Top Events

Merlefest, April

American Dance Festival, June

Appalachian Summer Festival, July

Mountain Dance & Folk Festival, August

Fall foliage, October

January

In deepest winter, daily temperatures in coastal Wilmington range from a high of 56°F (13°C) down to 36°F (2°C), while in Asheville, up in the mountains, they vary from 46°F (8°C) down to 26°F (-3°C).

Winterfest

Icy cavorting of all kinds in Blowing Rock (www.blowingrockwinterfest.com). Highlights include the Polar Plunge – a mass dive into Chetola Lake – and the Winter Beer Garden.

April

Spring hits North Carolina with a dazzling display of color from late March onwards, with azaleas bursting into blossom all over the state, and wildflowers peppering the mountain meadows.

North Carolina Beer Month

More than 250 breweries throughout the state jostle to promote their wares via this month-long program of tastings, tours, classes and festivals (www.ncbeermonth.com).

Azalea Festival

This five-day spring festival (www.ncazaleafestival.org) celebrates all things Wilmington, and includes flower-filled gardens, entertainment of all kinds and a juried art show.

Merlefest

Set up by legendary guitarist ‘Doc’ Watson after his son Merle died in 1985, this four-day Wilkesboro festival (www.merlefest.org) features ‘traditional plus’ music across 13 stages.

May

White Squirrel Festival

The endearing mountain town of Brevard celebrates its distinctive tree rodents with a family festival (www.whitesquirrelfestival.com) featuring music and parades.

June

June is the perfect season to experience North Carolina’s magnificent wilderness, whether that be hiking or biking forest trails, or rafting mountain rivers fed by recent snowmelt.

Cherokee Bluegrass Festival

This outdoor festival (www.adamsbluegrass.com), held at a rural campground just outside Cherokee, features three full days of performances by top regional musicians, most of whom appear both afternoon and evening.

Brevard Music Festival

Top artists and music students from around the world stage around 80 performances, at this summer festival that runs until mid-August.

American Dance Festival

With major names in modern dance performing downtown and out at Duke University, Durham’s cavalcade of dance (www.americandancefestival.org) – lasting from mid-June until mid-July – has been a fixture in the calendar since 1934.

July

The warmest month: typical daily highs range from 90°F (32°C) in Wilmington and Charlotte down to 83°F (28°C) in Asheville. The hot, stuffy summer weather is not an ideal for touring the Piedmont region, inland.

Appalachian Summer Festival

Boone owes its prestigious month-long showcase – rooted in classical music, but now extending across theater, film and the visual arts – to the presence of the dynamic Appalachian State University.

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Western North Carolina honors its Hibernian heritage with all activities Scottish, from parping the bagpipes to tossing the caber (www.gmhg.org).

Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands

Weekend show in which craftspeople gather in downtown Asheville to sell traditional and modern crafts of all kinds, ranging from metalwork to jewelry.

August

August is the busiest month for tourism, crowding the beaches in the east and the mountain roads in the west. August and September are the most likely months for hurricanes along the North Carolina coast.

Mountain Dance & Folk Festival

The oldest folk festival in the country, Asheville's three-night Mountain Dance & Folk Festival was founded by banjo and fiddle player Bascom Lamar Lansford in 1928, and remains North Carolina’s premier showcase for old-time music.

North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival

Going strong for almost 50 years, this three-day festival (www.adamsbluegrass.com) in Marion features a full program of big-name bluegrass performers, with camping available on site.

September

Smoky Mountain Folk Festival

Traditional Appalachian music and dance in a stunning setting overlooking Lake Junaluska, half an hour's drive west of Asheville (www.lakejunaluska.com).

Hopscotch Music Festival

Well over 100 experimental and underground bands, drawn from all genres, perform in downtown Raleigh over three days, with outdoor stages as well as club gigs (www.hopscotchmusicfest.com).

Mountain Song Festival

Acoustic music of all genres, with a special emphasis on bluegrass but also ranging from jazz to blues, takes over one of North Carolina’s most charming mountain towns, with three days of concerts in the Brevard Music Center (www.mountainsongfestival.com).

Blowing Rock Music Fest

This all-day Americana music festival, incorporating styles including folk, rock and jazz, takes place at the Blowing Rock itself (www.theblowingrock.com), rather than in the eponymous town nearby.

Cherokee Heritage Festival

A free two-day festival (www.cccra-nc.org) featuring storytelling, crafts demonstrations and lots of Cherokee food, in Hayesville, 100 miles southwest of Asheville.

Monarchs on the Move

In late September, black-and-orange monarch butterflies gather in the mountains, getting ready to migrate south to Mexico. Sightings can’t be guaranteed for any specific date or location, but the sheer quantities mean they can often be seen from higher elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

October

Visitors flock to North Carolina to swoon at its spectacular fall foliage. An intense band of color sweeps eastwards from the highest mountains, early in October, to reach the coastal plain by the month's end.

Riverfest

Wilmington’s weekend-long welcome to the fall includes food and craft stalls in the streets, live music by the river, and fireworks on the Saturday night (www.wilmingtonriverfest.com).

Fall Foliage

The first two to three weeks of October are an ideal time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway or visit the Smokies, as majestic displays of fall foliage spread down the mountains to cover the whole of western North Carolina.

Fall Festival

A weekend celebration of Appalachian culture at the John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, near the state’s far western edge. Over 200 craftspeople display and sell their work (www.folkschool.org).

North Carolina Seafood Festival

Besides food vendors galore, the fall festivities in Morehead City, 4 miles west of Beaufort, include a boat show, the Blessing of the Fleet, and three live-music stages (www.ncseafoodfestival.org).

Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands

Downtown Asheville hosts the second of its two annual craft fairs, where crafts workers from all over the South sell high-quality work.

November

As winter sets in, cozy inns lure travelers to the western mountains, but many high-altitude roads, including higher sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, remain blocked by snow for long periods.

Cucalorus Film Festival

North Carolina’s coolest film festival (www.cucalorus.org) takes over downtown Wilmington, screening features, documentaries and shorts, and welcoming filmmakers from around the world.

Christmas at Biltmore

The vast Biltmore Mansion gets a spectacular seasonal makeover, incorporating 70 Christmas trees, which stay in place until early January .

Polar Express

Bryson City’s Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes families on a magical ride to meet Santa at the North Pole, until the end of December.