Fall guide 2020: 25 must-do fall activities in and around Charlotte

Fall guide 2020: 25 must-do fall activities in and around Charlotte
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This guide is proudly presented by Atrium Health. You can still enjoy all your favorite things about fall, just be safe about it. Protect yourself and others this season with these tips from the pros at Atrium, setting the National Standard for COVID-Safe care.

The fall season is upon us, and although the pandemic has certainly changed the way we do things, there are still plenty of fun and safe ways to enjoy the season.

Pumpkin carving, pumpkin beer, apple picking, and hayrides: It’s all still available to you this season.

Here are 25 things to add to your fall bucket list that are both fun and safe.


(1) Make a day trip to visit the “Home of Everything Apples.”

Details: They aren’t kidding when they say everything apples. At Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery, guests can enjoy apple picking, hayrides, a hard cider bar, and their famous fried apple cider donuts. Windy Hill is less than an hour outside the city, making it the closest orchard to Charlotte. Reservations are required this season.

Pro tip: Order a flight of hard cider or take the hard cider to-go for an at-home tasting. Add in ciders from GoodRoad CiderWorks and Red Clay Ciderworks for a full tasting event.

Cost: Pick-your-own apples cost $5 for a quarter peck bag (4-6 pounds); $7 for a half-peck bag (6-8 pounds); and $25 for a half bushel bag (25-30 pounds).

Location/hours: Windy Hill is located at 1860 Black Highway in York, South Carolina (look out for the windmill). Their farm stand is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The cider bar is open Friday from 5-8:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.


(2) Pick out the perfect pumpkin, then sip a pumpkin ale.

Details: One of my favorite fall outings as a young girl was going to Simpsons Produce to pick out a pumpkin. And if I’m being honest, it’s still one of my favorite fall outings to this day. Some places to pick pumpkins are Simpsons Produce, Phil Simpson Pumpkin Lot, Hunter Farm, Spring Farm Market, Bush-N-Vine Farm, and Black’s Peaches.

After you’ve secured your pumpkins, swing by a local brewery, or grocery store, to pick up a pack of pumpkin beer. NoDa Brewing Co., Sycamore Brewing, and Catawba Brewing Co. all have variations of pumpkin beer to try out this season.

Full Agenda guide: 10 must-visit pumpkin patches near Charlotte


(3) Find your way through the “Amazing Maize Maze” and other corn mazes.

    Details: Huntersville, just 40 minutes outside of Charlotte, is home to one of the largest corn mazes in the Southeast called the Amazing Maize Maze at Rural Hill. It’s over seven acres of corn-filled fun that happens now through November.

    Cost: $12

    More corn mazes: There are also corn mazes at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, Country Days Corn Maze in Indian Trail, Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, and Black’s Peaches in York.


    The Hall Family Farm is closed for 2020 as they move to their new location in South Carolina. It’ll reopen in 2021.

    (4) Get yourself a festive mask.

    Details: This year, masks aren’t just for Halloween. One Charlotte company is creating Halloween-themed face coverings. Cover up and dress up for the season. The Panthers also have a branded face mask ($11.99+).

    Cost: $11.99-$17.99

    Related Agenda guide: Everything you need to know about the statewide mask mandate, and where to buy a mask

    Glory Days Apparel has Charlotte-themed face masks.

    (5) Go on a socially distant adventure at a Getaway tiny house.

    Details: Getaway is a network of modern tiny house compounds with outposts in about a dozen woodsy locations throughout the country. North Carolina’s Getaway recently opened in Asheboro about 90 miles outside Charlotte. It’s basically camping lite for urban adventurers who want to escape into the woods without abandoning the familiar comfort and convenience of a hotel.

    Set-up: Inside your tiny house, there’s a fully stocked kitchen, bathroom, and a queen bed (or two queen bunk beds) overlooking Getaway’s signature giant picture window. Outside you’ll find a picnic table, two Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit with a grilling grate. All Getaway sites are kid- and dog-friendly.

    Cost: Nightly rates currently range from $119 to $299 depending on the season — with fall weekend dates displaying peak rates.

    Full Agenda story: This modern tiny house compound 90 miles from Charlotte is the perfect socially distant escape

    getaway tiny cabin

    (6) Hike one of the many top-notch trails within a few hours of Charlotte.

