Things to do

45 of the Coolest Things to Do This Fall

It's fall, y'all! School is back in session and whispers of pumpkin spice can be heard across the aisles.

As we say goodbye to another sticky southern summer, locals and visitors alike will ‘fall’ in love with the Queen City’s autumn offerings. From whitewater weekends to feel-good 5k’s, we have your ultimate checklist of Charlotte activities for the whole family.

1. Bike around Charlotte to fun destinations while collecting stamps in your official Biketoberfest Passport at the Sustain Charlotte’s fifth annual Biketoberfest presented by The Charlotte Knights. The event culminates with an after party at Triple C Brewing Company.

2. Discover a colorful marketplace representing cultures of over 50 nations at the UNC Charlotte’s Annual International Festival. The booths are staffed by UNC Charlotte international students and members of Charlotte's international community and feature crafts and costumes from each participating country. Many booths even offer international food for sale.

3. Support local artists and discover unique handmade art at the Metropolitan Popup Market hosted by Starving Artist Market CLT.

4. Pack up your pup and have a ball at the Dog Gone Good Time Festival in Fort Mill, S.C. Hosted by the Humane Society of York County, this festival promises a day of fun and games for the whole family.

5. Head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Fall Festival for a day full of races, fall-themed yoga sessions, seasonal cider sampling and the Fall Festival’s signature Build Your Own Boat (BYOB) competition.

6. Take a walk through the tranquil Botanical Gardens at UNC Charlotte, which dates back to 1966. You can pack a picnic, bring a book or just enjoy the sights and sounds in these 10 acres of outdoor beauty. The Gardens also host seasonal events like the Fall Plant Sale in October, where you’ll find a selection of shrubs, trees, wildflowers, ferns and more.

7. Travel back to the 16th century for non-stop merriment at the 26th annual Carolina Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace. Be sure to grab a turkey leg and cheer on the knights in shining armor as they joust to the death. Huzzah!

8. Celebrate Latin American culture in Uptown Charlotte at the Hola Charlotte Festival. This is the largest Hispanic Heritage event organized in Charlotte, highlighting Latin American culture and all its richness.

9. Conquer your holiday gift list with unique presents from a variety of vendors. Don’t miss Christmas Made in the South, Southern Christmas Show, Winter Wonderland Holiday Market at Anne Springs Close Greenway, and Girl Tribe Pop-up at the Charlotte Convention Center, just to name a few.

10. Sip for a cause at the South End Wine Festival. Enjoy wine, beer and cider tastings, plus live music and food trucks. Proceeds benefit Classroom Central and their mission to equip students living in poverty to effectively learn.

11. Costume party or fun run? Why not both? Sign up for the Running Scared 5 Miler and Monster Mile and enjoy a scenic 5-mile race around Uptown Charlotte. Stay after the race for face painting, food trucks, beer, music and more.

12. If bounce houses, corn hole and laser tag are on your fall bucket list, don’t miss the 2019 Queen City OktoberFEST. It’s family friendly and free to attend.

13. Take the LYNX Blue Line light rail to the East/West station the first Sunday of October and November for Front Porch Sundays in Historic South End. This local market and block party features multiple food trucks, live music, beer, fitness, pet adoptions and a great community vibe. (Bonus: See more fun places to stop along the Charlotte Light Rail.)

14. Lace up your running (or walking) shoes for the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon. Don’t let the name intimidate you. There are five race options available to accommodate participants of various ages and activity levels.

15. Scope out the fall fashions at Charlotte Premium Outlets, the upscale outlet center that features a collection of fashion designers, luxury brands and name brand manufacturers. Refuel after a day of scoring deals at one of the many nearby restaurants like 37 Sol or MOD Pizza.

16. Dive into some cheesy goodness that will make you melt at the Charlotte Grilled Cheese Fest and CLT s'MACdown: Mac-n-Cheese & Craft Beer Tasting. Both events include beer tastings, live music and local vendors.

17. Sample some of the best breweries and tastiest BBQ in the state at the Hops and Hogs Festival at Historic Rural Hill. Like your BBQ with a side of tunes? Don’t miss the music lineup featuring Collective Soul, Lifehouse, Tonic and more.

18. Sip your way through Symphony Park at the Great Grapes! Wine & Food Festival, one of Charlotte’s premier casual wine tasting events with hundreds of wines available for tasting. Round out the day with crafts, live music and great food.

19. Experience the magic of the Queen Charlotte Fair. This major semi-annual event is hosted in Charlotte every spring and fall and offers family-friendly entertainment, carnival rides, food and shows. Bring on the Ferris wheel and funnel cake!

20. Peruse the works of local artists while grooving to smooth tunes in Downtown Matthews at the Matthews ArtWalk and MusicFest. Hands-on exhibits for kids make this the perfect fall activity for the whole family.

21. Learn about a new culture at the Festival of India in Uptown Charlotte. Food vendors line the streets with popular Indian delicacies while music and performances captivate visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

22. Get hands-on experience with gear from top brands in the outdoor industry at the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Outdoor Market. There’s also the opportunity to participate in yoga classes, paddle sessions, trail runs and more.

23. From pots and plates to jewelry and jars, find the perfect piece at the annual Fall Pottery Festival, where more than 50 members of Carolina Clay Matters share their passion for pottery.

24. Fill up on fall festivities at the Queen City Fall Festival. Face painting, bounce houses, food trucks and more make the biggest fall festival of the year a hit with the whole family.

25. Shuck for a cause at the Seafood & Beer Fest at Sycamore Brewing. The sustainably farmed North Carolina oysters help support Coastal Conservation North Carolina and their mission of protecting and conserving coastal resources and fisheries for generations to come.

