From ghost trains to pumpkin festivals, from the state fair to fall foliage tours, the time between summer and winter is a great season to spend time outdoors in North Carolina. With just a hint of chill in the air, the promise of outdoor color, juicy apples and ripe pumpkins, tasty barbecue or handmade crafts brings throngs of visitors to sample the delights at local fairs, festivals and markets.
Many of the state’s better-known events are planned in September and early October, but it’s not all about Halloween. If you missed out on them this year, it’s not too early to start planning for next year:
- Held annually in Raleigh, the North Carolina State Fair — held this year from October 10-21 — broke attendance records despite Hurricane Michael. You might want to mark your calendar for 2019! It’s geared toward fun as well as agriculture.
- Autumn Festival at the World of Oz: The former theme park at Beech Mountain opens once or twice a year to thrill even adults with childlike wonder. It’s not Kansas, but the Yellow Brick Road transports visitors into another dimension; the bonus is the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Sample Polish sausages and funnel cakes along with all things pumpkin at the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in small-town Elkin. Traditionally held the fourth Saturday of September, the Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off is the main attraction each year. Can you even imagine a 1,000-pound pumpkin?
- The Autumn Leaves Festival at Mount Airy has been held for more than 50 years and features music as well as autumn color and “food for the soul.” No matter what your musical favorites — Gospel, Blue Grass or Old Time Traditional — performers on the downtown stage will have you foot tapping and singing along!
There’s still a lot happening in the state, however:
The Barbecue Festival in Lexington is scheduled Saturday, October 27, 2018. An annual event since 1984, this foodie extravaganza extends along 10 blocks of uptown Lexington and attracts upwards of 200,000 people. There’s plenty of barbecue to sample, and a whole lot more!
The 2018 Statesville Pumpkin Festival is scheduled November 3; it includes a 5K walk/run as well as 60 arts and crafts exhibitors and a wealth of food booths. It’s held in downtown Statesville.
Get lost in the Maize Maze at Rural Hill: A seven acre corn maze with more than two miles of paths is sure to tax your problem-solving abilities and provide a lot of family fun. It’s open this year from late September through November 4. Visitors can also explore the historic site, enjoy a picnic or sample local cider, beer and wine.
Carolina Renaissance Festival continues on weekends through November 18 in Huntersville, and the free, family-friendly Wilmington Riverfest, postponed this year because of hurricane recovery, will be held the weekend of November 17-18.
If you miss the big-name festivals, though, you’ll still find pumpkin fields, falling leaves and family fun at a host of local celebrations, flea markets and crafts fairs. Mamy of these pop-up food festivals and fairs continue through early December. They all offer good fun; most also boast great regional food specialties, and enough fun to keep even the most active children occupied.
From the mountains to the seashore, this is a great state in the fall — or, for that matter, any time of year!