The 10 things you MUST do in Charlotte in September

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General scene at the opening day of Festival in the Park on Friday September 19, 2014 at Freedom Park. It's the 50th anniversary of Festival in the Park, which draws thousands annually, and its executive director, Julie Austin, keeps up the work of its founder, her father.

Welcome to Charlotte’s best month. OK, that may be a matter of opinion, but consider this: This month, the weather is (finally) starting to cool down just as the social scene is warming up.

From football to festivals, there’s plenty of fun stuff to do. And from barbecue to beer, there’s even more fun stuff to eat and drink. And because FOMO is real, here’s your bucket list to make sure you hit all its glorious highlights.

(1) Drink a local fall seasonal beer

This isn’t hard. After all, there are 17 breweries in Charlotte so there are more than enough offerings to make this an easy drinking assignment. Some annual favorites include NoDa Brewing Company’s Gordgeous pumpkin ale, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Mecktoberfest and Birdsong Brewing’s St. Tuber Belgian Abbey ale made with sweet potatoes and cloves.

(2) Sip and sample at Charlotte Beerfest

Let’s say you can’t make time in your schedule for a brewery visit (we’re judging your priorities, but that’s for another article). Enter Charlotte Beerfest on Sept. 19 in uptown’s BB&T Ballpark. It features three bands — including the Gin Blossoms — more than 250 beers for tasting and food from the ballpark’s concession stands — all with a skyline backdrop you’ll inevitably post on Instagram. Tickets are $50.

(3) Cheer on the Panthers

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There are two home games this month. Do not tell us you have something better to do on your Sunday afternoon than sit in the Carolina sunshine and pull for the home team. Or, you know, at the very least show up for the tailgate.

(4) Take a stroll through Festival in the Park

This annual music and arts weekend festival happening Sept. 25-27 has been in Charlotte since 1964. It’s set in the picturesque Freedom Park where you’ll find 180 artists and craftsmen, hundreds of entertainers and tons of fun festival food offerings (think funnel cake). And it’s free! You’re officially all out of excuses not to go.

(5) Eat at Yiasou Festival

It seems likely that a lot of people go to this annual festival at Dilworth’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Sept. 10-13 for its cultural lectures, cathedral tours, music, dancing, art, and shopping. But let’s be honest. It’s really all about the food. Specifically, the gyros, spanakopitas and baklava sundaes. Oh, the baklava sundaes. Delicate phyllo, drenched in honey, served atop vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. Now that’s a cultural experience we can get behind.

Greek Festival Charlotte

(6) 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. 11 and, if you want a serious challenge, join in for one of the Friday night after-dark mazes. Just bring a flashlight — and your courage. Tickets are $16.

Historic Rural Hill; Amazing Maize Maze

(7) Dig into Food Truck Fridays

Every Friday afternoon food trucks roll into the empty lot at the corner of Camden Road and Park Avenue in Historic South End to start selling their tasty offerings. But you already knew that. What you may not have considered though is how perfect this event can be on a cooler soon-to-be fall evening. Grab one of those aforementioned seasonal brews at Common Market, order from your favorite truck and enjoy a taste of one of the city’s most laid-back events.

(8) Wine and dine at the Whitewater Center

If wine is your thing, September is your month at the USNWC. In addition to the center’s weekly “Zipline & Dine” series featuring zip lining followed by a fireside wine dinner, there’s also the second-annual Uncorked Festival on Sept. 26. The day includes Wild Vine 5K and half-marathon trail races followed by a wine tasting set to live music next to the whitewater.

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(9) Chow down at the Southern Sauce Festival

The Charlotte Beerfest and the Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship have come together for the inaugural Southern Sauce Festival Sept. 18-19. The (free!) festival in uptown’s Romare Bearden Park is designed to showcase Charlotte—and bring in barbecue from around the area.

(10) Indulge in dessert at Amélie’s French Bakery

There’s no bad time of year to enjoy one of Amélie’s salted caramel brownies. But during the fall the pastry case at this beloved bakery is even more mouthwatering than usual. So leave your diet at the door and order a Brown Butter Pecan Macaroon, a Caramel Apple Torte, or a Sweet Potato Pecan Petit Four — or all three.

Fall has never tasted better.

Photos: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer; Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; Mark Hames/Charlotte Observer; John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer; Robert Lahser/Charlotte Observer.


Sarah Crosland PhotoSarah Crosland is author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and 100 Things to Do In Charlotte Before You Die.

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