Holler, sip, splash and dance -- it’s time to let loose at North Carolina’s best festivals. From bug fests to Dirty Dancing, the Tar Heel state is home to fun-loving, offbeat events to enjoy.
<b>Benson Mule Days</b><br>The town of Benson is the site of the longest parade in all of <a href=" http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/north-carolina" target="_blank"> North Carolina.</a> The Benson Mule Days Parade lasts 2 1/2 hours – and attracts some 60,000 people each year -- on the fourth Saturday of every September.
<b>Azalea Festival</b><br>These Southern belles are all dressed up for the annual Azalea Festival – an event that’s been held every April in Wilmington, NC, since 1969. Dressed in colorful gowns, the belles lead tours of private homes during the festival.
<b>Winterfest Polar Plunge</b><br>Jump! In the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, locals jump into Chetola Lake's icy waters every January for the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest. The event’s motto: Don’t hibernate … celebrate!
<b>April Fools’ Day Parade</b><br>What April Fools’ Day Parade would be complete without an outhouse race? South of Asheville, the town of Tryon’s residents prove they don’t take themselves too seriously – just their outhouse decor.
<b>Hopscotch Music Festival</b><br>Indie music fans head to Raleigh for the annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Started in 2010, the 3-day event celebrates the best in indie music every September. Here, Canadian band Broken Social Scene performs.
<b>Salute! NC Wine Celebration</b><br>North Carolina ranks as a top-5 destination for wine lovers. Head to downtown Winston-Salem in June for the annual Salute! NC Wine Celebration, where more than 30 local wineries offer tastings that showcase the best of their harvest.
<b>Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure</b><br>No, we’re not in the Catskills. The 1987 megahit <i>Dirty Dancing</i> was actually filmed at North Carolina’s Lake Lure -- including the film’s famous lake scene, recreated here. Head to Lake Lure for the “time of your life” this August to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary.
<b>The Queens Cup Steeplechase</b><br>Just minutes from Charlotte, NC, the annual Queens Cup Steeplechase has become an annual spring rite of passage. Held each April, the event showcases flat racing mixed with cross-country jumping. Enjoy the show -- and be part of the show -- with large brimmed hats, seer-sucker suits and anything pink!
<b>Biltmore Estate -- Festival of Flowers</b><br>Nestled on 8,000 acres, the Biltmore Estate is the largest home in the US, with some amazing gardens. Watch the colors of spring come alive every April at the estate’s annual Festival of Flowers. An expert gardener will even be on-hand to answer any green thumb questions.
<b>Biltmore Estate – Christmas</b><br>And come Christmastime, check out Biltmore Estate’s gigantic banquet hall – a 7-story-high room decked out with a 35-foot Fraser fir tree.
<b>Old School Sorghum Festival</b><br>Just a spoonful of … sorghum? For generations, the plant was used as a traditional sweetener in the South. Locals still grow the plant -- and remember their proud agricultural roots -- in the annual Old School Sorghum Festival, held each October.
<b>MerleFest</b><br>Now in its 25th year, the annual MerleFest is a family-friendly Woodstock. Held in Wilkesboro, NC, the event was started by American guitar great Doc Watson after he lost his son Merle in a tractor accident. The annual event benefits the local Wilkes Community College, and has drawn big country names like Dolly Parton.
<b>Pirate Weekend</b><br>Ahoy, matey! Grab an eye patch and scarf, and head to the annual Pirate Weekend. Held each August on Bald Head Island, the event is a great way for the kids to play pirate -- and for you to benefit a great cause: Old Baldy Foundation, dedicated to preserving the state’s oldest standing lighthouse.
<b>BugFest</b><br>Proving that not all bugs are gross, this grasshopper charms a guest at the annual BugFest. Other event highlights – like dishes featuring creepy crawlers – may be more of an acquired taste. Find out for yourself in September, when the festival is held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences -- and sponsored (natch) by Terminix.
<b>National Hollerin’ Contest</b><br>Back when everyone lived on a farm, there was only one way to gather everyone for supper: holler! Remember the good ole days at the National Hollerin’ Festival, held every June. See if you’ve got what it takes to win any of its main divisions: whistlin’, conch shell blowin’, junior hollerin’, teen hollerin’, ladies callin’ and -- the grand title -- national hollerin’.