Virginia River Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Mar 9, 2016 | Updated: Feb 28, 2019

Comments: 20 Comments

New River Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Does your idea of the perfect weekend include jumping on a paddleboard and traversing your nearby waterway? Or do you prefer lounging in the shade next to the steady sounds of the rushing current? Whether you are extremely active or just looking for a chance to gather with friends or family along a beautiful Virginia waterway, these river festivals give you a chance to add a little excitement into your weekends.


Dominion Riverrock—Richmond

May 17-19, 2019

Dominion RiverRock

Held annually at Brown’s Island, the outdoor event location that sits right beside the James River, Dominion Riverrock is the nation’s largest outdoor sports and music festival. These three days are filled to the brim with kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, biking, slacklining, paddleboarding, live music, and so much more. Thousands of athletes, spectators, musicians, and even dogs come together to share their interests in the great outdoors. The musical entertainment for 2019 includes Billy Strings and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. This free outdoor event is not just for professional athletes. Anyone can sign up to participate in the Trail Runs, Group Hikes, 5K Mud Run, and other outdoor races and contests.


Clinch River Days Festival—St. Paul

May 30 – June 1, 2019

The 21st annual Clinch River Days Festival is a mishmash of exciting events over three summer days. For the active adult festival-goers, the nature walks, birding, kayaking, canoeing and caving keep you on your feet until sundown each day. A more laid-back festival attendee may be interested in the classic car shows, live music, and civil war reenactment. Top these events with Virginia wine and beer samples and this festival officially has it all! Bring the kids along for the carnival rides and if they want to get more involved, they can sign up for the kid’s fishing tournament. Hike through eight miles of trails along the Clinch River. While there is no entrance fee for the festival, some of the participating events may charge admission.


Smith River Fest—Axton

August 10, 2019

Smith River Fest

This river festival celebrates almost any activity you could do on the Smith River. Participants paddle canoes and kayaks along the cast, while those that prefer fishing cast their lines in the current. The landlubbers hike and bike the trails that wind the terrain along the river for almost 20 miles. Walk them casually with friends, or sign up for one of the competitive races, like the 5K Mud Run. An annual festival at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton, Smith River Fest provides a free event for the outdoor enthusiasts in Virginia and visitors looking to discover the beautiful wilderness prevalent throughout the state. Admission and parking are free!



Waynesboro Riverfest—Waynesboro

May 4, 2019

waynesboro river fest

Looking for the kid-friendliest river event? This very well may be it. Waynesboro Riverfest lets kids learn about a variety of Virginia wildlife during presentations and interactive events, like the “Fish ‘n Fun Rodeo”, where children test their fishing skills with live trout that are caught and released into the South River. If the fish and wildlife aren’t an appeal for the little ones, they can explore their creativity at the kid’s arts and crafts booths. Purchase trinkets, treats, and snacks at the farmer’s market and get out onto the water with one of the free canoe rides. Wrap up the day of outdoor entertainment with the Great South River Duck Race, where participants can purchase or just cheer on the duck entries that float down to the finish line, signifying the closing of another successful Waynesboro Riverfest. The event is held rain or shine and is free to attend.



The cool steady currents of Virginia’s rivers make for ideal festival locations in the spring and summer. Get outside and attend a river festival to discover an event that is both action-packed and relaxingly scenic.


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The 17th Annual Ramble Weekend in Franklin County would make a great addition to this list. 3 days of paddling events on two rivers, live music, food, kid’s activities, 5k, duck race, camping, and more!

19th year…family-friendly
Live music, food & drinks by the river

Avatar Lisa says:

You missed one. The James River Batteau Festival, help annually starting the Saturday before father’s day. Look it up. The JRBF is on facebook as well as VCNS.ORG

Avatar Adrienne says:

How did the James River Batteau Festival not make this list?!