Portsmouth’s Annual Events: A Calendar of Festivities

festive events in Portsmouth

Portsmouth, a vibrant city known for its rich cultural heritage and lively community spirit, hosts a variety of annual events that cater to locals and visitors alike. From music festivals and holiday celebrations to food and craft fairs, there’s always something happening in Portsmouth. This article provides a comprehensive calendar of some of the city’s most anticipated festivities, ensuring you won’t miss out on any of the fun.

Key Takeaways

  • Portsmouth offers a diverse range of annual events that celebrate culture, music, food, and community spirit.
  • The Umoja Festival is a significant event celebrating unity and African American culture with various activities and performances.
  • The Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival and Sunset Thursdays provide musical entertainment for all ages, featuring local talents and family-friendly activities.
  • Seasonal events like the Fall Festival and Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration bring the community together with themed activities, crafts, and fireworks.
  • Portsmouth’s Beer Week, Halloween Parade, and Thanksgiving events highlight the city’s vibrant cultural scene and historical significance.

Umoja Festival: A Celebration of Unity

History and Significance

The Umoja Festival, derived from the Kiswahili word meaning "unity," is a grand celebration of African American culture and heritage. Held annually in Portsmouth, this event promotes cultural diversity and unity. The 2024 Umoja Festival will mark its 32nd annual celebration, showcasing a unique blend of contemporary and ancient art forms.

Event Highlights

The festival is packed with activities for the entire family. Highlights include live music performances, kids’ activities, and a variety of international foods. The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony, followed by performances from artists like B Michelle and Joselyn Best & Soulful Soundz. All performances at Festival Park are free and open to the public.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is at the heart of the Umoja Festival. Local vendors, artists, and performers come together to create a vibrant atmosphere. The event also features workshops and a marketplace, allowing attendees to engage with and learn about African culture. The festival is a testament to the unity and diversity that defines Portsmouth.

Join us in a grand celebration of unity at Portsmouth’s annual African American culture and heritage celebration promoting cultural diversity and unity.

Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival

Musical Performances

The Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival is a family favorite holiday tradition that features a variety of holiday music performances. From strolling carolers to local bands, the festival offers a delightful auditory experience for all ages. Don’t miss the Children’s Parade, where young ones march to festive tunes, adding to the holiday cheer.

Family Activities

In addition to musical performances, the festival includes a range of family activities. Kids can enjoy the Eye Spy scavenger hunt and Sock Skating at the Children’s Museum of Virginia. A visit with Santa in the “Santa Hut” is a must for the little ones. Walk over to the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center to enjoy the nostalgic Coleman Collection re-envisioned.

Local Vendors

The festival also features a variety of local vendors offering unique holiday gifts, crafts, and delicious treats. It’s the perfect place to find that special something for your loved ones while enjoying the festive atmosphere. Be sure to check out the craft booths and live entertainment that make this event a highlight of the season.

The Holiday Music Festival takes place the second Saturday in December, making it a perfect way to kick off the holiday season with family and friends.

Sunset Thursdays: Music by the Water

Weekly Lineup

Leave the stress of the workday behind, and meet your friends at Festival Park for the city’s free summer concert series. Experience a sunset like never before and catch up with friends. The lineup features a variety of bands, from local legends like Jumbo Circus Peanuts to rising stars like Mica’s Groove Train. Each week, the music genres range from jazz to neo-soul, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Food and Drink Options

While enjoying the music, visitors can indulge in a variety of food and drink options. Local vendors set up stalls offering everything from gourmet snacks to refreshing beverages. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or a full meal, the selection is sure to satisfy. Don’t forget to explore the unique and antique wares available on the first Saturday of each month.

Visitor Tips

To make the most of your Sunset Thursdays experience, here are a few tips:

  • Arrive early to get a good spot; gates open at 5 PM.
  • Bring a blanket or lawn chair for comfortable seating.
  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.
  • Parking can be limited, so consider carpooling or using public transportation.

Sunset Thursdays is a perfect way to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Portsmouth’s waterfront. With great music, delicious food, and a stunning sunset, it’s an event you won’t want to miss.

Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration

Fireworks Display

Portsmouth’s Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration is renowned for its spectacular fireworks display. The night sky lights up with a dazzling array of colors, providing a breathtaking experience for attendees of all ages. Make sure to find a good spot early, as this event draws a large crowd every year.

Live Music and Dance

The celebration features live music that gets everyone on their feet. From classic rock to contemporary hits, the bands keep the energy high and the dance floor packed. Don’t forget to wear your dancing shoes and join in the fun!

