Fall is a time for pumpkins, apples and cooler air.  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, NC (Sept. 8-10, 2017) Land of Oz
Credit: Land of Oz
Land of Oz

Autumn at Oz - Beech Mountain, NC (Sept. 8-10, 2017)

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.

Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival - Elkin, NC (Sept. 23, 2017) Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in Elkin
Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in Elkin

Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival - Elkin, NC (Sept. 23, 2017)

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, on the fourth Saturday of September, 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 perhaps the most popular part of the whole festival, is the Annual Great Pumpkin Weigh Off, 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!

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival - North Wilkesboro, NC (Oct. 7, 2017) Brushy Mountain Apple Festival in North Wilkesboro
Brushy Mountain Apple Festival in North Wilkesboro

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival - North Wilkesboro, NC (Oct. 7, 2017)

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… over 425 craft artisans, 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.  Over 150,000 people visit this free event every year though, so make sure to come early and bring your umbrella, because the event will go on rain or shine!

Wilmington Riverfest (Oct. 7-8, 2017) Riverfest in Wilmington
Riverfest in Wilmington

Wilmington Riverfest (Oct. 7-8, 2017)

Celebrated every year on the first weekend of October, the 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 third Annual Miss Riverfest will also be named and featured throughout the event.

Autumn Leaves Festival - Mt. Airy, NC (Oct. 13-15, 2017)

Autumn Leaves Festival - Mt. Airy, NC (Oct. 13-15, 2017)

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 colors 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.

Carolina BalloonFest - Statesville, NC (Oct. 20-22, 2017)

Carolina BalloonFest - Statesville, NC (Oct. 20-22, 2017)

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 two stages.  Visitors can also enjoy food from Eat Street and beverages from the Wine and Craft Beer Garden.

Barbecue Festival - Lexington, NC (Oct. 28, 2017) Barbecue Fest in Lexington
Credit: www.learnnc.org
Barbecue Fest in Lexington

Barbecue Festival - Lexington, NC (Oct. 28, 2017)

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 one of the last two Saturdays.

Every year, ten blocks of Main Street in downtown Lexington are closed off, as hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the town.  Over four hundred exhibitors set up shop, selling arts and crafts, as well as handmade food items.  Seven 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.