Renowned as a haven for nature enthusiasts and history buffs, Florida’s Clay County is a treasured retreat year round for those who love the great outdoors. While this Northeast Florida destination may be a go-to vacation spot for summertime camping and hiking, fall ushers in even more fun to be found. Whether you prefer pumpkin patches and crop mazes or food festivals and live music, Clay County has a little bit of everything to help capture that fall feeling — even if the warm temperatures say otherwise. Here are 13 fall festivities to celebrate all things fall in Clay County this autumn.
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Amazing Grace Farms Festival
Looking for some good old-fashioned family fun? Then look no further than the Amazing Grace Farms Fall Festival, held every Friday and Saturday of October in Green Cove Springs, Fla. You’ll find everything to give you that fall feeling, from picking the perfect pumpkin from the patch to getting lost in a crop maze. There’s even a hay bale maze for the little ones to wind through. The whole family can take a tour of the farm on a wagon ride, and there’s still plenty for the kids to enjoy, including the cow train, barnyard ball zone, corn crib and jump pad. Need a few photo ops? The corn maze is the perfect spot for that Insta-worthy shot. Don’t forget to stop by and say hi to the farm animals too.
MVPA Fall Rally and Swap Meet
Take a step back in time this fall at the Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s Fall Rally and Swap Meet on Oct. 5-6, hosted by the Military Museum of North Florida in Green Cove Springs. Visitors can walk among antique military vehicles, see World War II weapons demonstrations and even watch battle reenactments. For the perfect photo opp, don’t miss the muzzle flash on Friday and Saturday evening as the tanks fire in the background during sunset. It’s a great way to connect with Clay County’s rich military history ahead of Veteran’s Day this fall.
Soul Food Festival
Come hungry and celebrate North Florida’s local fare this fall at the annual Soul Food Festival at Vera Francis Hall Park in Green Cove Springs. A parade kicks off the event at noon on Oct. 5, and the sweet potato pie and barbecue ribs contests make for some sweet and savory competition. Line dancing and musical performances by local artists offer up some live entertainment as you nosh on tasty bites from local vendors and shop for unique finds from local craft artisans. And there’s plenty to keep the kids busy too, with bounce houses, pony rides and train rides.
Boo ‘N Brew
Eat, drink and be scary at the first annual Boo ‘N Brew on Oct. 5 at Orange Park Mall. Families can celebrate all things fall from 3-9 p.m. with live music, food trucks, local makers and crafters, and a KidsZone with bounce houses and face painting. Kids, and kids-at-heart, can satisfy their sweet tooth from 6-8 p.m. during Trunk or Treat, presented by Subaru of Orange Park. Meanwhile, adults can purchase tickets to the Craft Beer & Tasting Garden, featuring samples from local craft breweries like Wicked Barley and Bold City Brewing along with food pairings from Publix Aprons. For more fun, enjoy live musical performances from Tad Jennings and Stephen Quinn, and a fall fashion show featuring the latest trends from Orange Park Mall retailers.
Cala Vida Arts and Music Festival
Enjoy the fall weather surrounded by live music and beautiful artwork at the Cala Vida Arts and Music Festival. This week-long festival highlights local musicians and artists of all types with live performances and visual arts displays Oct. 7-12 throughout Spring Park in historic Green Cove Springs. You can catch musicians, international dances, plays and story telling from local authors. Painters, sculptors, and other artists will have their work on display — you may even catch a glimpse of an artist working while at the festival. Food trucks and local vendors will be on hand with a variety of food and drinks to satisfy hungry visitors, and the best way to enjoy this festival is to bring a blanket and chairs, and find a shady spot to take it all in.
Orange Park Fall Festival
This fall festival started out 37 years ago with just 12 vendors and a few guitar players, and today it has grown to more than 200 vendors and two stages for live entertainment. The annual Orange Park Fall Festival is a staple of fall fun in the Sunshine State and was named a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society. The event is held Oct. 19-20 at the Orange Park Town Hall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes fun for the whole family. Kids can bounce on inflatables, get their faces painted, climb rock walls or go on pony rides while adults shop ‘til they drop with local vendors offering unique gifts, handmade quilts, and pottery — you can even find tasty homemade treats for your furry friends. Come hungry too, because this festival offers everything from savory barbecue and local seafood to fresh baked goods and locally harvested honey. This festival is sure to evoke those fall feelings and it’s a must-visit autumn event in Clay County.