    Details: The closest hikes to Charlotte are Crowders Mountain and Morrow Mountain, but venture west a couple of hours for the best views. Here are our top three recommendations:

    • Roan Highlands – Straddling the Tennessee border, you’re treated to a feast of 360-degree views within a mile of parking.
    • South Mountains State Park – It’s hard to beat waterfall views, and South Mountains State Park has plenty. The High Shoal Falls Loop Trail will take you past increasingly large cascades over its 2.5-mile course.
    • Grayson Highlands – Criss-crossed by the Appalachian Trail and a half-dozen well-maintained, easy-to-follow connecting trails, the area is a hiker’s paradise, with ample backcountry and developed campsites for overnight stays as well. Plus, wild ponies (!).

    Full Agenda guide: Definitive hiking guide: The 16 best hikes around Charlotte

    Pony at Grayson Highlands

    On a hike at Grayson Highlands, you’ll run into a different kind of regular camper. (Photo by Ely Portillo)

    (7) Cheer for the Panthers from home.

    Details: We can’t root for the Panthers in person yet, but we can still tailgate from home. And hey, at least you don’t have to find parking in Uptown.

    Homegate essentials: First you need Panthers gear. The Panthers are selling themed onesies and more cozy fall gear online. Roaring Riot also has Homegatin’ boxes with virtual watch party access and goodies curated for each game ($72-$80/box). And then you also need game snacks — wings anyone? Try Wing King Café or Chex Grill & Wings. [Related Agenda guide: Best wings in Charlotte]

    Going out? Be safe. If you do go out for a tailgate, show your team spirit with a Panthers branded mask.

    homegatin subscription box

    The Homegatin’ box. (Photo courtesy Roaring Riot)

    chex grill and wings in charlotte

    (8) Stay at a cool Airbnb in the Charlotte area.

    Details: By now we could all use a vacation. Luckily, there are a host of fun and quirky Airbnbs you can book within a couple of hours of the city. These gave me major fall vibes: The Carolina Tree House, App A-Frame, Chalet Laurel, and Storybook A-Frame Cabin.

    Full Agenda guide: 16 cool Airbnbs less than 2 hours from Charlotte — starting at $82 a night

    airbnb header

    (9) Attend a different kind of Oktoberfest at Olde Mecklenberg Brewery.

    Details: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is hosting its 12th annual Mecktoberfest — Charlotte’s most popular Oktoberfest celebration. Enjoy live music in the 10.5-acre Biergarten and authentic German-fare such as pork schnitzel, German potato salad, and Bavarian pretzels with Copper bier cheese. In addition to their multi-award-winning Mecktoberfest Märzen Lager, all of OMB’s year-round brews will be on tap throughout the celebration. Mecktoberfest is a kid-friendly and dog-friendly event. Masks are required and capacity is limited to allow for adequate social distancing.

    Dates: September 25-27

    Cost: Free to attend. A standard Mecktoberfest Märzen Lager is $6.90, but beer prices vary.

    Location/hours: 4150 Yancey Rd., Charlotte. Sunday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

    Photo courtesy of OMB.

    (10) Go apple picking.

    Details: While the peak apple picking season is rounding off, there’s still time to bring home your own basket of hand-picked apples. Windy Hill Orchard and Millstone Creek Orchards are offering U-pick now through the end of September. Apple Hill Orchard, Blueberry Thrill Farm, Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, and The Orchard at Altapass will offer U-pick through the end of October, and Sky Top Orchard will close out apple picking season in mid-November.

    Related Agenda guide: Apple season is upon us: 7 pick-your-own orchards within 2 hours of Charlotte

    (11) Catch a drive-in movie.

    Details: With many movie theaters shut down due to the pandemic, this old-school trend is new again. The Music Yard, Old Town Cornelius, Hounds Drive-In, and Papa Doc’s Shore Club are screening flicks like Ghostbusters and The Harry Potter series throughout the season.

    Related Agenda Story: How a pandemic brought back the drive-in (and not just for movies)

    drive-in movie at the speedway

    Over the summer, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted a drive-in movie series. Now it’s shifted to hosting drive-in concerts.

    (12) Go on a wagon ride through the woods at Wise Acre Organic Farms.

