Happy Fall, ya’ll. If you are looking for things to do in Raleigh in the fall, we are here to help with lots of fun suggestions down below.
Fall season is our favorite time of year as it brings with it awesome festivals and events, pumpkin flavored everything, tailgating at college football games, and of course fun Halloween parties. Next would be summer in Raleigh, and Christmas in Raleigh is fun too!
Fall is such a great time to be living in Raleigh, but if you’re planning a trip to Raleigh for the first time, get excited as there are plenty of fall festivals and events to partake in, and the leaf colors can be impressive here too!
In this guide, we share some of the best things to do in Raleigh in the fall to help keep you, and your kids busy.
- Things To Do In Raleigh In The fall
- 1. Chase the Fall Colors
- 2. Enjoy Fall Seasonal Drinks & Treats
- 3. Visit Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, and Fruit Picking
- 4. Eat or Drink on the Patio at some of the Best Raleigh Restaurants
- 5. Look Out For Fall Festivals & Events
- 6. Check Out The Nature Trails In Raleigh
- 7. Hit the Raleigh Beer Trail
- 8. Picnic at NC Museum of Art & Dorothea Dix Park
- 9. See the Carolina Hurricanes Play
- 10. Go Paddle Boarding or Kayaking
- 11. Visit the State Farmers' Market
- 12. The Raleigh Market
- 13. Go Ziplining and Take on a Tree-Tops Adventure Course at Go Ape
- 14. Pumpkin Flotilla at Bond Park
- 15. Plan a Fall Road Trip to the Mountains (or Coast)
- 16. Celebrate American Indian Heritage at North Carolina Museum of History
- 17. Check Out "Kooky Spooky" at the Marbles Kids Museum
- 18. City Of Oaks Marathon
- Final Thoughts
Things To Do In Raleigh In The fall
Whilst we do LOVE summer and the high humidity, others are welcoming the cooler days and nights that Fall brings to get outside and take in some of the best Raleigh things on offer.
Some of our favorite activities during Fall include eating and drinking outside at fantastic restaurants and breweries, exploring nature trails, getting out on the lakes, picnics in parks, and picking pumpkins.
1. Chase the Fall Colors
It seems like every year the leaf-peeping season gets shorter and it’s harder to know when it will start and end. But unlike having to plan a road trip to New England and time it perfectly, if you live in Raleigh like us you are already here and can act quickly!
Whilst fall in the Triangle area isn’t quite like in the North Carolina Mountains, there are still some great spots to take it all in.
When it comes to fall foliage in Raleigh, typically the most vibrant colors are near the water, and some of the best spots to explore include:
- Umstead State Park
- Falls of Neuse River Trail
- Lake Johnson
- Lake Raleigh
- Bond Lake
- Apex Lake
- Lake Lynn
- Shelley Lake
- Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
- Falls Lake State Recreation Area
- E. Carroll Joyner Park (Wake Forest)
- Eno River State Park (Durham)
Click play on the video below to see the beauty of Lake Johnson in the Fall:
Also, when chasing the fall colors in North Carolina keep in mind botanical gardens, parks, and preserves like:
- Pullen Park
- Dorothea Dix Park
- Duke Gardens (Durham)
- J.C. Raulston Arboretum
- Durant Nature Preserve (North Raleigh)
- Robertson Millpond Preserve (Wendell)
- Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve (Wake Forest)
- Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve (Cary)
READ MORE: 6 beautiful gardens in Raleigh (and one nearby)
2. Enjoy Fall Seasonal Drinks & Treats
Fall is the time for fun pumpkin-spiced flavored seasonal coffees and treats, and Oktoberfest-style beers. Whether you’re a coffee, beer, or cider drinker, put this on your list of things to do in Raleigh in the fall and there’s a brewery or coffee shop for you!
A few of our favorites to check out include:
- Raleigh Brewing has its Oktoberfest Lager with notes of sweet caramel, baked bread, and herbal hops.
- Trophy Maywood typically has a Oktrophyfest – Marzen (a lager that originated in Bavaria)
- Bittersweet offers a Pumpkin Crème Brûlée (gluten-free) with house-made whipped cream, spiced pecans & dried cranberry mix. Pairs great with either their Espresso Martini and Irish Coffee!
- Lynnwood Brewing serves up a seasonal Shut Your Pumpkin Pie Hole Wheat.
