Looking for something to do this fall? From first-time festivals to annual favorites, lively events fill the fall calendar in North Carolina.
Hollerin’ Heritage Festival
Sept. 14, Spiveys Corner: Nobody hollers or celebrates the age-old communication form like the folks around Spiveys Corner, where a hearty holler might be heard three miles away. And they’ve proved it every year since 1969 with the National Hollerin’ Contest. This year’s festivities move from June to September and add a barbecue cook-off to the schedule, which also features music, antique cars and tractors, and a demonstration by the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association.
Sept. 20-22, Leland: A full moon will illuminate a kayak/SUP/owl-calling trip on Town Creek, while birding on Eagle Island, SUP racing on the river, a kayak fishing tournament and land activities add to the weekend’s fun.
Sept. 26-29, Mount Airy: Every day is a Mayberry day in Mount Airy, Andy Griffith’s hometown and inspiration for the “The Andy Griffith Show” setting. But this September celebration features Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) and others associated with the show, a checkers tournament, pork chop-eating and apple-peeling contests, trivia competitions and horseshoes plus entertainment and a parade.
Wide Open Bluegrass
Sept. 27-28, Raleigh: The biggest names in bluegrass converge on Raleigh for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass, a five-day affair that peaks with Wide Open Bluegrass. The inaugural weekend festival features a street fair, indoor and outdoor concerts, jam sessions and the North Carolina Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship. Headliners are Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell on Saturday and an epic collaboration featuring Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Béla Fleck and others on Friday.
Mountains to Coast Bicycle Ride
Sept. 28-Oct. 5: See the state in all its fall glory on this scenic ride from Spruce Pine to Atlantic Beach. Riders can go the full 490-mile distance or join in at the host towns of Morganton, Troutman, Asheboro, Holly Springs, Goldsboro and New Bern.
NC Seafood Festival
Oct. 4-6, Morehead City: None of the 185,000 festival-goers is likely to leave hungry: Seafood sampling along the port city waterfront covers everything from fried favorites to inspired chef creations — and that includes Charcoal Mullet and Sea Urchin on a Stick. Aim to win an “I flung a flounder” tshirt, watch the sailing regatta and attend Sunday morning’s Blessing of the Fleet, which pays tribute to the watermen who make it all possible.
Ava Gardner Festival
Oct. 4-6, Smithfield: A visit to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield is itself an occasion, a chance to see costumes, movie posters, awards and 40 Bert Pfeiffer portraits of this radiant actress. The festival makes it even more special with heritage tour to sites from Gardner’s early life, special events and free screenings of “The Night of the Iguana,” 2013’s festival focus.
Colorfest: Art and Taste of Appalachia
Oct. 5, Dillsboro: Visitors see more than art on display at this street festival — they see art being made as painters capture scenes in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains town. Add music, regional wine and craft beer, North Carolina fare and brilliant foliage to complete the picture.
Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed
Oct. 12-Jan. 20, Raleigh: Autoweek, Art News and Luxury Daily are all spreading the word about the North Carolina Museum of Art’s first-ever design exhibition. Showcasing the brand’s style, innovation and artistry are 22 Porsches that combine horsepower and star power. Steve McQueen’s 356A Speedster, Janis Joplin’s 356C Cabriolet and Ralph Lauren's Porsche Type 959 are among the models going on view.
Carolina Balloon Fest
Oct. 18-20, Statesville: Celebrating its 40th consecutive year, the festival attracts more than 30,000 spectators. Between the spectacular liftoffs and landings, visitors can sample local wine, craft beer and food as well as entertainment and children's activities.
Woolly Worm Festival
Oct. 19-20, Banner Elk: Fall foliage will be near its peak in Banner Elk when Isabella tiger moths race up 42-inch strings to forecast the severity of the coming winter. 20,000 festival-goers will delight in the fun, food and mountain setting — regardless of whether their woolly worm wins the race.
Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival
Oct. 22-27, various coastal locations: Take a walk — or a paddle — on the wild side along North Carolina’s Outer Banks and inner coastline. Serious birders flock to Wings Over Water for one of the East Coast’s largest concentrations of wintering waterfowl. Photography and painting sessions, moonlight paddles, red wolf howlings, astronomy programs and a daylong Southern Backyard Boot Camp for gardeners broaden the appeal.
Oct. 26, Lexington: Even without the music, craft vendors and other activities, people would flock to the 30th annual Barbecue Festival, which unfolds in a town whose name is synonymous with pit-cooked pork. Organizers are planning for 160,000 visitors, who can pig out, take part in a month’s worth of events, and buy Childress Vineyards’ Fine Swine Wine, which like the barbecue sauce is red.
Wilson Whirligig Festival
Nov. 2- 3, Wilson: Vollis Simpson turned metal scraps into towering delight with his wind-powered whirligigs, which can be seen at museums in New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Raleigh. For the full effect, head to the Wilson Whirligig Festival for the opening of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, where 29 of the kinetic collector’s items are being installed.
Find dozens more fall festivals plus trip-planning information at VisitNC.com.