16 Fall Festivals Across North Carolina

Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to enjoy one or more of the state's best fests.

From the mountains to the sea, there's a lot to enjoy about North Carolina in the fall, including fall festivals. Venture out of town for a day trip or weekend getaway to enjoy one or more of the state's best fests. 

WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Mountain State Fair
Sept. 8-17 | Fletcher, North Carolina
Cost: $3-$7. Free for ages 5 and younger.
Best for: Those who like to celebrate North Carolina people, agriculture, art and tradition. Enjoy rides, games, high-diving firemen, roaming dinosaurs, The Great Atlanta Puppet Show, the Sea Lion Splash, racing pigs and more.
What's in it for kids: Dinosaurs, puppets, rides, games and three new rides: Cherokee, a new ride for small children; Dalmatians, a spinning ride for older children; and Surfer, an exhilarating ride for teenagers and adults

Cherokee Indian Fair
Oct. 3-7  | Cherokee, North Carolina
Cost: $7-15. Free for ages 6 and younger.
Best for: Culture and fun seekers. The Cherokee Indian Fair mixes traditional fair entertainment with a Cherokee twist. Dispersed amongst carnival rides and agricultural demonstrations are archery and blowgun demonstrations, cultural art, dance and music.
What’s in it for kids: Unique games, such as stickball and archery. Wednesday is "Kids’ Day" with gates opening at 9 a.m. and children 17 and younger being admitted free. Enjoy kid-focused performers, a baby-crawling competition, a turtle-crawling competition, a longest-hair contest, a youth stickball tournament and the Little Miss Cherokee and Teen Cherokee pageants. Plus, kids receive ride wristbands and boxed lunches. 

Sugar Mountain Oktoberfest
Oct. 14-15 | Sugar Mountain Resort in Sugar Mountain, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: Fans of German culture, cuisine and beer. In addition to typical Oktoberfest festivities, food and drink, Sugar Mountain Oktoberfest includes high school band performances, ski chairlift rides, and plenty of arts and crafts.
What’s in it for kids: Hayrides, inflatable bounce houses and Sugar Bear and Sweetie Bear mascot appearances—Unlike most Oktoberfest festivals, this one is family-friendly.

Bouncy Houses

Lake Eden Arts Festival
Oct. 19-22 | Black Mountain, North Carolina
Cost: Day passes start at $45 for adults and weekend passes start at $150 (includes tent campsite). Special prices for youth ages 10-17. Free for ages 9 and younger.
Best for: Fans of eclectic visual and performing arts. LEAF, as the festival is also called, is a world folk-arts celebration with performing artists, family adventure villages, activity centers and vendors as unique as the event itself.
What’s in it for kids: Throughout the festival are eight interactive family villages that include live performances at Roots Village, Stagecoach Theater in Elfhaven Village, old-world crafts in Barn Village and sports in the World Wide Playfield. 

A young girl plays guitar

Woolly Worm Festival
Oct. 21-22 | Banner Elk, North Carolina
Cost: $6 adults, $4 ages 6-12. Free for ages 5 and younger.
Best for: Lovers of nature, fun and absurdity. The highlight of the annual Woolly Worm Festival is the woolly worm race. The winning worm receives a cash prize of $1,000 on Saturday and $500 on Sunday. There also are juried arts and crafts, rides and food vendors.
What’s in it for kids: The centerpiece of the festival itself, the Woolly Worm Race. Kids can enter their own worm for $5 and you can help them cheer it on. 

Winners of the Wooly Worm Race in North Carolina

Halloweenfest in Transylvania County 
Oct. 28 | Downtown Brevard, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: Fans of ghouls, ghosts and other Halloween fun. Expect plenty of costume-themed activities, plus a pie bake-off, a pumpkin-carving competition and a beer garden.
What’s in it for kids: It’s a Halloween festival, so come dressed in costumes for contests—pets can enter, too—and a parade. Enjoy trick-or-treating and ghost stories as well.

Halloweenfest performers in downtown Brevard

IN THE PIEDMONT

Carolina Renaissance Festival 
Weekends Sept. 30-Nov. 19 | Huntersville, North Carolian
Cost: $24 for adults, $14 ages 5-12. Free for ages 4 and younger.
Best for: Fans of Comic-Con, free spirits who love to role-play and those looking for fun and laughs while experiencing times of long ago. The Renaissance Festival is a hodgepodge of performance stages, medieval-themed games, arts and crafts, jousting tournaments and random costumed characters.
What’s in it for kids: Everything is geared toward children with the exception of a few performances labeled for explicit content. Kids love the costume aspect; rentals are available. The Pirates Christmas weekend is a family favorite and the weekend of Oct. 7 is "Kids Free Weekend" where kids under 12 are admitted free with a special coupon per paying adult. See website for coupon details. 

Knights joust at the Carolina Renaissance Festival.

