Festivals are back. After two years of cancellations and capacity reductions, many of the best events in the Blue Ridge are set to make full-scale comebacks. If you’re ready for some outdoor fun, we’ve highlighted top galas for all interests, bringing you details on the region’s sweetest experiences in music, craft beer, art, and adventure.
Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance
Silk Hope, N.C.
Roots mainstay Donna the Buffalo always leads the lineup at this longstanding family-friendly fest on a 75-acre farm near the main cities of the North Carolina Triangle. Headliners include Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Cabinet, and the Kitchen Dwellers. shakorihillsgrassroots.org
Cheat River Festival
This 28-year-old waterfront party is a regional favorite, filled with arts, boating, bluegrass, food, and fun, all to support the Cheat River watershed. Paddle in the Downriver Race, run a 5K, and catch tunes by Dirty Grass Players and the Culture Thief. cheatfest.org
North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival
Fleet-fingered bluegrass bands will be picking and nearly three dozen craft breweries will be pouring at this popular event on Huntersville’s historic Rural Hill. Catch sets by the Steeldrivers, Jade Bird, Acoustic Syndicate, and Larry Keel. ncbrewsmusic.com
Black Mountain, N.C.
A smaller spinoff of the longstanding LEAF festival, LEAF Retreat will be capped at a comfortable 1,500 people and feature an eclectic roster of roots music acts, as well as a variety of healing arts workshops. Acts performing include the Preservation Hall Jazz All Stars and Leah Song of Rising Appalachia. theleaf.org
This is the Appalachian Trail hiking community’s biggest annual party. Since 1987, the sleepy town of Damascus has hosted this wild bash—a big family reunion for A.T. thru-hikers from different generations, who come together to trade boot-worn stories by bonfire, dress up in crazy costumes and march in a parade, check out a variety of gear and food vendor booths, and get rowdy at the campgrounds in the evenings. traildays.us
Southern Skies Music Festival
This one-day event at Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park will feature sets from Blues Traveler, Maggie Rose, the New Respects, and hometown favorites the Dirty Guv’nahs. southernskiesmusicfestival.com
Beaufort Music Festival
Old Crow Medicine Show, Susto, and Big Something lead the line-up at this two-day fest that takes place on Beaufort’s scenic waterfront at the North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Gallants Channel. The laid-back, family-friendly fest will also feature local art, good eats, and a kid’s area. beaufortmusicfestival.com
Held on the banks of the James River in downtown Richmond, Riverrock is a huge outdoor sports and music festival featuring plenty of opportunities to play and groove. Run the James River Scramble 10K, ride the MTB time trial, go for a paddle, and catch sets by the Futurebirds and Leon III. dominionriverrock.com
DelFest honors living legend Del McCoury—once a member of genre founder Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys—who turned 83 this year. Del and his band headline the festival in the scenic Potomac River Valley of western Maryland with help from a generation-spanning line-up of top-notch pickers, this year featuring Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, and Sierra Hull. The event will be headlined by Americana hero Tyler Childers, who will play a special bluegrass set backed by Del’s sons in the Travelin’ McCourys. delfest.com
Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival
The music returns to Pop’s Farm, a bucolic property located just outside of Martinsville that offers a scenic escape to catch sets from Grace Potter, Little Feat, Lettuce, and Moon Taxi. Over four days, the family-friendly festival offers full days of music on multiple lakeside stages, wooded camping, and plenty of kids’ activities. roosterwalk.com
Louisville’s Waterfront Park will be bumping with the sounds of Tame Impala, Tyler, the Creator, Phoebe Bridgers, Jack Harlow, and Porter Robinson at this eclectic city fest. forecastlefest.com
Head to the slopes of Massanutten Resort for a full day of tunes from regional bands. Spring should be in full bloom in the Virginia mountains, as you check out Tunnels End and Parker Barrow Project. The resort will also host Summer Jam with more music on July 3. massresort.com
U.S. National Whitewater Center Memorial Day Celebration
Spend Memorial Day weekend soaking up some sunny vibes at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The celebration will feature two full days of activities, including a trail race and SUP yoga on the Catawba River. There will also be live tunes from Brett Dennen and Dane Page. whitewater.org
Graves Mountain Music Festival
This longtime regional bluegrass festival, set near Shenandoah National Park at the scenic Graves Mountain Lodge, is making a pivot to include a broader array of roots music acts. In addition to fast-picking favorites like Junior Sisk, the event will feature the indie-leaning sounds of Mipso and the transcendent folk harmonies of the Milk Carton Kids. The family-friendly festival also offers a big slate of outdoor programming, including road cycling rides, yoga, and a kids-oriented fly fishing workshop. gravesmountain.com
Mountain Music Festival
Oak Hill, W.Va.
June 2 – 4
ACE Adventure Resort hosts this fest that mixes music and adventure, pairing a deep roster of jam bands with access to world-class whitewater and a top-notch trail network in West Virginia’s New River Gorge. Ride, paddle, and listen to sounds from a stacked line-up that includes Galactic, Cory Wong, and Big Something. mountainmusicfestwv.com
Cold Mountain Music Festival at Lake Logan
Back after a two-year absence, this fest features an excellent line-up of tunes on a gorgeous 300-acre property surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness. Catch sets by Hiss Golden Messenger, Futurebirds, the Mother Hips, and Chatham Rabbits. coldmountainmusic.org
Holla Yella Live Music Festival
New festival alert. White Path Creeks Farms is the site of this emerging bash, debuting with an impressive line-up that includes Old Crow Medicine Show, the Infamous Stringdusters, and Sierra Ferrell. hollayella.com
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Bonnaroo is finally back. After Covid-19 curtained the high-profile festival in 2020, rains from Hurricane Ida waterlogged the event’s grounds and forced another cancellation last fall. But the multi-genre mega fest, which takes place on a 700-acre farm in the middle of Tennessee, has big things planned for this summer. The festival’s top billing goes to Stevie Nicks, The Chicks, J.Cole, and Tool. The undercard is quite impressive, too, featuring Lord Huron, Goose, the War on Drugs, and Japanese Breakfast. bonnaroo.com
Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival
Round Hill, Va.
