Want to mix it up this year when it comes to your down time? While Virginia has plenty of tried and true festivals, we also boast some pretty unusual events, including a cardboard boat race and a huge yoga gathering. Attend some of these 11 unique events throughout Virginia for unexpected but fun-filled experiences.
Secretariat Birthday Celebration at the Meadow—Doswell
May 3-5, 2019
Birthday parties are not exactly unusual, but when the birthday boy is a horse, it gets a little more interesting. Head to the Virginia Horse Festival and celebrate the birthday of a true Equine celebrity, Triple Crown winner Secretariat. At the event, you’ll have the chance to meet Groundshaker, Secretariat’s great-great granddaughter, and Covert Action, a grandson of Secretariat. Take pictures in front of the “World’s Largest Horseshoe”, a 600-pound replica of Secretariat’s racing shoe. If you plan on sticking around for the entire festival, you’ll have three full days of clinics, demonstrations, and shows, as well as 60,000 square feet of shopping catered specifically to horse lovers and owners.
New River 500—Giles
April 7-9, 2017
Giles County hosts the New River 500 for ATV, dirt bike, and side-by-side riders to explore off-road courses through the mountains of the New River Valley. Take on over 500 kilometers of dirt-covered trails over the weekend, with most riders experiencing between 150 and 160 miles each day. This event lets you meet other riders as you traverse the rarely seen backcountry of Southwest Virginia, and at the end of each day, riders are invited to meet up at nearby world-class dining destinations.
Fairy Forest Festival—Lexington
April 29, 2017
The Fairy Forest Festival is an Earth Day event recognizing the official season opening of the Fairy Forest at Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden. Children can make their own fairies or gnomes at the festival’s “fairy stations”, then craft furniture and houses for their new playmates. The festival encourages children to use their imaginations and get creative, as well as teaching them the importance of gardening as they plant “magic beans” and learn the basics of tending plants in a garden.
June 7-10, 2017
Harley owners all gather in Virginia’s Blue Ridge during the H.O.G. Rally (short for Harley Owner Group Rally). The event is an open invitation to all Harley Davidson motorcycle owners to experience guided rides, tours to local wineries and breweries, and a bevy of other group biking events within the region.
Annual Back of the Dragon Event—Tazewell
June 9-11, 2017
Take on the famed Route 16 in Tazewell and become a “Dragon Master” at the Annual Back of the Dragon Event, a spring motorcycle festival that pays tribute to the 32 miles and 260 curves of mountain roadway. This year’s event will be bigger than ever, with a Monster Stunt Team, Demolition Team, a four-time world champion stunt rider, bike and car shows, a craft beer garden, local food vendors, and state-of-the-art ATVs on display.
Dragon Boat Festival—Richmond
July 29, 2017
Experience a Viking-style boat competition on the James in downtown Richmond during the Dragon Boat Festival. Led by the rhythmic beat of a drum, teams of 20 synchronized paddlers compete in a 500-meter upriver race in 40-foot canoes decorated to look like dragons. The boat races kick off the event, but afterwards, both spectators and participants gather to watch a series of beautiful cultural performances at Rocketts Landing.
Chincoteague Pony Swim & Auction—Chincoteague Island
July 24-29, 2017
The annual Chincoteague Pony Penning has become something of a legend, with thousands of people traveling to the Eastern Shore to get a look at the native wild ponies each year. The event takes places over five days mid-summer, beginning with a two-day herd roundup where the “Saltwater Cowboys” corral approximately 150 adult wild ponies and 60-70 foals on Assateague Island. Veterinarians attend to check the ponies and provide any medical care, then the ponies cross to Chincoteague Island during the pony swim. The event ends with a pony auction, where young foals are sold to prevent the herd from growing too large. Funds from the event support the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and also pays for the herd’s vet care throughout the year. After the auction, the adult ponies make the swim back to Assateague Island.
Smith Mountain Lake Cardboard Regatta—Wirtz
July 29-30, 2017
Celebrate the lake’s 50th anniversary this year at the Smith Mountain Lake Cardboard Regatta, a whimsical competition where participants craft boats entirely from cardboard, then race them across the water to see which creations will survive the wet journey. In addition to checking out the boats’ creativity, style, and ability to actually cross the lake, you’ll get to experience live performances and savor food from local vendors at this annual summer festival. If you’re traveling to Northern Virginia this summer, consider visiting the lake’s sister event, happening in Springfield on June 3 and 4, 2017.
Flying Circus Hot Air Balloon Festival—Bealeton
August 19-20, 2017
Colorful balloons fill the sky early morning and late afternoon during the Flying Circus Hot Air Balloon Festival. Witness an unbelievable sunrise over the Virginia countryside from new heights at this annual gathering of over a dozen hot air balloons. Each balloon is privately owned and operated, and those looking to experience a private ride can book a tour with the individual balloons. In addition to hot air balloon tours, attendees can book private airplane rides during the festival or watch impressive plane tricks from the safety of the ground. This event is subject to cancellation depending on day-of weather conditions.
Floyd Yoga Jam—Floyd
August 31-September 3, 2017
Music festivals abound throughout the year in Virginia, with events like Lockn’ and Floydfest drawing thousands of visitors. The Floyd Yoga Jam combines everything you love about live music performances with a love of art, community, nature, and of course, yoga. In its 6th annual year, this Blue Ridge Mountain-based festival hosts yoga classes almost nonstop throughout the festival, as well as workshops, hikes that focus on the surrounding scenery, and meditation practices. The music is a refreshing blend of genres, including various Jazz, Reggae, Country, Bluegrass, Indie, and Rock bands. This is a family-friendly event, with free admission for children under 13.
Think outside the box when planning your trips this year and consider attending one of these unusual affairs. Know of any other unique events happening in Virginia this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Patricia Keppel Anderson
Patricia Anderson is the Content Manager for the Virginia is for Lovers marketing team, and her passion for travel continuously inspires her to write about the great experiences found in Virginia. After more than eight years working at Virginia Tourism as the head writer, she has visited countless destinations and communities and found something to love in each and every one, but her favorite type of vacation would always include hiking a quiet trail in the mountains followed by a leisurely outing to a nearby winery or brewery.