Charlotte Fall Festival Guide
Anticipating cooler temperatures in the near future, Charlotteans emerge from area swimming pools and lakes ready for outdoor festivals to make the most of the changing of the season. No matter what your interest—bluegrass music, new-to-you international cultures, or deep-fried Twinkies—the Queen City has a fall festival for you.
by Bryan Richards Aug 01, 2018
This Uptown festival celebrates the diversity of Indian culture through performances of traditional Indian and Bollywood dances, film screenings, and an art gallery. Vendors offer Indian foods and souvenirs for sale, and a Kids Art Pavilion allows children to create India-inspired crafts under the guidance of a local artist.
Each August, Charlotte Pride brings well over 100,000 people to Uptown, with participants as diverse as small nonprofits, big banks, churches, gay bars and politicians, all supporting the LGBTQ community. Musicians, drag performers and comics entertain all day, and parties at bars extend the excitement into the early morning. The parade gets bigger each year.
Aug. 31 – Sept. 3
Matthews Cultural Arts District
Down in the suburbs, check out Labor Day mainstay Matthews Alive. Over 150,000 festivalgoers (let that number settle in for a moment) from throughout the region gather in Matthews’ historic downtown for a weekend of festival fun with rides, food vendors, and arts and crafts. Featuring local and regional acts, the music stages are the hallmark of the weekend (country music favorite Terri Clark performs Sunday). Families, venture out Saturday morning to enjoy a massive parade with local marching bands, community groups, firetrucks and giveaways.
It’s hard to believe in swine-centric North Carolina, but there’s more to BBQ than pulled pork. Think heaping plates of smoked brisket and chicken alongside the traditional fixin’s of cole slaw, baked beans and mac and cheese (all kosher, of course). Be sure to save room for the pickle-eating and watermelon contests!
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
It’s easy to attend the Yiasou Greek Festival and not get past the mouthwatering foods like the baklava sundaes. The festival is more than a celebration of food, though; it’s a celebration of Greek culture. Take a tour of the cathedral, catch a folk dancing performance, or watch a reenactment of the Greek changing of the guards.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Looking to sell that antique car you’ve been restoring over the past few years? Want to buy the muscle car of your dreams? Check out the Charlotte AutoFair’s car corral. There’s also a flea market where you can shop for hard-to-find parts and automotive memorabilia.
Cabarrus Arena & Event Center
Relive the traditional county fair of your youth at the Cabarrus County Fair. Think giant Ferris wheel, deep-fried everything and livestock competitions. Then there’s the obscure: a chainsaw carving artist, pig races, and Frisbee dog acts with K9s in Flight, a group that trains rescued pups to be high-flying entertainment acts.
Bring your blankets and spend the day listening to the soothing sounds of banjos and fiddles while noshing on barbecue and other food truck fare. Augmenting the popular event is a beer festival with 15 breweries pouring 40 different beer samples. This year’s headliners is national touring act Chatham County Line.
While the North Carolina Apple Festival in Hendersonville may get the core of apple-lovers’ attention, Lincoln County’s Apple Festival shouldn’t be overlooked. Enjoy all the apple fun—an apple farmers market, an apple queen pageant, and an apple pie contest—a lot closer to Charlotte.
Saturdays & Sundays, Sept. 15 – Oct. 28
Halloween festivals don’t have to be all ghosts and goblins, which is why Carowinds hosts their Great Pumpkin Festival before the park turns on the scare for SCarowinds in the evenings. The family-friendly event offers all the rides the little ones know and love in Camp Snoopy with the addition of a hay bale maze, costume contest, trick-or-treating with the Peanuts gang, and more!
Over 15 restaurants and food trucks, two beer gardens pouring local beers and wines, and plenty of live music come together to raise money for Hospice and Palliative Care Lake Norman. It’s a party for a cause.
Rescue Squad Park, Denver
What started as a community event to raise funds to build a much-needed park in Denver has turned into an annual celebration of their efforts with rides (a carousel, slides and many, many spinning contraptions), live music, and plenty of good-for-the-soul fair food. The fest’s sensory-sensitive Special Needs Fun Day is held Friday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m.; parents, check the festival’s website to reserve this experience.
Festival in the Park is Charlotte’s premier arts and crafts festival, attracting 200 artists from around the world. In addition to visual arts, enjoy live performances from the Children's Theatre of Charlotte, the Carolina Raptor Center, the Carolina Clowns, the Charlotte Folk Society, and the Jazz Arts Initiative. Word to the wise: carpool.
Can’t get the pottery scene from the movie Ghost out of your head? Then head down to McConnells’ annual pottery festival. On hand are traditional, contemporary and indigenous Catawba Indian potters selling their wares, offering demonstrations, and giving lectures on the artform. When you tire of reliving your inner Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, chill out on the lawn to local blue grass sounds.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
Escape to the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s inaugural Flow Fest, a wellness-focused event that invites attendees to enjoy more than 20 yoga practices, wine, kombucha and more in the USNWC’s beautiful outdoor spaces. The event also features the Wild Vine Trail Race, the Dynomite Bouldering Competition, meditations and workshops. Per USNWC tradition, live music kicks off in the evening.
