You’ll find a thousand events to go to on campus throughout your first year: basketball games, on-campus concerts, club events, and so on. You’re missing out, though, if you don’t get off campus and see what the rest of the Triangle has to offer. Here are some festivals to get you started.


August 24-26, Durham,

Take a break from the stress of moving in by heading to North Carolina’s largest hip-hop festival. You can catch performances from artists like Dead Prez, Dumbfoundead, and Ace Henderson, but check out the panel discussions for refreshingly interesting lectures before your actual classes get rolling.


September 6–8, Raleigh,

It’s early September, the novelty of college life is just starting to wear off, and you need something exciting to do for a weekend. Look no further than Hopscotch. Arguably the area’s signature music festival, Hopscotch has seen everyone from Solange to Gary Clark Jr. to Pusha T grace its stages. This year’s headliners include The Flaming Lips, Miguel, Grizzly Bear, MC50, Mipso, and Liz Phair.


September 15, Raleigh,

Hosted by Fayetteville native J. Cole, this one-day festival will be the first big concert at Raleigh’s new Dorothea Dix Park. That’s pretty much all we can tell you about it, as the lineup has yet to be released.


September 28–29, Durham,

A self-billed “collision of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, & soul,” The Art of Cool Festival has been spearheaded by trumpeter/music professor Al Strong and business partner Cicely Mitchell since it began five years ago. It’s relatively affordable insofar as big-time festivals go, and this year, it’s bringing Maxwell, Erykah Badu, and Nas to town.


September 28–29, Raleigh,

So you don’t think bluegrass is your thing, do you? Well, maybe you haven’t given it a proper shot. You’ll have no better chance to do that than at IBMA’s annual Wide Open Bluegrass festival, this year featuring performances by Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder with Patty Loveless, Gillian Welch, Rhiannon Giddens, Chatham County Line, and a ton of others.


September 29, Durham,

The Triangle celebrates Pride in September, not June. Starting this year, the annual festival will be helmed by the LGBTQ Center of Durham. It will feature a parade, live music, and a queer prom, all in one of the state’s most progressive and inclusive municipalities.


October 26-28, Raleigh,

The International Festival has a lot of things going for it, including live performances, exhibits, and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. But the best part is the food. Try anything and everythingyou’ve got the world at your fingertips, after all.


November 9-11, Durham,

There are a few places where you can geek out in the Triangle (check out Raleigh Supercon in the summer and Animazement in the spring), but we highlighted NC Comicon because it takes place in the fall. Who wants to cosplay in the blazing Southern sun?


April 4-7, Durham,

There aren’t many documentary festivals better than Full Frame. The four-day event features about one hundred documentaries and is held within a reasonably small (and walkable) area of downtown Durham.


April 25-28, Durham,

Tickets aren’t cheap, but attendees can expect to see innovative programming and technology as well as musical performances from top-tier acts. Moogfest typically releases the first details about its lineup in the winter, but expect the likes of Flying Lotus, Animal Collective, and Reggie Watts.


May, Raleigh,

Otherwise known as the Raleigh Arts Festival, Artsplosure is a two-day festival held in downtown Raleigh just as spring starts to kick into gear. It’s a good place to see artists from around the Triangle and the country, obviously, but wandering around the sprawling downtown festival will lead you to everything from food trucks to live music and dance. Monthly First Friday events offer a sort of scaled-down Artsplosure experience for people who head back home for the summer.