Fall may still be a few weeks away but we’re already in an autumn kind of mood with football, Oktoberfest beers and festivals galore.
Whether you’re ready for pumpkin-flavored everything or clinging on to the last few days of summer, we’ve got you covered with 10 things you must do this month now that Labor Day weekend is over.
Grab a hard apple cider and dig in.
(1) Celebrate like a German at a beer festival.
You know who really gets beer festivals? The Germans. But plane tickets to Munich are expensive and admission to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Mecktoberfest Sept. 22-24 is free. At this weekend festival you can indulge in authentic German-style fare, culture and brews — and you can bring your dog and then drive home after.
Save those airline miles for another time.
(2) Eat up at the Yiasou Greek Festival.
Sure, you could go to this annual festival at Dilworth’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Sept. 7-10 for its cultural lectures, music, dancing and art. But let’s be honest, we’re there for the baklava sundaes — delicate phyllos, drenched in honey, served atop vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. It’s the kind of cultural experience we can all get behind.
(3) Cheer on the Panthers.
September in Charlotte means one thing: Football season. Ready to root for the home team? The Carolina Panthers’ home opener is Sept. 17 against the Buffalo Bills, and the next weekend (Sept. 24) the rival New Orleans Saints come to town. Pack up the cornhole boards and cooler, bang the Keep Pounding drum and cheer the team to victory. Single-game tickets are still available.
(4) Spend an afternoon apple picking.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? We hope hard apple cider and apple cider doughnuts count. You can find those at Windy Hill Orchard in York, S.C., which is also the best local spot for getting that wholesome apple picking Instagram shot. The orchard opens for pick-your-own Sept. 8 and you’ll want to get there early — the secret is out on this place and the PYO apples go fast. Luckily, there’s cold cider, hot donuts and live music all afternoon.
(5) Take a stroll through Festival in the Park.
This annual music and arts festival happening Sept. 22-24 has been in Charlotte since 1964. In picturesque Freedom Park you’ll find 180 artists and craftsmen, hundreds of entertainers and tons of fun festival food offerings. And it’s free! Do you really need more reasons to go?
(6) Break Bread with Levine Museum of the New South.
This month marks one year since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the protests that followed. In light of that, Levine Museum of the New South’s latest Breaking Bread dinner and dialogue event Sept. 19 will focus on where the community stands today. Panelists include Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Major Mike Campagna, Justin Perry from OneMECK and Cache Heidel, the fiancée of Jonathan Ferrell. Tickets are $25.
(7) Get lost in the Amazing Maize Maze.
Is there anything better than a farm in fall? Every year Rural Hill farm just north of town features a seven-acre corn maze on the weekends with two miles of connecting paths. The maze opens on Sept. 9 and, if you want a serious challenge, join in for one of the Friday or Saturday night after-dark maze experiences. Just bring a flashlight — and your courage. The day maze is $11 and the night maze costs $16.
(8) Sing along at Tosco Music Party.
If you haven’t been to one of John Tosco’s parties, you’re missing out. What started as a series of house parties has blossomed into a concert experience unlike any other in Charlotte. Four times a year, Tosco invites about 15 musical acts — from young violin prodigies to gospel choirs to touring singer songwriters — to perform two songs each. Oh — and there are audience sing-a-longs, too. Tickets for the Sept. 16 party at the Knight Theater start at $14.
(9) Wine and dine at the Whitewater Center.
If wine is your thing, September is your month at the USNWC. The Uncorked Festival Sept. 23 includes the Wild Vine 5K and half-marathon trail races, as well as the SUP Stream Catawba River Race, followed by a wine tasting set to live music next to the whitewater. It’s $5 to park, then $10 for one sample card good for four 2-ounce samples.
(10) Groove over to Soul Junction.
What’s better than a two-day music festival featuring national and local artists? A free two-day music festival featuring national and local artists. Soul Junction returns to Johnson C. Smith Sept. 15-16 with headliners like Joanna Teters, Derrick Hodge, Micki Miller, Shelby J and The X-men. Groove to some of the most talented young soul, funk and jazz musicians around while connecting with Historic West End’s long history of art, culture and music.
Photos: John D. Simmons; Jeff Siner; Courtesy of Festival in the Park; Courtesy of Tosco Music Party