Is there a better time or place for outdoor festivals than fall in North Carolina? Here are festivals coming up where you can get some fresh air—without sweating your backside off—and human connection. It’s hard to say which we’re craving more.
Yiasou Greek Festival
From September 9 through 11, tens of thousands of visitors will enjoy the live entertainment, games, vendors, and fresh food at Greek Fest. And even though you can get items like baklava in several places around town, it doesn’t get more handmade than the hours-long baking sessions and preparation from church volunteers. 600 East Blvd., $5 (free for kids 12 and under).
58th Annual Festival in the Park
It’s one of Charlotte’s longest-standing traditions, a fixture since 1964: three days in early fall when Freedom Park, the city’s largest, swarms with food booths, art exhibits and workshops, live music, and other amusements. This year’s schedule: 4-9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18 Be forewarned: No skateboards, skates, or dogs, and bikes and scooters must be walked.
Sept. 16-Oct. 2
CLT International Arts Fest
More than 200 attractions, many free of charge, comprise this massive arts festival. Look for performances and displays at Romare Bearden Park, Ballantyne’s Backyard, Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse, and other venues. Some of the most high-profile events include the debut of Blackstar Symphony, The Music of David Bowie, We Are Hip Hop outings, The Wood Brothers, and more. Prices and venues vary.
Sept. 30-Oct. 1
Breakaway Music Festival
This traveling, multi-genre music festival tailors each location’s headliners to its market. For its fifth year in Charlotte, they include Illenium, Tiësto, The Kid Laroi, and Quinn XCII. zMAX Dragway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord. Tickets start at $79.
Oct. 1-Nov. 20
Carolina Renaissance Festival
Hear ye, hear ye! Lords and ladies, taketh thy derrieres to the make-believe Village of Fairhaven and party like it’s 1399. Thou wilt discover 25 acres filled with music, theater, comedy, food and drink, arts and crafts, artisan demonstrations, games, rides, and more. Huzzah! Saturdays and Sundays, 16445 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville. Tickets start at $32 for ages 13 and up.
Saturday, Oct. 8
Charlotte Dragon Boat Race and Asian Festival
Teams from Charlotte and beyond will board slender boats shaped like mythical, fire-breathing reptiles and race across Lake Norman. The Asian Festival includes a cultural heritage showcase, retail vendors, food, live music, dance performances, and more. Ramsey Creek Park, Cornelius. Free.
If you haven’t had enough inflation, the 47th annual Carolina BalloonFest will release hot air balloons in all shapes and colors. Expect morning and afternoon launches, tethered balloon rides, a wine and beer garden, live music, food, craft vendors, a kids zone, and more. It won’t let you down. 260 Hangar Drive, Statesville. Tickets start at $10.
Hola Charlotte Festival
The 10th installment of this annual Latino heritage celebration will showcase Latin culture and traditions with a cultural village, music, dance, food and drink, art, family activities, and more. Tryon Street, uptown. Free.
BayHaven Food & Wine Festival
For the second year, BayHaven Restaurant Group (Leah & Louise, Uptown Yolk) owners Greg and Subrina Collier will host a festival to celebrate Black foodways. The five-day festival kicks off with a carnival and hosts events with celebrated Black chefs and industry members. Camp North End and various locations. Tickets start at $75,
We’ll leave you with something thoroughly wholesome: BooFest. (Boo.) A half-hour’s drive west on Interstate 85 from Charlotte, Stowe Park in downtown Belmont is the traditional hub of what locals charmingly refer to as “A Nightmare on Main Street.” As nightmares go, it’s pretty gentle: music, arts and food vendors, costume contests, games, carnival rides, a “spooky photo booth,” and plenty of candy for trick-or-treaters. Belmont (the town in Gaston County, not to be confused with the neighborhood in Charlotte) maintains its small-town character even as Charlotte, like The Blob, creeps toward it. BooFest is a slice of old-time innocence you may want to savor while you can. It runs from 2-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. And a happy and healthy All Hallows Eve, and harvest season, to you. Free, Downtown Belmont.
Nonprofit Sustain Charlotte’s annual fundraiser sends bicyclists with “passports” on a two-wheeled scavenger hunt to local businesses. There, they pick up stamps and learn about bike safety. At the after-party at Triple C Brewing in South End, they exchange the stamps for raffle tickets and chances to win prizes. 12:30-6:30 p.m. Triple C Brewing Co. Tickets start at $25.