How to Host an Event at a North Carolina State Park

Make your special occasion Naturally Wonderful. State parks are great places for birthday parties, reunions, weddings, and more. Read on to learn tips and tricks to plan an event at one of our state parks.

  • 1

    Sketch out the rough details of your event and reach out to the park(s).

    • Which region, state park or access area did you want as the location for your event?
    • Do you have tentative dates in mind for the event?
    • Will you need a picnic shelter or a community building? Do you want to rent out a whole swim beach?
    • Do you need to put up canopies or set out chairs?
    • Will you have catering? Will you be serving alcohol?
    • How many people do you expect to attend?

    Knowing the answers to these questions and having other details sketched out make it a lot easier for park staff to determine whether your event is possible at the park the way you envision it. Send an email to the park with this information. If necessary, ask to schedule a visit to the park to discuss logistics, especially if you are planning a large event.

    List of contact information for all state parks

    Tab/Accordion Items

    Most of our state parks have seen a huge uptick in visitation in recent years. Some of our most popular parks reach capacity almost every weekend from March through October.

    The best time to host an event at a park is during the week. If your event has to be on a weekend, choose dates when parks would be less crowded (i.e., not on holiday weekends, not during peak fall color in mountain parks). Also, consider hosting at parks that aren't the popular ones — many of our parks have other state parks within a 1- or 2-hour drive.

    Please note that hosting an event or reserving a facility at the park does not guarantee entry to any of your visitors when the park reaches capacity. If you choose a date when the park is likely to reach capacity, you will need to have your guests arrive at the park early (before 10 a.m.) or later (after 6 p.m., if the park is still open) in order to be let in. Encourage visitors to carpool to the greatest extent possible.

    The cost of your event is entirely dependent on the logistics of the event:

    Special Activity Permit

    Certain events may require a Special Activity Permit (weddings, athletic contests, company parties, etc.). The park will tell you if you need to fill out a Special Activity Permit.

    The cost for a SAP varies based on the type of event and the expected attendance:

    Fees table

    Please note that an additional fee is charged for a food vending permit for those who wish to have vendors sell food at their event.

    Alcohol Supplement to the Special Activity Permit

    If you would like to serve alcohol at your event, you will need to fill out the Special Activity Permit Alcohol Supplement application and pay a $200 nonrefundable application fee.

    About the Alcohol Supplement

    Facility Rentals

    If you need a picnic shelter, community building, or other large facility for your event, you will need to pay for the reservation fee for that facility:

    Facility rental fees

    Seasonal Entrance Fees

    If you are hosting your event at Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, or Kerr Lake state recreation areas on weekends in April, May and September, or any day between Memorial Day and Labor Day — you and your visitors will be charged the per vehicle entrance fee.

    This fee must be paid even if you have a facility reservation (i.e. picnic shelter), and everyone on-site at the event, including hosts, guests, vendors, etc., will need to pay the entrance fee.

    Additional Expenses Incurred by the Park

    Please note that any additional expenses incurred by the park to host your event may be charged in addition to all other costs. This includes any additional staffing to provide security for your event, or fencing required to set off where you are serving alcohol, etc.


  • 2

    Fill out your permit applications and reserve your facilities.

    Completed permit applications must be submitted to the park at least 14 days in advance of your event, so make sure you start the planning process well ahead of your tentative dates.

    If you are reserving a facility, make sure you secure permit approval prior to reserving the facility to avoid cancellation fees. Please note that facilities require a 14-day notice to cancel; if you cancel within 2 weeks of your event date, you will not be refunded for the facility reservation cost.

    For events where you want to serve alcohol, please note that there are requirements and conditions that must be met for your application to be approved, including securing a North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission-issued permit and providing a certificate of insurance for the event:

    Alcohol Supplement Requirements and Conditions

  • 3

    When inviting your guests, don't forget to...

    • Provide your guests with the park address and directions to the exact location of your event.
    • Notify your guests if they have to pay an entrance fee at the park gate (for events during peak season at Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, or Kerr Lake state recreation areas).
    • Encourage them to carpool to the event to minimize parking issues on busy days.
    • Ask them to arrive early at the park if you are hosting your event on the weekend, so that they can get in to the park and secure parking.