Kid-Friendly Music Festivals in the Carolinas

Regional music festivals offer fun for the whole family


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At the Artisphere festival in Greenville, South Carolina, there are numerous hands-on activities for kids such as mask-making, kite assembly, puzzle quilts and more.

Photo courtesy of Artisphere Festival

Updated April 23, 2019

Spring means festival season is upon us — and the idea of lugging a baby around or being tethered to a toddler for four days at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza might sound like a bad idea. There are, however, several music festivals within the Carolinas that may be more accommodating to the family lifestyle than your massive Woodstock wannabes. Here’s a rundown of family-friendlier festivals within driving distance happening this spring and summer.


SPRING


Merlefest

Where: Wilkes Community College in North Wilkesboro

When: Thursday-Sunday, the last weekend of April

Cost: Single-day passes at the gate $70-$90; three- and four-day passes $170-$270; children 12 and under admitted free with paying adult.

Best for: Fans of old-time folk, bluegrass and the like, transplants curious about Carolina’s musical roots, and fans of newer Americana eager for a lesson in what’s old and what’s up-and-coming.

What's in it for kids? Mascot Flat Top the Raccoon — named for the style of guitar played by the festival’s namesake, Merle Watson — who poses for photos with the kids; the Little Picker’s Stage; arts and crafts; nature walks; and a showcase featuring musicians age 16 and younger. It’s also a chance to expose children to North Carolina’s rich musical history. There’s even an area for napping.


Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance

Where: On a 75-acre farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina, a short drive from the Triangle.

When: Thursday-Sunday, first weekend of May.

Cost: Single-day pass $27-$49; four-day adult pass $119-$134, four-day youth pass (ages 13-15) $64-$70, kids 12 and under admitted for free.

Best for: Jam band fans, aging hippies, passionate yoga moms whose commitment to the lifestyle goes beyond downward dog, and those looking for something left of normal. Founded by jam band Donna the Buffalo, the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance is as much about activism and advocacy, healing and visual arts, and environmentalism, as it is music.  

What’s in it for kids? The Kid’s Tent boasts hands-on art projects, kid-friendly performances, face painting, storytelling and group activities. Elsewhere, kids can learn about nature, musical instruments, pottery, and games from other cultures through nature walks, educational demonstrations and hands-on activities. They can also march through the grounds with noisemakers and costumes during Saturday’s parade. Children age 15 and younger are invited to sell their own handmade arts and crafts at the Kids Bazaar.


LEAF – Lake Eden Arts Festival

Where: Black Mountain, nestled alongside Lake Eden beneath Mount Mitchell.

When: May 9-12 and Oct. 17-20, 2019

Cost: Adult weekend pass,$127, $170 with camping; children ages 10-17, $111, $159 with camping; children under age 10 admitted for free. Single-day passes $47-$69, overnight camping not included.

Best for: Athletic families with a taste for the outdoors, and those hungry for a festival that educates and introduces its audience to new music. With a focus on world music and culture, LEAF showcases everything from Cuban and African to jazz and folk music — just another aspect of the diverse experience. 

What’s in it for kids? Kickball and other games; Renaissance fair-style pop-up performances; costume- and puppet-making, and other arts and crafts; a reptile petting zoo; and, most notably, a dome where kids can swim through the air with giant “jellyfish.”  


Artisphere Festival

Where: Greenville, South Carolina

When: May 10-12, 2019

Cost: Free

Best for: Anyone with a taste for fine art, but who also appreciates a broad sampling of disciplines from glassblowing, woodworking, ceramics and metalworking, to culinary art and music. The weekend is filled with arts and crafts demonstrations; opportunities to try your hand at making your own art; juried exhibitions; live music on multiple stages; wine and craft beer tastings; food from local restaurants; and over 135 working artists. 

What’s in it for kids? There are numerous hands-on activities like mask-making, kite assembly, puzzle quilts and a community sculpture to which kids can contribute their own creations. Fabric mosaics, hat making and painting are all part of the Kidsphere fun. Children also can explore musical instruments and costuming — and even make their own with the help of Logos Theatre and DRUM Percussion Studio, which both lead a downtown parade featuring puppets from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” costumed characters, stilt walkers and percussionists. 


