Fall Festivals and Events
With its breaths of fresh air, autumn draws out North Carolina’s festive nature. Every weekend brings events that pick up different wavelengths to celebrate everything from the glorious foliage, the truest blue skies, vivid sunsets and the particulars that impart local color across North Carolina.
Hopscotch Music Festival
With 175 bands at 15 venues, this showcase of local, regional, national and international talent reigns as a destination music event. Styles include rock, hip-hop, alt-country, metal, dance, punk, classical, noise, drone, folk and some that defy the categories.
ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup
Paddlers in neon-colored kayaks test their skill and stamina in an acrobatic display at Nantahala Gorge, which will host 2013’s ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships. The weekend coincides with the sesquicentennial Horace Kephart Days, which honors a champion of Great Smoky Mountains heritage.
Thunder in the Smokies Fall Rally
Motorcyclists take to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains roads. The rally includes concerts, games and other activities.
Railfest and Mountain State Craft Fair
Train excursions through mountain landscapes highlight the festival, sponsored by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Other activities include a motor car and equipment display and a regional arts showcase.
After creating a termite maze, watching roaches race and snipping a Scherenschnitte bug, visitors will be ready for this festival’s pièce de résistance: Café Insecta, where the menu has been known to feature Cricket & Crawfish Jambalaya, Mealworm Maque Choux, and Chirps and Superworm Salsa.
Mountain Heritage Festival
A stone's throw from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sparta creates an old-style festival for modern times. It features crafts, music and demonstrations in blacksmithing, cornmeal grinding, chainsaw carving, cider pressing and other skills. Stick around for the evening’s entertainment at the Alleghany Jubilee.
Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race
Rugged trails with 28,000 feet of climbing challenge riders amid the waterfalls, creek crossings, rhododendron tunnels and vibrant foliage of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. The $20,000 cash purse attracts top racers.
Benson Mule Days
A Southern tradition for more than 50 years, with mule events, rodeos, arts and crafts, street dances and a concert. The festival is a Library of Congress Local Legacy event.
The recent death of Andy Griffith, who put his hometown on the map as the model for Mayberry, adds a poignant note to the 2012 festival. Expect special tributes from festival entertainers who were associated with “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Dixie Classic Fair
Sept. 28-Oct. 7
This annual fair is the second largest agricultural fair in the state. Sample famous fried foods, take a Ferris wheel ride or gaze at fireworks. There are tons of fun events, exhibits and more for the whole family.
Muscadine Harvest Festival
The Muscadine Harvest Festival celebrates North Carolina’s native grape at the Duplin Events Center. The event features live music, more than 20 wineries, a cooking contest, crafts, educational seminars and a shag dance contest.
Soak up local color at a festival dedicated to dining on a favorite catch in this coastal community. Signature features are servings of spot, a saltwater fish that's delicious pan fried, and a shag dance contest. For natural beauty, view the area's lovely salt marshes.
Flock to the Rock
At prime time during the fall migration, as many as 500 Broadwing hawks might be seen at this iconic site on the North Carolina Birding Trail. Flock to the Rock features guided walks, workshops, photography and other activities and also showcases the park’s newly refurbished trails and modernized elevator.
Mountains to Coast Fall Ride
Sept. 29-Oct. 6
Brevard to Carolina Beach
Hundreds of participants cover the state’s geographic and cultural spectrum on Cycle North Carolina’s mountains-to-the-coast ride. Host cities include Lake Lure, Shelby, Matthews, Rockingham, Lumberton and White Lake. Riders can opt for the full run or shorter legs.
Ava Gardner Festival
The local-girl-turned-Hollywood-goddess shares the spotlight with Gregory Peck, her friend and co-star in three classic films, at this year's edition of the annual festival presented by the Ava Gardner Museum. The weekend features themed exhibits, heritage tours, screenings and tributes.
Autumn at Oz
The highest ski resort east of the Rockies once was home to the Land of Oz theme park. Autumn at Oz returns Dorothy and friends to the Yellow Brick Road for a weekend celebration with music, children’s activities and fun on Uncle Henry and Aunt Em’s farm.
Folk School Fall Festival
The John C. Campbell Folk School’s magnificent mountain setting immerses visitors in autumn splendor, and the festival adds creative swatches of yarn spinning, vividly costumes dancers and other displays of Appalachian heritage arts.
Duck Jazz Festival
The Sixth Annual Duck Jazz Festival lineup includes The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman, Paula Athertson, The Fuzz Band and Emme St. James & Her Jazz Gentlemen. Free admission.
Bald Head Island
Croquet balls add pops of color on the Bald Head Island Club greens, where fierce U.S.-British rivals compete for honors. Nature one-ups the display with the golden shimmer of cordgrass in nearby marshes and brilliant sunsets across the autumn sky.
North Carolina State Fair
One of a handful of fairs that top 1 million in annual attendance, North Carolina’s 11-day event celebrates the state’s agricultural heritage on a 344-acre site that includes Dorton Arena, a 1952 landmark of architecture and engineering.
Bank of America 500
Forty-three of the world’s greatest drivers battle for the prestige of winning the only night race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Uwharrie Mountain Festival
The continent's oldest mountain range is home to a national forest, Badin Lake and rich history, all reflected in such festival activities as orienteering, gold panning, paddle games, lumberjack demonstrations and horseback riding.
Thousands of chrysanthemums in the Tryon Palace gardens delight the eye during New Bern’s lively festival, which fills the waterfront and restored downtown with music, art and roving entertainers. New this year is the triple-deck SeaFair, a 288-foot yacht full of original art, outdoor life exhibits and more.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
Juried showcase of works created by members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which represents nearly 1,000 craftsmen in nine Southeastern states. Works include fiber, clay, glass, metal, paper, wood and other media from more than 200 exhibitors.
The Piedmont’s rolling woodlands extend the scenery skyward with 50 hot-air balloons. Events include mass ascensions, an evening balloon glow, competitions, balloon rides and an artisan village. North Carolina’s wines and craft brews can also be sampled.
Outer Banks Seafood Festival
The Inaugural Outer Banks Seafood Festival celebrates local fishermen and seafood heritage. Includes kid zone, live music, local arts and crafts, cooking demonstrations, boat exhibits and storytelling at the Outer Banks Catch tent. Tickets available for purchase for food and drinks from more than 20 Outer Banks restaurants.
Woolly Worm Festival
Lore surrounding the Isabella tiger moth distinguishes the mountain town's annual arts festival: Catepillars the color of the autumn canopy race up strings, and the winner's coloring stands as the official predictor of winter's severity.
Lexington’s famous barbecue is the draw at the festival, which features music and other activities plus the unveiling of Childress Vineyards’ 2012 Fine Swine Wine.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, transformed by fall blooms and textured plantings, showcases Halloween specialties such as eyeball plants and bat-faced cuphea. Added treats await in the Orchid Conservatory, which features a 16-foot orchid and waterfall wall.
Wilson Whirligig Festival
Nonagenarian artist Vollis Simpson sets color in motion with his wind-powered whirligigs, the centerpiece of this street festival in Wilson. In 2013, the town will officially open the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, which will feature 29 of these kinetic collector’s items.
Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival
Nov. 6-11, 2012
Outer Banks and Inner Coast
Wondrously varied coastal environments create a kaleidoscope of vivid sights and memorable sounds with migrating birds, howling wolves and changing flora. Festival excursions take visitors to one-of-a-kind sites to explore it all.
Find even more fall festivals and events here.
added: August 28, 2012
updated: October 10, 2012
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