Annual NASCAR Day Festival
Oct. 14 | Downtown Randleman, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: NASCAR and car fans. The 29th annual event pays homage to NASCAR with race cars on display alongside vintage race cars and other automobiles. Richard Petty is on site to sign autographs from 4-6 pm
What’s in it for kids: Children’s games and rides set to the backdrop of NASCAR heroes’ race cars. There’s also a Little Miss and Mister NASCAR Pageant. 

NASCAR Day features old race cars on display.

Mush, Music and Mutts Festival 
Oct. 20-21 | Historic Uptown Shelby, North Carolina
Cost: Admission to the Rotary Chili Cook-off on Friday is $10 and is free for ages 7 and younger. Admission to the Brew Fest on Friday is $30; participants must be age 21 or older. Admission to the Liver Mush Festival on Saturday is free.
Best for: Foodies, beer fans, music aficionados and pet lovers. What started as a festival honoring liver-mush has morphed into a two-day event, which includes a beer festival, chili cook-off, liver-mush recipe competition, Little Miss Liver Mush Pageant, pet costume contest and parade, and plenty of live music honoring Shelby’s bluegrass influences.
What’s in it for kids: Besides the opportunity to dress up Fifi in a tutu for the pet costume contest, there’s also a kids’ zone with pumpkin decorating, children’s games, inflatables and a human hamster wheel. 

Carolina BalloonFest
Oct. 20-22 | Statesville, North Carolina
Cost: $5 for Friday, $20 in advance for Saturday and $15 in advance for Sunday. Free for ages 12 and younger.
Best for: Fans of hot air balloons or those curious to learn more. Hot air balloon events include two balloon launches a day where 50 balloons take flight, plus tethered balloon rides and a walk-in balloon. There are several non-balloon activities, including beer and wine tastings, live music and artist booths.
What’s in it for kids: There is a special kids’ zone filled with inflatables and magic shows. A climbing wall and a bungee jump cost extra. 

Carolina BalloonFest balloons

Barbecue Festival
Oct. 28 | Uptown Lexington, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: Lovers of the swine! That is unless you prefer yours prepared Eastern-style (there’s kind of a rivalry). Besides barbecue, the festival hosts a wine garden that showcases Yadkin Valley wineries, arts and crafts, and a 50-ton sand sculpture.
What’s in it for kids: Besides finger-licking good barbecue, the festival caters to kids with the annual pig race and bicycle stunt shows and a lumberjack demonstration. There are also rides and games. 

Servers at Lexington's Barbecue Festival

Rural Hill Sheepdog Trials and Dog Festival 
Nov. 11-12 | Huntersville, North Carolina
Cost: Ticket costs haven't been updated for the 2017 year yet, but last year it was $11 for adults and $7.50 ages 5-12 (free for ages 4 and younger).
Best for: Friends of man’s best friend. The weekend celebrates all things dog with the National Border Collie Sheepherding Championships, dog sports demonstrations and canine history demonstrations.
What’s in it for kids: Plenty of chances to interact with furry four-legged friends, hayrides, tractor exhibits and pumpkin chunking

IN THE TRIANGLE

Festifall Arts Festival 
Oct. 1 | W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: Art enthusiasts and food-truck fans. The annual arts festival highlights everything from handcrafted artworks to live performances on three stages. Acts cover everything from music to improv and dance.
What’s in it for kids: An interactive kids' zone with science demonstrations, spin art, face painting and a poetry lab. Integrated into the live acts are performances by children's Tae Kwon Do, dance and gymnastics groups.

Performer

42nd Annual Selma Rail Roads Festival 
Oct. 6-7 | Downtown Selma, North Carolina
Cost: Free
Best for: Fans of railroads and trains, from model sets to the real thing. In addition to model-train displays and a full-size caboose, the 42nd annual festival features a carnival, parade, pageant and charity run, not to mention a Food Truck Rodeo Friday night.
What’s in it for kids: Plenty of trains on display, plus a kids’ zone and a children’s-focused Little Caboose Run. 

North Carolina State Fair
Oct. 12-22 | North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 ages 6-12. Free for ages 5 and younger. Discounts available if you purchase in advance or buy a family four-pack.
Best for: Anyone who loves a county fair and the carnival rides, competitions, concerts and agricultural displays
What’s in it for kids: Kiddieland and kid-focused competitions like sugar-cube building and cookie decorating. Bigger kids can enjoy the mobile robotics contest. 

Carnival ride

International Festival of Raleigh
Oct. 20-22 | Raleigh Convention Center, downtown Raleigh
Cost: $15 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6-12. Free for ages 6 and younger. Family four-packs and discounted rates available ahead of time online.
Best for: World travelers and those infatuated with learning about different cultures. The three-day event features cultural booths, sidewalk cafes serving international food, fashions from around the globe and an international dance competition.
What’s in it for kids: Children’s cultural performances, international story time and a Kids Got Talent competition

Dancers