It’s officially fall, and while our festivities may be a bit more socially distanced than in years past, even a global pandemic can’t stop us from celebrating the arrival of Western North Carolina’s signature season. We won’t be bobbing for apples or going into many houses, haunted or otherwise, but we will be taking in all the autumnal sights, flavors, and adventures from now till November.
Here are ten ways to make the most of the season ahead, even in 2020:
- Take to the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sure, it’s the Asheville equivalent of “basic,” but there’s a reason more than 14 million sightseers drove along the Parkway last year alone. We’d suggest driving south from the city to Black Balsam, which provides views of Looking Glass on the way, and do the quick hike for sweet sunset views and lots of fall foliage. If you’d rather go north, make Craggy Pinnacle your destination instead.
- Bring your Littles to the Eliada Corn Maze
The Eliada Corn Maze opens this Friday, Sept. 25, and runs Friday–Sunday until Sunday, Nov. 1. This year they’ve introduced new safety measures, chief of which is a presale system: buy your tickets for a specific time slot on their website in advance. 100% of proceeds from the maze are redirected to the children and programs of Eliada.
- Get Spooked on the Adventure Center of Asheville’s Haunted Trail
Most haunted houses are on hold this year, but because it’s entirely outdoors, the Adventure Center of Asheville’s 8th Annual Haunted Trail is on. The no-touch, no-contact trail is designed for kiddos aged 3–12 (younger kids can check out the “Sweet Peek Tour” before dark). The event officially opens Friday, Oct. 9 and runs weekends through Oct. 30 (check out their website for specific days and hours).
- Go Apple and Pumpkin Picking
Apple picking is already well underway, and we’ve rounded up some of Hendersonville’s apple orchards to visit in 2020 here. Next up? Pumpkins! Many apple orchards around the region will start selling pumpkins soon (including many of those featured in our apple picking article, like Stepp’s and Grandad’s Apples N’ Such). You’ll also start seeing makeshift pumpkin patches popping up at churches around the region; they use annual pumpkin sales as fundraisers for their local efforts or missions. (Last year I got my pumpkin from Groce United Methodist Church in East Asheville on my way to the Parkway!)
- Then Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor (or Someone Else’s)
Local chefs, brewers, and home cooks (like you!) love to incorporate local produce into their dishes and brews, and this season brings all the pumpkin, apple, and spice. Buxton Hall’s seasonal pies are a perennial favorite (the lineup usually includes Buxton’s Ultimate Apple, Yum Yum Pumpkin Gingersnap, and Sweet Potato Cream). Next door, Vortex Donuts celebrates the season with flavors like Cinnamon Sugar Maple Swirl and Vanilla Apple Fritters. Just around the corner is Urban Orchard’s South Slope location, where Hendersonville apples find new, effervescent life in creative ciders. That’s just a one block radius, and the whole region offers hundreds of opportunities to literally savor the season.
- Venture to Western North Carolina’s Waterfalls
Our region is home to hundreds—maybe even thousands—of waterfalls, and while they’re beautiful in all seasons (especially during a hard freeze), they really shine when the leaves turn. We love this interactive waterfall map if you’re a “throw a dart at a map” kinda person, but we’re suckers for the Brevard area (they call it the Land of Waterfalls for a reason—there’s more than 250 of them over that way), with falls like Moore Cove and Triple Falls, and, if you’re up for a drive, Panthertown Valley.
- Get a Bird’s-Eye View
The leaves are pretty no matter which way you look at them during the fall, but you’ll begin to understand the scope of the season when you view them from above. Asheville Hot Air Balloons is up (pun intended) and running, booking sunrise flights over Candler in colorful balloons that rival the show of the leaves below.
- Celebrate at Festivals (Safely)
Most of fall’s most popular fests have been cancelled in 2020, but there are still a few who have decided to carry forward with safety measures in place. Dillsboro’s Colorfest Arts & Crafts Walk takes place Oct. 3, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and offers an opportunity to chat with local artists. Haywood County’s Apple Harvest Festival is the Apple Harvest Daze this year (due to its smaller scale) and is set for Sat. Oct. 17, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. And the Maggie Valley Fall Arts & Crafts Show will share handmade arts and crafts Oct. 17–18.
- Try Your Hand at Fly Fishing
Like most outdoor activities around here, fly fishing may be enjoyable year-round, but there’s just something about a rainbow-hued fall backdrop that makes it extra special. Guide services like Hunter Banks, AB’s Fly Fishing Guide Service, and Davidson River Outfitters take novices and experienced fishermen alike on guided fly fishing wade trips to streams and rivers around Western North Carolina on the hunt for a bite.
- Grab a Drink
Last week we rounded up the best places around WNC to grab a seat outside and a cocktail or local beer this fall. Other places we’d add to our list? Wedge Brewing, Whistlehop Brewing Co., Sovereign Remedies, and if you want a meal with your drink, Zia, Haywood Smokehouse, and the Grey Eagle Taqueria at BearWaters Brewing.