Ham Jam Music Festival & BBQ Cookoff
Live music and delicious barbecue come together for a smoking good time at the Ham Jam Music Festival & BBQ Cookoff on Oct. 17-20 in Green Cove Springs. This four-day event is a Florida BBQ sanctioned event, so this barbecue means business. Teams from across the Southeast will travel to Clay County to compete for trophies and prize money for the best barbecue ribs, brisket, chicken, and pork shoulder/Boston butt. In addition to the sweet and smoky flavors, Ham Jam also includes live musical performances as well as rides and arts and crafts vendors, so there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
This spooktacular event isn’t for the fainthearted, as you tour the haunted woods of Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park on a bone-chilling, 1-mile hike. Gold Head Branch is one of the oldest state parks in Florida, and is home to many myths and folklore — plus its tall grass and towering pines make for a spooky setting once the sun goes down. Park rangers assure guests that this event is scary, so be sure to use discretion with small children. The park’s terrain is also very uneven, so it’s recommended to wear closed-toed shoes — you may need them to run away from the legendary Mossman. This frightening frolic through the park is on Oct. 26 and costs $5. Food and drink will be available as well — if you survive the terrifying trek.
Tales from the Clink: A Candlelit Tour Through Clay County’s History
Learn of legends and local lore on a chilling candlelit tour of the Old County Jail and the 1890 Courthouse in Clay County. These historic buildings have a lot of tales to tell, some are just folklore and others are true stories — the scariest part: It’s hard to tell the difference between the tall tales and the truth. The character-based tours will guide you through the historic buildings and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an episode of “Ghost Hunters.” It’s a hauntingly good time for the whole family on Oct. 29.
Moosehaven Chili Cook Off
Chili and corn hole — it doesn’t get much better than that, and you can find this perfect combination at the 10th annual Moosehaven Chili Cook Off on Nov. 9. This annual culinary showdown is a can’t-miss event in Clay County. Every year, cook teams from around the country bring a bit of spice and a lot of flavor to Moosehaven to compete in this International Chili Society sanctioned event, with the hopes of taking home the People’s Choice and ICS awards. The competition is really heating up this year as the Chili Cook Off hosts the cornhole championships by the American Cornhole League. And while the chili and cornhole competitions are underway, you can check out the classic car show by the Clay County Cruzers, shop local craft vendors and enjoy live entertainment from Nashville recording artists.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
As the temperatures start to cool off this fall season, immerse yourself in old Florida with an outdoor adventure in Clay County. Home to 35 miles of trails, as well as pristine freshwater lakes and rivers, Clay County is an outdoor oasis perfect for hiking, biking and kayaking. Lace up your hiking boots and hit the newly renovated Jungle Trail at Camp Chowenwaw, grab a paddle and kayak up Black Creek, or check out the newest mountain biking trail on Fleming Island. The opportunities are endless with the abundance of nature-based recreational activities that can be found in Clay County, and fall is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Fall Camping in a Treehouse
Autumn ushers in cooler air and more comfortable temperatures, perfect for a night of camping under the stars. Clay County is home to the historic Camp Chowenwaw and its unique treetop accommodations. Your childhood dream of sleeping in a treehouse can come true this fall, as Camp Chowenwaw has nine treehouses that can sleep up to four people. To make your experience even cooler, two sides of the treehouse are screened, so you’ll feel even closer to nature while still keeping the critters out. During your stay at Camp Chowenwaw, you can enjoy hiking, biking and kayaking during the day and settle in for the night perched high in the treetop canopy.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes & More on the Coffee Trail
Can’t get enough pumpkin spice this season? Clay County’s coffee culture is strong, with several independent coffeehouses and cafes that can quench your thirst for pumpkin spice lattes and other fall flavors this season. And while you’re sure to find your favorite pick-me-ups on the menu, these coffee shops offer signature brews you won’t find at Starbucks. Whether you enjoy a cozy cafe and handcrafted drinks at Spring Park Coffee, ethically sourced organic coffee at Crazy Beans Coffee, or fresh fare to go along with your cup of Joe at Urban Bean Coffeehouse Cafe, Clay County has something for every type of coffee connoisseur. Love a good latte? Royal Moose Coffee Co. in Middleburg serves up a cinnamon maple latte that’s a nice change from your standard PSL.
Whatever you fancy this fall, Clay County has it all. From pumpkin patches and spooky tours to food festivals and camping, there’s a way for everyone to enjoy that fall feeling in Northeast Florida. Start planning your fall getaway to Clay County today!