As the heat of summer mellows into the crisp coolness of fall, the Southern U.S. comes alive with a palette of oranges, reds, and yellows. But it’s not just the leaves that change; the region undergoes a transformation that offers a buffet of activities capturing the essence of autumn.
From Texas BBQ at the state fair to sipping fine wine in Virginia’s countryside, there’s an adventure waiting for everyone. So grab your sweater, and maybe a pumpkin spice latte, and let’s explore some of the must-attend events that make fall in the South a season to remember.
Georgia: Apple Picking in Ellijay
Nestled in the North Georgia mountains, Ellijay serves as the apple capital of the state. Every fall, local orchards open their gates to apple enthusiasts. Whether you’re with family or friends, you can bag your own apples and explore other activities like hayrides and corn mazes. And let’s not forget the on-site bakeries offering warm apple cider and freshly baked apple fritters.
Consider your trip to Ellijay complete with a visit to the annual Georgia Apple Festival. Vendors from around the state come to sell homemade crafts, food, and of course, a wide array of apple products.
Alabama: The National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores
Down on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the National Shrimp Festival is a seafood lover’s dream. Featuring mouth-watering shrimp dishes, you can savor everything from shrimp gumbo to shrimp tacos.
The festival is more than just a feast; it’s an experience. Live music performances, a fine arts area, and a retail marketplace hosting over 200 vendors are also part of the festivity.
Florida: The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
Beyond the magic of Disney World, Epcot hosts an International Food and Wine Festival every year. The event turns into a culinary global village offering foods and beverages from different countries.
Cooking demonstrations, live concerts, and wine tastings are just a few of the activities you can partake in, making this more than just a visit to a theme park.
Tennessee: Dollywood’s Harvest Festival
In the scenic hills of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, the amusement park owned by country music star Dolly Parton, turns into an autumn wonderland during its Harvest Festival. The park comes alive with thousands of pumpkins, gospel music shows, and fall foods ranging from hearty stews to spiced desserts.
South Carolina: Boone Hall Fright Nights
For those who prefer their autumn with a side of spook, Boone Hall Fright Nights in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina is the place to be. The Boone Hall Plantation transforms into haunted landscapes featuring hayrides, creepy corn mazes, and multiple haunted houses designed to rattle your nerves.
Mississippi: Cruisin’ the Coast
A week-long festival that takes place along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cruisin’ the Coast is the largest car show in the South. Car enthusiasts can revel in classic cars, hot rods, and other vintage vehicles while enjoying block parties and live music.
Louisiana: Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
New Orleans is never short on excitement, and the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is no exception. Scheduled every fall around Halloween, this three-day festival covers all musical tastes from rap to rock and electronic.
Apart from music, the festival showcases large-scale art installations and offers a variety of local Louisiana cuisine to enjoy.
North Carolina: Asheville Oktoberfest
If beer is more your style, Asheville, North Carolina has you covered with its annual Oktoberfest. The city, known for its arts scene and historic architecture, offers a day dedicated to German culture, complete with various beers, foods, and even a stein-hoisting contest.
Downtown Asheville is the perfect setting for this event, giving you an opportunity to explore the city’s other popular sites like the Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Texas: Texas State Fair in Dallas
Texas is big on everything, including its state fair. Held in Dallas, the Texas State Fair is an event that practically defines fall in the Lone Star State. The fairgrounds get packed with rides, games, and most importantly, food stalls offering treats like fried Oreos, turkey legs, and of course, Texas barbecue.
Besides the fairway fun, the Texas State Fair also hosts livestock shows, cooking competitions, and auto shows. It’s a blend of traditional and modern, offering a glimpse into both the rural and cosmopolitan aspects of Texas life.
Maryland: Autumn Glory Festival in Garrett County
When the leaves start changing in Garrett County, Maryland, it’s time for the Autumn Glory Festival. This event is a celebration of fall foliage and offers a range of activities like parades, concerts, and craft shows. Visitors can enjoy scenic driving tours to witness the state’s dazzling display of autumn colors.
Don’t forget to partake in the apple dumpling making or the pumpkin carving contests that add local flavor to this charming festival. It’s a classic East Coast fall experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Delaware: Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach
Delaware may be small, but it makes a big splash with its annual Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach. The highlight of the event is the costumed dog parade, which is both hilarious and adorable. The weekend is full of activities ranging from trick or treating to hayrides, and let’s not forget the beach games that are fun for all ages.
Traditional vendors line up the boardwalk, offering various crafts and foods, making it a shopping experience with a unique, autumnal beach twist.
Oklahoma: Pumpkinville at Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City’s Myriad Botanical Gardens transforms into Pumpkinville each fall, a delightful space adorned with thousands of pumpkins, gourds, and autumnal foliage. Children can explore mini-villages made entirely of pumpkins, engage in seasonal crafts, and participate in the storytelling sessions that occur throughout the event.
For those a bit older, the gardens also offer cider tastings and gardening workshops, making it a versatile event suitable for all ages.
Virginia: Monticello Wine Trail
If you’re a wine aficionado, then the Monticello Wine Trail in Virginia is your kind of fall activity. The trail consists of about 30 wineries located in the Monticello American Viticultural Area, which is inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of grape growing and winemaking.
A self-guided tour along the wine trail offers visitors the opportunity to experience Virginia’s burgeoning wine culture while enjoying the state’s stunning fall foliage. It’s an elegant, adult way to welcome the autumn.
West Virginia: Bridge Day in Fayetteville
Ever wanted to try base jumping? In Fayetteville, West Virginia, Bridge Day gives adrenaline seekers the chance to jump off the 876-foot tall New River Gorge Bridge. Held one day in the fall, this event is the largest extreme sports event in the world.
But don’t worry if extreme sports aren’t your cup of tea. The festival also offers plenty of vantage points for spectators to watch these daring feats. There are also food and craft vendors for those looking to keep their feet on solid ground.