    Details: At Wise Acre, guests can also wander through their sun hemp maze, pick out seasonal produce, meet and greet some of the farm’s animals, and go on a wooded fall-themed scavenger hunt. Opening day is September 19, and they’re accepting reservations now.

    Cost: Tickets are $6 per adult and $5 per child (ages 2-12) in September. In October, price increases to $7 per adult and $6 per child.

    Location/hours: Wise Acre Organic Farms is located at 4701 Hartis Road in Indian Trail. It’s open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    (13) Sit outside at a vineyard.

    Details: As the weather cools down, now is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine while overlooking a vineyard. Douglas Vineyards and Rocky River Vineyards are Charlotte’s closest vineyards, located about 30 minutes outside of the city. Cauble Creek Vineyard, Treehouse Vineyards, Davasté Vineyards, and Veronét Vineyards & Winery are about 40 minutes outside of the city.

    Related Agenda guide: 7 vineyards within an hour of Uptown

    veronet vineyards

    Veronét Vineyards & Winery is about 40 minutes outside the city.

    (14) Staycation at a bougie hotel in Charlotte.

    Details: If you need a little vacation, you don’t have to travel far. You can book a staycation at an upscale hotel in Charlotte. The Grand Bohemian is Charlotte’s newest luxury hotel. Book a spa package, dine in Mico, grab a drink at Búho (opens October 1), or just relax in your hotel room with a view.

    Cost: Grand Bohemian rates start at $229-$299 per night this fall.

    Full Agenda guide: Staycation guide: 7 Charlotte hotels to book — plus itineraries for each

    Grand Bohemian Mico lamb skewers use this one

    Lamb skewers at Mico at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Uptown.

    (15) Take a road trip to the mountains.

    Details: The leaves will soon be changing colors, so it’s a great time to plan a trip to the mountains. The fall foliage is just one of many attractions in the popular mountain towns of Asheville and Boone.

    Timeline: Leaves start changing color in late September and continue on through early November.

    Related Agenda guides: Driving Distance: 10 things to do in Boone, Travel guide to 28 of the best things to eat, drink and do in Asheville

    asheville glamping

    Pro tip: Go glamping in Asheville. [Read more: Sleep under the stars in a geodesic dome 2.5 hours from Charlotte]

    (16) Enjoy the Thanksgiving Day Parade virtually.

    Details: This year’s Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade is going virtual. There won’t be crowds lining the streets of Uptown Charlotte, but you can still enjoy this annual tradition from home. The parade will be broadcast on WBTV and feature virtual “best of” segments from previous years including floats and marching bands.

    Date: Nov. 26, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

    Cost: Free

    thanksgiving day parade

    (17) Fall calls for oysters.

    Details: Whether they’re raw, grilled, or roasted, oysters are available at many restaurants throughout the area, including Sea Level, ROCKSALT, and The Crunkleton.

    $1 oyster deals:

    • RockSalt has $1 oysters from 4-6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
    • Sea Level has $1 oysters from 4-7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.
    • The Waterman has $1 oysters from 2-7 p.m., weekdays.
    • N.C. Red has $1.50 oysters from the North Carolina and Virginia coasts on Tuesdays.

    Related Agenda guide: The 10 best places to eat oysters in Charlotte

    raw oysters at the crunkleton

    Raw oysters at The Crunkleton (half-dozen for $18).

    (18) Vote.

    Details: This is a big election year. Mecklenburg residents will have about 40 contests to vote for, give or take a few depending on where you live. Be sure to exercise your right to vote — whether you vote by absentee ballot or head to the polls.

    Key Dates: 

    • October 9 — Regular voter registration deadline
    • October 15 — Early voting begins at 32 sites throughout Mecklenburg County
    • October 27 — Last day you can send in an absentee request form and still get an absentee ballot. (Tip: Do it long before this day.)
    • October 31 — Last day of early voting
    • November 3 — Election Day

    Full Agenda guide: The Agenda’s 2020 Voter Guide on the nearly 40 contests on Mecklenburg’s ballots

    Primary Election March 2020 at Bette Rae Thomas Rec Center

    (19) Learn more about wine during Charlotte Wine & Food Week.

    Details: Postponed from April, Charlotte Wine & Food will look different this year with a mix of virtual and in-person events. Festivities will begin with a week-long virtual wine auction (preview begins October 13). In-person events are scaled down and focused on more intimate wine tasting experiences than previous years with the grande tasting with 100+ wines to try.

