Coming to Eastern North Carolina for a wedding may be the only vacation folks get that year. But with a plethora of attractions and a host of special events through the year, it can be quite easy to combine sightseeing and relaxation time with all the fun the wedding brings. Here are a few of the area’s largest annual events.
Carolina Chocolate Festival. Chocolatiers from across the nation converge on the Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City, offering samples and sales of their tasty treats. Details: www.carolinachocolatefestival.com.
Gloucester Mardi Gras. Get a feel for the Mississippi Delta with gumbo, dance and music in Down East Carteret County. Held at the Gloucester Community Center. Details: www.unknowntongues.com.
Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival. More than 75 arts and crafts and food vendors join clowns, live music, static displays and amusement rides, to form this seaside town’s largest annual event. Details: www.emeraldislestpatricksfestival.com.
Beaufort Wine and Food Weekend. Tantalizing food and wine combine to make this annual fundraiser a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Details: www.beaufortwineandfood.com.
New Bern Historic Homes & Gardens Tour. Some of the town’s privately owned historic homes open their doors and welcome guests to help raise funds for the Historical Society. Details: www.newbernhistorical.org.
Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest. Celebrate North Carolina barbecue at the nation’s largest whole hog barbecue in the Town of Old Fashioned Courtesy. Details: www.newportpigcooking.com.
Beaufort Music Festival. Historic Beaufort celebrates all genres of music over two days on two outdoor stages. Details: www.beaufortmusicfestival.com.
Wooden Boat Show. More than 50 wooden boats are on exhibit each year in Beaufort, along with demonstrations and hands-on workshops for professional boat builders. Details: www.ncmaritimemuseums.com.
Beaufort Old Homes and Gardens Tour. Explore beautifully-restored historic homes, gardens, churches, artist studios and public buildings throughout Beaufort thanks to the Beaufort Historical Association. The program’s Antique Show & Sale runs concurrently at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, Morehead City. Details: www.beauforthistoricsite.org.
Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. The popular tournament brings fun and excitement to the Morehead City waterfront for one of the largest sport-fishing events in the country and a purse that tops $1 million. Details: www.thebigrock.com.
Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament. This kid-friendly NC Governor’s Cup Series tournament sets up base on the Beaufort waterfront with prizes for marlin releases and weigh-ins for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Details: www.bartabillfish.com.
Classy Chassis Car Show. More than 175 vintage vehicles and antique tractors converge on Popular Grove Plantation in Hampstead for this annual show. Details: www.poplargrove.org.
Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter’s Sand Sculpting Contest. Held at The Atlantis Lodge in Pine Knoll Shores, participants are invited to spend a day on the beach playing in the sand to raise money for wildlife rescue. Details: 252-240-1200.
Beaufort Pirate Invasion. Marauding pirates recreate the historical invasion of Beaufort, complete with parades, costume contests, live music, demonstrations, food, grog and the trial that brought them to justice. Details: www.beauforthistoricsite.org.
Cycling for the Coast. Celebrate National Estuaries Day with a ride along beautiful Bogue Banks to raise funds for the NC Coastal Federation. Funds raised will benefit the federation’s restoration and protection projects. Details: www.nccoast.org.
Carolina Kite Fest. Colorful kites take over the Circle in Atlantic Beach with activities for the whole family. Details: www.kites-birdstuff.com.
Mum Fest. New Bern blossoms with this chrysanthemum-based festival – a weekend celebration of flowers, entertainment, great food, amusement rides, vendors, and of course, good old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Details: www.mumfest.com.
NC Seafood Festival. The second largest festival in the state draws visitors to Morehead City to celebrate its bountiful seafood. Enjoy vendors selling seafood specialties of every kind imaginable, arts and crafts, souvenirs, amusement rides and live entertainment. Details: www.ncseafoodfestival.org.
Civil War Weekend. Step into the Civil War as Tryon Palace remembers the birth of James City and the participation of the US Colored Troops stationed in New Bern. Details: www.tryonpalace.org.
Core Sound Decoy Festival. More than 90 exhibitors display and sell decoys and waterfowl artifacts at Harkers Island Elementary School on Harkers Island. Details: www.decoyguild.com.
Waterfowl Weekend. The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center opens its doors with a full slate of traditional, down-home fun. Expect decoy carvers with their wares, educational exhibits, competitions, arts and crafts and plenty of food. Details: 252-728-1500.
Holiday Flotillas. Each Christmas, the residents along the Crystal Coast celebrate the season with their own personal style. Boats decked out in Christmas finery participate in these floating parades in Swansboro and cruise past the Morehead City and Beaufort waterfronts at sunset.