Hot Summer Things to Do in North Carolina

Last Updated on October 5, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Summer in North Carolina is busy, and not just with folks coming in from everywhere. Our state’s residents are joining them, taking the time to enjoy our awesome state.

And people throughout all parts have taken notice over the years and put together some of the year’s best local events during this time. We’ve uncovered quite a few and want to share them with you, in this guide that covers summer things to do in North Carolina.

Summer Things to Do in North Carolina

This post is a part of our seasonal guide series, where we’ve featured spring, winter, and fall! Many of these events also appear in our monthly event guides.

For info about dates, please check the following:

Commemorate Summer in NC

Summer might not officially start until a bit later but the Washington Summer Festival is a great way to kick things off. There’ll be fireworks, food, music, and more fun in this awesome small town.

If you want to keep things by the book, check out the Summer Solstice Festival in Greensboro (June 22). A drum circle, parade, and “Fire Finale” headline this annual showcase of Gate City. 

Fireworks Galore

NC Local Events in Summer Fireworks Image

You’ll find Fourth of July fireworks events throughout the state, as far west as Bryson City and all the way to the Outer Banks. There’s even a Fireworks Extravaganza at Tweetsie in Blowing Rock and a massive celebration held each year at Fort Bragg.

The fun continues beyond Independence Day, with celebrations in Cashiers and Canton lighting up the sky. Minor League Baseball games will also hold fireworks after games throughout summer if you’re looking for constantly lit skies.

We mentioned quite a few of these and more Independence Day celebrations in our guide to things to do in North Carolina in July, too!

Bonus NC Fireworks Celebrations

Throughout the summer, folks staying in and around Carolina Beach can enjoy Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast. The fun kicks off every Thursday during the summer. 

Hot and Cold Food Festivals and Events

June

Butner’s Chicken Pickin’ usually kicks off a pretty hot schedule of NC food events at beginning of June. Of course, you have to visit Cary for the town’s Pimento Cheese Festival. Burgaw’s NC Blueberry Festival will bring tons of folks to Pender County.

Tons of foodies will converge in Franklin’s Taste of Scotland Festival. And you know what? We’re not even halfway through June.

More Summer Food Festivals in NC

Once the heat of summer has kicked up, folks will gladly welcome Fair Bluff’s North Carolina Watermelon Festival.

And finally, the Ocracoke Fig Festival will celebrate the fruit’s history on our coast. The fun includes a bake-off, tastings, and more. 

Also, don’t forget that summer in North Carolina is a great time to join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour! We have and can’t wait to join the next one!

June Flower Celebrations

June is also busy for summer flower celebrations. Get started with a tour of six private gardens during Mount Airy Blooms. The Graham County Native Azalea Festival in Robbinsville invites visitors to hike up Hooper Bald for a look at species you won’t see anywhere else.

Also in the mountains is Bakersville’s Rhododendron Festival, which brings together a craft fair, car show, and 10k run with its long-standing pageant.

And then there’s Blowing Rock’s Mile of Flowers, where select homes and churches will be open for tours. 

Bonus Flower Fun

One of our favorite free summer things to do in Raleigh is visiting their sunflower field at Dorothea Dix Park. If you have any questions, our guide details where to find them, when to visit, and more, whether you’re going during the week or during the weekend.

Also in July, get wowed and inspired at the biannual Joy Garden Tour in Cashiers. Tickets are available for those at all horticulturist levels.  

‘Cue and Trains

BBQ & Brew Train departs from Bryson City a few times throughout the summer.

Its arrival at the Fontana Lake Trestle for sunset will leave riders awestruck each time. Enjoy the ride while munching on barbecue and sampling local beers, while the kids can have a yummy root beer.

Run, Hike, and Bike

Head over to Elkin for its Trail Days Festival, with a race, guided hikes, paddling events and more happening over the three days.

In August, there are a couple of fun events that caught our eye. Sylva’s Great Balsam Bike Relay combines road biking and mountain biking with teams of four competing.

And finally, Race to the Rock gives entrants the option of a 5k run or 25-mile bike to the base of Chimney Rock. That should guarantee a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge

Enjoy the Water

As far as watery events go, the fun starts at the beginning of June with Kayak for the Warriors at Pine Knoll Shores.

