If you’re looking to expand your musical geography a little bit, plan on day-tripping to one of these music festivals this summer or fall. They each have a different character, and none are more than an hour and a half drive from Charlotte, as long as nothing goes too haywire on the highway.
When: July 1-4
Where: Morganton, N.C. (1 hour, 20 minutes from Charlotte)
This four-day bluegrass festival is especially family-friendly. There’s an inflatable play area for kids, as well as a bluegrass kids’ camp (extra charge). Alcohol and smoking are not permitted at the festival, but there’s no guarantee that your kids won’t get addicted to the banjo. If you’re going for just one day, and you like fireworks, July 4 is the day to go.
Tickets: Single day tickets are $30 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free.
Address: Catawba Meadows Park, 701 Sanford Drive, Morganton.
When: Aug. 5-6
Where: Elkin, N.C. (1 hour, 15 minutes from Charlotte)
Straight up I-77 is the small town of Elkin, which has hosted Reevestock for the past five years. It takes place in Elkin’s Hidden Amphitheater, a privately owned, wooded, park-like venue with rolling hills, a running stream, waterfalls, hammock chairs and swings. This is possibly the most comfortable, relaxed music festival in North Carolina.
The music leans toward Americana, and the talent is top-notch. Some of the artists: Phil Cook and the Guitarheels, Cicada Rhythm and David Ramirez. The festival raises funds for scholarships for local students.
Charlotte connections: Charlotte-based folk/rock band Time Sawyer founded and organizes this festival. They’re on the bill, as is The Josh Daniel/Mark Schimick Project. (Josh Daniel was in The New Familiars.) Charlotte bands Amigo and Sinners & Saints will be playing at the Friday night kick-off party.
Tickets: $15 for Saturday. Kids 12 and under are free. The pre-festival kick-off on Friday night is free.
Address: 357 Ivy Circle, Elkin.
When: Sept. 9-11
Where: Greensboro, N.C. (1 hour, 30 minutes from Charlotte)
This is huge. The National Folk Festival moves around, choosing a location for three years. This is the second of three years at Greensboro, so it’s a great chance to check it out. It’s a folk festival, but “folk” in this case encompasses bluegrass, Tibetan opera, Zydeco, “Kosher gospel” music (which blends Hebrew text with African-American church music) plus a lot more. And the festival includes more than music: There’s dance, parades and a giant puppet pageant. Literally, giant puppets. Like 8 feet tall.
Address: Center City Park, 200 N. Elm St., Greensboro
When: Sept. 23-24
Where: Wilkesboro, N.C. (1 hour, 30 minutes from Charlotte)
This is a pretty new festival, just in its second year. If you like Merlefest you’ll probably like Carolina in the Fall. It takes place on Main Street in Wilkesboro and is hosted by Merlefest mainstays The Kruger Brothers. Also performing are the Infamous Stringdusters, The Steel Wheels and about 26 other artists. Continuing Merlefest’s Midnight Jam tradition, there’s a nighttime jam each night, where artists perform together in one-time-only collaborations.
Tickets: Through Sept. 1, one-day tickets are $30 and two-day tickets are $50. A two-day VIP ticket is $90 and includes the night-time jams. Kids 12 and under are free.
Address: 100 E Main St, Wilkesboro
(5) Carolina Jubilee
When: Sept. 30-Oct. 1
Where: Harmony, N.C. (1 hour from Charlotte)
This is year two for Carolina Jubilee, a music festival that takes place on VanHoys Farm and benefits North Carolina farmers, through Carolina Farm Trust. Highlights in the musical lineup include Tacoma Narrows, South Carolina’s Susto, and a whole bunch of Charlotte and North Carolina bands of various genres, including Henry River Honey, The Business People, Groove 8, The Menders, Amigo, Sinners & Saints, Time Sawyer and more.
In fact, only one band isn’t from the Carolinas. Discovery Place Kids will be on hand supplying activities for kids. Heirloom, a Charlotte farm-to-table restaurant, will be selling food.
Tickets: One-day tickets are $35 and two-day tickets are $55. Two-day tickets with camping are $65. Kids under 12 are free.
Address: 742 Jericho Road, Harmony
Photos: Courtesy of Reevestock; Courtesy of Kruger Brothers