Got to Be NC Festival

Celebrating all things North Carolina, the “Got to Be NC” Festival is held annually in May at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

Many people think of it as the warm-up to the State Fair in October. After enjoying a day at the festival, I can say with authority that this is pretty accurate. Got to Be NC is HUGE. Out of all the festivals I’ve been to in NC, this is the largest.

While it only lasts one weekend, there are midway rides, at least 50 Food Trucks, a tractor parade, acrobats, an exhibit hall with vendors and animals, and for $3 you can enjoy over 100 North Carolina businesses with several giving samples. And this is just for starters.

I was worn out by the end of the day.

Two large booth signs wthat say Agriculture Got to Be NC with white letters in the black outline of the state of NC. The background is a farm. There is a green bench to sit on in front of the signs.

Festival Food

So. Much. Food.  If you live near Raleigh and have a favorite food truck, it was probably at the festival. You had your choice of burgers, Mediterranean, Mexican, barbeque, seafood, Cajun, and many more. Plus, there were the general fair food booths you know and love, like the giant turkey legs, ice cream, and funnel cake.

I paid $3 to visit the Food Lion Local Goodness Marketplace where local businesses were serving up samples. While there was some food available, the big draw were the drinks. Rock of Ages winery was doing wine tastings, Retro Meadery had mead to try, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting at End of Days Distillery. I will definitely be buying some of their barrel rested gin.

It was fun to try Ella’s Popcorn, Carolina Pickle Company’s pickles, Sister II and Me coconut ice cream, and Now That’s Fudge chocolate covered cherry fudge. There was a lot more, but these are the items that stuck out in my mind.

Outside there’s a Beer Garden and a  Craft Cocktail Garden. These were both small, but had nice places to sit and relax.

Got to Be NC Activities

The midway was spectacular. They had the swing ride where you hook in, then it lifts while swinging about 50 people around in a gentle circle. There was also a roller coaster that went around a loop, both directions, repeatedly. The teens seemed to love this one.

For a bird’s eye view, you could ride in the cable cars that went above the fairgrounds. Since I don’t like heights, and it was a long ride, I didn’t do this one.

There were also plenty of options to be spun around in circles trying not to be nauseas.

Younger children had plenty of rides made just for them. And, of course, there was the giant slide.

There were also performances by the Kenya Safari Acrobats, a tractor parade, kids’ pedal tractor pull, butterfly barn, and the Agri-puppets which help teach the importance of farming.   

One thing I really liked is that everything runs on both Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes festivals peter out on Sunday forcing everyone to attend on Saturday.  Got to Be NC is designed so regardless of the day, you get the full experience.

Small music stage with a yellow banner saying Festival Music Stage.  A three person band is on stage performing with a black background. The audience is sitting on benches out front.

Festival Events

There are plenty of events. To be honest, I struggled with what was an activity and what was an event, so check the section above for more fun things to do at the festival.

There’s an Antique Tractor Pull, bands, A BMX stunt show, and Lil Ducky Water Racing with rubber ducks.

A fun activity was the K-9 Working Dog Demonstrations which featured K-9 officers from the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

Probably the most fun was watching the border collies herd ducks.

Blue and red cable cars like a ski lift that cross over the fairgrounds on wires. There is an old street lantern in the forefront of the photo.

Tips for First Timers at the Got to Be NC Festival

The festival can be overwhelming and requires some planning. There is no way you can experience everything. Check out the website ahead of time and find the events and activities you really want to see, then note the times and any fees.

Parking is free on Trinity Road and there is security at the entrance to the festival. You’ll need to go through a metal detector which seems to go off at everything. 

The festival is free, including parking. Some things inside have a cost like tickets for the midway rides, food from the food trucks.

Besides the exhibit halls, the festival is mainly outside. Make sure you have sunscreen on before leaving your car.

While there is a trolley from the parking lots on Trinity Rd, it’s slow and fills quickly. I recommend walking. You’ll be inside enjoying the festival before the trolley has even left the lot.

Parking and When to Arrive

There is free parking along Trinity Road. Don’t worry too much about it. Just aim for Trinity. Once on it, you’ll be guided to a lot.

It’s about a 10–15-minute walk from most of the parking to the festival.

This is a big festival, and it draws a large crowd.  I went on Sunday and, while crowded, it was manageable.

You can arrive early, but it’s going to become more and more crowded as the morning wears on. Otherwise, you can head out around noon. Many of the early birds tend to leave around 12-1 pm.

Sunscreen and Water

You’ll definitely want sunscreen and water at Got to be NC. A large portion of the festival is outside. I was feeling pretty dehydrated and bought a water, however I also did a wine tasting and a distillery tasting.

Navigating the Festival with Groups

The fairgrounds are large and you’ll want to keep an eye on smaller children. It’s easy for them to become disoriented.

Larger groups with older children will be fine. I recommend setting a meeting place and you can easily keep track of each other on phones.

Single loop roller coaster that is almost at the top of the loop. The Round Up ride is in front of it.

Final Thoughts about the Got to Be NC Festival

Got to Be NC is a great festival and definitely worth your time. It’s one of the largest festivals in North Carolina.

If you enjoy midway rides, good food, and tons of fun activities, this festival is a must. It’s a great way to have fun while finding great new local businesses and products to enjoy.

It’s a fun day out for the family.

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