14 Southern Events, Festivals, And Happenings Not To Miss This Summer
Get outside and enjoy some of the season's best outdoor events.
We love our summer in the South! Our lucky residents find themselves soaking up the sun on area beaches, laying in a gently swaying hammock, or enjoying a glass of tea on the front porch. Basically, summertime equates to relaxation as the temperatures turn balmy.
Because of all of the gorgeous weather, summer is also a time to get out and enjoy some of the South’s best outdoor events. Here are 14 cool concerts, artisan markets, and fun festivals across the region that are worth attending this summer. Drop in for a concert or afternoon if you're close by or plan a road trip for a one-of-a-kind weekend in some of the South's best towns.
Louisiana Pirate Festival
Lake Charles, Louisiana
May 4-14, 2023
Ahoy matey, it’s nearly time for Louisiana’s family-friendly pirate fun. Held on the shores of Lake Charles, there will be canon firings, carnival rides, themed souvenirs, arts and crafts and a contest for the best dressed pirate. City officials will walk the plank and pirates march in a Saturday parade. If you’re feeling strong, there’s also an armwrestling competition on May 13 as well as a battle of the bands.
Redland Orchid Festival
May 19-21, 2023
Billed as a ‘bucket event for orchid lovers’ this celebration of tropical flowers offers classes, lectures and the opportunity to buy varieties of flowers. It’s been held for the last 25 years in the open air Fruit and Spice Park. If you think that name sounds interesting, you’d be correct. Tickets for the Redland Orchid Festival include park admission, where you can view the over 500 types of fruits, spices, nuts, and herbs on 37 subtropical acres of lush property.
Charleston, South Carolina
May 26-June 11, 2023
Charleston’s highly anticipated performing arts festival makes the most of the cities beautiful spaces to give patrons the best in theater, dance, and music. For 17 days and nights, there are over 100 chances to see world-class programming. The festival showcases both famous and emerging talent and has been the catalyst for many performers to advance their careers. Check out the schedule of incredible offerings here.
The Junk Ranch
Prairie Grove, Arkansas
June 2-3, 2023
This "junking" event is the largest of its kind in Northwest Arkansas. If you find yourself in that area, you’ll see well-displayed and curated items just waiting to be carried home by their new owner. More than 100 vendors come from several different states to sell goods in the iconic red barn, farmhouse, festival tents, and even the field. The booths of vintage, repurposed and salvaged items and crafts are carefully chosen to offer the best of country finds. Shoppers celebrate their treasures found while walking the farm.
For the best finds, experts suggest that you attend the first day of sales at the Junk Ranch.
Georgia Peach Festival
Fort Valley, Georgia (June 2-3, 2023)
Byron, Georgia (June 10, 2023)
Both Fort Valley and Byron are in Peach Valley, a name that reflects the hub of the peach industry in the state. In fact, more than half of the famous sweet Georgia peaches are produced in this area, making it the logical choice for any peach festival. Georgia’s peaches are considered the sweetest and tastiest in the world. They are only available mid-May through August, a short 16 weeks for the lucky to indulge in sticky fingers and sweet bites through fuzzy peach skin. The festival has arts and crafts, a kids' zone, food vendors, live music, fireworks—and, of course, Georgia peaches.
Related:Which Is the True Peach State?
June 16-18, 2023
How about some Yacht Rock, Kenny Loggins, and Keb’ Mo’? If the relaxing vibes don’t make you happy, then the nostalgia will. If you want to get Footloose with Kenny Loggins, you’d better plan on this event. It’s part of his final tour. Lawn seats are first come first serve, so get your lawn chairs and blankets ready.
Wytheville, West Virginia
June 16-24, 2023
A festival that includes music, the arts, and glowing balloons? That’s a win in our book. This event lasts for eight days, kicking off with a Friday night balloon glow. Guests can speak to the hot-air-balloon pilots and learn about the balloons before watching them fly lit against the night sky. Festivities continue with food trucks, art displays, and nightly musical performances from regional and national talent in different genres. The best part: Tickets are free so bring lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy the music, a gift to the community from a long list of local sponsors.