Patriotic Activities

In addition to the fireworks and music, the event includes a variety of patriotic activities. Families can enjoy games, crafts, and other interactive experiences that celebrate the spirit of Independence Day. It’s a perfect way to spend the holiday with loved ones and create lasting memories.

The Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration is a highlight of Portsmouth’s summer events, bringing the community together for a day of fun, music, and patriotism.

Fall Festival at Portsmouth City Park

Seasonal Activities

Come celebrate the fall season with Parks and Recreation on Saturday, October 5th from 11am – 2pm at Portsmouth City Park. Enjoy a variety of seasonal activities including hayrides, a petting zoo, and a hay maze. The festival is a great way to experience Portsmouth’s art scene with live entertainment and community projects.

Crafts and Games

The Fall Festival offers a plethora of crafts and games for all ages. From face painting to bounce houses, there’s something for everyone. Local artists often showcase their work, adding to the vibrant cultural heritage of the event.

Food Stalls

Food trucks and stalls will be available, offering a range of delicious options to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory, you’ll find it here. Don’t miss out on the chance to support local vendors and enjoy some fantastic food.

Portsmouth Beer Week

Portsmouth Beer Week is a must-attend event for beer enthusiasts. Local breweries come together to showcase their finest brews, offering a unique opportunity to taste a variety of craft beers. From well-established names to emerging microbreweries, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Throughout the 10-day celebration, numerous special events are organized, including beer tastings, brewery tours, and meet-the-brewer sessions. These events provide an excellent chance to learn more about the brewing process and the passion behind each brew.

Tasting sessions are a highlight of Portsmouth Beer Week. Attendees can sample a wide range of beers, from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts. It’s a fantastic way to discover new favorites and appreciate the diversity of flavors in the world of craft beer.

Join beer distributors, restaurant bars, and local breweries as they partner up to celebrate this exciting 10-day event.

Halloween Parade and October Events

Portsmouth truly comes alive in October with a variety of festive events that cater to all ages. From the legendary Halloween parade to spooky tours and fall celebrations, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Parade Route

The Halloween parade is a highlight of the season, drawing crowds from all over. The route winds through the heart of Portsmouth, showcasing creative costumes and vibrant floats. Don’t miss the grand finale at Market Square, where the best costumes are awarded.

Costume Contests

Get ready to show off your best Halloween attire! Various costume contests are held throughout the day, with categories for kids, adults, and even pets. Prizes include gift certificates to local shops and restaurants, making it a fun and rewarding experience for participants.

Spooky Tours

For those who love a good scare, Portsmouth offers a range of spooky tours. Explore haunted sites and hear chilling tales from the past. These tours are a great way to get into the Halloween spirit and learn more about the city’s rich history.

October in Portsmouth is a magical time, filled with community spirit and festive fun. Whether you’re here for the parade, the contests, or the tours, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Thanksgiving in Portsmouth

Portsmouth has a rich history that dates back to the early days of America. Thanksgiving here is not just a time for feasting but also a moment to reflect on our role in history. The town’s historical sites offer a glimpse into the past, making it a meaningful experience for both residents and visitors.

When it comes to dining, Portsmouth boasts some of the top-rated restaurants in the region. From traditional Thanksgiving feasts to modern culinary twists, there’s something for everyone. Celebrate the holiday by indulging in a variety of delicious options that cater to all tastes and preferences.

Thanksgiving in Portsmouth is a family affair, with numerous activities designed to bring people together. From community gatherings to special events, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the holiday. Whether you’re looking to participate in a local bingo fundraiser or take a scenic walk through the town, Portsmouth offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all.

First Night: New Year’s Eve Celebration

Discover our winter wonderland and the many exciting holiday events Portsmouth and the Seacoast have to offer. Ring in the New Year with Portsmouth’s beloved annual tradition. Celebrate with the whole family!

Valentine’s Day in Portsmouth

Romantic Dining Spots

Portsmouth offers a variety of romantic dining spots perfect for Valentine’s Day. From cozy bistros to elegant fine dining, there’s something for every couple. Make sure to book your table in advance to avoid disappointment.

Couples’ Activities

Spend the day exploring the charming streets of Portsmouth. Enjoy a scenic walk along the waterfront or visit one of the many local museums. For a more adventurous date, consider a harbor cruise or a couples’ cooking class.

Special Offers

Many local businesses offer special deals and packages for Valentine’s Day. Look out for discounts on spa treatments, hotel stays, and dining experiences. Don’t miss out on these limited-time offers to make your day extra special.