Old Town Cornelius
Held twice a year, the ‘Tawba Walk Arts & Music Festival prides itself on showcasing only artisans, breweries, performers and food vendors from the greater Lake Norman and Charlotte regions. Occurring on two stages, live art performances are the event’s signature.
For adults, art spotting helps inspire home decoration ideas, but for kids, viewing booth after booth of artist wares can be boring. This is where the Downtown Davidson Arts Festival differentiates itself from other arts festivals. While more than 40 of the area’s best makers take over Main Street, children can craft their own inspirations in the interactive children’s art zone. Who knows? They might come home with a lifelong hobby.
Ayrsley Grand Cinemas
The Charlotte Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary of bringing independent films to the masses this year. The theme of the festival is “discover different,” and prizes are awarded in the categories of documentary, narrative feature, student narrative and social justice.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Epcot doesn’t have anything on UNC Charlotte’s annual international festival. For 43 years, UNC Charlotte has been celebrating its diverse international student body and faculty with over 50 countries represented via cultural booths, concerts and hands-on games in the international game zone. Come hungry.
Maybe Matthews Alive is a little too family-friendly festival fun for you. Then check out the city’s art walk and jazz festival on the town hall lawn. The event offers plenty of arts and crafts booths to peruse as you sip on beer or wine to the soothing sounds of live jazz music.
Celebrate Oktoberfest with an American twist at the Charlotte Oktoberfest—one of the city’s largest beer festivals. Admission includes beer samples from over 75 breweries and cideries, a complimentary tasting glass, live music, and access to food trucks. Don’t forget to wear your pretzel necklace.
Take the ultimate wine-selfie while stomping grapes—glass of wine in hand, of course—in a barrel at Treehouse Vineyard’s Grape Stomping Harvest Festival. Amp up the Instagram appeal by dressing as Lucille Ball. And, if you feel like your costume is up to snuff, enter the Lucy Look-Alike contest!
Saturdays & Sundays, Sept. 29 – Nov. 18
The Carolina Renaissance Festival isn’t just turkey legs, jousting knights and swordsman shows. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone, using your imagination, and pretending to be someone and someplace else for the day. Dawn that pirate costume, walk with a limp, and travel back in time for the afternoon.
Chestnut Square Park, Indian Trail
This small-town festival is anything but small town, featuring live performances like Irish Celtic dancing and storytelling along with culturally diverse food vendors. When you’re done exploring the festival, be sure to meander along Chester Square Park’s nature trail.
Celebrate National Hispanic Month in Charlotte with the Hola Charlotte Festival. The region’s largest Hispanic heritage event brings together the culture of 15 Latin American countries through authentic foods, dance performances and a cultural pavilion for hands-on experiences.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
Remember those crazy high school physics class projects like popsicle stick bridges and egg drops? Relive those days by crafting your own boat to sail down the US National Whitewater Center’s competition channel. The festival also includes a team obstacle course race and the center’s only nighttime kayak race. Wash it all down with cider sampling.
The Charlotte School Fair brings together representatives from both public and private schools in the Charlotte region to help you choose the right school for your budding student.
Pineville Lake Park
From pie-baking contests to pie-eating contests, the fun doesn’t get any more wholesome than the Pineville Fall Fest. The fest also serves up all the carnival rides, games and foods your heart desires.
Statesville Regional Airport
Check riding a hot air balloon off your bucket list at the 45th annual Carolina BalloonFest. The festival allows festivalgoers to get up close and personal with these wonders of flight through mass ascensions, an evening balloon glow, and pilot meet and greets. And, if you dare, an actual hot air balloon ride (be sure to book in advance)!
Downtown Mint Hill
Get into the fall spirit at Mint Hill’s first annual Fall Harvest Festival. Gather your family, friends or coworkers and participate in the scarecrow decorating contest. Take your photo in the pumpkin patch. Race through the obstacle course. There’s also a children’s arts and crafts center where kids can paint rocks like those hidden throughout Mint Hill.
Voted by Charlotte magazine as the city’s best wine event two years in a row, the South End Wine Fest is the event in town for oenophiles. Admission grants winos (and wine novices) unlimited wine tastings from over 25 vineyards spanning from North Carolina to Northern Italy and everywhere in between.
Camp North End
Now in its second year, the free Black Alternative Music Festival (BLA/ALT) is an inclusive fest that highlights underrepresented musicians from North and South Carolina. Food vendors keep fans fed and watered during the day-long jam session.
Experience Halloween how they celebrate it south of the border at Dia de Muertes Festival hosted by the Levine Museum of the New South in conjunction with the Latin American Coalition. Check out the ancestral alters juried competition, test your skills at decorating a sugar skull, or experience traditional Mexican performances honoring ancestors.
Design Center of the Carolinas
Think your chili is the recipe to end all recipes? Compete in the Dilworth South End Chili Cook-off. The family-friendly event also includes a bake sale and appearances from Sir Purr and Chubby Checker. The event promises “lots of firetrucks” to entertain the kids and help extinguish that hot chili flame.