- Pelagic Beer & Wine currently has a Pumpkin Pie Porter on tap.
- Raleigh Beer Garden – ask for a Pumpkin Spice Martini and Shooters at their spirits bar.
- Jubala Coffee has its Pumpkin Spice Latte; flavored with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove. And their Campfire Mocha; s’mores flavored mocha featuring graham cracker-infused milk, Videri Chocolate, and house made toasted marshmallow.
- Black and White Coffee Roasters in the Warehouse District does seasonal drinks like a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
- Sir Walter Coffee always get creative with their drinks. Ask about their Graham Cracker latte, pumpkin pie martini, apple cider old fashion, or spiced rum cider.
- Asali Cafe in Cary makes delicious desserts, like the Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse and Autumn Mousse.
- 42 & Lawrence also typically has a Pumpkin Spice Latte on their specials menu, plus chai tea and hot apple cider.
- Idle Hour Coffee – ask about their Maple Ginger Latte and Lavender Honey Latte.
- Hayes Barton Cafe make the most amazing cakes in Raleigh.
- The Cupcake Shoppe has a Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (and their cupcakes are all amazing!
- Lucettegrace has a yummy looking Pumpkin Cheescake Eclair.
- Raleigh Rolls, who make ice cream rolled on cold slates with a variety of flavors and toppings, currently has a pumpkin pie special through October (pumpkin pie filling, graham cracker, topped with whipped cream!
PLEASE NOTE: These are seasonal items. Please visit each business’s website for up-to-date offerings before driving there! Oh, here is our list of 17 places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Raleigh.
3. Visit Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, and Fruit Picking
Looking for things to do with kids in Raleigh during the fall? One of the classic fall activities is visiting pumpkin patches and exploring corn mazes. The Raleigh pumpkin picking season typically begins sometime in late September to early October.
NOTE: These are seasonal attractions, be sure to check the website of each place mentioned below for up to date guidelines and opening hours before you drive there!
Click here to read the full list of 17 Pumpkin patches and corn mazes in Raleigh
Naylor Family Farm & Giant Corn Maze
Located just outside of Fuquay Varina, Naylor Family Farm & Giant Corn Maze offers a variety of outdoor fun including a 2,400 square foot Farm Market Barn, 10-acre giant corn maze, pumpkin patch, petting zoo, kids play area, and more.
Ken’s Korny Corn Maze
In the town of Garner, Ken’s Korny Corn Maze has been a fall tradition for more than 15 years and North Carolina’s First and longest-running corn maze over 6 acres 2 1/2 miles of paths.
DJ’s Berry Patch
DJ’s Berry Patch is a family-owned and operated business located in Apex that offers U-Pick Pumpkins & Mums, produce, and Strawberries. Bring the family to pick your own pumpkin, they also have beautiful fall mums (fall flowering plants).
The Family Farm on Avent Ferry
The Family Farm on Avent Ferry in Holly Springs has been in the same family for 6 generations. Here you can pick out your favorite carving pumpkin for your decorating needs.
They also sell a variety of specialty pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, and hay bales. And onsite they have an 85 year old traditional cow barn and 100+ year old log tobacco barn. Open seasonally – check website for dates!
Phillips Farm (Haunted Farm & Corn Maze)
Head to the Phillips Farm in Cary to scare yourself at the haunted farm and Visit the Field of Lost Souls and Rebellion Trail, take on the corn maze, and of course pick your own pumpkins.
Read More – 17 corn mazes & pumpkin patches in Raleigh
Video: Pumpkin Farm in Johnston County
From Wednesday until Sunday, September 23rd – October 29th, you can pick your pumpkins at Page Farms in Raleigh.
The price of a ticket allows you to pick one pumpkin per paid person, as well as visit the Corn Maze, enjoy a hayride, ride the Cow Train, see the Farm Animals and visit the playground.
4. Eat or Drink on the Patio at some of the Best Raleigh Restaurants
If you’re looking for things to do in Raleigh this weekend (or any weekend) the culinary scene is top notch here and eating and drinking your way around the city of oaks is one of the best Raleigh things to do!
But if you don’t like the heat and humidity of summer, fall is your time to eat outside and there are some great Raleigh restaurants with awesome patios or rooftops. A few of our favorites include:
Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Wye Hill is home to our favorite patio in Raleigh. As they say, come for the brews (and delicious food), and stay for the amazing views of the downtown Raleigh skyline!
