Labor Day Weekend (and Beyond) in North Carolina
You may not want to think about summer drawing to a close, but Labor Day (Sept. 3, 2018) is considered the end to the summer travel season. In North Carolina, you’ll find plenty of popular festivals and signature events taking place during the long holiday weekend – from the Mile High Kite Festival in the mountains to the Oak Island Labor Day Surf Off on the coast. Plus, the weekend after offers some of our state’s largest annual music festivals.
End your summer on a high note by making plans to attend one (or more) of the events below.
1 Fireworks by the Sea & Boardwalk Blast
2 48th Annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival
2 48th Annual Smoky Mountain Folk FestivalAug. 31 - Sept. 1, Lake JunaluskaSee on map
Enjoy two nights of the music and dance of the Southern Appalachian region, including fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers and square dance teams. The grand stage of the auditorium overlooks beautiful Lake Junaluska.
Cost: Free to $12
3 Labor Day Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center
3 Labor Day Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater CenterAug. 31 - Sept. 2, CharlotteSee on map
Friday evening features Slow Flow Yoga and the River Jam concert series; Saturday begins with a triathlon, then offers yoga and climbing competitions before ending with concerts; and Sunday features a full day of events, beginning with a trail race in the morning and concluding with fireworks at night. Plus, all the activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center will be open, including rafting, zip lining, and the restaurants and beer garden.
Cost: Free, but cost varies to participate in activities
4 Matthews Alive Festival
5 72nd Annual North Carolina Apple Festival
5 72nd Annual North Carolina Apple FestivalAug. 31 - Sept. 3, HendersonvilleSee on map
This long-running festival features a street fair on historic Main Street with live music, arts and crafts, apple growers, kids’ activities, special exhibits, food and more. Plus, the King Apple Parade takes place on Labor Day.
6 BBQ & Brews Fontana Trestle Train
6 BBQ & Brews Fontana Trestle TrainSept. 1, Bryson CitySee on map
Departing from Bryson City, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s BBQ & Brew train travels to the Fontana Lake Trestle and arrives just around sunset for a spectacular view. A Southern-style barbecue meal is served, paired with beer from local breweries.
7 Belk College Kickoff: West Virginia vs. Tennessee
7 Belk College Kickoff: West Virginia vs. TennesseeSept. 1, CharlotteSee on map
Experience big-time college football at Bank of America Stadium in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. The Mountaineers and Volunteers face off during this opening weekend of the season, pitting the Big 12 against the SEC. You can make a full day of it by also attending the Belk College Kickoff FanFest.
Cost: FanFest, free; football game, $60 and up
8 Oak Island Labor Day Surf Off
8 Oak Island Labor Day Surf OffSept. 1, Oak IslandSee on map
All levels of surfers and stand-up paddleboarders are invited to Ocean Crest Pier to compete in this annual event, which you’ll also enjoy as a spectator. A cornhole tournament with prizes takes place at the 16th Street beach access.
9 29th Annual Oak Island Art Guild Arts & Crafts Festival
9 29th Annual Oak Island Art Guild Arts & Crafts FestivalSept. 1, Oak IslandSee on map
More than 140 artists and craft vendors will show and sell their handmade wares, including fine art, pottery, stained glass, needlecraft, ornaments, photography, jewelry, toys and more. Food vendors will be on site, as well.
10 8th Annual John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival
10 8th Annual John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues FestivalSept. 1-2, High PointSee on map
Named for the legendary saxophonist and composer, this festival brings jazz and blues musicians and fans from around the country. Enjoy live performances from Gregory Porter, Lee Ritenour, Jazzmeia Horn, Pete Escovedo, Dianne Reeves, Sheila E., Ravi Coltrane and more.
Cost: $65 and up
11 Mile High Kite & Craft Festival
11 Mile High Kite & Craft FestivalSept. 1-2, Beech MountainSee on map
Located at more than 5,000 feet in elevation, the town meadow makes it easy to sail kites. The festival weekend features open kite flying Saturday afternoon and an all-ages street dance that evening. On Sunday, prizes will be awarded for the biggest kite, smallest kite and best-decorated kite. Other activities include races with kids pulling parachute kites, face painting, and a variety of craft and food vendors.
12 Emerald Village's RockFest
12 Emerald Village's RockFestSept. 1-2, Little SwitzerlandSee on map
Celebrate the end of summer at historic mines during Emerald Village’s RockFest. There will be live bands performing mountain bluegrass, acoustic, country and gospel. You’ll also learn the geologic history of the mines and enjoy a guided hike to a hidden mine, as well as the special underground Black Light Mine Tour at night.
Cost: Free; fee for mine tour
13 African-American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County
13 African-American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake CountySept. 1-2, RaleighSee on map
This annual celebration of African-American culture is expressed through art, music, food and community. Local, national and international artists, performers, food vendors and area business owners will be a part of the showcases.
14 112th Canton Labor Day Celebration
After Labor Day
15 Hopscotch Music Festival
15 Hopscotch Music FestivalSept. 6-8, RaleighSee on map
This annual festival has been called “America's (Secretly) Best Festival” and “the premier experimental and underground festival in America.” More than 120 bands will perform over four days, including Miguel, Nile Rodgers & Chic, The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, MC50 and DVSN.
16 Ayden Collard Festival
16 Ayden Collard FestivalSept. 6-9, AydenSee on map
Find lots of food and fun at the “the Official Collard Festival of North Carolina.” The itinerary includes a pageant, parade, road race, art show, live entertainment, carnival rides, games, and collard cooking and eating contests.
17 12th Annual Mountain Song Festival
17 12th Annual Mountain Song FestivalSept. 7-9, BrevardSee on map
Held at Brevard Music Center’s Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium, the scheduled performers include Robert Earl Keen, Pokey LaFarge, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Wildmans, Fireside Collective and more. There will be plenty of food, local artists, children’s activities and nature displays. Proceeds benefit the local Boys and Girls Club.
Cost: $37 and up
18 Autumn at Oz
18 Autumn at OzSept. 7-9, Beech MountainSee on map
While it won’t technically be fall yet, you can get excited about the upcoming season with this event that sells out every year. Travel back in time to 1939 to the world of “Oz” high atop Beech Mountain at the Land of Oz theme park. Children and adults alike will be enchanted as they experience the re-creation of Dorothy’s trip from her farm home in Kansas through the twister and down the yellow brick road to the “Land of Oz.”
19 12th Annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest and Festival
19 12th Annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest and FestivalSept. 8, OxfordSee on map
North Carolina’s finest hot sauces and barbecue sauces, local craft breweries and wineries, and live bands spice up the blends and texture of historic downtown. Enter the main event of the day, the pepper-eating contest, for your chance to grab the hottest title in the state. There will also be kids’ activities and an antique car show.