Festivals, Fairs and Concerts
Here are some of the annual festivals, fairs, and music concerts in and around Asheville. Many of the events have free admission. Especially notable festivals are listed in RED.
Asheville Beer Expo, sponsored by the Asheville Brewers Alliance, debuts February 27, 2016, in The Venue event space at 21 North Market Street. The cost is $25, and attendance is capped at 300.
Asheville Cinema Festival (www.ashevillecinemafestival) in early November presents around 40 indie and student films, with personal appearances by around 20 filmmakers. Films are shown downtown at Asheville Community Theater and Mt. Hermon Masonic Lodge and at Regal Biltmore Grande in Biltmore Park.
Asheville Fringe Arts Festival (www.ashevillefringe.org) in mid-January at several venues in downtown Asheville including the BeBe Theater on Commerce Street and the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, focuses on unusual and alternative expressions of dance, performing arts, puppetry and music.
Asheville Herb Festival (www.ashevilleherbfestival.com), a three-day sale held the first weekend in May at the WNC Farmers Market, attracts about 60 herb growers, many organic, and makers of herbal products. Free.
Bele Chere, once billed as the largest free street festival in the South, exists no more. City officials and local business owners felt the costs were too high and that the crowds discouraged shopping Downtown.
Big Crafty (www.thebigcrafty.com) is a twice-yearly bazaar and sale for independent craftspeople, with music and beer, usually held in early July and early December at Pack Place. Free.
Brevard Music Festival (www.brevardmusic.org) is a nationally known classical music festival held at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard from mid-June to early August. The Brevard Music Center Orchestra and guest musicians present symphony concerts, chamber music and operas.
Brewgrass Festival (www.brewgrassfestival.com) on a Saturday in mid-September showcases more than 40 microbrewers with around 120 beers in Martin Luther King Park just east of downtown Asheville, along with a line-up of bluegrass and country musicians. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and they usually sell out weeks in advance.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands (www.southernhighlandguilde.org) fills the US Cellular Center (formerly Asheville Civic Center) with more than 200 of the South’s most talented craftspeople, members of the Southern Highland Crafts Guild. It has been held twice yearly, in mid-July and mid-October, since 1948.
Concerts on the Quad (https://cesap.unca.edu/concerts-quad), held at UNC-A, resumed in 2015, with free concerts of various types of music on Mondays in June and July at 7 pm. No alcohol, smoking or pets. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. Food trucks are on site. Open parking available on campus. Free.
Downtown After Five (www.ashevilledowntown.org), 5-9 pm the third Friday of the month from May to September at the foot of North Lexington Avenue near the I-240 Overpass in downtown Asheville, Downtown After Five draws a big crowd for free local music. Food and beverages available.
Downtown Asheville Art District (www.ashevilledowntowngalleries.org) holds Art Walks from 5 to 8 pm the first Friday of the month from April through December. You can visit more than two dozen Downtown galleries. Get a Downtown Art Gallery map at any participating gallery, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce or Pack Place.
Drumming Circle (www.ashevilledowntown.org), every Friday night from roughly 7-10 pm April-October (weather permitting) at Prichard Park downtown on Patton Avenue, is an authentic Asheville experience, with drumming and dancing. Bring a drum, tambourine, or cowbell and join in. Dreadlocks not required. Starting in 2015, the Drumming Circle will continue during the winter months indoors at New Mountain Asheville at 38 N. French Broad Ave. Downtown. Free.
Festival of Flowers at Biltmore Estate (www.biltmore.com), late March to mid-May, showcases tulips, azaleas and other flowers in the Biltmore Estate formal gardens and on the grounds. Regular admission rates apply.
Fiesta Latina, on a Saturday in early October, showcases Mexican and other Latina food, music and dance. It’s now held at Pack Square Park. Free.
Folkmoot USA (www.folkmootusa.org) brings dance and folk music groups from several countries to downtown Waynesville. It is held during the last two weeks of July.
Goombay! Festival (www.packplace.org), a street festival in mid- to late August, celebrates the region’s African-Caribbean heritage with Caribbean food, African dancing, and reggae, gospel, funk, and soul music. The weekend festival is on South Market and Eagle streets in downtown Asheville just south of Pack Square, near the YMI Cultural Center. Free.
Greek Festival (www.holytrinityasheville.com), on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Cumberland Avenue in the Montford section, usually last weekend in September, celebrates Greek culture, music and food.
