There is nothing in the world like Southern spring festivals. I’ve been reading Facebook posts from my friends in the South, and they already see sweet, yellow Jonquils blooming. Spring is my favorite season in the South. It’s a breath of fresh air after the cold, rainy winter. The grass is new and bright green, the tulips, jonquils, daffodils, and flowering trees are blooming, and best of all the weather is warm. And with warm weather come the outstanding spring festivals in the South! I’m going to share with you some of my favorites, giving you a little advance notice so you can plan a trip to take in one or two of these! Don’t forget that we are now “anytime we want” travelers! https://adventuresbeyondthenest.com/welcome-empty-nester-moms/
Let’s start with March festivals!
50th Annual Jonquil Festival-Washington, Arkansas
There is a lovely little March festival in Historic Washington State Park in southwest Arkansas. This year they are celebrating the 50th annual Jonquil Festival March 16-18. Hours are 9-5 on Friday and Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday. They also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jonquilfestival/ where you can get up to date information. Some festivals, like this one, are weather dependent so it’s a good idea to take a look at their facebook page as the date gets closer.
I LOVE this festival! There are literally thousands of jonquils in bloom. The festival itself is free but parking is $5. There are food demonstrations/classes, a parade, a 5K race, and more. You’ll find food and craft vendors and live entertainment on the festival grounds as well as a car show and other events. If you are into photographing flowers, this is a fabulous place to get great shots of jonquils! If you’re a history buff, you can tour the historic buildings of this 19th-century village. Tickets are available at the Visitors Center.
International Cherry Blossom Festival-Macon, Georgia
The other festival I’m listing for March is one I haven’t visited yet but is definitely on my bucket list! It’s the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, GA, March 16-25 https://cherryblossom.com. This festival is a BIG one, my friends. There are so many events scheduled throughout the 10-day festival, that I can’t even list them all.
There are free events, ticketed events, and events that have a nominal charge like those in the Central City Park where you can get in for a $5 fee to enter the park. And the variety of events is incomparable! There are nightly concerts, both in the park and other venues, a Pink Pancake Breakfast that sounds right up my alley! Macon has an Open Air Market with arts and crafts during the festival. Don’t forget other events like the comedy show, magic show, workshops, a cherry blossom tea, and a Victorian tea just to mention a few. Events are scheduled all across town in churches, art galleries, on college campuses, in parks, and there’s even dinner on a pedestrian bridge!
And DO NOT MISS the cherry blossoms themselves. There are 350,000 Yoshino Cherry trees all throughout the town but particularly on the Cherry Blossom Trail. In fact, the nickname for this festival is The Pinkest Party on Earth! The website for the festival listed above has all the information you need to plan your trip, including booking your hotel online, buying tickets for certain events, and checking out the history of the festival and all the activities scheduled! There are even maps of the town and event venues! If you love festivals, and I know you do, grab your BFFs, load up the car and take a road trip to this one!
Moving on to April festivals!
Flowertown Festival-Summerville, South Carolina
The Flowertown Festival https://summervilleymca.org/flowertown-festival/ in Summerville, SC, April 6-8 held at the Summerville YMCA is about 25 miles west of Charleston. People come from all over the South to see the pink azaleas, purple wisteria, and white dogwood trees blooming here. There will be over 200 juried artists from all over the country showing their art for sale, in one of the biggest arts and crafts festival in the Southeast. Food will be available from local restaurants at The Taste and there’s a Farmer’s market on Saturday and Sunday.
This festival is free to attend, and parking is free. It’s held for an excellent cause as well; it supports the health and wellness programs of the Summerville YMCA. And if you want to visit Charleston, SC, I can’t think of a better time to do it than in April, before the summer heat strikes. Best case scenario, visit the Charleston area and make the Flowertown Festival in Summerville one of your day trips. Now that’s a winner in my book.
New Orleans JazzFest-New Orleans, Louisiana
My very favorite of all Southern festivals is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, better known as the New Orleans JazzFest https://www.nojazzfest.com. It is always the last weekend in April and the first weekend of May. This year the dates are April 27-29 and May 3-6. It is a premier music festival, with top headliners and Louisiana/local performers. It is a huge deal for musicians to perform in this music festival.
Lay of the land
At JazzFest there are three main stages where you’ll want to bring your tarp and blanket and/or outdoor chairs to set up at the stage where you plan to see your favorite headliner at the end of the day. Come early to get the best spot in front of the stage. And check out the rules about what you can bring inside the gates and what you can’t. Security will search everything.
Some must bring items are sunscreen, hat, and a hooded rain poncho. Dress in layers. Most years it is hot during the day, so a tank top or T-shirt with shorts is appropriate. Then there are those years that it’s rainy and chilly, so you might want to put on leggings or jeans to cover your legs and a sweater. I’ve seen the weather both ways and learned the importance of being prepared.
