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

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on July 12, 2024.

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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 during this season include 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 cover some hidden gems alongside some of the greatest hits. We’ll be sharing each individually in more detail in our monthly events posts covering 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:

  • When is Fall in North Carolina?
  • Where to See Fall Colors
  • Fall Hiking
  • Fall in North Carolina (Major Events Grouped by Category in ABC Order)
    • Apple Festivals
    • Apple Picking
    • Arts Festivals
    • Carolina Balloonfest
    • The Carolina Renaissance Festival
    • Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches
    • Fall Food Festivals
    • Fall Harvest Festivals & Fairs (NC State Fair)
    • Fall Film Festivals
  • Major Events (continued)
    • Fall Wine Festivals
    • Halloween Events in North Carolina
    • Haunted Attractions
    • Moonshine & Spirits
    • NC Beer Month
    • Oktoberfests and Beer Events
    • Pride Events
  • More Western NC Events
  • More Eastern NC Events
  • Sports
    • Auto Races and Monster Trucks
    • Basketball
    • Fall Running Races
    • Football

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 20. For this guide, we’ll include events that occur before then and through December 20.

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. Speaking of Bryson City, another great way to see the fall colors is by ziplining over the Nantahala Gorge with the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

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

Fall Hiking

Wesser Bald Fire Tower fall colors

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.

Read More: 25+ Amazing Restaurants in Morganton and Nearby! (Map Included!)

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

Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree

Springers Point Teachs Hole Blackbeard Ocraoke Island Outer Banks NC
Springer’s Point.

Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree (November 1-2) on Ocracoke Island is a unique event during fall in North Carolina. It’s primarily a well-produced historical reenactment that tells the tale of the world’s most infamous pirate.

Historically accurate encampments of soldiers prepping for the Battle of Ocracoke and weapons demonstrations set the stage for an awesome weekend of fun.

There are also food vendors, a recreated “march” to Springer’s Point, and much more during this event. With it being so close to Halloween, don’t forget to don your favorite pirate gear, or else you may just have to walk the plank!

Read More: 15 Tasty Ocracoke Island Restaurants (Best of the Village!)

Carolina Balloonfest

Carolina BalloonFest Statesville 0

From here on out, we’ll honor the events that were just too unique to be grouped with others. Carolina Balloonfest is a great example of a festival soaring above the crowd. Each year thousands of hot air balloons take over the skies above Statesville with mass ascensions, a kids zone, skydiving, 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 5-November 24.

Carolina renaissance Festival jugglers

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, and 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:

Kersey Valley Maize Adventure
Kersey Valley Maize Adventure

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

Eastern North Carolina will be abuzz with various seafood festivals, with The NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City (October 4-6) and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in Nags Head (October 19). There’s also an Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach (October 19-20).

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

The Lexington Barbecue Festival (October 26) 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.

Read More: 15 Fantastic Restaurants in Lexington (Barbecue & More!)

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 26-October 5) is a nice way to kick off the selection of NC harvest fairs.

NC State Fair October

One of the hottest places to be in October is the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (October 17-27), attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Whiteville’s Columbus County Agricultural Fair (TBD) 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 2). 

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

Fall Film Festivals

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

  • We’ll start with the annual Full Bloom Film Festival (September 5-7) in Statesville. Films in animated, documentary, narrative, and additional genres will be there to support and advance the arts and culture of Iredell County.
  • The Footcandle Film Festival (September 20-28) in Hickory will also bring unique, challenging, and entertaining feature-length and short films to the Catawba County city
  • The Tryon International Film Festival (October 10-13) returns to the Polk County town of Mill Spring (near Tryon) with nearly 100 independent films in six venues.
  • And in Wilmington, the non-competitive Cucalorus Festival (November 20-24) comes back with more than 150 films. 

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 28) returns to Duplin County for its 16th year of wine, arts and crafts, and music.

Later, in Laurel Springs, the Thistle Meadow Wine Festival (October 6) returns with music, food, crafts, and of course, tastings in one of our state’s most beautiful settings.

Read More: 40+ Amazing Things to Do in North Carolina in September

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 26) 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.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

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:

Read More: 25+ Great Lakes in North Carolina (+ Our Top 5 Picks)

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 (October 4-6) will feature a spirits competition, tastings of NC distillery-made spirits, and a car show. 

Read More: Delicious Restaurants in Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro

NC Beer Month

January Events in NC Rare and Vintage Beer Tasting Image

What better way to celebrate North Carolina than to hop through some of its 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.

Read More: Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk (7 Important Tips Before You Go!)

Oktoberfests and Beer Events

Lazy Hiker Brewing

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:

At OBX Brewtag in Nags Head (October 26), contestants will attempt to launch an empty 1/6 keg barrel.

At the end of October in Wilmington, the Lighthouse Beer & Wine Festival (October 26) 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 22) 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 28. The theme for this year is “Give Them Their Flowers.”

Read More: The 11 Best Places to Go Snow Tubing in North Carolina

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. The crowds drop, the surf picks up, and the water stays warm enough for swim trunks. 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 12) followed by the Bank of America ROVAL 400 (October 13).

The NHRA Carolina Nationals (September 21) will bring the noise and speed to zMax Dragway. And finally, the World of Outlaws Finals (November 6-9) will bring elite dirt racers to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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 college 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. No night is more special than the 2 or three days a year when the University of North Carolina suits up against crosstown rival Duke.

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 18-19) 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 (October 12).
  • Later in the fall, long-distance runners can test themselves in the Outer Banks Marathon in Nags Head (November 9-10).
  • Get a team together for the Blue Ridge Relay, one of the longest running races in the United States that starts in the Greyson Highlands State Park in Virginia before crossing the border and winding through the high country. The two-day relay (September 6-7) ends in Asheville, where you can enjoy a few well-deserved craft beers.

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 in North Carolina, but the hits start coming early. High School’s Friday night lights 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 in 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 During Fall in North Carolina (Travel Guides)

We’ve featured many of these fall things to do in our NC travel guides. Here are a few of them.

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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