22 of the BEST Raleigh Fall Festivals & Events

September is here, y’all. Back in Australia where we grew up, September was always the month that signaled we made it through winter and we’re moving into Spring and soon-to-be-summer. In the USA, September is of course the signal that Fall is approaching!

people walking through a forest
Lake Johnson loop trail in the Fall!

We love Fall. A season full of exciting festivals, events, pumpkin treats and drinks, and happenings in Wake County and beyond to our North Carolina borders. 

Although summer has past, the festivities and excitement remain in the City of Oaks, as there are so many Raleigh fall festivals and events to keep you entertained through the season.

Personally, for us September is the kickoff to a month-long celebration of all our birthdays over a 6-week period. From a travel perspective, September and October are typically the best months of the year to be in any destination.

Mom and daughter walking a nature trail in the mountains of Boone, NC
Enjoying the end of Fall in Boone, NC

I hope you can plan for travel this Fall. We highly recommend a trip to the North Carolina beaches. It’s still absolutely perfect weather wise, but with less crowds and cheaper prices!

Fall also sees the return of tailgating at our local sporting events. With three major universities surrounding us in the Triangle, NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, college football fever will be all around – with basketball soon to follow.

Our national Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey team always shows up with big action and crowds at PNC Arena. The Caniacs have a reputation for being the LOUDEST fans in the country. Go Canes!

Raleigh Fall Bucket List

Pumpkin cheesecake mousse, Asali Cafe, Cary

We have a Fall bucket list guide that will give you a lot more tips on things to do in the Fall in Raleigh, which also features places to find Fall treats and drinks, Halloween events, and pumpkin patches near Raleigh (and corn mazes to visit).

Join our email community below so you don’t miss an update and to get access to our free printable Fall bucket list. It will help you keep on track for planning an awesome Fall.

FREE Fall Bucket List
How to soak up the vibrant FALL FLAVORS in RALEIGH!

For the purposes of this guide, we are going to share the Fall festivals and events from the beginning of September all the way to Thanksgiving.

We are going to complicate it even more, by not including the Christmas, or Holiday, events. Holiday events in Raleigh deserve their own celebratory post. 

When exactly is Fall in Raleigh?

family standing in front of a body of water
Lake Johnson in the Fall

This is a question I ask a lot and feel quite silly about. In Australia, there are no blurred lines about when Spring (September in Australia) starts. It’s clearly the 1st of September. We don’t care what the equinoxes are doing. 

The meteorological definition of seasons is based on temperature cycles and the Gregorian calendar and so pegs September 1st as the start of Fall.

But, technically, Fall in Raleigh begins with the Autumnal Equinox which occurs on Sept 23rd (I like what those numbers are doing there!)

It then technically ends on Dec 21st with the winter solstice. This is the astronomical definition of seasons.

If you look at those two definitions, and compare that with Raleigh’s weather patterns, we’re a mixture of both and so the astronomical definition works with a September 23 Fall kick off.

Anyone who’s lived here for a few seasons knows it’s still hot as buggery usually all the way up to the end of October. And we get a series of false Falls up until then.

Top Fall Festivals & Events in Sept, 2023

As we move through October, be on the lookout for leaf peeping opportunities in the North Carolina mountains. But, in case you don’t know, Roanoke in Virginia is even closer, and the North Georgia mountains aren’t too far away either. 

Check this post for road trip ideas from Raleigh for the Fall foliage.

There will be opportunities for you to enjoy the changing of the leaves in Raleigh as well. Stay connected to our Instagram as we explore those this year. 

1. Hopscotch Music Festival, Sept. 7th-9th, 2023

Hopscotch Music Festival
Hopscotch Festival. Image courtesy of VisitRaleigh.com
  • Where: Various venues in Downtown Raleigh
  • Time: Various
  • Cost: $175 for a 3-day pass
  • Website: HopScotchMusicFest.com

Earning notoriety as one of the country’s top music festivals is the Hopscotch Music festival held throughout various venues in downtown Raleigh.

