Fall in North Carolina (Where to See Foliage + Great Fall Events!)

Last Updated on September 22, 2022

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Fall in North Carolina is the busiest time of year, even considering the vacation peak during summer and the Christmas lights and tree fun to start winter. Some of the best things to do happen during this season, including seeing fall foliage, the festive and spooky fun around Halloween, and various harvest festivals.

There are dozens of fall activities and events beyond those popular activities, and this guide will list some of the greatest hits. We’ll be sharing each of them individually in more detail in our monthly events posts that cover September, October, and November.

But for now, here’s a rundown of things to do during fall in North Carolina that belong on your bucket list this year and beyond!

There is so much happening during this season. So if you’re looking for something specific, here’s how we’ve organized this guide:

This post on fall in North Carolina is part of our monthly events series, where we’ve featured spring, that long hot summer, and “cold” winter!

When is Fall in North Carolina?

Fall technically begins on September 22 and ends on December 21. For this guide, we’ll include events that occur before then and through December 17.

Fall colors begin their peak from October 1 through October 14 in select areas of Western North Carolina and until October 28 in Central North Carolina.

Each year, Appalachian State University in Boone shares its predicted fall foliage map and we regularly check it throughout the season.

Where to See Fall Colors

Fall in North Carolina

The most popular thing to do during the autumn season in North Carolina is to find the best fall colors and foliage. Our state parks and outdoor spaces really shine during this time of year.

Many of our favorite ways to see fall foliage include driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiking through Western North Carolina. You can even see fall foliage on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad-themed ride that regularly leaves from Bryson City.

Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)

Fall Hiking

One of the best ways to see fall colors in North Carolina is by hiking. Whether you’re up in the High Country, near Asheville, or elsewhere, we’ve written about our favorite hiking trails and always like to share them during fall in North Carolina.

Here are a few guides that we’ve written about specific regions:

For a quick list, here are a few fall hikes that we absolutely love, with Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost (MP) if applicable:

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Fall in North Carolina (Events in ABC Order)

After seeing the fall colors, we think these events are the biggest during fall in North Carolina. We’ve grouped them by category, followed by a section dedicated to events in Western NC and Eastern NC that we just couldn’t group.

Note that many fall events in NC may make the decision to cancel or alter times/dates, sometimes at the last minute. Please visit the links we’ve provided to each individual event to confirm details and also, to lend your support in cases of cancellation.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina

Apple Festivals

Apples are a huge deal during fall in North Carolina. Here are a few of the biggest events that commemorate our favorite autumn fruit.

Read More: How to Find 20+ Haywood County Artists on Blue Ridge Craft Trails

Apple Picking

Fall in North Carolina Apple Picking at Millstone Creek Orchards Ramseur

Along with those exciting apple-centric events, you can also enjoy apple-picking throughout fall in North Carolina.

A few of these places also feature in our section that’s dedicated to corn mazes and pumpkin patches. As such, we’ll include what else each apple orchard has to offer.

Arts Festivals

Fun Things to Do in North Carolina During Fall Starworks Image

It seems like every weekend in the fall features a fun NC art festival. Categorized by start date, here are some of the biggest festivals happening throughout the fall in North Carolina.

Read More: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Maggie Valley

Carolina Balloonfest

Fall in North Carolina Carolina Balloonfest Statesville NC

From here on out, we’ll honor the events that were just too unique to be grouped with others. Carolina Balloonfest (October 14-16) takes over the skies above Statesville with mass ascensions of hot air balloons, a kids zone, and tons of food.

This is absolutely a bucket-list-worthy event and one of the most exciting things to do in North Carolina.

Read More: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Statesville

The Carolina Renaissance Festival

The annual Carolina Renaissance Festival returns to Huntersville and will be waiting for you every Saturday and Sunday from October 1-November 20.

Inside this 25-acre village, you’ll find nearly 1,000 artists, music, theater, food, drinks, and even more fun. Of course, you’ll want to come for the Tournament Jousting, falconry demos, their Living Mermaid exhibit, too! 

Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches

Fall in North Carolina Riverbend Farm Midland NC
Riverbend Farm.

