Bluegrass, Blacktoberfest, and Woolly Worms: 9 Fall Festivals in North Carolina

The Autumn Leaves Festival is an annual tradition in Mt. Airy, N.C. (Image via Autumn Leaves Festival)

By Emily Jaeger

October 14, 2022

Fall is perhaps the most pleasant time of year. And North Carolina is chock full of pleasant festivals to celebrate it. We’ve mapped out the next three weekends of events for you.

Listen, just because fall is on sale at Michael’s does not mean it’s over. It’s just getting started.

As a Wilmingtonian, I’ve been waiting for October since the great pollening and I’m not ready to give up on fall yet. In fact, if I’ve learned anything from Wilmington, it’s that what you lack in deciduous trees and autumnal weather, you can always make up for with enthusiasm. 

And it’s worth the effort, because, to quote Raleigh’s YouTube-famous Kim Holderness, “Fall fixes everything.”

Now, if you’ve ever googled “fall festival” and “North Carolina” you already know that the choices are overwhelming. But not to worry, Cardinal & Pine’s here to help you curate your fall dance card. So pop a local PSL and throw on a sweater, it’s fall because we say so. 


(A.K.A you saw this article and needed to autumn immediately.)

The Chill Choice: Check your local farms and churches–because they are turning up their pumpkin patch game and you may even see some Trunk’o’Treatin already in the works. 

Fall in Love: In its 56th year, the Autumn Leaves Festival in downtown Mt. Airy is a classic fall experience. Leaf peepin? Check. Artisans? Check (there’s only 200 to choose from). 

Grab an Amish donut or caramel apple and wander through the booths or take in the local mix of old time, bluegrass, and gospel. This consistent winner of Top 20 Events in the Southeast is definitely worth the hourish (or less) drive from Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Free admission. 

Autumnal Arts: It’s not an NC fall festival without 200 artisans. What makes the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands in Asheville so special? It’s the live artist demonstrations–including: Broom-making, wood-working, clay, fiber arts, and book-binding. Also, did we mention the yodeling? No trip to the Blue Mountains is complete without. $10 entry fee, kids are free. 

Truly Strange: Woolly Worm Festival who needs groundhogs or the weather channel when you have Woolly Bear Caterpillars? Banner Elk’s beloved woollies each have 13 stripes, alternating brown and black. According to local lore, each stripe corresponds to one of the 13 weeks of winter. The darker the stripes, the more severe the weather to come. Of course, no two woollies have the same stripes–which, of course, necessitates a festival to race the woollies to determine which one will be in charge of predicting the weather. $7 entry fee, kids $5. 


Best Brews: If you live in the Triangle (or beyond!) you definitely don’t want to miss the Durham Blacktoberfest. Now in its third year, this festival run by Black Brew Culture celebrates Black craft beer, food and music cultures at the sexy/gritty Suite Four, Durham Bottling Company. Enjoy industrial architecture and views paired with good drinks, good food and urban artistry. There are a range of ticketing options and swag from basic entry for $55 to the $250 VIP pass, all include unlimited tasting pours. 

Celebrate Black brew culture at Durham’s third annual Blacktoberfest, put on by Black Brew Culture. (Image via Blacktoberfest)

For the (Un)Initiated: Can you tell the difference between Kuriniki and Sgraffito? If you do–the North Carolina Ceramics Festival in Asheville is right up your alley. If you don’t–it’s probably time to learn! Live ceramics demonstrations, a slew of talented vendors, and finding that perfect mug to keep your hands warm on a crisp day–all a guarantee. Free admission. 

Family-Friendly Halloween: Southeastern NC is killing it with the family friendly options. One highlight is Jacksonville’s Spooktacular Halloween, a night of trick-or-treating and spooky science experiments at the Sturgeon City Environmental Education Center, $5 per ticket. Wilmington’s Y’alloween, a free family-friendly, LGBTQ and BIPOC affirming, trunk-or-treat + fall festival is sure to make everyone feel welcome.  


Grammy-nominated Nashville bluegrass band Sister Sadie will be performing at the Smoky Mountains Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 29. (Image via Sister Sadie)

The Hills are Alive: Listen to some amazing bluegrass music during the height of western NC’s leaf-peepery at the Smoky Mountains Bluegrass Festival. Featured bands include Balsam Range, Sister Sadie, and The Amanda Cook Band, performing in the fresh fall air. Admission $55 for adults, $105 for all the bells and whistles, free for under 21. 

Adult Halloween: Kids want candy for Halloween, adults go to the Charlotte Halloween Pub Crawl, now in its 21st year. Even the Charlotte Halloween Pub Crawl can go on the pub crawl! Enjoy 25+ venues, swag, costume contests, drink specials, raffles, and giveaways–and all for a good cause: Carolina Breast Friends. Admission is between $10-25, the earlier you sign up, the cheaper the tickets. 


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