Last Updated on September 21, 2023
Last Updated on September 21, 2023
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.
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
- Auto Races and Monster Trucks
- Fall Running Races
When is Fall in North Carolina?
Fall technically begins on September 23 and ends on December 20. 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.
Where to See Fall Colors
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.
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.
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:
- Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
- Hikes near Asheville
- Hiking in Hendersonville
- Hiking trails near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk
For a quick list, here are a few fall hikes that we absolutely love, with Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost (MP) if applicable:
- Carter Falls in Elkin
- Crabtree Falls in the Black Mountains (MP 339.5)
- Deep Creek Trail in Bryson City
- Glen Burney Trail in Blowing Rock
- Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8)
- Hanging Rock Trail and Lower Cascades Falls inside Hanging Rock State Park
- Linville Falls (MP 316)
- Panthertown Valley Trail to Schoolhouse Falls
- Rough Ridge Trail (MP 302.8)
- Stone Mountain Loop inside Stone Mountain State Park
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
Apples are a huge deal during fall in North Carolina. Here are a few of the biggest events that commemorate our favorite autumn fruit.
- The apple season kicks off with the NC Apple Festival in Henderson County on Labor Day weekend. You’ll find the highest concentration of apple orchards in Hendersonville and its surroundings. Visiting them is one of our favorite things to do in the area! Be sure to grab a meal at these restaurants afterward.
- On October 7, the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival takes over the Wilkes County town of North Wilkesboro.
- Finally, on October 21, the Haywood County town of Waynesville will host its annual Apple Festival.
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.
- Apple Hill Orchard in Morganton
- Carrigan Farms in Mooresville (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Coston Farm and Apple House in Hendersonville
- Creasman Farms in Hendersonville
- Devil Dog Orchard in Reidsville
- Grandad’s Apples n’ Such in Hendersonville (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
- Justus Orchard in Hendersonville (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur, Randolph County (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- New River Corn Maze in Boone (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
- The Orchard at Altapass off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 328) in Spruce Pine
- Skytop Orchard in Flat Rock (Pumpkin Patch, too!)
- Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
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.
- The Fall Arts & Crafts Festival in Maggie Valley (September 2-3 and October 21-22)
- Art on Main in Hendersonville (September 23-24)
- Potters’ Pumpkin Patch in Seagrove (October 7, 14, 21 & 28)
- Starworks Pumpkin Patch in Star, Montgomery County (October 7-28)
- WNC Pottery Festival In Sylva (November 4)
Read More: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Maggie Valley
Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree
Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree (October 27-28) 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!
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(October 20-22) thousands of hot air balloons take over the skies above Statesville with mass ascensions, a kids zone, skydiving, and tons of food.
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 September 30-November 19.
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
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:
- Briley’s Farm Market in Greenville (Pumpkin Patch, Hay Rides, and More!)
- Carrigan Farms in Mooresville (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Deal Farms in Franklin (Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch)
- Gross Farms in Sanford (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
- Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville (Corn Maze, Free Pumpkin with Admission, and More!)
- Ken’s Korny Corn Maze in Garner (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Kersey Valley Maize Adventure in Archdale (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
- Mike’s Farm in Beulaville (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Millstone Creek Orchards in Randolph County (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Page Farms in Raleigh (Corn Maze, Pumpkin Patch, and More!)
- Patterson Farm in Mount Ulla (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Riverbend Farm in Cabarrus County (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
- Rural Hill’s Amazing Maize Maze in Huntersville (Corn Maze and More!)
- Sonlight Farms Corn Maze in Kenly (Corn Maze and More!)
- Smith’s Nursery in Benson (Pumpkin Patch and More!)
Do you know of a maze that we should mention here? Let us know about it!
Fall Food Festivals
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 2023, the event is held September 7-10.
Eastern North Carolina will be abuzz with various seafood festivals, with The NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City (October 6-8) and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in Nags Head (October 21). There’s also an Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach (October 21-22).
And, of course, we didn’t forget about NC barbecue!
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 28-October 7) is a nice way to kick off the selection of NC harvest fairs.
Whiteville’s Columbus County Agricultural Fair (October 10-15) 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 3-4) a month later.
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 7-9) 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 15-24) 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 6-8) returns to Polk County with nearly 100 independent films in six venues.
- And in Wilmington, the non-competitive Cucalorus Festival (November 15-19) comes back with more than 150 films.
Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Hickory
Fall Wine Festivals
A variety of wine festivals are scattered throughout fall in North Carolina. Here are a few we couldn’t leave out.
Later, in Laurel Springs, the Thistle Meadow Wine Festival (October 1) 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 28) will take over Broad and Main Streets. Visitors and spectators will enjoy watching or partaking in multiple-distance runs, games, food, and more.
Fall in North Carolina also means the revival of our most haunted attractions. Here are a few that we think you should know about:
- Granville Haunt Farm in Oxford
- The Haunted Farm in Hendersonville
- Hillside Horror in Roaring River
- Lake Hickory Haunts in Hickory
- Midway Wicked Woods in Statesville
- Spookywoods at Kersey Valley in Archdale
- Woods of Terror in Greensboro
- Xtreme Haunt in Durham
Moonshine & Spirits
Of course, we couldn’t leave out moonshine and spirits, thanks to the folks in Wilkesboro. The Prohibition Hot Rod and Moonshine Festival (October 6-7) will feature a spirits competition, tastings of NC distillery-made spirits, and a car show.
NC Beer Month
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.
Oktoberfests and Beer Events
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:
- Hickory (October 13-15)
- Jacksonville (October 27-28)
- Sugar Mountain (October 6-8)
- Charlotte (October 21)
At OBX Brewtag in Nags Head (October 28), contestants will attempt to launch an empty 1/6 keg barrel.
At the end of October in Wilmington, the Lighthouse Beer & Wine Festival (October 28) kicks off with samples from over 100 craft breweries and wineries.
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 (October 1) will have one main stage, a Kids Zone, food, and more.
And, the LGBTQ Center of Durham will host a Pride Festival on September 23. The theme for this year is “Give Them Their Flowers.”
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
Here are a few major events during fall in North Carolina’s mountains and nearby, ordered by start date:
- Mayberry Days in Mount Airy (September 18-24)
- Mountain Heritage Day in Cullowhee (September 30)
- Valley Leaf Festival in Cashiers (October 6-8)
- Autumn Leaves Festival in Mount Airy (October 13-15)
- Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk (October 21-22)
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.
- National Pumpkin Festival in Spring Hope (October 6-7)
- Ol’ Front Porch Festival in Oriental (October 6-7)
- US Open King Mackerel Tournament in Southport (October 5-7)
- Riverfest in Wilmington (October 7-8)
- Carolina Kite Festival in Atlantic Beach (October 28-29)
- Wooden Boat Show in Southport (November 4)
Fall in North Carolina (Sports)
Auto Races and Monster Trucks
The NHRA Carolina Nationals (September 22-24) will bring the noise and speed to zMax Dragway. And finally, the World of Outlaws Finals (November 1-4) will bring elite dirt racers to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The lone exception to Concord’s fall dominance that we’ll share here is the Monster Truck Throwdown in Benson (September 29-30). At GALOT Motorsports Park, spectators will see motocross and monster truck action.
Read More: How to See Speedway Christmas in Concord
Basketball Season Begins
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 20-21) 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 21).
- Later in the fall, long-distance runners can test themselves in the Outer Banks Marathon in Nags Head (November 10-12).
- 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 8-9) ends in Asheville, where you can enjoy a few well-deserved craft beers.
Football Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
- 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!