The legendary Doc Watson

MerleFest 2024

APRIL 25-28, 2024


Four days of bluegrass and eclectic roots music, started by famed American singer-songwriter Doc Watson.

If you’re a folk-head, MerleFest is the fest. Each April, come rain or shine, thousands upon thousands of mandolin-toting, t-shirt wearing introverts of all ages congregate on the campus of Wilkes Community College, located in the small mountain town of Wilkesboro, N.C. The festival was started by Doc Watson, famed American singer-songwriter, in memory of his son, and has remained a cornerstone of the roots revival for more than 30 years. 

MerleFest draws the crème-de-la-country-crème, the real Appalachian mountain-topping showstoppers: this year, Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway and Béla Fleck can be counted among the headliners. Supporting acts have plenty of acclaim in their own right, like the whimsical and poignant songwriting of Willi Carlisle and the funky three-part harmonies and syncopated stylings of Palmyra, both of whom made waves at the Newport Folk Festival in 2023. 

While bluegrass-adjacent Americana takes center stage, MerleFest makes plenty of room for roots bands drawing on other genres. MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris, who got his start as a New Orleans street singer, imbues Delta blues with reggae, as well as African and Caribbean folk traditions. And if punk’s more your thing, the Celtic-infused insanity of The Tan & Sober Gentleman will have you flatfooting in the mosh pit.  

The festival runs for four days, and has 12 stages, a huge vendor fair (with a focus on handmade goods), jam sessions, and nature walks. To enjoy the full experience, camp if you can.

The Specs

  • Attendance often pushes 75,000 folk lovers. 
  • 4-Day GA passes cost $225.00. 1-Day GA passes start at $80. 
  • Other types of tickets include 3-Day Passes, Reserved Seating, and Patio Seating (covered with a great view of main stages). See all of the options here
  • Camping passes must be purchased separately. 
  • Kids 12 and under are free with a paying adult.
  • Find the MerleFest app here. 
  • Looking for more things to do in North Carolina? Check out Fifty Grande’s guide.


Where is MerleFest held?

At Wilkes Community College, 1328 S. Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro, NC 28697.

What is the closest airport to MerleFest?

Fly into the Piedmont Triad International Airport (77 miles, 1 hour and 10 minutes driving). Then, rent a car or RV and drive to Wilkesboro. 

What’s the parking situation?

Parking is free. Shuttles run from the time gates open and continue through the day. You can also purchase premium parking close to the entry gates. 

Can I camp? 

Yes, there are RV and tent camping options available. 

Is MerleFest family-friendly? 

Absolutely. Kids 12 and under are free with a paying adult. The Little Pickers Family Area provides crafts, special musical performances, and games. And music makers under the age of 18 can also register to perform on festival stages in one of Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases—perfect for your 12-year-old banjo prodigy. 

What can I bring? What should I leave at home? 

Do bring rain jackets or ponchos, comfortable walking shoes, and blankets or low chairs for sitting. Don’t bring pets, alcohol, cigarettes or vapes, or any illegal substances. Any equipment that might block the view (think large umbrellas, sun canopies, or high-backed camping chairs) are also not allowed. 

Which artists are on the MerleFest 2024 lineup?

Old Crow Medicine Show, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Steep Canyon Rangers, Nickel Creek, Lukas Nelson & POTR, Dan Tyminski Band, Willie Watson, Donna the Buffalo, Presley Barker, Roy Book Binder, Turnpike Troubadours, Larkin Poe, The Earls of Leicester, Shinyribs, Nick Shoulders, Peter Rowen, Scythian, Jim Lauderdale, Kruger Brothers, Chatham County Line, Chatham Rabbits, Willi Carlisle, The Waybacks, Buffalo Nichols, The Teskey Brothers, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck My Bluegrass Heart, Jerry Douglas, Sierra Hull, Brandy Clark, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, SG Goodman, John McEuen, Adeem the Artist, Nefesh Mountain, Them Coulee Boys, Jake Kohn, New Dangerfield, Twisted Pine, The Sensational Barnes Brothers, Palmyra, Coldpine, Alexa Rose, Andy May, Arkansauce, Ashes & Arrows, B Townes, Banknotes’ Bob Marcolin, Carol Rifkin, Carolina Detour, Charles Welsh, Colby T. Helms & the Virginia Creepers, Corey Harris, Ettore Buzzini Band, Evan Honer, Falling Timber Band, Flattop, Gravity Check Juggling, The Harris Brothers, The Interactive Theater of Jef, Into the Fog, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little Trio, Jigjam, Joe Smothers, Josh Coforth, Kyshona, The Lagan Band, The Last Revel, Laura Boosinger, Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road, The Local Boys, Mark Bumgarner, Missy Raines & Allegheny, Mitch Greenhill & Mitch’s Kitchen, New Found Cap, Pete & Joan Wernick, Pixie & The Partygrass Boys, Presley Barker, Roan Street Ramblers, Roy Book Binder, The Silent Comedy, The Sullivan Sisters, T. Michael Coleman, The Tan & Sober Gentleman, Tony Williamson, Uwade, Wayne Henderson, Wyatt Ellis.


2024 Poster


BY Katherine James