Festival Season on the Outer Banks
Celebrations of music, food, and life
Unlike much of the rest of the world, the Outer Banks has only three seasons. There’s winter, there’s peak season and then there’s festival season.
Festival season is easy to explain. During peak season, the locals are way too busy to stage a festival. During the winter, the weather can be pretty iffy. But late spring and early fall? Perfect.
We can’t list all of them, so we settled for a few of our favorites.
Outer Banks music festivals seem to come together perfectly to create a week or long weekend of music. At least they have in the past, although schedules may change.
Duck Jazz Festival
Oct. 12-13, 2019
Held Saturday and Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, the Duck Jazz Festival was the first of the Outer Banks music festivals. The energy and creativity have never waned. There is everything to like. Great artists, two stages so there is always something happening, an exquisite outdoor setting on the Duck Town Green – and it’s free. Sunday is the bigger day, but on Saturday, look for artists performing in the town’s bars and taverns.
Mustang Rock and Roast, Corolla
Oct. 19-20, 2019
Bridging the gap between music and food is the Mustang Rock and Roast. Falling the weekend after the Duck Jazz Festival, the concept is simple … great music and a barbecue showdown on Saturday … great music and an oyster roast on Sunday. Brought to the Outer Banks by Bearded Face Productions, the same folks who do the Mustang Spring Jam, there are the same elements to the music: a wide range of great musicians on two stages.
Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival, Manteo
May 13-16, 2020
A four-day event at Roanoke Island Festival Park, the setting overlooking Roanoke Sound is beautiful. Since the first festival back in 2012, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage have been part of the show. Other notables have included Steep Canyon Rangers, Ricky Skaggs and Seldom Scene. In the past, this was an October festival, but a very bad experience with the fickle nature of fall weather changed the thinking. Moving to spring, the Bluegrass Festival now aligns perfectly with …
Mustang Spring Jam, Corolla
May 16-17, 2020
A two-day musical extravaganza beginning on the third Saturday in May. The range of music is astonishing. There’s funk, blues, rock with some jazz thrown in and maybe even some reggae. This is the place to see artists on the cusp of going national. Two stages mean no downtime between performers. Proceeds benefit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, which manages the Corolla mustangs, and the Mustang Outreach Program, which nurtures young musicians.
Outer Banks Seafood Festival, Nags Head
Oct. 19, 2019
A celebration of the culture and history of Outer Banks watermen – and women – the festival falls on the third Saturday of October every year. The best attended of any Outer Banks festival, the big draw is the many local restaurants that vie for top honors with dishes created from local seafood. There is also live music, a very kid-friendly atmosphere, local artisans and crafters and watermen explaining what they do and how.
Big Curri-shuck, Jarvisburg
Nov. 28, 2019
What’s not to like – all you can eat, freshly steamed oysters and crab. A local pit master stops by to serve up some pulled pork; wine from Sanctuary Vineyards where the event is held, local beer and some great music. Sanctuary Vineyards is at the Cotton Gin, 11 miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge. Held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Big Curri-Shuck is the perfect way to wrap up the weekend.
Stay informed at SanctuaryVineyards.com
Outer Banks Taste of the Beach, Northern Outer Banks
March 26-29, 2020
The Outer Banks Taste of the Beach is as much a tour of the northern Outer Banks as it is a culinary adventure. A four-day event held the last weekend in March, there are wine, beer and tequila tastings matched with food, food prep classes, tapas tours and more. Restaurants from Corolla to Manteo participate. The two big events are the Wings & BBQ Showdown on Saturday and the Grand Tasting & Bartenders Bubbly Bash on Sunday.
Stay informed at OBXTasteOfTheBeach.com
CELEBRATIONS OF LIFE
Day at the Docks, Hatteras Village
Sept. 13-14, 2019
Two days, actually, Friday and Saturday. Not everything could be squeezed into one day. After Hurricane Isabel devastated the village in 2003, residents were looking for a way to announce they were back, and Day at the Docks was born. It’s a marvelous celebration of all that is best about Hatteras Village and the Outer Banks. There’s a chowder cook-off, fishing demos, a seafood tent, entertainment and the blessing of the fleet.
Ocrafolk Festival, Ocracoke
An annual early-June celebration of Ocracoke, music and the arts. A visit to Ocracoke Island is always special – Ocrafolk makes it memorable. Musicians, storytellers, artists and crafters help to create a street fair atmosphere. Access to Ocracoke is by ferry only.
Stay informed at OcracokeAlive.org