Hopscotch is known for its eclectic music representation covering almost every genre including rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more.

It’s three days of music celebration with a spirit and atmosphere that has been likened to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

2. 7th Annual Asia Fest with Dragon Boat Racing, Sept 16, 2023

People racing dragon boats on the water
Image credit: asianfocusnc.org
  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheater
  • Time: 10am-5pm
  • Cost: $10 (early bird rate is $8) | Kids under 13 and adults 65+ free
  • Website: www.asianfocusnc.org/asiafest

The Greater Triangle Dragon Boat Festival, or Asia Fest, is a chance to celebrate Asian culture, diversity, and history. What better way to do it than with dragon boat races on Symphony Lake, games, stage performances and unique ethnic street food. 

3. La Fiesta del Pueblo, Sept 17, 2023

Another celebration of a vibrant culture living in Raleigh. La Fiesta del Pueblo is the time to honor Latin American culture with live music and dance  performances, visual and folk art exhibits, educational booths, and activities for the whole family.

Live music includes Grupo Mojado, internationally famous and nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Group Album!

4. Benson Mule Days, Sept 21- 24, 2023

parade of mule drawn carriages main st benson
Mule Days Parade | Image by JohnstonCountyNC.org
  • Where: Main St Benson, Johnston County
  • Times: Various (all day events)
  • Cost: Some free and some ticketed events
  • Website: www.bensonmuledays.com

Benson Mule Days is a legendary 4-day festival, one of the largest in North Carolina drawing in 20,000-30,000 people. If you like quirky, you’ll love celebration of all our beloved, obstinate mules.

The tradition began in 1949 when Nowell Smith, Jr. and the McLamb Brothers had the idea for a festival that would both celebrate the farmer and foster community spirit by incorporating the town’s main draft animal – the mule.

Expect Rodeos, mule competitions, arts and craft vendors, food vendors, dancers, carnival rides, face painting, camping, parades, Bluegrass shows, and musical concerts. Saturday’s Mule Day parade is a highlight!

Benson is about 30-minutes from Raleigh. Well worth a visit for Mule Days!

5. Downtown Cary Fall Festival, Sep 23, 2023

Help celebrate the fall bounty of harvest season with our local farmers. There will be live music on the main stage, a kids performance area, fun games and interactive exhibits, local food and craft beer, art & crafts and a mid-day pie-eating contest.

6. Festa Italiana, Sept 23, 2023

Festa Italiana Raleigh was founded by a small group of Italian-Americans in the Triangle in 2018. Since then it has become a much anticipated annual event celebrating Italian culture, music, food, wine and more.

Features Italian food, wine, merchandise with cooking demonstrations, entertainment and a kids area!

7. IBMA World Of Bluegrass Festival, Sept 29-30, 2023

People watching an outdoor Bluegrass concert in Raleigh
Enjoying the Bluegrass last year
  • Where: Red Hat Amphitheater and Downtown Raleigh
  • Time: 5pm each day
  • Cost: $100-$140
  • Website: WorldOfBlueGrass.org

IBMA World of Bluegrass is one of the top NC festivals. This urban bluegrass music festival that closes out the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Week in Raleigh. NC.

During the two-day festival, Fayetteville Street is closed down and features five blocks and six stages of music stretching from Martin Street to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

The event also includes an amazing street festival complete with delicious food, a dance tent, a BBQ cook-off, an arts & crafts market and many other activities for all ages.

Read our full blog post sharing the World of Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh experience. You can see why it’s one of the most popular annual events in Raleigh.

Top Fall Festivals & Events in October, 2023

8. Triangle Oktoberfest, Oct 6th-7th, 2023

People standing in a line holding up glasses of beer
Image courtesy of TriangleOktoberfest.org
  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary
  • Date: Oct 6 & 7
  • Time: Fri: 5pm-10pm | Sat: 12pm-4pm | Sun: 4pm – 8pm
  • Cost: $25 before 4pm, $20 after 4pm | Kids under 15 free
  • Website: TriangleOktoberfest.org

The largest Oktoberfest in Central North Carolina is an authentic German festival focused on family fun, traditional Bavarian food and fare; and plenty of local and authentic German beers from Munich.