Two of the most family-friendly things to do during fall in North Carolina are corn mazes and pumpkin patches. You can pick your own pumpkins and many of these places offer a variety of rides and fun entertainment.

These corn mazes and pumpkin patches are scattered throughout the state and here are some of our favorites:

Do you know of a maze that we should mention here? Let us know about it! 

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

Fall Food Festivals

Fall in North Carolina Lexington Barbecue Festival

Not all food and drink festivals during fall have to be harvest-focused. One excellent example of this is the Asheville food scene-driven Chow Chow Culinary Festival. For 2022, they’re hosting a series of events from July through the end of September.

Eastern North Carolina will be abuzz with various seafood festivals with The NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City (Sept 30-Oct 2) and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in Nags Head (October 15). There’s also an Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach (October 15-16).

And of course, we didn’t forget about NC barbecue!

The Lexington Barbecue Festival (October 22) will be back for more, with food tents, a car show, and the “Tour de Pig” cycle race. This is definitely one weekend to be in Lexington, but you can explore the town during the rest of the year with this guide.

Read More: How to Explore the NC Oyster Trail (10+ Adventurous Ways!)

Fall Harvest Festivals & Fairs (NC State Fair)

Spending time at one of the many harvest festivals is one of the best ways to celebrate fall in North Carolina.

The long-running Dudley’s Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair (September 29-October 8) is a nice way to kick off the selection of NC harvest fairs.

One of the hottest places to be in October is the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (October 13-23), attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Whiteville’s Columbus County Agricultural Fair (October 11-16) is a great weeklong celebration for those closer to the coast. The Columbus County town is also hosting its annual NC Pecan Harvest Festival (November 5) a month later. 

Fall Film Festivals

During fall in North Carolina, you’ll also find film festivals galore!

Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Hickory

Fall Wine Festivals

Fall in North Carolina Muscadine Festival Duplin Winery

A variety of wine festivals are scattered throughout fall in North Carolina. Here are a few we couldn’t leave out.

North Carolina Muscadine Festival (September 24) returns to Duplin County for its 15th year of wine, arts and crafts, and music.

Later, in Laurel Springs, the Thistle Meadow Wine Festival (October 2) returns with music, food, crafts, and of course, tastings in one of our state’s most beautiful settings.

Halloween Events in North Carolina

For Halloween-themed fun, there are at least a few festivals we have to mention during the last weekend of October.

In Brevard, the annual Halloweenfest in Transylvania (October 29) will take over Broad and Main Streets. Visitors and spectators will enjoy watching or partaking in multiple-distance runs, games, food, and more.

Over on the coast, a few Outer Banks towns will host Halloween events throughout the month of October as well.

Haunted Attractions

Woods of terror actors
Woods of Terror in Greensboro.

Fall in North Carolina also means the revival of our most haunted attractions. Here are a few that we think you should know about:

Moonshine & Spirits

Fall in North Carolina Prohibition Festival Wilkesboro NC

Of course, we couldn’t leave out moonshine and spirits, thanks to the folks in Wilkesboro. The Prohibition Hot Rod and Moonshine Festival (September 23-24) will feature a spirits competition, tastings of NC distillery-made spirits, and a car show. 

Read More: 15+ Great Things to Do in North Wilkesboro (Speedway and More!)

NC Beer Month

Spring in North Carolina Beer Month Image
Twin Leaf in Asheville is one great place to start exploring NC Beer!

What better way to celebrate North Carolina than to hop through some of their signature craft breweries! From prohibition to popping the alcohol limit, North Carolinians have made huge changes in how we drink and savor our beer.

NC Beer Month is in October (previously April) and we’ve compiled our favorite North Carolina breweries you have to check out then and throughout the year! Some go-to cities for beer include Asheville in Western North Carolina, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham in Central NC, and Fayetteville in the East.

Oktoberfests and Beer Events

Hi Wire Brewing Durham NC Location Image

Fall beer festivals aren’t limited to NC Beer Month, as we know you’ll be interested in the German-themed Oktoberfests happening in these places:

Hops and Hogs Festival in Huntersville (October 8) mixes beer, barbecue, and music just outside of Charlotte.

At OBX Brewtag in Nags Head (October 22), contestants will attempt to launch an empty 1/6 keg barrel.