HardLox (www.hardloxjewishfestival.org), a one-day fes\tival held annually in mid-October in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, focuses on Jewish culture and food.
Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) (www.theleaf.com), which happens twice a year, in mid-May and mid-October, on 600 acres at the former site of Black Mountain College near Black Mountain, features more than 50 musicians and musical groups, plus arts, crafts and poetry. LEAF admission is limited to around 5,500 and always sells out, and you must buy tickets in advance. In the Woodstock tradition, many attendees camp free on the grounds.
Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) (www.lexfestasheville) is a weekend arts and music fest and pub crawl held in early September on North Lexington Avenue in Downtown Asheville.
Montford Park Players Shakespeare Festival (www.montfordparkplayers.org) has been producing the Bard’s dramas in Montford Park in North Asheville for more than 40 summers. The Players usually do six or seven plays from April to September. Bring a picnic. Admission free but donation requested.
MoogFest (www.moogfest.com), which started in New York and was held in Asheville in 2010-2012 and 2014, announced in mid-2015 that it was moving in 2016 to Durham (no festival will be held in 2015). Moog Music and the Bob Moog Foundation will remain in Asheville, where electronic pioneer Bob Moog spent the last decades of his life.
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (www.folkheritage.org) is the longest-running folk festival in America, having begun in 1928. The three-day event featuring Appalachian ballad singers, string bands and square dance teams is held “along about sundown” (or 7 pm) the first weekend in August at the Diane Wortham Theater in Pack Place.
Mountain Sports Festival (www.mountainsportsfestival.com) combines sports and music. Held on a weekend in late May, this family-oriented event has martial arts, disk golf, motocross, triathlon, kayaking, bike racing and 5K run.
NC Mountain State Fair (www.mountainfair.org) runs for 10 days in early September at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher off I-26 near the Asheville Regional Airport. It has the usual midway rides and bad carnival food, but the livestock shows, antique tractor displays and competitions for flower arranging, canned foods, baked goods, crafts and local art and photography are the real fun.
North Carolina Apple Festival (www.ncapplefestival.org) celebrates Henderson County’s position as the leading apple producer in the state. Held for more than 60 years on Labor Day weekend in early September, the Apple Festival occupies most of Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, with music, craft booths, freshly picked apples, and cooked products like cider and apple pies. No pets allowed. Free.
North Carolina Arboretum Festivals (www.ncarboreturm.org) over the year has weekend shows on orchids (late March), bamboo (mid-July), bonsai (mid-October) and chrysanthemums (late October). Most shows have free admission, but Arboretum parking fees of $8 per car apply.
Organicfest (www.organicfest.org) on a Saturday in early September in Pack Square Park celebrates everything organic, with gardening workshops, organic living demos, music and food (organically grown, of course). Free.
Ramp Festival celebrates the odiferous mountain wild onion, with food, live bluegrass and mountain music and clog dancing. It is one of the oldest festivals in Western North Carolina -- the 2013 festival was the 79th annual event. Usually it is held the first Saturday afternoon in May at American Legion Field, 171 Legion Drive, near downtown Waynesville.
Rhythm & Brews (www.downtownhendersonville.org) is a series of free outdoor concerts held from 6 to 9 pm the third Thursday of the month from mid-May to August at Third and King Streets in downtown Hendersonville.
River Arts District Studio Stroll (www.riverartsdistrict.com), the largest studio tour in the region, is held the weekends of the second Saturday in June and November when some 200 artists and craftspeople at dozens of studios and galleries in Asheville’s River Arts District demonstrate and sell their work. Free.
Riverfest (www.riverlink.org) celebrates the revitalization of the French Broad River with local music, river rafting, an “anything-that-floats” parade on the river, and activities for kids. The festival is held in early August on Riverside Drive in Asheville. Free.
Shindig on the Green (www.folkheritage.org) brings traditional mountain music and dancing to Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville most Saturdays in June, July and August. The free fun starts at 7 pm, weather permitting. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and stake out your place on the green.
Village Art & Craft Fair (www.biltmorevillage.com) features more than 100 artists in ceramics, fiber, wood, metal, jewelry, and other media. The fair is held the first weekend in August on the grounds of Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. Free.
White Squirrel Festival (www.whitesquirrelfestival.com), held Memorial Day weekend in Brevard, celebrates the town’s population of white squirrels. It has live music and a soapbox derby. Free.
Winter Warmer Beer Festival (www.ashevillebeerfest.com), unrelated to the Brewgrass Festival, is held in late January in the US Cellular Center.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.