OK folks, this is it. After this month, Charlotte takes a turn toward winter. And while we can appreciate four seasons as much as the next person, there’s something especially charming about autumn in this city.
So, make room on the calendar, break out the flannel, and order your pumpkin spice latte (or local alternative) to go. There’s fall fun to be had and we’ve found October’s 10 best ways to have it.
(1) Get spooked at SCarowinds
Oh, riding roller coasters that go up to 80mph and drop at 74-degree angles isn’t enough to terrify you? Enter SCarowinds, the annual fall weekend transformation of Carowinds that includes seven mazes, night rides and horror shows. Most importantly, it includes something called “Scare Zones,” which are basically just places filled with people who will make you scream in public. It’s fun, trust me.
(2) Roast around a bonfire at SCarrigan Farms
Well I think we can officially say “scare” name puns have taken off in Charlotte. This one is actually at Mooresville’s Carrigan Farms Rock Quarry, which for 10 years has offered a variety of haunted thrills. This year, in addition to the terrifying moonlit trail and maze, you’ll find private bonfire sites by the farm’s pond. For $50, you and your group can roast hot dogs or s’mores around the fire.
(3) Take a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sure, you’ll be able to see plenty of colorful leaves just driving down Queens Road this month, but to take your Leaf Watch 2K15 to the next level, head west to this famed parkway. The 469-mile road winds through the Appalachian Mountains, offering some of the most picturesque fall foliage views in the country. Feel free to tag us in your inevitable Instagram post.
(4) Say cheers to beers at the 17th Annual Charlotte Oktoberfest
A ticket to this Oct. 3 festival gets you unlimited sampling from more than 100 breweries and cideries. If you still need convincing to buy these tickets (not sure why you would), consider that the outdoor festival also includes live music from bands Tantrum and Simplified, as well as food vendors with beer-friendly fare like brats and pretzels.
— CharlotteOktoberfest (@CltOktFst) September 11, 2015
(5) Be merry at the Carolina Renaissance Festival Come one, come all to ye olde renaissance festival! (When else can you annoy your friends by speaking like that all day?) On weekends through October and November, there are cottages and castles, jousting tournaments, royal court characters, jugglers, and, of course, the chance to purchase gnome figurines. Most importantly, there’s food like giant turkey legs and sausage on a stick. And there’s and plenty of ale for washing it all down — aye, lads and lassies, ye can wet your whistle! (Sorry, I really can’t help it.) (6) Sip on homegrown hard cider Fall beers are so September. This month it’s all about the sweet, fizzy and fresh-pressed. Stop in to Red Clay Ciderworks in South End, which uses North Carolina apples to create a variety of ciders like the crisp Queen City Common. Or make the trip down to York to Windy Hill Orchard, where you’ll find a cider bar with sample flights — and, possibly more noteworthy, hot and fresh apple cider doughnuts. If anyone asks, you’ve been eating and drinking fruit all day.
— Red Clay Ciderworks (@RedClayCider) September 18, 2015
(7) Ride the Ferris wheel at the Cleveland County Fair
As any good romantic comedy makes evident, carnivals are an autumn must. This is mostly because they are one of the few places you can find fried Oreos. But also because at some point in life everyone should experience pig racing, gambling with live mice, Elvis impersonators, the world’s smallest woman, and a goat with two heads — all in one place. But seriously, catch the ride on the Ferris wheel at this fair Oct. 1-11.
(8) Eat pumpkin everything
Here’s the beauty of pumpkin fare: It sounds like you’re eating a seasonal vegetable when in truth basically all pumpkin dishes are turned into delicious desserts and carbs. It’s brilliant. Here in Charlotte, there are a few pumpkin must-eats, including Heirloom’s pumpkin soup with herbed yogurt, Vivace’s spiced pumpkin crostata with cinannmon gelato, Customshop’s housemade cheese pumpkin cavatelli pasta, Amelie’s pumpkin bisque and The Original Pancake House’s pumpkin pecan pancakes.
(9) Give back for breast cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are so many events happening around this that you should clear the calendar for at least one. Here are a few ideas:
(10) Celebrate the fall finale at Whitewater Center
Of course, we can’t do a list of what to do in Charlotte and not include the U.S. National Whitewater Center. On Oct. 10 the center is celebrating the final day of the popular River Jam concert series with the Dirty Dozen Obstacle Trail Race, a Build-Your-Own-Boat competition, cider sampling and the year’s last musical performances.
— USNWC (@usnwc) September 29, 2015
Photos: Courtesy of Carolina Renaissance Festival; Corey Inscoe; Charlotte Observer file; Jeff Willhelm/Charlotte Observer