The festival is held at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Racetrack and is set up on the grass interior as well as inside the Grandstand and outside of the track itself. It is HUGE! There are stages under tents with chairs set up already so you can easily slip in and out to see your favorite acts. There are also myriad food and drink booths and arts and crafts vendors. Then there is the Louisiana Folklife Village, with music and demonstrations, the Native American Nations area with powwow dance performances, and also the Cultural Exchange Pavillion where the New Orleans Tricentennial is the highlight this year.
Tickets and Accommodations
If you don’t already have a hotel room reserved, DO IT NOW! The website has a list of hotels, some you’ll have to call yourself and some you can book through the website. Last tip…don’t try to drive to the festival site! There is a shuttle, or you can call an Uber. Spend your time enjoying yourself AT the festival and not fighting the traffic trying to find a parking place.
Let’s Merge into May Festivals!
Gulf Coast Balloon Festival-Foley, Alabama
I love seeing colorful hot air balloons floating across a beautiful blue sky. You can see them too at the Gulf Coast Balloon Festival https://gulfcoastballoonfestival.com is May 4-5 in Foley, Alabama. This is at the end of shoulder season at the beach. And Gulf Shores Beach is only 11 miles from Foley. Orange Beach is just a few miles farther and Perdido Key just a few more miles beyond that. I just checked this minute, and there are still plenty of spring deals to be had on beach rentals. Perfect time to spend a few days at the beach, without all the crowds, and see this incredible balloon festival! For all of you bargain hunters (and who among us Southern born ladies is not, right?) there is a Tanger Outlets shopping center with all of your favorite stores! The Balloon Glow on the evening of May 3 is actually in their parking lot. I just love a balloon glow evening.
At dusk on the 4th and 5th, weather permitting, there will be tethered balloon rides and the beautiful glowing balloons again! Go to the website’s ticket page https://gulfcoastballoonfestival.com/tickets/ to pre-purchase tickets for parking and the balloon rides. There are events going on during the day as well, such as performances by a nationally recognized team of Frisbee-catching canines. There will be food, arts and craft, and retail vendors and musical entertainment on Friday and Saturday. Sounds like a lot of fun!
Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games-Maryville, TN
Last but certainly not the least of the festivals I’ll mention is the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games https://smokymountaingames.org held on the campus of Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. If you don’t know where Maryville is, well it’s very close to Knoxville. On the other side, it’s close to the peaceful side of the Smoky Mountains (i.e., you don’t have to go through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to get to the mountains) in Townsend, TN. The festival itself is held May 19-20, and if you’ve never been to a Scottish Festival, you do not want to miss this opportunity. And you don’t have to be of Scottish descent to attend the festival. Come one, come all!
I love the competitions at the games and there will be lots of them; dance competitions, clan (family) competitions, athletic competitions, and others. Now, when I say athletic, it’s not what you might think. There’s no baseball, volleyball, softball, or football. But there is the Caber toss, like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Imagine someone holding a long pole or log and attempting to throw it and it lands and falls end over end. Now that’s something I want to see!
Lastly, I should mention the bands, and pipes and drums. The bagpipes I mean!. You’ll see people in their clan’s tartan kilts playing the pipes and drums. You’ll think you’re in Scotland for sure lassies. Don’t miss the headliners’ musical entertainment either. There will be musical artists from Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S. And don’t even think about missing out on the food and merchandise vendors on site where you can sample foods from Scotland or purchase Scottish, Irish, and Celtic items. Great for unique gifts!
Tickets and Accommodations
You can buy tickets to this festival online for one day or both days. Check out their website listed above for all the details! This is also right before the summer rush to the mountains. I’m always in favor of combining activities to make a vacation or mini-vacay out of the time you spend in an area. The festival is a 20-minute drive from downtown Knoxville and just minutes from the Knoxville airport where you’ll find the host hotel mentioned on their website. You may be able to reserve a discounted room if you tell them it’s for the festival.
However, if you remember, I mentioned that the festival site in Maryville is very close to the peaceful side of the Smokies. In fact, it’s only about 16 miles from Townsend, TN, the gateway to the Peaceful Side of the Smokies https://www.smokymountains.org. You can rent a cabin, stay in a B&B or hotel, or if you bring your camper/RV, there are campgrounds galore both inside and outside the national park. For a lovely, quiet drive don’t miss Cades Cove inside the national park where you can see restored cabins, wide open spaces, and wildlife.
I’ve given you a few of my favorites, now what is your favorite Southern spring festival. Leave me a comment and share with me the one you just don’t miss every year and why.
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