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15 Charlotte festivals you don’t want to miss in 2018

Crowds filled Tryon St. from the very beginning of the Charlotte Pride Festival Saturday. The official opening of the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade weekend began with the presentation of the colors, national anthem, interfaith moment, a tribute to Pulse Orlando victims, and special guests including Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and North Carolina House Rep. Chris Sgro.
Crowds filled Tryon St. from the very beginning of the Charlotte Pride Festival Saturday. The official opening of the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade weekend began with the presentation of the colors, national anthem, interfaith moment, a tribute to Pulse Orlando victims, and special guests including Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and North Carolina House Rep. Chris Sgro. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte loves a good festival. Pretty much every month of the year, somewhere around town you’ll find a festival celebrating art, history, food or, of course, beer.

For me, Tuck Fest, the annual music and outdoors festival at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, marks the beginning of spring in Charlotte. And spring marks the beginning of peak festival season.

Well, Tuck Fest is this weekend, so this is as good a time of any to give you a breakdown of the can’t-miss festivals of 2018, starting with …

Tuck Fest

April 19-22. U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte.

This annual festival combines all of the great things about the USNWC – rafting, racing, the outdoors, live music and beer – into one massive celebration that draws thousands of people each year. This year’s music lineup is headlined by Shakey Graves, Deer Tick, The Infamous Stringdusters and The Wood Brothers.

And, best of all, it’s free – just pay for parking (and for any activities you decide to participate in).

If you can’t make it to Tuck Fest, don’t worry – USNWC has a wide range of festivals during the warm months on top of its weekly River Jam series.

BOOM Festival

April 20-22. Plaza Midwood.

Also this weekend is BOOM Festival, the provocative artist-led showcase that takes over Plaza Midwood. You’ll find everything from musical theatre and spoken word to performance art and family activities scattered around the neighborhood. Go here for a full schedule.

Moo & Brew Festival

April 28. 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.

Beer. Burgers. Live music. I’m sold.

Taste offerings from some of Charlotte’s best breweries and sample food from area restaurants vying for the title of Creative Loafing’s Best Burger. (Can Bang Bang Burgers defend its title?) And Charleston folk rockers Shovels & Rope will be performing.

General admission tickets are $35 and include a tasting glass and access to 15 burger restaurants.

International Sandwich Fest

April 28. 3800 Shamrock Drive.

If burgers aren’t your preferred style of sandwich (is a burger a sandwich?) head over to Aldersgate to celebrate all things between two pieces of bread. The free festival celebrates the cultural diversity of east Charlotte, and features food from restaurants and food trucks like A Piece of Havana, Arepadas, Chaupaati Casual Indian Kitchen, Yummi Banh Mi and Hiya Food Truck. Also enjoy music, dancing and entertainment all day.

N.C. Brewers and Music Festival 

May 11-12. 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville

This one is just outside of Charlotte, but should still be on your calendar. This two-day festival at Historic Rural Hill features more than 45 breweries and 10 bands, including Chatham County Line, Acoustic Syndicate and Leftover Salmon.

Music only tickets start at $28 and beer sampling tickets start at $51. For a few more bucks you can make a weekend of it and camp across the road from the main festival grounds.

South End Hops Festival

May 19. 308 W Carson Blvd. 

Beer tastings. Live music. Food. Are you starting to notice a trend?

One of Charlotte’s most popular – and dog-friendly – festivals has expanded this year, with multiple events leading up to Saturday’s shindig, including a five year anniversary celebration at Stoke (May 18) and a RescuedMe puppy adoption at Pop the Top (May 17).

Tickets start at $35. Oh, and there’s a recovery brunch May 20 at Roots Cafe, which you’re probably going to need after tasting from more than 35 breweries.

More of a wine drinker? The South End Wine Festival usually comes later in the year, though dates for this year’s festival haven’t been announced yet.

600 Festival

May 24-26. Uptown. 

Thousands of people flock to Uptown each year for this celebration of all things NASCAR. Better known as Speed Street, this festival leads up to the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But it’s not just for race fans. The streets will be filled with food, games, movies and live music from acts like Judah & the Lion and Chase Rice.

The street festival is free, but you’ll need a ticket (starting at $15) for the concerts.

Taste of Charlotte

June 8-10. Tryon Street, from Stonewall to 5th.

Choose from more than 100 samples from local restaurants at this three-day Uptown festival, which also includes live music, street performances and shopping. Admission is free, but you have to buy coins to sample the food and drinks. (Here’s a menu.)

There’s also a 5K if you want to work off some of those samples.

Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade

Aug. 18-19. Tryon Street Uptown.

This two-day cultural festival celebrates Pride Week with live music and entertainers, food and a parade. In addition to being a huge party, Pride is a fundraiser, educational experience and networking event aimed at “highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBTQ community.”

Learn more about the event by listening to our conversation with one of the organizers on a 2017 episode of the CharlotteFive Podcast.

Matthews Alive

Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Downtown Matthews.

Matthews’ Labor Day celebration features free entertainment, arts and crafts, a parade, petting zoo and even carnival rides. This huge free festival takes over downtown Matthews and attracts about 150,000 people each year.

Yiasou Greek Festival

Sept. 6-9. 600 East Blvd.

The grandaddy of all Charlotte festivals started in 1978 and has become one of the city’s largest cultural events. Head over to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Dilworth to taste authentic Greek cuisine like Spanakopita and Baklava. Then sit back and enjoy the live music, wander around the Hellenic cultural exhibits and maybe even join in a traditional folk dance.

Admission is just $3 and children under 12 can get in free. And don’t forget about the drive-thru food option – perfect for lunch Thursday and Friday.

Oktoberfest

Date and location TBA.

Charlotte Oktoberfest celebrated its 18th event at a new venue last year, Symphony Park. Pretzel necklace-clad beer lovers sampled offerings from more than 75 North Carolina, Southeastern and larger national craft breweries. And don’t forget about Cider Row, serving up a wide selection of hard ciders.

The festival usually happens in September, but information about the 2018 festival hasn’t been announced yet. Check the event’s website for updates.

Festival in the Park

Sept. 21-23. Freedom Park.

Festival in the Park has been bringing good music and good art to Charlotte since 1964. And people love it. It’s estimated that about 140,000 people attended last year’s festival. Take a relaxing stroll through Freedom Park and enjoy art by dozens of artists from all over the country. Can’t wait until September? Kings Drive Art Walk is scheduled for May 5-6 on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Charlotte Film Festival

Sept. 26-30. Visit CharlotteFilmFestival.org for the updated event location.

Launched in 2006, The Charlotte Film Festival allows established and emerging filmmakers to showcase their works to other independent film enthusiasts. Check the website as the event gets closer for schedule and location information.

If you are a huge lover of film festivals, be sure to also check out Joedance Film Festival (Aug. 3-4) a festival dedicated to works by Charlotte film producers, writers and directors, 100 Words Film Festival (Nov. 3-4) a festival challenging filmmakers to create films that deliver compelling yet concise stories using exactly 100 words, and the Charlotte Black Film Festival, which just wrapped up earlier this month (there’s always next year!).

Carolina Renaissance Festival

Sept. 29-Nov. 18. 16445 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville.

Get ready for jousting, feasting and falconry at one of the largest renaissance festivals in the country. This family-friendly festival runs every weekend from Sept. 29-Nov. 18 and draws thousands of people who want to step back in time. Tickets start at $24 for adults and $14 for children.

Save me a turkey leg, won’t you?

Did we miss a Charlotte festival you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Featured photo: CharlotteFive/Charlotte Observer files

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