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The “Queen City” of Charlotte, NC, is the perfect mixture of big-city convenience and small-town charm. You’ll find a wide variety of restaurants, bars, theaters, art galleries, museums, music venues and sports arenas here, yet still feel right at home with the friendly people and laid-back atmosphere. There’s literally something for everyone to do here, and if you’re looking for some fun new festivals and events to check out, Charlotte has no shortage of those, either. From food and wine festivals to major sporting events, the Queen City has it going on all year long. Here are a few of the best Charlotte annual events to add to your travel calendar.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC), one of the most popular outdoor attractions in the Charlotte area, welcomes the warmer weather each year with a massive, 4-day festival that typically sees about 50,000 visitors. Named after the historic Tuckaseegee Ford and Trail located on the USNWC property, Tuck Fest celebrates outdoor recreation with live demonstrations, competitions and exhibitions in sports like kayaking, biking, running, rock climbing and stand-up paddleboarding. The festival is free to attend, although there are registration fees if you want to participate in any of the competitions. Or, you can just spread out on the grass with food from the on-site restaurant or snack bar, enjoy the live music and relax with your four-legged friend since Fido is welcome to come too.
The North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival, held each year on the property of Historic Rural Hill in Huntersville, is a celebration of North Carolina brewing and real music. Visitors can sample craft beers from over 40 different breweries from across the state, including local favorites like Noda Brewing and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. There’s also live music to enjoy from local artists and bands throughout the 2-day event, as well as food trucks, vendor shops and even activities for the kids.
Every spring, thousands of race fans travel from all over the country to North Carolina to see the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. But, the party actually starts a couple of days before the race with the 3-day Speed Street festival in uptown Charlotte. Beginning on the Thursday before the race, hundreds of thousands of visitors take to the streets of the Queen City to enjoy live music, food, contests, and of course, appearances by some of the sport’s most popular drivers. You can also get your photo taken next to a real NASCAR stock car and even test out your pit crew skills at the Tire Change Challenge.
If you’ve been wanting to try the culinary scene in the Queen City, Taste of Charlotte is definitely the time to do it. This annual, 3-day festival takes over the streets of uptown Charlotte and includes food from more than 100 local restaurants. Each establishment offers samples and bite-sized servings of some of their most popular dishes in exchange for festival coins, which can be purchased at booths throughout the event. There are also several live music stages, wine and beer tents, kids’ activities, and a demonstration kitchen where you can learn cooking techniques from a professional chef.
As one of Charlotte’s oldest annual art festivals, the Festival in the Park has been a Queen City tradition since 1964. Visitors enjoy live big-band music, food, and a variety of arts and crafts made by local artisans, all in front of the backdrop of the lake at Freedom Park. There’s also a family fun zone, a Clown Stage with family-friendly shows and the Children’s Art Area loaded with easels, artist paper and crayons, so there’s plenty of fun for the kids too!
The annual Carolina Balloonfest held each October in Statesville, NC is something that has to be seen in person to truly be appreciated. As the second longest consecutively held hot air balloon event in the country, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year who come to see the mass ascensions and competitions and maybe even go for a tethered ride in one of the balloons. There are traditionally shaped balloons as well as specialty-shaped balloons, pilot meet and greets, a wine and craft beer tasting garden, live entertainment, and a kids’ zone featuring a walk-in balloon. The most popular part of the festival is the Hot Air Balloon Glow on Saturday evening, where all the balloons are illuminated against the night sky.
From the moment you get in line to enter the gates of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, you’ll be fully immersed in medieval times as you explore the village of “Fairhaven.” Everywhere you look, there’s something amazing to see, from magic and comedy shows to jugglers, dancers, and a live jousting competition. Plus, lots of authentic cuisines to enjoy, like turkey legs, beef stew, fish and chips, and Scotch eggs. The Artisan Marketplace also features hand-made wares from more than 100 vendors, including blacksmithing, potters, candle makers, glass blowers, jewelry designers and more.
The largest Thanksgiving Day parade in the Southeast takes place in Charlotte every year – the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade. Although it began as just a small town event, it’s now grown to include nearly 20 floats, 12 large balloons, 15 marching bands, and a variety of performance acts, and it welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year. It’s also live-streamed online to viewers from all over the world, although it’s definitely worth a trip to see in person.