Fun Fall Activities in North Carolina
While the weather hasn’t exactly caught up to the fact that it’s fall, it won’t be much longer before shorts and tees will be replaced by jeans and hoodies, leggings and tunics and I for one can’t wait. I really hate this transitional part where you dress for cool in the morning and by noon you’re sweating like a pig in a slaughter-house. Before the rush of the holidays happens (hey.. y’all know that once October hits, you may as well flip that calendar to January 1st because that’s how fast it’s going to happen) is the perfect time to do some quick, little day and weekend trips to spend time with the family and North Carolina has plenty to offer in that category.
Luckily for we natives, it can be as simple as hitting the highway for leaf peeping, pumpkin patches, and apple picking or you can go for something a little bit more involved! I’ve split these ideas into 3 basic categories: mountains, haunted trails, and fairs. All of which are affordable and easily accessible from the piedmont and west.
Tweetsie Railroad – If you think Tweetsie is just for the little kids, you need to take the time to revisit one of NC’s favorite (and oldest) attractions. The park opened in 1957 and many a little cowboy and cowgirl have gotten their thrills riding the train only to have to deal with robbers and bandits. Since 1990, before they close up for the year, they turn the park into a ghost town that the older kids and teens are sure to love. Taking 7-10 train trips throughout the night, The Ghost Train Halloween Festival has been named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society. For more information, visit them here.
Autumn at Oz – Sorry that I’m a little bit late with this one as it’s already happened. But did you know that tucked up in the NC mountains there is a theme park based on the Wizard of Oz? Yep. Complete with a yellow brick road!! It was only open for 10 or so years before it closed and over the years it’s changed ownership a few times but one weekend out of the year, they open it so that fans can join Dorothy and friends on a journey down the yellow brick road during Land of Oz’s Annual Autumn at Oz Festival. Keep your eye on the calendar for 2017 because it is really a great time.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad – Another train themed idea but this is the same spot where you can do the Polar Express during the holidays!! They have a Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express as well as an adults-only Masquerade Train (uhm… I have a costume this year.. I need to do this event, I think!!) on October 29th. There is no better way to see the leaves in full color than on a steam engine train. Take the 4-hour tour and it will make even the toughest critic turn into a fall softie.
Woods of Terror – I have been to the media night for WOT for the past few years and every year owner, Eddie McLaurin, and his team put on an amazing “haunt” that will scare the bejeezus out of you. Or as BuzzFeed says “One of the 19 Insane Haunted Houses that will literally scare the sh*t out of you”. Yeah. That’s no joke. This year is their 25th season and rumor has it they are pulling out ALL the stops to celebrate. I’ll be hitting media night in a week or so and will report back. If I make it out in one piece that is. They always get the night kicked off with a parade of sorts with Eddie leading the pack with his famous albino python. They opened this weekend and will run thru the end of October. Check the site for times.
Located in Archdale, Spookywoods opens this Friday (9/30) and runs thru 11/5 on the weekends with a few Thursdays during October. Another amazing haunted trail, Kersey Valley also has a lot of other options of the less frightening variety (unless you consider ziplining frightening which I may or may not…). Kersey Valley is one of the oldest in the state having opened in 1985 and has grown to a staff of over 300 employees. Kersey Valley has so many aspects to their trail that you could easily go twice!
Having been down to media night for Scarowinds a few times, I can tell you they do an incredible job of turning the park into a freak show. Combine that with rides and how can you miss? According to their blog, they’ve added a new scare zone and a new haunted maze this year. You can always expect a big production from Carowinds and it’s worth the price of admission. Psycho Harvest (this year’s theme) just opened last weekend and runs thru Halloween.
Fall Fairs and Festivals
Can we get a round of applause for fall festivals? Especially the ones that include great food and beer? I was pretty surprised to uncover that Hickory has one of the largest Oktoberfests in our state pulling in on average, over 100,000 during the 2 1/2 day event. If you love music, then good luck choosing which of the 3 days you’ll go because they have TONS of live music on four different stages. There’s also Kidfest! that has rides in both the regular and pint-sized versions!
Running October 1st – November 20th, this is one of my favorite events to attend. Of course, I’m a sucker for the nostalgia of the royal days of courts, jesters, and Ladies and Knights. With twelve stages featuring comedy acts, acrobats, medieval musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers, magicians and puppeteers – performing continuously for 7 ½ hours each day. Make sure you hit the tournament arena where skilled stunt riders, outfitted in suits of armor, ride their horses into battle during three jousts each day. Oh. And bring your appetite. Oy.
October 13-26th this is the granddaddy of all the fall fairs simply because it’s the state fair. The one thing that everyone always wants to talk about is “what CRAZY food is there going to be. I’ve got one item for you… Fried Bacon Pimento Cheeseburger Egg Roll. Look. I love a cheeseburger with bacon and pimento cheese on it but y’all – my arteries just collapsed reading that. I mean.. just LOOK at the picture… holy molten lava.
Okay.. so you’ve got that plus all the other food that fairs are known for. Then you have the endless rides, shows, Grandstand shows, animal judging – the list is endless of things to do for all ages. Definitely a can’t miss during the fall.
I know there is so much out there so I’d love to hear some of your favorite fall events to do with the family!