include a Build Your Own Raft contest, free canoe rides, live music, kid’s games and activities, inflatables, and plenty of food to go ‘round.

7. Crystal Kai Sup Cup, Beaufort, NC

Who knew stand up paddleboarding could be worth $20,000? This SUP Cup is part of the Annual Beaufort Music Festival, offering fun events for the whole family. They’re offering free clinics for kids and all skills levels the day before the race. Try your luck—you could win big!

8. Freedom Balloon Fest, Fuquay Varina, NC

Take your love for the outdoors to new heights at this epic hot air balloon festival. Free to the public, you can marvel at the mass takeoff of more than 30 hot air balloons and enjoy competitive balloon flights. Live music, an arts and crafts village, and a Chef’s Challenge are also scheduled to be part of the entertainment.

9. Minefest, Little Switzerland, NC

This isn’t your typical outdoorsy festival, but hikers and non-hikers alike will love the free guided hikes to discover hidden mines that make up much of the town’s heritage. This three-day geological festival is unlike any other in North Carolina. Gem mining, panning for gold, live mountain music, kid’s outdoor treasure hunt, and mine tours are just a few of the highlights. Best of all, you’ll be surrounded by the beautiful natural scenery of the area with plenty of photo ops.

10. Annual Enfield Fishing Creek Paddle, Enfield, NC

This one-day event is a hidden gem in Eastern North Carolina. Paddlers can hop aboard canoes or kayaks and float down Fishing Creek, soaking up its rich history and beautiful surrounds. In fact, some folks have found shark teeth on its shores. If you don’t have your own vessel, there will be some available to rent. Paddlers of any skill level can enjoy this relaxing, enjoyable event.

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