A day-long celebration of the Appalachian Trail will take place at B Chord Brewery in northern Virginia. The festival will include a presentation from nine-time A.T. thru-hiker Warren Doyle, as well as panel discussions on some of the top hikes on the trail. Taps will also be flowing with B Chord beers, while Frank Solivan & Jillian Lea and the Fly Birds perform on the brewery’s scenic outdoor stage. roundhillat.org
Boonerang Music & Arts Festival
North Carolina roots musicians with ties to the High Country will come back to the lively college town of Boone for this one-day festival, spread throughout venues downtown. Acts including Acoustic Syndicate, Town Mountain, Alexa Rose, and Songs from the Road Band will perform at the Appalachian Theatre, Jones House Cultural Center, and on an outdoor stage on South Depot Street. boonerangfest.com
The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame puts on this picker’s paradise at the scenic Yellow Creek Park. Serious string work will be on display over four days, including sets by the Punch Brothers, Del McCoury Band, Marty Stuart, Leftover Salmon, and Rhiannon Giddens. rompfest.com
Back Home Festival
New Martinsville, W.Va.
This free festival in downtown New Martinsville will feature a range of jam and roots acts, including Yonder Mountain String Band, Circles Around the Sun, and the Motet. backhomefestival.com
Red Wing Roots Music Festival
Mount Solon, Va.
Virginia string band the Steel Wheels host this annual gathering at Natural Chimneys Park in the Shenandoah Valley. The line-up is always impressive, featuring a full slate of Americana and bluegrass heroes, with an atmosphere intimate and friendly to music fans of all ages. This year’s lineup includes the sounds of the Jayhawks, Bahamas, Yonder Mountain String Band, Molly Tuttle, and James McMurtry. redwingroots.com
Big jams will take place at the high elevations of West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Acts on the bill at this growing festival include Greensky Bluegrass, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and the Wood Brothers. 4848festival.com
Bike Bash West Virginia
Bruceton Mills, W.Va.
Fat tire freaks can get their fill at this big biking celebration offering plenty of opportunities to ride some of West Virginia’s finest singletrack. In addition to access to 50 miles of trails at the Big Bear Lake Trail center, the fest also features a bike expo, skills clinics, group rides, and live music. bikebigbearwv.com
The multi-stage musical blowout features one of the best curated musical line-ups in the region—mixing national mainstays with regional upstarts. This year’s line-up is heavy on roots and Americana with the festival’s eight stages featuring Turnpike Troubadours, Lake Street Dive, Old Crow Medicine Show, Melissa Etheridge, and Trampled by Turtles. Set on a beautiful 80-acre mountain plateau right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, FloydFest also offers a nice variety of adventure programming, including mountain biking, trail running, hiking, disc golf, and a wilderness skills workshop. floydfest.com
JamPacked Craft Beer and Music Festival
A fun day of tunes and brews takes place at Brown’s Island. Watch sets from Lettuce, Spafford, and Big Something, and taste selections from RVA’s bustling craft beer scene. Eco-friendly bonus: this is a waste-free festival that uses only recyclable materials. jampackedfestival.com
Front Porch Fest
Nestled in the Blue Ridge, this family-friendly music and camping fest takes place on the picturesque Spirit Haven Farm in Patrick County. Line-up: Larry Keel Experience, Consider the Source, Big Daddy Love, and many more regional roots artists. frontporchfest.com
Earl Scruggs Music Festival
Mill Spring, N.C.
A packed line-up of pickers will pay tribute to the late bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Catch sets from the Earls of Leicester, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sam Bush, Alison Brown, and Bela Fleck’s special My Bluegrass Heart project. earlscruggsmusicfest.com
Mountain Song Festival
Hosted by hometown favorites the Steep Canyon Rangers, this festival features a weekend of spectacular bluegrass at the Brevard Music Center’s open-air auditorium. mountainsongfestival.com
Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion
Taking place right on the Tennessee/Virginia border, Bristol celebrates its roots as the “Birthplace of Country Music” with a lively street fest that incorporates artists from many generations. This annual gala features a range of acts from national headliners to down home Appalachian pickers playing along the bustling main drag of State Street on more than 20 stages. This year the festival will feature sets from JJ Grey & Mofro, Del McCoury Band, Tanya Tucker, and Rosanne Cash. birthplaceofcountrymusic.org
Beaver Dam Sunflower Festival
Walk through massive fields with over 600,000 black oil sunflowers at this festival, which takes place at Beaver Dam Farm and features live music, an animal petting area, and craft and food booths from over 90 vendors. beaverdamsunflowers.com
Go Outside Festival
Roanoke is one of the most adventure-friendly towns in the Blue Ridge, and this annual fest spotlights the area’s abundance of mountain sports action with three days of fun events around downtown and in Elmwood Park. In addition to running races, bike rides, and boat demos, highlights include obstacle challenges, lumberjacks shows, and a beer relay. roanokegofest.com
Cover Photo: The Steel Wheels host the red wing roots music festival in Virginia. photo by Ruby Sky Photography