    Cost: $79+

    Highlights: A handful of the vintner dinners are sold out, but here are some events that still have tickets:

    • Vintner dinner with Raffaldini Vineyards at Poplar Tapas Wine & Spirits – October 15, 6:30-9:30 p.m, $150.
    • Vintner dinner with Orin Swift at Bonterra – October 15, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $175.
    • Virtual tasting with Ellman Family Vineyards – October 16, 6 p.m., $79 for a flight kit or $399 for five full bottles of wine.

    Dates: Tuesday, October 13 to Saturday, October 17. Times vary.

    poplar wine

    Wine at Poplar.

    (20) Pedal through Charlotte at Biketoberfest 2020.

    Details: For the first time since starting in 2014, Biketoberfest will take place across multiple biking routes throughout the city. Riders will have the option to choose from a list of fun and safe routes hand-picked by the event host Sustain Charlotte, or simply bike the route of their choosing.

    Dates/times: Saturday, October 24 to Sunday, October 25. Up to you on when you set out for a ride.

    Cost: Tickets are $35 and include an official event t-shirt that’s mailed prior to the event and access to a post-bike ride scavenger hunt.

    (21) Try out some of Charlotte’s best pumpkin-flavored foods.

    Details: Nothing says fall like pumpkin pie, but you’d be surprised by how many other pumpkin-flavored foods you can find around this time of year. You ever heard of pumpkin pizza? Me neither — until now. Inizio has a crema de Zucca pizza for the month of October, but if you’re in the mood for something sweet, go big with Ninety’s pumpkin pie milkshake.

    Related Agenda guide: 23 pumpkin-flavored foods for the fall obsessed

    Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

    Ninety’s Pumpkin Pie Milkshake.

    (22) Marvel at the Great Elizabeth Pumpkin Wall.

    Details: The Great Elizabeth Pumpkin Wall is a Halloween tradition in Charlotte. Each year, community volunteers in the Elizabeth neighborhood build a 60-foot wall lined with jack o’ lanterns galore. The street location of the wall varies from year to year, but the event normally takes place the week leading up to Halloween. While there won’t be a pumpkin carving party this year, residents are still planning to bring their home-made pumpkins to the festive wall. The Elizabeth Community Association coordinates the event.

    Location: Elizabeth Neighborhood

    Related Agenda story: Elizabeth neighbors made a pumpkin wall that’s 60 feet long


    (23) Cozy up with a cup of coffee — PSL anyone?

    Details: Coffee drinkers and connoisseurs have so many seasonal flavors to choose from. National Coffee Day is September 29. You can grab a cup of joe and support your favorite local coffee shop at the same time. CupLux and Enderly Coffee have pumpkin spice lattes, FYI.

    Related Agenda guide: 18 best coffee shops to fuel up for your workday

    suarez optimist hall coffee

    Suarez Bakery at Optimist Hall

    (24) Bake apple spice cupcakes at Sweet Spot Studio.

    Details: Sweet Spot Studio is offering seasonal baking classes in its newly renovated, baking facility. The fall class schedule has offerings like apple spice cupcakes, ghost-shaped French macarons, and cauldron cakes. The main baking space has been modified for social distancing, but if you want to enjoy the fun at home, you can sign up for the Sweet Spot Cookie Club — a subscription box service that delivers everything you need to decorate cookies right to your doorstep.

    Cost: Classes are $35+. Sweet Spot Cookie Club is $55 for one month, $50/month for a 3-month subscription, and $45/month for a 6-month subscription.

    Location/hours: 4418 Monroe Rd., Ste. C

    Related Agenda guide: Sweet Spot Studio, a hands-on baking classroom from pastry chef Jossie Lukacik, is now open

    Sweet Spot Studio

    (25) Donate to a local food bank.

    Details: As you fill up your pantry this fall, consider donating. Many local food pantries need donations amid the pandemic. Food banks in the area include Second Harvest Food Bank of MetrolinaLoaves & Fishes of Charlotte, St. Paul Baptist Church Pantry, and The Harvest Center of Charlotte.

    Join us: This coverage is made possible and free to all (no paywall) with the help of Agenda Members. If you’d like to support more reporting like this, become an Agenda Member.

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