Hayti Heritage Film Festival

(Durham, hayti.org

For more than twenty-five years, this festival has brought the films of the African American South together in a historic church building.

NC Comicon

(Raleigh, nccomicon.com)

Geek Christmas comes twice a year, thanks to NC Comicon, which brings top comics creators and vendors to Raleigh each spring, and then to Durham each fall.


Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

(Durham, fullframefest.org)

Founded in 1998 by Pulitzer-winning photo editor Nancy Buirski, Full Frame has grown into one of the top annual events in the country for documentary fans and creators. For four days, it fills the Carolina Theatre with classic docs, hot premieres, and visits from big names. 

Dreamville Festival

(Raleigh, dreamville.com)

This hip-hop and R&B festival helmed by rap star and Raleigh resident J. Cole made a triumphant debut in Raleigh’s Dix Park in 2019; no confirmation yet, but here’s hoping for year two.



(Durham, moogfest.com)

This electronic-music festival treats the term loosely, folding in everything from experimental to dance and pop in downtown Durham for several tech-forward days and nights of brainy, body-moving programming. 


(Raleigh, artsplosure.org)

The works of dozens and dozens of curated local artists and artisans line Fayetteville Street, with live music, food, and more, for two days each May.

Out! Raleigh 

(Raleigh, outraleigh.org)

This all-inclusive, family-friendly day festival supports the LGBT Center of Raleigh, drawing tens of thousands to City Plaza for live entertainment, food and drink, and good times. 

Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival 

(Durham, facebook.com/bimbe-cultural-festival)

This nationally recognized Durham parks-and-rec festival has a fifty-year history of celebrating African and African American history, culture, and arts. 


American Dance Festival

(Durham, americandancefestival.org)

Along the lines of Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, this modern dance festival is a national institution that has existed in various forms since 1934; it’s where you’ll get your Paul Taylor and Martha Graham favorites alongside premieres from the brightest young choreographers. Runs through July.


Festival for the Eno

(Durham, enoriver.org/festival)

Every Fourth of July weekend, the park grounds at West Point on the Eno host two days’ worth of rootsy music and family-friendly eco-fun, the largest annual fundraiser for the Eno River Association.


Women’s Theatre Festival

(Raleigh, womenstheatrefestival.com)

Independent theater largely produced, performed, written, and focusing on women fills out the productions and workshops of this relatively new summer tradition.

OutSouth Queer Film Festival

(Durham, carolinatheatre.org)

The North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival broke gay-rights ground in Durham in the 1990s, and while its 2019 outing was its last, it promised to return in 2020, rebranded to expand its scope, as OutSouth. Check the Carolina Theatre’s website.

Lazy Daze

(Cary, townofcary.org)

Cary’s annual arts-and-crafts festival features hundreds of makers, music, kid stuff, and more on the Town Hall campus.


Hopscotch Music Festival

(Raleigh, hopscotchmusicfest.com)

The Triangle’s signature music festival just celebrated ten years of bringing national talent—an array of indie rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, experimental music, etc.—to a walkable selection of DTR venues for three days of revelry.  

The Art of Cool Festival

(Durham, aocfestival.org

Art of Cool began as a homegrown downtown jazz festival with a smattering of hip-hop, but that ratio flipped this year under its new ownership. The line-up looms with names like Run-DMC, Jill Scott, and Ari Lennox. 

Wide Open Bluegrass

(Raleigh, ibma.org/world-of-bluegrass) 

Billed as the largest free urban bluegrass festival in the world, this eight-stage downtown Raleigh shindig, courtesy of the International Bluegrass Music Association, brings Grammy winners and roots-music legends to town.

Carrboro Music Festival

(Carrboro, carrboromusicfestival.com

Free, laid-back, vibrant, and compact, this festival is just like its namesake town. It’s a place to discover the local bands that are going to be popular, rather than the ones that already are.  


(Raleigh, sparkcon.com)

This “open source” pan-arts festival, administered by VAE Raleigh but put together by a huge ad hoc committee of local musicians, artists, dancers, theater makers, cirque stars, fashion designers, and more, overtakes the Warehouse District with grassroots creativity.  

CenterFest Arts Festival

(Durham, centerfest.durhamarts.org)

The Durham Arts Council’s long-running fall arts festival is a community staple that brings families and all types of people downtown, where they enjoy arts and crafts, performances, food, and community.

Fiesta Del Pueblo

(Raleigh, elpueblo.org)

The nonprofit El Pueblo’s annual celebration of local Latinx culture features music on a City Plaza stage as well as a wide variety of cultural performances, vendors, and crafts. 

Pride: Durham

(Durham, pridedurhamnc.org)

This spiffy new version of Durham’s storied NC Pride Festival preserves the tradition of its famed parade (and lots of live music) for the next generation of LGBTQ people and allies.


Click! Photography Festival

(Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, clicktrianglephoto.org)

Each October, this photography festival brings the works of top local practitioners, esteemed visitors, and touring exhibits to galleries across the Triangle for a whole month.

West End Poetry Festival

(Carrboro, westendpoetryfestival.org)

Carrboro provides the area’s only fully annual poetry festival, with a mix of locals from the area’s robust poetry scene to national talent. 

Festifall Arts Festival

(Chapel Hill, chapelhillfestifall.com)

Chapel Hill’s annual community festival features a large arts and crafts market, an open-air studio where artists strut their stuff, and a special kids zone.  

Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance

(Pittsboro, shakorihillsgrassroots.org)

Get your bare feet into some bucolic Pittsboro mud and dance around at this

eclectic, crunchy, roots-music-and-the-kitchen-sink festival. 

NC Dance Festival

(Durham, danceproject.org)

The American Dance Festival is where to see famous companies, but if you want to know what’s going on in North Carolina’s robust modern and contemporary dance scenes, this fest takes their temperature.

Zine Machine Festival

(Durham, zinemachinefest.com

This idiosyncratic fest brings together zine-makers and other printed-matter-mavens for a weekend at the Durham Armory that makes it feel like the internet never happened.


Carrboro Film Festival

(Carrboro, carrborofilm.org)

In its fourteenth year, this homegrown indie film festival is both dropping its competitive structure and focusing exclusively on Southern cinema, aligning with the homey, inclusive vibe of its namesake town.  

NC Comicon

(Durham, nccomicon.com)

Like the one in March, except in Durham, and in November.

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