Erica Chats: Your NC Fall Bucket List

Twinning! Ella matches the pumpkins — and her brother, Easton — at Phillips Farms.

WE ARE SO LUCKY (I can’t say this enough) to live in North Carolina, and fall is incredible all across our great state. So here are my recommendations for must-do items to add to your fall bucket list — from the mountains to the coast, and everywhere in between.

This scenic drive offers breathtaking views of fall foliage in the Appalachians. The parkway spans 469 miles from North Carolina to Virginia, dotted with hiking trails, overlooks, and picnic spots.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this vibrant city is a hot spot for outdoor activities, art galleries, breweries, and farm-to-table dining. A personal favorite is watching a sunset at the Omni Grove Park Inn. It’s worth a stop to dine and check out the scene, even if you aren’t a hotel guest.

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this section of the Pisgah National Forest offers stunning fall foliage, challenging hikes, and beautiful waterfalls. Not big on hiking? Several roadside waterfalls let you enjoy the sights without the sweat.

Erica never misses the NC State Fair!

I’ve visited this Wild West theme park since I was a young girl. October is one of the best months to visit, as the Halloween Celebration takes over when the sun goes down. Check out the Ghost Train or take a walk through the Freaky Forest. Blowing Rock and Boone offer lots to do before you head home.

Visitors can explore historic lighthouses, enjoy beach walks, and indulge in fresh seafood with fewer crowds than peak season. You will feel like you have the beach all to yourself!

Triangle Oktoberfest will be at Koka Booth Amphitheatre October 6–7, and several breweries and beer gardens in the Raleigh-Durham area hold independent Oktoberfest celebrations as well. Pick your favorite and celebrate the season with traditional German beer, food, live music, and games.

You absolutely can’t miss the iconic State Fair, running October 12–22, with agricultural exhibits, rides, live music, food vendors, and tons of entertainment and people watching. Even when I lived out of state, I flew home every year for the fair. What’s your must-have fair food indulgence? I need Al’s Fries.

Located in Youngsville, this family-friendly farm offers corn mazes, hayrides, pumpkin patches, a petting zoo, and fun for the whole family. Plus, receive a free pumpkin with every admission.

Erica welcomes fall with friends at Phillips Farms of Cary.

Fall festival by day, haunted farm by night — and lots of fun for the whole family. With wagon rides, a cow train, corn maze, sunflower field, apple cannon, plus food vendors on-site every weekend, you’ll never want to leave.

Take a guided ghost tour in downtown Raleigh or Durham to learn about the haunted history and spooky legends of our area. If you’re traveling, check for a walking tour at your destination to get into the spooky spirit while you learn about the area.

An annual tradition since 1974, the BalloonFest runs October 20–22 in Statesville. Hot air balloon flights launch twice a day, with entertainment and food throughout the day. Festival visitors can book a hot air balloon ride or simply enjoy the colorful sights from the ground. Tethered balloon rides let you get a taste of the experience without the expense and commitment of a full ride.

The state capital offers a mix of urban and nature experiences to savor the season. Check out the North Carolina Museum of Art and the JC Raulston Arboretum, or take a stroll through the historic neighborhoods for charming autumn views that are definitely Instagram worthy.

Owned by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, check out the scenic views of the vineyards and surrounding countryside in Lexington. They have a variety of wines to taste and often host events and live music during the fall.

Hop on a tethered lift or fly sky high at BalloonFest.

Known as the largest winery in the South, Duplin Winery in Rose Hill is famous for its sweet muscadine wines. They offer tastings, tours, and have an awesome gift shop.

Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur, approximately 90 minutes away, offers multiple apple varieties and provides a family-friendly atmosphere with activities like wagon rides and a corn maze. Another option is Vollmer Farm in Bunn, about 45 minutes from Cary. They have a large apple orchard where visitors can pick their own apples and enjoy a range of other fall activities, including hayrides and pumpkin patches.

I know, that’s a long list! Try to conquer them all this fall, or just mark off a few that appeal to your family. You just might find a new annual tradition. Let autumn be all about memory-making moments for the whole family. Stay connected @EricaDeLong.

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