A Seasonal Guide to Asheville's Best Events
By Del Holston
Asheville Festivals at a Glance
Which fest is the best? Here are top choices for Asheville festivals happening throughout the year.
Truly one of the great things about Asheville is that no matter what time of year you visit, there’s a good chance you’ll find a festival taking place either in the streets of downtown, by the banks of the French Broad River, or tucked away in a remote mountain meadow. Ashevillians love a good party and with so many celebrations planned throughout the year, it’s no wonder why this place was dubbed "the happiest city in America."
The following list is a mere sampling of some of the best mountain music jamborees, foodie-fueled fiestas, and summer evening dance parties you’ll find throughout the year. Choosing which one to attend may seem a challenge at first, but with such a diverse mix of festivals you’re sure to find one to suit your style.
Mountain Sports Festival
This annual multi-sport event appeals to athletes and spectators alike as participants sweat it out in a variety of physical challenges. Activities include, but aren’t limited to, cyclocross, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, crossfit, mountain climbing, and a 10K. You’ll also enjoy fun kid activities, live music each day, great food, and drinks including local brew. Best of all, the event is free to attend.
Asheville Beer Week
Asheville has become a craft beer boomtown in the Southeast. Every year ushers in new breweries, each adding new and distinctive flavors to the Beer City USA palette. With so many options, it’s nearly impossible to squeeze all the hoppy goodness Asheville offers into one weekend. Our solution? Take an entire week to celebrate! Go ahead and clear your schedule now because you won’t want to miss any of the citywide happenings, including brewery tours, tastings, and dinner pairing events.
Other Asheville spring festivals: The French Broad River Festival, Biltmore Blooms (pictured), and Weaverville Art Safari.
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival
Hailed as the nation’s longest running folk festival, this is the preeminent event for old-time and bluegrass music. Here, ballad singers, banjo players, and cloggers converge to tell stories of a by-gone era through their music and dance, and by doing so they continue to preserve our classic Southern Appalachian culture. If you can’t make it for this annual August event, you may be able to catch a summer showing of Shindig on the Green, a smaller, yet just as lively, concert series held for free on select Saturdays in downtown Asheville.
Asheville Wine & Food Festival
Boasting over 250 independent restaurants, Asheville is packed with incredible dining experiences. Trying to pare down your choices can be a daunting task, and that’s where this annual foodie-fest comes in. Sample the crème de la crème of Asheville’s food scene while sipping on the nectar of local wineries, breweries, and distilleries from around the region. In addition to the Grand Tasting, there are numerous breakout events throughout the year, including chef challenges, mixology competitions, and a taste of the sweet life focusing entirely on desserts. Yum!
One of the most highly anticipated events each year is also the longest running beer celebration in Asheville. According to organizers, this is “the beer festival of your dreams,” combining the best of the bluegrass scene with some of the tastiest beers brewed locally and beyond. An insider tip for anyone interested in attending – don’t wait to purchase tickets! This event sells out quickly each year.
Other Asheville summer festivals: Asheville Greek Festival, Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival (LAAFF), and Downtown After 5.
This funky cultural fest combines the best of music and interactive art into an awesome weekend of family-friendly entertainment. Located along the banks of Lake Eden in nearby Black Mountain, there are over 600 acres of mountain exploration and adventure to be had. Festivalgoers, listen to incredible musicians from around the globe and can take part in a ton of activities such as ziplining, swimming, canoeing, in addition to numerous workshops.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
Showcasing the finest artwork of nearly 200 craftspeople from around the region, this four-day festival offers a unique opportunity to watch artists practice their craft in live demonstrations. Live music also helps set the stage for this event, which features work across every medium, including clay, glass, fiber, paper, wood, jewelry, leather, and metal.
Other Asheville fall festivals: Blue Ridge Gay Pride Festival, Hardlox Jewish Festival, and Goombay Festival.
Baby it’s cold outside, but this indoor beer festival is worth braving the cooler temps. Created by the same folks that began Asheville Brews Cruise, this fest was designed to be a way for locals to “shake up the winter blahs.” Over the years it has grown to be one of the most highly attended beer festivals in Asheville.
The Big Crafty
Just in time for the holidays comes the coolest craft show you’ll find. Filled with homemade and indie wares, you’ll discover unique gift ideas created by a group of juried artists and DIY’ers from around the country. Of course, no festival would be complete without the full offerings of local food, beer, and live music.
Asheville Fringe Arts Festival
Is that a Butoh parade on Lexington Avenue, or is it just another Saturday in Asheville? This festival loves to push the boundaries of the Asheville arts scene, and does so with a freakish flare. Held at multiple venues across the city, this festival delights the culturally curious with innovative artist collaborations and “random acts of fringe” throughout the streets of Asheville.
Other Asheville winter festivals: Dickens in the Village, Lake Julian Festival of Lights, and Warren Haynes Christmas Jam (a concert with a festival vibe).
Biltmore Blooms photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company; Asheville Wine & Food Festival photo courtesy of Asheville Wine & Food Festival; LEAFestival photo courtesy of LEAF, Asheville Fringe Arts Festival photo courtesy of The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival.