Festival season is generally associated with spring or fall, but thanks to the Southeast’s moderate climate, festivals take place in our vicinity year-round. What makes winter festivals so attractive is that they typically celebrate music, food or the holidays, three good reasons to engage in revelry with hundreds of other like-minded folks. Here are six upcoming Southeastern festivals to check out this winter when cabin fever sets in.
You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting than the Nantahala National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains to immerse yourself in the flavors and spirits of North Carolina and beyond. The Highlands Food & Wine Festival brings together more than 30 chefs and restaurants (Bacon Brothers, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, Crook’s Corner, On the Verandah, Southern Baked Pie Co.); six sommeliers and more than a dozen vineyards (Laurent-Perrier, Justin Winery, Union Wine Co.); nine craft beer makers (Highland Brewing Co., Yee-Haw Beer); and four distilleries (Cathead Distillery, the Chemist) for four days of gastronomic delights. Besides the main event, there’s also live music featuring the Wood Brothers and the Infamous Stringdusters, among others, as well as special wine and beer dinners, including one with Atlanta’s own Todd Richards of One Flew South.
Nov. 7-10. $50 and up. Venues vary. Highlands, North Carolina. highlandsfoodandwine.com.
Oyster season is at its prime during winter months, so what better time to celebrate the beloved bivalve than Nov. 16 in Columbia, South Carolina? In addition to oyster shooters, fried oysters and oyster gumbo, aficionados can gorge on steamed oysters sold by the bucketful. The festival takes place on the grounds of the historic Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion and will feature two stages of music, featuring performances by Prettier Than Matt and the Black Iron Gathering, among others. For those who don’t appreciate the unique pleasure of eating oysters, there will be vendors selling other foods, as well as beer, wine, and arts and crafts. Visitors are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets and oyster knives. If you have time while you’re in town, check out the 1926 Alvan Clark telescope in the Boeing Observatory at the South Carolina State Museum of art, history, natural history, science and technology.
Nov. 16. $6 advance, $10 gate; oysters not included. Robert Mills Historic House and Gardens, 1616 Blanding St., Columbia, South Carolina. scoysterfest.com.
Bluegrass music and the mountains seem to go hand in hand, but the 50th annual South Carolina State Bluegrass Festival brings the sound of banjos and mandolins to the beach Thanksgiving weekend. The Myrtle Beach Convention Center is the venue for this three-day event. Performers include the Marksmen, Lonesome River Band, Carolina Blue, Bass Mountain Boys, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Malpass Brothers and Sons of the South, among others. Dahlonega-based Adams Bluegrass Festivals produces the event, as well as the New Year’s Bluegrass Festival in Jekyll Island Jan. 2-4, 2020, and the Palatka Bluegrass Festival in Palatka, Florida, Feb. 13-15, 2020. While in Myrtle Beach, check out the live shows and the Light Laser Extravaganza at Carolina Opryland or major touring acts at House of Blues Myrtle Beach.
Nov. 28-30. $40-$45 daily, $95 three-day pass. Myrtle Beach Convention Center, 2101 N. Oak St., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 706-864-7203, adamsbluegrass.com.
Dozens of boats, yachts, kayaks and commercial vessels decked out in twinkle lights and holiday finery will kick off the Christmas season in Beaufort, North Carolina, on Dec. 7. The festive flotilla will assemble in front of the Morehead City waterfront at 5:30 p.m. and on the Beaufort waterfront at 6:15 p.m. to be judged for excellence and creativity. The Awards Party follows at the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center across the street from the North Carolina Maritime Museum.
5:30 p.m. Dec. 7. Free. 315 Front St., Beaufort, North Carolina. 252-504-0763, crystalcoastnc.org.
Named the second-best historic small town in the United States by USA Today in 2016, Thomasville is rich in charms that were first discovered by well-to-do industrialists from the turn of the century. Between 1880 and 1910, Thomasville was a popular winter retreat for wealthy Northerners seeking relief from the cold climate. Visitors included Alexander Graham Bell, B.F. Goodrich and Cornelius Vanderbilt, among others. The glamour of that era is captured during the annual Victorian Christmas, Dec. 12-13. From 6-9 p.m. both nights, visitors can take carriage rides, toast marshmallows, roast chestnuts and stroll the brick-paved streets, enjoying carolers and street performers while they shop and dine downtown. While in town, check out the Big Oak, located at the corner of Crawford and Monroe streets. Registered with the Live Oak Society in 1936, the colossal tree is believed to date back to 1680.
Downtown Thomasville, 6-9 p.m. Dec. 12-13. Free; carriage rides $5. 1-866-577-3600, thomasvillega.com.
As if escaping the cold weather isn’t enough of an excuse to visit South Walton, Florida, in winter, the 30A Songwriters Festival provides music lovers with scores of reasons to go on the weekend of Jan. 17-20. This singer-songwriter extravaganza features more than 100 country, rock and Americana artists performing at dozens of venues, ranging from intimate bars to a large outdoor amphitheater located at Seaside, Grayton Beach and other idyllic Gulf Coast locales. Headliners include Brian Wilson, John Prine, the Indigo Girls, Tanya Tucker, Don McLean and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. And the supporting acts are equally noteworthy: Matthew Sweet, Robyn Hitchcock, Chely Wright, Todd Snider, Elizabeth Cook and Paul Thorn, just to mention a few. And the proceeds go to a good cause, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.
Jan. 17-20. Venues vary. South Walton, Florida. $290 four-day pass; $660 VIP pass includes VIP seating, lounge, restrooms and complimentary food and drinks. 30asongwritersfestival.com.
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