At the end of October in Wilmington, the Lighthouse Beer & Wine Festival (October 29) kicks off with samples from over 100 craft breweries and wineries. 

Read More: The Mayton in Cary (+ 7 Things We Love About Staying Here!)

Pride Events

Two prominent Pride events popped up on our “Fall in North Carolina” radar, but please let us know if there are others that we missed.

On South Elm in Gate City, the Greensboro Pride Festival (September 18) will have one main stage, a Kids Zone, food, and more.

Read More: 7 Fun Museums in Greensboro (Kid-Friendly, Contemporary Art, and More!)

And, the LGBTQ Center of Durham will host a Pride Festival on September 24. The theme for this year is “IRL” or “In Real Life.”

Fall in North Carolina (More Events in Western NC and Eastern NC)

These events in Western NC and Eastern NC couldn’t be categorized, so we’ve grouped them by their locations.

Western NC Fall Events

Fall in North Carolina Dupont Forest Festival

Here are a few major events during fall in North Carolina’s mountains and nearby, ordered by start date:

Read More: 13 Amazing Restaurants in Banner Elk and Nearby (+ Where to Drink!)

Eastern NC Fall Events

You can’t count out our awesome coast during fall in North Carolina. These interesting events are great for people who love fishing, kites, boats, and even planes.

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)

Fall in North Carolina (Sports)

Auto Races and Monster Trucks

Fall in North Carolina NHRA Carolina Nationals zMax Dragway
zMax during the Carolina Nationals.

Concord dominates the conversation when talking about fall auto races, with the Drive for the Cure 250 (October 8) followed by the Bank of America ROVAL 400 (October 9).

The NHRA Carolina Nationals (September 23-25) will bring the noise and speed to zMax Dragway. And finally, the World of Outlaws Finals (November 2-5) will bring elite dirt racers to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The lone exception that we’ll share here is the Monster Truck Throwdown in Benson (October 7-8). At GALOT Motorsports Park, spectators will see motocross and monster truck action. 

Read More: How to See Speedway Christmas in Concord

Basketball Season Begins

Durham NC Cameron Indoor Stadium Image

North Carolina is the best place to be in this world when you’re a basketball fan. That’s why fall has another reason to be considered a special season.

It’s easy to associate basketball with winter and spring, but the fun gets started in October. That’s when the NBA’s Hornets and high school leagues suit up, with the NCAA joining the fun in November.

Conference play and the tournaments might be months away, but we’d love to know about your excitement for basketball season.

Fall Running Races

Anyone interested in running a race will have more than a few options during fall in North Carolina.

The Tuna Run 200 (October 28-29) is an overnight relay that starts in Garner and finishes in Atlantic Beach. Another option during the same weekend includes the Dismal Day and 5K Family Fun Run at Dismal Swamp State Park (Date TBD).

Later in the fall, long-distance runners can test themselves in the Outer Banks Marathon in Nags Head (November 11-13).

Read More: 20 Great Things to Do in Duck (for Your Best Vacation!)

Football Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

Fall in North Carolina College Football Season
  • Fall means football and in North Carolina, and high school’s Friday night excitement gets started in late summer near the end of August. Playoffs in November will bring families, fans, and scouts together to watch the best of our state.
  • On the NCAA side, most schools will kick off in late August or early September.
  • The NFL’s Carolina Panthers start their preseason in August.

Which teams are you looking forward to seeing this fall? Got any school spirit to share with us? 

Ready to Enjoy Fall in North Carolina?

So I know there are a lot of Christmas-y things going on during November. I just can’t mention Santa Claus anywhere other than our winter guide.

I hope you’ll forgive me for that one. As you can see, there are already a ton of things to do in North Carolina, so I’m sorry if you’re anxious about peppermint and gingerbread.

In the meantime, we’d love to know which of these awesome things to do during fall in North Carolina jump out at you as the most fun. 

Also, is there something we missed? If so, let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look! 

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

More Things to Do (Beyond Fall in North Carolina)

1 thought on “Fall in North Carolina (Where to See Foliage + Great Fall Events!)”

  1. Wonderful exposure of all to see and do in the upcoming seasons.

    Thank you and Congratulations on your precious little one, Nancy

    Reply

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