Kid-Friendly Music Festivals in the Carolinas

Regional music festivals offer fun for the whole family


Published:

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

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 $55-$75; three- and four-day passes $155-$275; children 12 and under free in the general admission area.

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: First weekend of May.

Cost: Single-day pass $22-$45; four-day adult pass $114-$133, four-day youth pass (ages 13-15) $59-$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 Zone 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. 


LEAF – Lake Eden Arts Festival

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

When: May 10-14 and Oct. 18-21, 2018

Cost: Adult weekend pass, which includes complimentary camping, $164-$184; children ages 10-17, $138-$154; children under age 10 admitted for free. Single-day passes $41-$67, 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 11-13

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: Memorial Day weekend

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 7

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 26-30

Cost: Single-day pass $85; two- to five-day passes range from $150-$235; passes for kids ages 6-12 are $30, 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 26-30, 2018.

Photo courtesy of FloydFest


Reevestock

Where: Downtown Elkin, North Carolina

When: Aug. 3-4

Cost: TBA

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. 12-14

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.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Autumn at Oz Tickets on Sale Now

Follow the yellow brick road and join Dorothy and friends this fall at the Land of Oz.

8 Scenic Drives in North Carolina for Families

North Carolina is home to many scenic routes for families who enjoy road-tripping.

The Ghost Train Returns to Tweetsie Railroad This Fall

Tweetsie Railroad’s Ghost Train will be held Friday and Saturday nights from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Learn more about Earth's amazing star, the sun. Safely view the sun through a solar telescope, hear about unusual space weather and current solar research, and more. International SUNday...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919.707.8239
Contact Name: Rachel Smith
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Eno River Farmers Market celebrates its 10th anniversary. Take a blanket and dish to share.

Cost: Free

Where:
Eno River Farmers Market
144 E. Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Telephone: 919-381-6068
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy "They Say Blue."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Children's author Darren Farrell reads from his book, "Letter Town: A Seek-and-Find Alphabet Adventure." From Avenue A to Zoo Z, there's always something to spot and see in Letter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take part in a 5K on a USATF certified course hosted by Inter Development Futbol Club. Enjoy post-race refreshments and prizes for winners. Register online. 

Cost: $25/advance registration; $30/day of race

Where:
WakeMed Soccer Park
201 Soccer Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Inter Development Futbol
Contact Name: Lydia Matombo
Website »

More information

Summerfest Celebration features an autograph session, inflatables, games, free giveaways, guest speakers from the Hurricanes, appearances by Stormy and the Pepsi Storm Squad, discounted...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Before he was the beloved Pete the Cat, he was Pete the Kitty. Join Pete on a cat-tastic playdate as he learns a lesson about sharing with his friend, Grumpy Toad. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Ride the train in a Hawaiian setting complete with craft beer, barbecue and music. Iconic Productions’ DJ Harry will host games prizes and giveaways, including limbo, hula hoop and dance...

Cost: $10-$12

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
Bonsal, NC  27562
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Children’s Saturday Matinee series presents performances by three of the acclaimed professional dance companies that perform during the season. These one-hour performances are specially...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Reynolds Industries Theater
Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.