Key West, Florida
July 18-23, 2023
Know anyone that is an Ernest Hemingway look-a-like? Grab them and head to Key West to join scores of other Hemingway doubles to parade across the stage at famous Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street. If you win, plan on returning every year to judge future contestants after receiving your commemorative bust of the man himself. The event isn’t just a pageant for doppelgängers. Sloppy Joe’s also has a Running of the Bulls, where the contest contenders will dress up and run Duval. There’s also a three-day Marlin fishing tournament, street fair, 5K run, and paddle board competition on the week's agenda. For Hemingway fans, there is a museum that exhibits of articles from Hemingway’s life, as well as an announcement of the winner of the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition coordinated by Ernest’s granddaughter. If you go, we guarantee you’ll see an old man and the sea, just maybe not a marlin quite as big as in the book. Although, that might help win the fishing tournament!
18th Annual Sweetgrass Festival
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
July 22, 2023
A sweetgrass basket is one of the most prized souvenirs from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Visitors can find the baskets created by Gullah Geechee artisans all over the markets, made from intricate weavings of marsh grass that’s local to the Lowcountry area. In addition to these beautiful baskets, the festival will have other craft vendors. A dinner is scheduled on Friday at 6:00 p.m., details to be released soon. Basketball player Reggie Love will be the guest speaker.
If you can’t make the Sweetgrass Festival, basket makers are selling their beautiful art on Etsy.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, North Carolina
July 20-23, 2023
To celebrate the artistry of the Southern Highland region of North Carolina, hundreds of makers offer art made from clay, wood, metal, glass, and fiber as well as paper, leather goods, mixed media, and jewelry. There are craft demonstrations with artists and live, local musicians in concert. Admission is $10 and children under 12 are free, making a walk through the downtown Asheville center well worth the price.
July 7-8, 2023
What is a Slugburger you ask? We asked too. It seems that a nickel was called a slug during the Great Depression. In Corinth during that time, there was a need to stretch meat for family dinner, therefore saving those nickels. Innovative chefs added what’s called an ‘extender’. The result is a pork patty with soymeal added to make those ingredients fill hungry bellies. Some versions might include some beef but all the exact recipes seem to be closely guarded secrets. You can find Slugburgers all over Corinth, but the festival is the best time to sample the soft centers with crispy outsides. If you love them, enter the Slugburger eating contest and see if you win. In addition to Slugburgers, there are arts, crafts, music, carnival rides, and a Slug Idol contest.
Texas Outdoor Musical
June 8-August 5, 2023
A truly impressive event in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park amphitheater, the Texas Outdoor Musical reenacts the historical triumphs and stories of the Texas pioneers of the 1800’s. Auditions are held to find top talent in the state to dance and sing their way to the hearts and minds of visitors. At the performance, there’s a big Texas barbecue and pre-show entertainment. When its time to settle into your seats, get ready to see the lone horseman carrying the American flag on top of a mountain symbolizing the start of each performance.
Piedmont Park Arts Festival
August 19-20, 2023
Considered one of the best outdoor festivals in Atlanta, the Piedmont Park Arts Festival covers the area with hundreds of arts and crafts booths. You’ll see sculptors, painters, metal artisans, jewelers and more while walking through Midtown’s urban green space. Artists will demonstrate their crafts and visitors can nosh on a selection of healthier festival foods and drinks. There’s a family focus, so planners work on a children’s area promoting the arts. The event also gives back to a local charity or scholarship effort.
Tomato Art Festival
East Nashville, Tennessee
August 11-12, 2023
You have to love this festival’s slogan: “A uniter, not a divider—bringing together fruits and vegetables!” Whether you decide a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, there’s a place for you this summer at the Tomato Art Festival. Nashville’s artists enter the famous Tomato Art contest, each piece created featuring a fruit or vegetable. They earn cash prizes and humor is encouraged. The event has food and drinks, entertainment and a parade, plus really cool T-shirts. Expect to see contests, a kids' area, and people dressed as tomatoes.
Looking for more ideas? Here are some other ways to enjoy summer in the South, courtesy of our editors.
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