Annual Events & Festivals
The only way through is to do.
We believe that Durham must be felt, experienced, and traversed personally to be known. The essence of this place is embedded deep within the fabric of our uniquely Durham annual events — and there are many.
Art. Music. History. Cuisine. From the blooms of spring to the coziness of winter, Durham is filled with festivals. From heritage, film and dance festivals, to more unique events like cold-weather scooter rallies and an outlandish Beaver Queen Pageant. Here, we eat donuts before, during and after we compete our triathlons, and we unapologetically love the uniqueness of each parade, show and celebration.
Whether you’re here to see “Hamilton” or visit a ballpark brewery, you’ll find that your passions can and will be nurtured here. Year after year. Month after month. Day after day.
Hosted by the Incriminators Scooter Club, which advocates for keeping vintage scooters in use, the Freeze Your Balls Off Scooter Rally is a wintry celebration of the Incriminators' favored mode of transportation. It includes group rides for those with their own two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, and more are welcomed as well) in addition to dance parties, musical performances, bar meet-ups, and other events.
Celebrating both the holiday season and Durham's diversity, the African American Dance Ensemble's annual KwanzaaFest is a time to enjoy family, community, and culture. Kwanzaa itself is a seven-day holiday that celebrates African American heritage and a different principle each day. KwanzaaFest is celebrated on the seventh day of the holiday, which is dedicated to Imani, or faith. Features include a marketplace, live entertainment, dance classes, face painting, and free health screenings.
The Hayti Heritage Center celebrates Durham's African American heritage and its historic Hayti community, which was a thriving enclave in the early 20th century. This annual film festival furthers that goal by showcasing diverse works by and about people of African descent. It includes both short and feature-length films from an international cast of directors, as well as classic feature films.
Founded in 1999, the Nevermore Film Festival is a three-day event dedicated to the dark, the gory, and the macabre. It includes brand new films, both feature-length and short, from around the world, including many that will never be released at US theaters. Genres include horror, suspense, violent crime films, and everything in between. The festival takes place each year at the Carolina Theatre.
Aiming to "stimulate and educate your palate," the Bull City Food & Beer Experience features food samples from 30 Durham restaurants and beer tastings from 50 breweries. It is a great opportunity to sample food and drink from local vendors and to meet the people behind them. The event also includes live music, and it all takes place inside of DPAC, Durham Performing Arts Center.
152nd Anniversary Commemoration at Bennett Place State Historic Site
The Bennett Place State Historic Site is where Generals Johnston and Sherman negotiated the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. Commemorate the events that took place 152 years ago by learning about the negotiations, listening to military historians, and discussing how the end of the war impacted soldiers and civilians.
Full Frame is a four-day, international festival featuring nearly 100 documentary films, along with the directors, producers, and subjects who take part in making them. Each year the film lineup includes world and US premieres, Academy Award contenders, as well as films that may have limited distribution. In addition to film screenings, fans can take part in Q&As, an awards barbecue, and discussions about the state of documentary filmmaking. The Full Frame organization also presents free documentary screenings throughout the year.
Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival
For over 40 years, this annual event celebrates African and African American culture. Activities include food, arts and crafts, kids' activities, and music. Both local and national acts are included, with past headliners including hip-hop legends Da Brat and Biz Markie.
Featured on the show Man v. Food, the Doughman is a team relay quadrathlon combining eating with a traditional triathlon. Local and out-of-state participants compete to raise money for community organizations. Put together a team and join in the fun, or cheer from the sidelines.
Called "the world's greatest dance festival" by the New York Post, the American Dance Festival (ADF) brings two months of modern dance to Durham every summer. The festival features over two dozen dance companies and hundreds of choreographers, writers, and students participating in classes, seminars, and performances. Throughout the year, the ADF organization also offers educational opportunities and community projects to promote modern dance.
The Beaver Queen Pageant is an annual Durham fundraiser and a local favorite event. This beauty pageant features contestants dressed in elaborate beaver-themed costumes, and allows bribing of the judges for a good cause (with the proceeds going to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association). You can also find food trucks and other fun at this family-friendly event.
NC Juneteenth Celebration
Durham's annual Juneteenth celebration, sponsored by Spectacular Magazine and the Triangle Cultural Awareness Foundation, celebrates African American Independence Day. Visitors will find live entertainment, artists, vendors and exhibitors, and food at this outdoor fair.
