May is a beautiful time to explore and celebrate North Carolina, and one way is through these awesome local events scattered around the state. From the mountains to the sea, there’s plenty to do every weekend and we’re going to share events you should check out throughout the month.
Here are 18 things to do in North Carolina in May, ordered by the starting date and alphabetized by the city when local events simultaneously occur.
Quite a few of these May events (along with March and April) in our Spring Things to Do in North Carolina, too! We originally created this post on April 29, 2019. It has been maintained and updated, as of October 23, 2019.
Things to Do in North Carolina in May
BBQ Fest on the Neuse, Kinston (May 3-4)
At the 38th annual BBQ Fest on the Neuse, you can celebrate Eastern North Carolina barbecue but dig into even more. Of course, there’ll be delicious food and competitions, but also shopping, and arts & crafts.
Get ready to explore the best of Kinston during a truly family-friendly showcase.
The Carolina Strawberry Festival, Wallace (May 3-4)
Food vendors, live music, helicopter rides and a Dare Devil Dog Show are just a few of the fun things happening at The Carolina Strawberry Festival in Wallace. And don’t forget to take home a carton or two of beautiful strawberries, too!
North Carolina Maritime Museum Wooden Boat Show, Beaufort (May 4)
The longest ongoing wooden boat show in the Southeast occurs every year along the shores of beautiful and historic Beaufort. The fourth annual Wooden Boat Show features small wooden boats, historic vessels, nautical crafts, and demonstrations.
This free event is great for all ages and levels of interest.
We also mentioned the NC Maritime Museum in our guide to North Carolina’s awesome museums!
Ham & Yam Festival, Smithfield (May 4)
During the 35th Ham & Yam Festival, it’s off the races for the little piggies in Johnston County. Head out to Downtown Smithfield for pig races, vendors, and of course, ham and yams.
This event is filled with fun and entertainment for the whole family.
Paddle for the Border 2019, South Mills (May 4)
If you’re feeling some watery fun, join up with everyone else who’ll be at Paddle for the Border. Boaters from all over North Carolina and Virginia convene in South Mills to follow the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.
You can canoe or kayak your way from South Mills, NC to Chesapeake, VA and enjoy the scenic waterways along the way.
North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival, Huntersville (May 11-12)
If you love incredible beer and rocking good music, the 9th Annual NC Brewers and Music Festival in Huntersville is the place for you to jam out.
Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival, Manteo (May 15-18)
Enjoy some fast pickin’, down-home country cookin’, and the sea salt waves breezing at the Bluegrass Island Festival in Manteo. Hosted on beautiful Roanoke Island with an ocean backdrop, this festival is where the mountains truly meet the sea and yet another reason we love The Outer Banks.
Blowing Rock Plein Air Festival, Blowing Rock (May 16-19)
Watch artists from across the state paint “en Plein air” at the Blowing Rock Plein Air Festival. Hosted by The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, artists will paint in real-time without the aid of photography.
That’ll give festival-goers a chance to watch the artistic process and purchase artwork created.
This festival is one of the many reasons we love Blowing Rock. If you’re heading that way, check our Blowing Rock page for more on this awesome mountain town!
North Carolina Potato Festival, Elizabeth City (May 17-19)
Can you peel a potato faster than some can say, “Go Tar Heels?” Then you’ll want to be at the National Potato Peeling Contest in Elizabeth City. That event is part of the three days of food, fun, and games at the NC Potato Festival.
Wilmington Wine and Food Festival, Wilmington (May 17-19)
Top chefs, delicious wine, and lively music light up the iconic Bellamy Mansion during the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival. This is where you can indulge on expertly designed culinary pairings, with folks like Durham Distillery on hand.
And if you really want to go all-in, grab a three-day pass.
Charlotte Asian Festival & Dragon Boat Race, Cornelius (May 18)
Watch the heat go by on beautiful Lake Norman during the Charlotte Asian Festival & Dragon Boat Race! Races start at 9 am and go all day and there’ll be a cultural exchange festival that starts at 11 am.
If you’re dying for a day out on the lake, don’t miss out on this.
Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival, Durham (May 18)
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival is a gathering for African and African American history, culture, arts, and traditions. This free festival is held in one of Durham’s Rock Quarry Park and is free to the public.
Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, Elkin (May 18)
In the heart of North Carolina’s wine country, Elkin will be hosting the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival. Visitors can sample creations from 25 local vineyards or stomp some grapes.
Or, you can be extra ambitious and participate in the Yadkin Valley Tour De Vino. Rides measure 30, 31, 52, 71, and 100 miles.
Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City (May 18-19)
With over 100 in-water and on-land boats, the Crystal Coast Boat Show has tons of fun in store for boat enthusiasts. Organizers have arranged for top boating vendors to set up, and there’ll be free sailing rides and a scavenger hunt for the kiddos available.
Plus, the 28th annual Antique Auto Show makes this fun for the whole family!
Hook, Line, & Drinker Festival, Sylva (May 18, 2019)
Celebrate North Carolina’s trout fishing capital at the third annual Hook, Line & Drinker Festival! Along the Fly Fishing Trail in Sylva, festival goers can learn more about the craft, talk to vendors, listen to great music, and eat some delicious food.
Strawberry Wine Festival, Vale (May 18)
Savor the sweetness at the third annual Strawberry Wine Festival at Woodmill Winery in Vale, Lincoln County. There, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines will be released with over 50 vendors and music on hand.
White Squirrel Festival, Brevard (May 24-26)
Have you seen Brevard’s famed white squirrel? Well, even if not, you can celebrate this nutty rodent at the White Squirrel Festival. There’ll be white squirrel tours, live music, and the Squirrel Box Derby ready to keep you more than entertained in Transylvania County.
Coca-Cola 600, Concord (May 26)
We mentioned a visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway in our guide to a weekend in Concord and Cabarrus County, too!
Got Something to Add?
Thanks to all these things to do in North Carolina in May, you’ve got tons of ways to enjoy the state before the heat and humidity of summer truly kicks in.
Is there something we should add to this list? Let us know about it here or via email and we’ll gladly take a look!