26. Celebrate the art of ink at the Queen City Tattoo and Arts Festival. The expo will feature live entertainment, music, tattooing, permanent makeup and more.

27. Fireworks aren’t just for the Fourth of July. Light up the skies at Stallings Fest, a community festival with fireworks, food and free amusement rides. It’s the perfect way to welcome fall with a bang.

28. See what happens in nature when the sun goes down at McDowell Nature Center's 10th annual Nature at Night Festival. This educational event celebrates all things nocturnal. Tickets include crafts, night hikes, live animals, wagon rides and a hot dog meal. (Pro tip: Bring your own flashlight.)

29. Cruise through the Charlotte Auto Show and discover the latest makes and models. More than 300 new cars, trucks and exotic vehicles from over 30 manufacturers line the Charlotte Convention Center for car enthusiasts and casual consumers to sit behind the driver’s seat and even take one for a test drive.

30. Stroll along Charlotte’s vibrant Rail Trail, which winds through South End and Uptown Charlotte. Or take a seat on a bench along the trail to watch the city come alive around you. (Bonus points if you get a 1/4 Chicken Dinner from Price’s Chicken Coop for a picnic lunch.)

31. Create your own entertainment adventure with a variety of live events at one of Charlotte’s many venues. From ZZ Top and Brantley Gilbert at PNC Music Pavilion to Old Dominion and Elton John at Spectrum Center, there’s no shortage of music and events to choose from. For concerts, comedy, theater and more, check out Bojangles’ Entertainment Complex, Blumenthal Performing Arts and The Evening Muse.

32. Step outside the beer scene and give your taste buds something new. Try “Across the Pond” cider at GoodRoad CiderWorks or “Queen City Common” cider at Red Clay Ciderworks. Or savor the flavors of fall with the “Sweet Potato Pie” kombucha at Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

33. Take your “work from home” game to the next level and set up shop at a cozy coffee spot. Try the “Morning Glory” muffin at Sunflour Baking Company or a hot Chai Tea Latte at Mugs Coffee to make your to-do list a little less daunting.

34. See how the Charlotte skyline pops against the Carolina Blue skies from rooftop bars like Whiskey Warehouse, Merchant & Trade or Graham Street Pub & Patio.

35. Get cozy by the fire pits or strike up some fun at the 10 Pin Terrace at Ten Park Lanes. Or invite your friends to VBGB Beer Hall and Garden, one of the largest patios in Charlotte, to play games like giant Jenga.

36. Revel in that ‘secret garden’ mood and treat yourself to a glass of chilled Chardonnay on the secluded patio at Pasta & Provisions on Park Road.

37. Explore the city on two wheels with Charlotte B-cycle, one of the largest urban bike-sharing systems in the Southeast. You can download the bike tour map and pick a route that works for you. Or snag a dockless bike from LimeBike, Spin or Mobike for easy sightseeing around Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.

38. Walk, bike or stroller-jog one of Charlotte’s many greenways and parks. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation has a full list of Charlotte’s existing greenways and trails. There are also a plethora of playgrounds to keep the kids busy, like Freedom Park in Myers Park and Romare Bearden Park in Uptown Charlotte. And if you have a dog, there are more than enough dog parks and bars in Charlotte to throw a stick at.

39. Pack a picnic and take a hike to the top of Crowders Mountain State Park. The 25-mile views of the surrounding Piedmont and the breathtaking fall foliage will make the destination as memorable as the journey.

40. Choose your level of ‘spook-tacular’ with Halloween events for everyone. For ultimate chills and thrills, SCarowinds is the place to be. Or enjoy some boo-zy beverages with friends at Barcrawlerz’s Trick or Drink Halloween Bar Crawl. For a more family-friendly atmosphere, try Monster Mash hosted by Rea Farms and Macaroni Kid South Charlotte.

41. Paws for a dose of cuteness with a side of pumpkin beer at Lucky Dog Bark & Brew Charlotte’s Pug-o-Ween. You don’t have to be a Pug owner to enjoy the parade of pups in costume at this annual ‘Howl’-o-ween event. But you do have to be 21 or over with a valid ID. Ten percent of all bar sales during the event will be donated to the Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue.

42. Kick off your holiday with floats and fun at the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade in Uptown Charlotte. The parade kicks off at 9 a.m. and Tryon Street vendors will be serving up hot chocolate, coffee, breakfast sandwiches and more. Don’t miss the live performances in front of the Duke Energy Center.

43. Take apple picking to the next level with Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery’s hard cider flight and apple cider doughnuts. They’re open through December and offer live music from local bands and fire pits to keep you cozy. (Bonus: Mark your calendar for their Annual Oyster Roast at the Cider Bar in January 2020.)

44. It’s not Fall unless you mark several hayrides, corn mazes and pumpkin patches off your list. Not sure where to start? Try Hunter Farm, Hall Family Farm, Wise Acres Organic Farm and Aw Shucks for all the picking, playing and hay riding you can handle. Want more? See a full list of all things pumpkin in Charlotte.

45. Whether you’re a football fan or just enjoy the tailgate mimosas, you have to include a Carolina Panthers game on your Fall to-do list. If you didn’t score tickets to watch the game live at Bank of America Stadium, take the LYNX Blue Line light rail to the Bland Street station and be part of the action at All American Pub. Or try Montford Drive fixture Moosehead Grill for a local “watering hole” vibe. Heading to a friend’s house to catch the game? Be the real MVP and bring Panthers-inspired French macarons from Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe.