Virginia is in a constant celebratory state–and why shouldn’t we be? Between the strong military background, deep-rooted historical ties and incredible love of culture, the Old Dominion has a festival for everyone. Here are 10 must-visit Virginia festivals from throughout the year.
Every September, King Neptune reigns over all of Virginia Beach. The annual Neptune Festival is a celebration of the city’s “sea faring heritage featuring seafood, arts and crafts, and entertainment.” This free festival includes live music, arts and craft stalls, the international sand sculpting competition, and the annual wine festival. People from all over the world visit to grab an Orange Crush and pay their regards to the King.
The First Lady of Song. Queen of Jazz. Lady Ella. These are just some of the names given to Ella Fitzgerald, Newport News native and namesake of the aforementioned jazz festival. This annual celebration is of her music and jazz in general. Make sure to book your tickets for the April show early, as they often run out!
The Virginia International Tattoo festival “has become renowned as the most patriotic of the world’s Great Tattoos.” The name can be a bit misleading. You won’t find gnarly ink tattoo artists strutting their stuff at this festival (although they’re welcome to join in on the festivities). Tattoo “refers to what developed as a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands.” Norfolk has the world’s largest naval base, so you can only imagine the pageantry of such an event. But why imagine when you can experience it for yourself? Come visit historic Norfolk in late April for this world-renowned fest.
The Norfolk NATO Festival is the “longest continuously running Festival in the Hampton Roads region, and the only one of its kind in the United States which honors the NATO Alliance and its member nations.” Norfolk is home to the only Command in North America, known now as the Allied Command Transformation and mostly serves as a think tank. Celebrate one of the most successful and long-lasting international alliances in this proud military city.
Held annually on Memorial Day Weekend, the Pungo Strawberry Festival is a local favorite, with over 100,000 people regularly in attendance. Besides strawberry picking, the festival boasts a parade, three stages of live entertainment, a carnival, arts and crafts, delicious food vendors, and more! Celebrate the start of summer with your very own freshly picked strawberries.
Coastal Edge and Vans sponsors the annual East Coast Surfing Championships every August. One of many major professional surfing events, hundreds of surfers come to Virginia Beach to compete for “East Coast surfing titles, prizes, history, and the sheer love of surfing.” Other festivities, including beach sports, swimsuit contests, and live music round out the show. Surf’s up, dude.
Southern Virginia is military country, and the Oceana Air Show is another tribute to the robust military history and generational pride that permeates Virginians young and old. This annual air show takes place on the Oceana Naval Base and features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The Blue Angels are world famous as “positive role models and goodwill ambassadors for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.” Other performers include Rob Hollad, the GEICO Skytypers, Scott “Scooter Yoak, and Bill Leff. Don’t recognize the names? All you need to know is that the grace, power, and excitement of flight is all on display at this annual celebration. It’s well worth the trip.
The Richmond Folk Festival celebrates the artistic spirit of Virginia. Last year, the festival attracted 125,000 people to take in the international music, food, and culture on full display. Come enjoy this free event every October in the state’s capitol.
The Virginia Film Festival is a four-day celebration of Virginia’s unique filmic history. Guest speakers, such as “Breaking Bad” creator and Virginia native Vince Gilligan, often headline. Make sure to check out their website for a full listing of films showing so you can properly plan out your time. “Today, the Festival stands as one of Virginia’s most important cultural landmarks, and one of the most respected regional destination film festivals in the United States.”
Every summer, historic Abingdon, Virginia, hosts the Virginia Highlands Festival. Founded in 1949, the Festival now celebrates the culture and art of the entire Southwest Virginia region. Enjoy the antiques market, the Celtic celebration, the juried arts and crafts, performing arts, photography, and youth and teen events, all while taking in the natural beauty of the surrounding area. A great summer festival for family members of all ages.