Fiddler’s Grove

Where: Union Grove, North Carolina located in Iredell County

When: May 24-26, 2019

Cost: Single-day tickets $5-$15; weekend passes $20-$25; kids age 12 and under admitted free.

Best for: The whole family, including grandma and grandpa, and those seeking a history lesson. Established in 1924, the four-day fest centers on competitions that attract some of the best players in the region.

What’s in it for kids? A glimpse of pre-smart phone culture where playing fiddle tunes around the fire or clogging on the corner were considered entertainment. Nearing a century old, Fiddler’s Grove still boasts the fastest, most dexterous string players in the region who compete for the top spot on a number of acoustic instruments. Kids can learn the basics during one of the weekend’s workshops and enjoy a special children’s chow Saturday afternoon.


SUMMER


Festival for the Eno

Where: West Point on the Eno River at Durham City Park, Durham, North Carolina

When: July 4 and 6, 2019

Cost: Single-day passes $23; two-day passes $35; youths age 13-17, $11; children ages 12 and under for admitted free.

Best for: Those who prefer a warm hotel shower and a proper mattress, music fans open to artists they haven’t heard before, shoppers eager to peruse the juried arts and crafts, and folks who just want to support Eno River State Park, which benefits from the festival. Seventy artists perform on four stages during this event. Off-site camping is available 8 miles away from the festival grounds.

What’s in it for kids? The water (bathing suits, flip-flops and a change of clothes are recommended), hands-on crafts; a giant sand sculpture; and insects and animals indigenous to the area. Tired kids will appreciate the early end time after a day full of swimming, running and more. The festival closes at 6 p.m.


Floydfest

Where: In the breezy hills of Floyd, Virginia.

When: July 24-28, 2019

Cost: Single-day pass $95 + processing fee; two- to five-day passes range from $230-$280; passes for kids ages 6-12 are $30 + fee, which covers all five days; kids under age 6 admitted for free.

Best for: Music fans who balk at how big mainstream festivals have gotten; families looking for a mini-vacation (posh camping is an option) and fun outdoor activities. FloydFest exists somewhere between the down-home charm of a small festival and the fancy bungalow-style experience of a Coachella. 

What’s in it for kids? Parades; face painting; yoga; tetherball; Taekwondo; and drum, ukulele and mixed media workshops. A huge ark, sandbox, playgrounds and basketball goal remain on the property year-round. There are also activities for teens and child care for parents who want to catch their favorite band without a tot tugging at the hem of their peasant skirt. 

FloydFest happens July 24-28, 2019.

Photo courtesy of FloydFest


Reevestock

Where: Downtown Elkin, North Carolina

When: Aug. 2-3, 2019

Cost: Check website.

Best for: Founded by the Charlotte-based band Time Sawyer, which hails from Elkin and is 70 miles north of the Queen City, this small festival is perfect for city slickers who want to expand on the experience of a night out hearing regional bands.

What’s in it for kids? A bounce house, outdoor games and face painting during the afternoon.


FALL


Fall For Greenville

Where: A free non-camping festival in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

When: Oct. 11-13, 2019

Cost: Free entry, but guests must purchase tickets for food, drinks and kids’ rides.

Best for: Hungry visitors who enjoy the city life, but on a slightly smaller scale than what Charlotte offers. For four days downtown Greenville serves as a bastion of Americana, soul and indie rock, but with 40 participating restaurants — so homegrown food is as much of an attraction as the music.

What’s in it for kids? Ticketed amusement park rides. Most are aimed at kids under 12, but some require a parent to accompany them.


Courtney Devores has written about music and pop culture in the Carolinas for 19 years. She has two sons, ages 8 and 6. She got married in Vegas on the way to a festival in California 12 years ago.

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Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

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The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

More information

Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Website »

More information

Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

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Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Website »

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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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