The NC Maritime Museum‘s Maritime Day offers sailing in wooden boats, games, and a chance to just relax by the water.

And at the Littleton Lake Gaston Festival, festivalgoers can enjoy carnival rides, food, a classic car show, and more entertainment. 

Don’t forget our Beaches, Waterfalls, and Lakes

Okay, I don’t think this is going to be a problem. Many folks have one thing in mind when it comes to summer things to do in North Carolina: the beach. With over 12,000 miles of coastal shoreline, we have a lot to enjoy.

But don’t forget about other ways you can enjoy our waters. Yep, we’re talking about the waterfalls and beautiful lakes found throughout the state. Which of the three do you prefer?

Hang Out with Bears and Other Wildlife

Plymouth’s North Carolina Black Bear Festival is back with award-winning fun for its fifth annual. Over 30 bear-themed activities celebrate the world’s largest black bears, which inhabit the NC coast.

Sapphire Valley Resort’s 16th annual Mountain Wildlife Days features hikes, field trips, and close-up opportunities with live animals.

Heat Up with the Arts

Pots on the Green in Cashiers will celebrate Western North Carolina’s pottery heritage with featured artisans, demonstrations, and talks.

The Backwoods Beat Music & Art Festival in Sparta honors the memory of local polymath TJ Worthington with music, a songwriting competition, and a workshop.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus usually appear in Seagrove for Christmas in July, which features hand-made pottery demos, weaving, and knitting.

And a couple of times this summer, you can head to Banner Elk for their Fine Arts and Master Crafts Festival. There, more than 90 vendors will be selling jewelry, sculptures, and pottery. 

Singing Convention

The State Annual Singing Convention in Downtown Benson remains one of the largest and oldest gospel sings in the US. Thousands of people are expected to attend and lawn chairs are encouraged. 

Jam Out

For laid-back fun in the place where the shag was born, check out the Carolina Beach Music Festival.

The Grooves Music Festival in Greenville commemorates African-American Music Appreciation Month Motown and R&B music, food, and more fun. Forest City’s Cherry Bounce Festival will offer plenty of music to accompany cherry-inspired food, art, and more.

And in August, Burning Can North Carolina brings bands, beer, food, and more to Hendersonville’s REEB Ranch

Celebrate History and Heritage

Our state’s history is literally rich and you can celebrate our wealth at Vein Mountain’s NC Gold Festival. Learn about our “first in gold mining” heritage and even pan some for yourself.

Franklin’s Appalachian Heritage Festival also offers a glimpse into life from a previous era, too. They’ll have dozens of live demonstrations, a checker tournament, and more fun. 

To commemorate the Revolutionary War-era Battle at House in the Horseshoe, you can watch a reenactment at the Sanford-area site over two days.

Back in Macon County, the Franklin Folk Festival offers music, an antique car show, and plenty more entertainment.

And we can’t talk history without mentioning the steam-powered celebration at Tweetsie’s Railroad Heritage Weekend in Blowing Rock

Outdoor and Indoor Sports

Summer in North Carolina Charlotte Knights Minor League Baseball Image

Minor League Baseball starts in April but is really in full swing once we get to summer in North Carolina. We don’t want to take away from fun times at the ballpark, but there are some sports events worth mentioning, too.

The Big Rock Tournament comes back for its 61st year in Morehead City. Boats will descend upon the Crystal Coast town to catch the blue marlin that will hook that huge prize.

Look Ahead

And just as summer’s end approaches, you can sneak-peak into fall at the North Carolina Apple Festival in Henderson County. Known as one of the best Street Fairs in the Carolinas, there’ll be a parade, arts and crafts, festival food, and of course, tons of apples from local orchards.

There are also plenty of places to go apple picking here and elsewhere throughout the state. We think this is a fitting way to close out summer. 

Whether or not you’re able to make the NC Apple Festival, we think you should know about these great restaurants and fun things to do in Hendersonville!

What are Your Favorite Summer Things to Do in North Carolina?

Shew! So much going on in our state really makes this the hottest time of year. With all these fun summer things to do in North Carolina, we’re having a hard time choosing which one to visit first.

If it were up to you, which of these fun events would you start with? Is there something we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

More Things to Do in North Carolina

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