Rest assured there will be Polka music to ramp up that Oompah vibe. And I can tell you from my annual triangle Oktoberfest experience in the beer halls of Munich that it is a fun event you’ll never forget. Raise your stein and get posting!

Read more: 17 Places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Raleigh

9. Celebrate Fuquay Varina, Oct 7, 2023

pizza store in Fuquay-Varina, NC
  • Where: Downtown Fuquay-Varina
  • Date: Oct 7
  • Time: 10am-4pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: www.celebratefv.com

This festival is all about celebrating the vibrant community of Fuquay-Varina. It includes live entertainment, craft beer, the Downtown Chili Cook-off, food trucks, arts & crafts, a free kids zone, and more

10. The 95th Wendell Harvest Festival, Oct 7, 2023

Wendell is celebrating this annual festival in Fall with food trucks, a kids village, a parade supporting Hometown Hunger Heroes, and a free concert with the Brickhouse Band.

11. Cary Diwali Festival, Oct 14, 2023

  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • Date: )ct 14
  • Time: 10am to late (Fireworks at 9.30pm)
  • Cost: Free + $5 parking lots
  • Website: TownOfCary.org

The Cary Diwali festival includes music, dance, theater performances, a handicraft bazaar, Indian food vendors, sponsor booths, an exhibition of Indian art and culture, and activities for children.

It’s a celebration that marks the victory of good over evil, light over dark and the beginning of the New Year. It is one of the most widely celebrated religious and cultural events in Raleigh. 

12. SAS Championship, Oct 9-15, 2023

  • Where: Prestonwood Country Club
  • Date: Oct 9-15
  • Time: (no times announced yet)
  • Cost: $30 Daily Grounds Passes. FREE public parking at Bond Park with shuttle to the tournament main entrance
  • Website: www.saschampionship.com

Craig keeps talking about attending this annual PGA Tour Champions event. Since it’s now near where we live, I think it’s time we went!

See some of golf’s best attend the the SAS Championship, widely recognized as one of the most important events of the year in Wake County. This golf event includes:

  • Pro-Am event
  • Food Truck Friday: some of the area’s best Food Trucks, plus live music, and youth entertainment
  • 5K Saturday race: Enjoy the unique experience of running, jogging or walking along the official tournament course prior to the second round of play.

13. N.C. State Fair, Oct. 12-22, 2023

Swinging chairs ride at the state fair
Fun at the Fair
  • Where: NC. State Fairgrounds
  • Time: 9am – 11pm with some nights closing at midnight
  • Cost: $10 adult, $5 youth entrance fee
  • Website: NCStateFair.org

Are you ready for a HUGE North Carolina event held right in the heart of Raleigh at the State Fairgrounds? It is the largest annual event in North Carolina and last year, I felt every one of those million visitors that attended the 11-day fair. 

As the biggest of the annual Raleigh events, it is a lot of fun with high-flying rides, deep-fried foods, live music, stunt shows and other entertainment (including nightly fireworks). It’s definitely worth experiencing once.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to the North Carolina State Fair

VIDEO: NC State Fair

14. Falling for Local, Oct 7, 2023

Falling for Local Festival, Dorothea Dix Park

We enjoy this festival filled with local makers and creators stalls, beer tents, live music from local artists, and activities for the kids, such as hay rides and pumpkin patches. It’s a great way to welcome in Fall while still soaking up the last warm rays of summer. 

Buy your drink tickets in advance as the lines can get long. And note, last year the food truck lineup was ridiculous! People were waiting for a long time, and many trucks had run out of certain foods, so it may be a good idea to bring your own picnic lunch!

