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7 Best Fall Festivals to Visit in North Carolina

Fall is a time for pumpkins, apples and fall foliage in North Carolina.  And for many, the best way to ring in this new season at the end of a long summer is to hit up an outdoor festival. Well, if you’re in or around North Carolina, you’re in luck.  There are plenty of options to check out all over the state, whether you’re on the hunt for pumpkin butter, apple cider or just a plate of really good barbecue.

Autumn at Oz, Beech Mountain Land of Oz
Credit: Land of Oz by Land of Oz

Autumn at Oz, Beech Mountain

Children and adults of all ages who love “The Wizard of Oz” will find themselves transported straight into the movie at the Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain. Although the park was officially closed in 1980, after a decade of extreme popularity and success, interest in the park never died. So, the Autumn at Oz event was born. Visitors can celebrate the arrival of fall with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, while they travel from the Kansas farm, down the yellow brick road to the magical Land of Oz.

Official Website
September 8th-10th, 15th-17th, & 22nd-24th, 2023

Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, Elkin Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival
Credit: Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival by Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival

Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, Elkin

Located about an hour from both Charlotte and Winston Salem, Elkin is a small town packed with charm and a slower way of life. But every year, the main street of Elkin becomes packed with visitors and lined with vendors as they celebrate the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival. There are lots of stands to shop, with antiques, pottery, furnishings and hand-crafted gifts, as well as plenty of yummy concessions, including Polish sausages, funnel cakes and pumpkin butter. But the Annual Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off is a real highlight, where local growers test out their best in hopes of being named in the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Top Ten.  Previous entries have weighed in at over 1,000 lbs, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Official Website
September 23rd, 2023

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, North Wilkesboro Brushy Mountain Apple Festival
Credit: Brushy Mountain Apple Festival by Samantha Allen - applefestival.net

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, North Wilkesboro

As one of the largest one-day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast, the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival has everything an autumn-lover wants with hundreds of arts and crafts, hundreds of concession stands with delectable treats, entertaining gospel, bluegrass, country and folk music, and of course plenty of apples and apple cider.  Cloggers, folk dancers, square dancers and rope skippers also provide lots of foot-stomping entertainment.

Official Website
October 7th, 2023

Wilmington Riverfest, Wilmington Wilmington Riverfest
Credit: Wilmington Riverfest by wilmingtonriverfest.com

Wilmington Riverfest, Wilmington

Celebrated every year on the first weekend of October, Wilmington Riverfest draws nearly a quarter million visitors each year. Located along the city’s picturesque waterfront on the Cape Fear River, the family-friendly event includes arts and crafts from local vendors, live music concerts, plenty of food, a children’s play area and an amazing fireworks show on Saturday night. The Annual Miss Riverfest will also be named and featured throughout the event.

Official Website
October 7th-8th, 2023

Autumn Leaves Festival, Mt. Airy Autumn Leaves Festival
Credit: Autumn Leaves Festival by Autumn Leaves Festival

Autumn Leaves Festival, Mt. Airy

Every October, thousands of visitors descend on the town of “Mayberry” (also known as Mt. Airy) for the popular Autumn Leaves Festival. Earning its nickname from Andy Griffith, who was born and raised there, Mt. Airy reminds people of the iconic town of Mayberry with its quaint main street and small-town vibe. Over 50 years ago, the Autumn Leaves Festival started as a way to celebrate the end of the apple and tobacco harvesting seasons and continues today as a welcome into the fall season. In addition to taking in the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, visitors also enjoy arts and crafts from over 200 artisans, “soul food” including ham biscuits, collard greens, cornbread and barbecue, and of course, authentic old-time bluegrass music from local musicians on the downtown stage.

Official Website
October 13th – 15th, 2023

Carolina BalloonFest, Statesville Carolina BalloonFest
Credit: Carolina BalloonFest by Carolina BalloonFest

Carolina BalloonFest, Statesville

Carolina BalloonFest is not just a beautiful sight to be seen; it is also a fun-filled weekend for the entire family. Of course, the main attraction is the light-off and flight of the balloons. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and relax in the autumn air as you watch over 50 colorful hot air balloons take flight twice a day. That’s not where the fun ends, though. In addition to watching the balloons, brave festival-goers can also book a ride on one. Plus, there will be fly-overs, three mass ascensions, a Saturday evening balloon glow, meet and greets with the pilots and entertainment on multiple stages.

Official Website
October 20th- 22nd, 2023

Barbecue Festival, Lexington The Barbecue Festival
Credit: The Barbecue Festival by The Barbecue Festival

Barbecue Festival, Lexington

Since 1984, the Annual Barbecue Festival in Lexington has been a favorite for visitors and owners of the popular barbecue restaurants located throughout Davidson County. So much so, the City of Lexington and Davidson County have officially declared the month of October to be “Barbecue Month.” Events are held all throughout the month, with the grand finale, the Barbecue Festival, held on the last Saturday. Every year, ten blocks of Main Street in downtown Lexington are closed off as hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the town. Over 400 exhibitors set up shop, selling arts and crafts, as well as handmade food items. Multiple entertainment stages feature local and national artists, while an antique car show, bicycle stunt show, Corvette display, lumberjack sports show and a pig race round out the fun.

Official Website
October 28th, 2023

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