Cultural Festivals in Charlotte
Explore the heritage and history of the people who call Charlotte home.
COURTESY of Carolina Renaissance Festival
Ready to travel the world without a passport, or taking time away from school or work? Immerse your nose, eyes and taste buds in the many cultures and people who make up the Queen City. From dragon boat races to celebrating ancestors with song and bright costumes, you are sure to find tons of events to add to your family outing calendar.
Location: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Boulevard
The vibe: This is one of Charlotte’s most popular festivals for good reason. You can’t beat the Greek history, mouth-watering food, popular vendors, gifts, history, rides and dance performances. Don’t leave without a walk through the beautiful cathedral and family picture with the beautifully costumed Greek guards.
What kids will love: Let the kids burn off the energy from the loukoumades and baklava sundaes at Children’s Playland where they can hop on the swing ride, slide down the bounce slide, take a helicopter ride, enjoy the children’s Ferris wheel, make wax hands and get their faces painted.
When can we go? September.
Location: Belk Theatre, 130 North Tryon St.
The vibe: Put down the history books and experience Indian culture up close and personal. Get a Henna tattoo, participate in a yoga demo, try on a sari, observe a traditional wedding, and dance in the street to pulsating Indian music in both traditional and Bollywood style.
What kids will love: Tire the kids out on the moon bounce, Kids Art Competition, and dancing and singing activities.
When can we go? September.
Location: University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The vibe: Think it’s impossible to visit 50 countries in one afternoon? You can at the UNC Charlotte International Festival. Now in its 42nd year, this festival showcases a colorful marketplace with the best of international culture, including food, art, crafts, costumes, dancing and games. Booths are staffed by students and members of the international community who are eager to share their culture with you.
What kids will love: This event will become a kid fave with face painting, mimes and an international games zone. Kids can put their soccer skills to the test in a live match.
When can we go? September.
Location: Symphony Park at Southpark Mall, 4400 Sharon Road
The vibe: You know the festival is in full swing when the aroma of roasted corn, pupusas, tamales and other tasty treats begin wafting across the crowd. As the day heats up, so does the entertainment. Festival goers don flags from their native countries and enjoy Latin singing and dancing. Bring your dancing shoes as audience participation is encouraged. Join the more than 20,000 people who put this on their not-to-miss list.
What kids will love: There are designated play and gaming areas for children. Everyone is encouraged to grab a bag and visit the numerous vendors who have games, prizes, goodies and giveaways.
When can we go? October.
Location: 16445 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville
The vibe: Welcome to Fairhaven, a magical village that treats its visitors to an unforgettable day in16th-century Europe. This festival promises a full day of jousting, pageantry, games, falconry, archery, shopping and lots of food (turkey legs anyone?). Everywhere you turn jugglers, comedians, musicians, acrobats and other entertainers are at the ready to ensure villagers are having a great time.
What’s in it for kids: From fairies to face painting, sitting on top of the world’s largest rocking horse to taking a spin on Da Vinci’s Flying machine, the Carolina Renaissance Festival is a kid’s dream come true. This festival offers lots of space to run around and a new adventure around every corner.
When can we go? Saturdays and Sundays in October and November.
Location: Historic Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville
The vibe: You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy watching competitors throw 20-pound burlap sacks of straw or 100-plus pound poles across the field. In between these tremendous games of strength, enjoy traditional Scottish dancing, lectures, parades, bag pipes and entertainment.
What kids will love: Kids can see Scottish history come alive at this all-day event. They will have such a great time, they won’t even realize they are learning.
When can we go? April
Location: Ramsey Creek Park on Lake Norman in Cornelius. Parking is available at 8900 North Pointe Executive Park in Huntersville with complimentary shuttle service to the festival.
The vibe: If you haven’t been to a festival where you spend the afternoon cheering for teams racing in boats painted like dragons, you owe yourself a trip to the Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Races. Find a shady spot, grab some tasty food from one of the many vendors and a bubble tea, set up the chairs and cheer on your favorite team. This event celebrates Asian-Pacific culture with food, crafts, pageants, entertainment and music on a beautiful 46-acre park.
What kids will love: The entertainment stage is where kids of all ages want to be. Festival-goers are entertained with colorful costumes, martial-art demonstrations, dance performances, songs and the crowning of Miss Asia Carolinas.
When can we go? May.
Japanese Bon Odori Fest
Location: Wells Fargo Atrium Uptown, 301 S. Tryon St.
The vibe: Set your spirit free at the Bon Odori festival in uptown Charlotte. “Odori” refers to a dance held during Obon to receive spirits of the departed and send them off again. The event is free and packed with Japanese food and crafts, a traditional tea ceremony, origami demonstrations and Japanese Aikido martial-art exhibitions.
What kids will love: The colorful costumes, dancing and demonstrations will have them on the edge of their seat.
When can we go? August.