St. Patrick’s Day Festivities

Parades and Marches

Portsmouth comes alive with vibrant parades and marches to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The streets are filled with the sounds of bagpipes and drums, creating an electric atmosphere. Don’t miss the grand parade that winds through the heart of the city, showcasing colorful floats and enthusiastic participants.

Irish Pubs and Music

Grab your friends and enjoy a pint at one of Portsmouth’s many Irish pubs. These establishments offer a cozy atmosphere, perfect for enjoying traditional Irish music. Many pubs feature live bands playing folk tunes, making it a night to remember.

Cultural Celebrations

Immerse yourself in Irish culture with various events around the city. From dance performances to storytelling sessions, there’s something for everyone. Local community centers often host workshops where you can learn about Irish traditions and crafts.

St. Patrick’s Day in Portsmouth is not just a celebration; it’s an experience that brings the community together in a joyous and festive spirit.

Portsmouth’s Summer Concert Series

Portsmouth’s Summer Concert Series is a highlight of the city’s vibrant summer happenings. From outdoor parks and green spaces to museum courtyards and waterfront stages, Portsmouth’s diverse venues set the stage for unforgettable musical experiences. Celebrate culture, food, art, history, music, and pride in the community during these events held throughout the summer.

Featured Artists

The series boasts an eclectic mix of local and national artists, ensuring there’s something for everyone. From jazz and blues to rock and folk, the lineup is designed to cater to diverse musical tastes. Notable past performers have included local favorites and emerging talents, making each concert a unique experience.

Concert Venues

Concerts are held at various iconic locations around Portsmouth, including:

  • Strawbery Banke Museum: Enjoy acoustic music amid the summer splendor of Puddle Dock with Strawbery Banke’s popular annual outdoor concert series.
  • Community Campus: Music on the back patio, a playground for the kids, and warm summer nights.
  • Festival Park: Leave the stress of the workday behind and meet your friends at the city’s free summer concert series.

Visitor Information

To make the most of your concert experience, here are a few tips:

  1. Arrive Early: Popular concerts can get crowded, so arriving early ensures you get a good spot.
  2. Bring Your Own Chair: Many venues are open-air, so a comfortable chair or blanket is a must.
  3. Pack a Picnic: Enjoy a meal while you listen to the music. Some venues even allow you to bring your own snacks and drinks.
  4. Check the Weather: Summer weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always good to be prepared for rain or shine.

Portsmouth’s Summer Concert Series is more than just music; it’s a celebration of community and the arts in a beautiful setting. Don’t miss out on this quintessential summer experience!


Portsmouth’s annual events offer a vibrant tapestry of festivities that cater to all tastes and interests. From the rich cultural celebrations of Juneteenth Day and the Umoja Festival to the seasonal delights of the Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival and the Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration, there is always something to look forward to. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Portsmouth’s diverse venues and welcoming community ensure that every event is a memorable experience. So, mark your calendars and join us in celebrating the unique charm and spirit of Portsmouth throughout the year!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the main annual events in Portsmouth?

Portsmouth hosts a variety of annual events including the Umoja Festival, Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival, Sunset Thursdays, Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration, Fall Festival at Portsmouth City Park, Portsmouth Beer Week, Halloween Parade and October Events, Thanksgiving in Portsmouth, First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration, Valentine’s Day in Portsmouth, St. Patrick’s Day Festivities, and Portsmouth’s Summer Concert Series.

When does the Umoja Festival take place?

The Umoja Festival typically takes place in late May. For specific dates, it’s best to check the official event calendar.

What activities are available at the Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival?

The Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival features musical performances, family activities, and local vendors. It takes place on the second Saturday in December.

Where can I find information on the weekly lineup for Sunset Thursdays?

Information on the weekly lineup for Sunset Thursdays can be found on the official Portsmouth events website or local event listings.

What can visitors expect at the Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration?

Visitors to the Shaggin’ 4th of July Celebration can enjoy a spectacular fireworks display, live music and dance, and various patriotic activities.

Are there any special events during Portsmouth Beer Week?

Yes, Portsmouth Beer Week features special events hosted by participating breweries, including tasting sessions and other beer-related activities.

What family-friendly events are available during Thanksgiving in Portsmouth?

Thanksgiving in Portsmouth includes various family-friendly events such as historical tours, special dining options, and community gatherings.

How can I find out about the parade route for the Halloween Parade?

Details about the parade route for the Halloween Parade can be found on the official Portsmouth events website or through local event announcements.

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