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Virginia Arts Festival

Virginia Arts Festival

If you’re a culture fanatic in the Chesapeake region, the Virginia Arts Festival is for you. Each year, world-class dancers, musicians, actors, cultural critics, and other artists gather across eight southeast Virginia locations to entertain and delight local audiences. Shows take place in a number of venues including theaters, concert halls, museums, performing arts centers, opera houses, outdoor stages, and even historic churches.

Past performers have included Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway legend Audra McDonald, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, and world-renowned dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And, with an emphasis on community involvement, arts education plays a large role in the entire festival, with matinee tickets available to students and in-school workshops, masterclasses, artists’ residencies, and demonstrations happening throughout the season.


In addition to contemporary acts, the Virginia Arts Festival has historical attractions like the Virginia International Tattoo. This signature event happens yearly in late April and has been attended annually by over 38,000 people since 1997. With over 1,000 performers from more than six different countries, it is the largest show of its kind within the United States. Attendees are sure to be captivated by the dozens of drummers, bagpipe players, drill teams, dancers, and top-notch marching bands that take the stage over the course of four days as a tribute to all branches of the military.

Williamsburg Live 

One of the Virginia Arts Festival’s newer lineups is Williamsburg Live. Taking place on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg in June, this unforgettable weekend music festival showcases iconic singers. Local food and craft beer are also included, so visitors can enjoy the songs as the stars come out along with some brew and food truck fare.

NATO Festival

Honoring the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Alliance and its member nations, NATO Festival has been going strong since 1953. With annual traditions spanning a week in the spring, including the Parade of Nations, International Village which recreates a European street fair, a flag raising, and a festival banquet, you’re sure to get an impressive dose of international culture at one of the many exciting and family-friendly events.

The Rhythm Project 

Get your hips ready to sway with the Rhythm Project. Playing primarily West African and Caribbean music, the nationally recognized steel drum band is part of a community outreach program that has been keeping kids (and adults) excited about music since 1996. The Rhythm Project All-Stars is comprised of high school students and has played numerous locations across the country, along with appearing on a number of TV shows. Check the Rhythm Project calendar for upcoming performances.


For those concert-goers in search of even more steel drum performances, check out PANFest. This free, two-day event in May showcases over 20 high school, college, and community bands from throughout the United States and features workshops, concerts, and a contest where bands compete for rankings and awards.

If you can believe it, this is just some of what the Virginia Arts Festival encompasses. Visit the festival website to see which performances, concerts, and events will be taking place when you’re in Chesapeake.

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