Experience Independence Day the Durham way with the Festival for the Eno. Situated on the banks of the West Point on the Eno park, the festival features dozens of musical acts on multiple stages, along with art, hands-on crafts, food and beer, and water activities. The music includes folk, bluegrass, and similar styles.
Bull City Rumble
Bull City Rumble is a vintage motorcycle and scooter rally hosted by Ton Up NC on Labor Day Weekend. Downtown Durham fills with the sights and sounds of vintage scooters, motorcycles, and enthusiasts from around the world. The weekend includes a juried bike display, burlesque dancers, rock and roll music, and food and drink.
Held at the historic Carolina Theatre, OSQFF is the second-largest gay, lesbian, and transgender film festival in the Southeast. The films range from features to documentaries to shorts, highlighting directors from across the country. In addition to screenings, the schedule includes a kick-off party, family-friendly events, and food trucks.
This festival was acquired by DOME Group, LLC, to produce the biggest festival yet in time for their fifth anniversary. The festival's lineup has featured Nas, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Meshell NDegeocello, Rahsaan Patterson, Dwele, Sango, Iman Omari, Damien Escobar, Sons of Kemet, Durham's own 9th Wonder featuring Spinderella, and many more. AOCFEST is a Durham born and bred festival. The AOC team is working hard to create a phenomenal experience for new and returning Art of Cool Festival attendees. Educational offerings like Innovate Your Cool and Start of Cool are preparing amazing programming during the 5th Anniversary AOCFEST in September.
Black Wall Street: Homecoming is a celebration of success, business and culture, featuring pitches, workshops, stories, art and culture at various venues in Downtown Durham, bringing together black founders, investors, industry experts and members of the startup ecosystem. This year's agenda ranges from motivational talks led by speakers who live the entrepreneurial journey to deep-dives on business pain-points, with an option to personalize agendas. The three-day event is designed to allow founders the opportunity to exchange ideas with peers and subject matter experts, plus connect with investors through nonstop networking.
For over forty years, this art and community-focused street festival brings Downtown Durham to life with arts, crafts, entertainment, food, and fun. Dozens of artists from across the country display their works in clay, drawing, glass-blowing, printmaking, photography, painting, jewelry, and more. CenterFest is presented by the Durham Arts Council.
Pride: Durham, NC is in its second year celebrating equality in Durham. Its predecessor, NC Pride, served as the Tar Heel state's annual LGBTQ+ festival, taking place each year in Durham. The parade draws thousands of costumed marchers alongside decorated floats and vehicles. Additional activities include festival vendors, speeches, and parties taking place around the Triangle. It's a great opportunity to support an inclusive community.
This festival brings together more than 250 world-class beers from breweries around the world, as well as food vendors and great music by local and regional artists. Sample rare and unique beers, learn about ingredients and pairings, and hang out with fellow beer enthusiasts at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Downtown Durham.
Browsing unique local artwork and crafts is always a fun time, but when it doubles as holiday shopping as well, it's even better. The biannual Durham Art Walk's winter edition does just that, providing patrons with the chance to buy one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists.
A two-day comics and film festival headquartered at the Durham Convention Center. Meet the illustrators, writers, and creators behind your favorite comics and characters. Events include panel discussions, a costume (cosplay) contest, the Comiquest Film Festival at Carolina Theatre, and more.
Experience Christmas in the 1870s at Duke Homestead and discover how one of the most important families in Durham history would have celebrated. Costumed interpreters take guests on a candelit tour of the historic site, decorated for the season. Enjoy live music and dancing in the Third Factory; then move to Washington Duke's historic home for stories, carols, cider, and other holiday traditions.
Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
This annual holiday event at Historic Stagville, one of the antebellum South's largest plantations, stays true to Stagville's larger mission of educating the public on the lives of both the enslaved population and the plantation's owners. It includes living history demonstrations, music, food, and decorations to show visitors what a typical Christmas was like at Stagville - for all parties.
Christmas in the Carolinas During the Civil War
Bennett Place was a simple farmhouse before it became the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. Those joint legacies are honored each year when the historic site hosts living historians who decorate the site with traditional Christmas cheer, cook traditional Christmas meals, and show what soldiers visiting home from the front would have done and thought. The event also includes caroling, music, cookies, and cider.