15. NC Wine Festival, Oct 28, 2023

Did somebody say wine tasting? You may be surprised at the state of wine in North Carolina. For over 20 years, the NC Wine festival has been sharing NC wineries goodness with us all.

Paired with your chardonnay will be music, food and live entertainment from Chairmen of the Board, The Shakedown and The Patrick Rock Band. 

16. Clayton Harvest Festival, Oct 26-29, 2023

girls walking through pumpkin field
Boyette Family Farm, Clayton

As Johnston County is home to many farms, it makes sense that their Fall harvest festivals are worth visiting. The Clayton Harvest Festival features carnival rides and lawn games, a Latin American festival, trunk or treat and movie night. 

17. Zombiepalooza, Cary, October 20, 2023

outside a theater buliding
Cary Theater

We were quite surprised by the dedicated turn out for Zombiepalooza when we visited pre-COVID. The Cary Theater hosts a free event showcasing locally created zombie short films on a huge outdoor screen. Plenty of people dressed in their best zombie gear! 

READ MORE: 27 of the best Halloween Events in Raleigh

18. Pumpkin Flotilla, October 27, 2023

woman looking out over Bond Park, Cary, NC
Bond Lake, Cary

Each October, pumpkins set sail across the Bond Park Lake at twilight accompanied by local music, snacks, and Halloween activities!

Floats are limited and first come first served. If you want to show off your carved pumpkin, drop it off at the Bond Park boathouse in the days leading up to the family-friendly event.

If you miss the flotilla evening, the pumpkins are typically left on the lake and they relight them for the next couple of nights.

19. Movies on the Lawn: Halloween Double Feature, Oct 29, 2023

There is so much to love about this Scream fest in Dorothea Dix Park. Two classics back to back: Hocus Pocus (7pm) followed by Scream (8:30pm).

Come dressed in your favorite costume. There is a parade and prizes starting at 6pm. Local food trucks on site and you can BYO.

20. HollyFest, October 28, 2023

HollyFest is a celebration of the local community. This free annual event features local artists, food vendors, kids activities and entertainment. 

Top Fall Festivals and Events in Nov, 2023

21. North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival, Late Nov 17, 2023-Jan 8, 2024

Chinese Lantern Festival
Image courtesy of visitraleigh.com
  • Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre
  • Time: Mon.-Sun., 6-10pm; performances: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm, nightly
  • Cost: Start at $11
  • Website: BoothAmpitheartre.com

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival has exploded in popularity over recent years and is one of the most popular cultural festivals in Raleigh in Fall. So plan well and buy your tickets in advance. 

The festival has hundreds of larger-than-life lanterns on display creating an incredible, colorful adventure for you to walk through during the holiday season. 

More than 15,000 LED lights make up 40 distinct displays, including a 200-foot-long, 21-foot-tall mythical creature that sits on Symphony Lake. There are also many acrobatic and cultural performances. Read more here.

22. 28th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration, Nov 18, 2023

Time to honor our Indigenous Peoples.  This annual event has been held in honor of American Indian Heritage Month in North Carolina for over 25 years.

The festival includes multiple demonstrations, presentations, and performances highlight the traditional and contemporary artistic, scientific, historic, and cultural contributions of American Indians in North Carolina for over 14,000 years. 

Remember to join our VIP email community so you don’t miss our Fall updates and recommendations. we’ll soon be publishing our guide to Halloween events, Fall pumpkin patches and corn mazes to visit, and Fall treats & drinks to indulge in!

FREE Fall Bucket List
How to soak up the vibrant FALL FLAVORS in RALEIGH!

Stay tuned. We’ll also soon update our Holiday Events post which will include the Christmas Parade and lighting of the tree that happens in November.

Comment: What Fall festival and event in Raleigh are you most looking forward to? Do you have one to recommend that we may have missed? Be sure to tell us why you love it!

Raleigh Fall Bucket List
How to soak up the vibrant Fall flavors!
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