Raleigh Times Bar
If you can jag a seat on their rooftop (or on the sidewalk), The Raleigh Times is one of our favorite places to eat (and drink) outside in downtown Raleigh. In this historic building you get quality bar food – check out their burger and nachos – and a great selection of beers.
Morgan Street Food Hall
Morgan Street Food Hall in the Warehouse District offers 20 different food concepts. Fantastic spot for families or groups of friends with different food tastes. Lots of outdoor seating. Our fave is the burgers from Cow Bar!
Go to Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen & Bar for authentic Greek food and for their lovely rooftop terrace that will remind you of your trips to Greece.
The Pit BBQ
BBQ lovers should head to The Pit Authentic Barbecue in the Warehouse District. Here you can sit outside at their “Pig Pen” on picnic-style tables. Don’t miss their Beef Brisket, Baby Back Ribs, and Pimento Cheese Balls.
Trophy Brewing & Pizza
If you love a pizza and beer combo, and a cozy patio setting, it’s hard to go past Trophy Brewing & Pizza. Popular beers include their Cloud Surfer and Trophy Husband, and for pizza their Daredevil.
Raleigh Beer Garden
If tasting one of the 350+ beers on tap (world record-holder) isn’t enough to entice you to the Raleigh Beer Garden, another reason we like eating and drinking here is the tons of outdoor space and back garden patio – perfect for a fall hangout.
One of our favorite bars in Raleigh is Whiskey Kitchen, not only for its large menu of drinks, but also for its inventive Southern food and great outside patio.
Transfer Co. Food Hall
Transfer Co. Food Hall is the other of the two food halls in downtown Raleigh. There are 50,000+ square feet of renovated warehouse space that’s now home to 12 vendors, plus a nice outdoor patio area. Nice variety of food choices including burgers, seafood, Asian, Italian, Mexican, Bagels, Beer, and Wine.
5. Look Out For Fall Festivals & Events
If you’re looking for an exciting festival or event to entertain you, then be sure to check out some of our favorite autumnal festivals in Raleigh.
Wide Open Bluegrass
Fayetteville Street and its surrounds are closed off for one of the best things to do in Raleigh in the fall – the two-day Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, which takes place on the last weekend of September.
It’s one of Raleigh’s biggest annual events and the largest FREE urban bluegrass festival in the world. The festival typically features IBMA and GRAMMY award-winning legends, top-notch emerging acts, and unforgettable collaborations.
NC State Fair
For rides, music, animals, and all the greasy fair food you can imagine, Raleigh locals flock to the annual North Carolina State Fair each October, the largest annual event in the state which draws one million visitors over 11 days. Read our guide to the State Fair.
The annual Triangle Oktoberfest is held every October at Cary’s Koko Booth Amphitheatre and includes traditional Bavarian food and fare (plus local and authentic German beers on hand). Plus, family-friendly activities like live music, storytelling, and dancing.
READ MORE: Where to celebrate Oktoberfest in Raleigh
Falling for Local
Autumn lovers will love the Falling For Local festival at Dorothea Dix Park every October. Featuring live music, local makers and vendors, craft beer, food trucks, games for kids, hayrides, free pumpkins, and more!
Wendell Harvest Festival
The annual Wendell Harvest Festival in downtown Wendell in the month of October has been running for over 95 years and features a parade, over 100 craft vendors, a beer garden, games for kids and adults and live music.
SAS Golf Championship
You can watch some of golf’s best at the SAS Championship, an annual PGA Tour Champions event held at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary from the 9th – 15th October 2023. Widely recognized as one of the most important events of the year.
NC Wine Festival
Held at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary on October 28th, the NC Wine Festival showcases more than 30 North Carolina local wineries to sample from, plus artisans, music, food, and fun.
North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest & Festival
The North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest and Festival is just a short drive outside of Raleigh to downtown Oxford, and is an event that marks the beginning of fall. It’s the place to be for a fun day of entertainment and laughter!
The event has been taking place every year for 28 years and is famous for its hot sauce contest, live music, food vendors, the Bailey Farms Pepper Eating Contest, and for the kids a fun park called Wee Pepper’s Place where there’s a bouncy castle, arts and crafts, and a petting zoo.
BugFest: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
On September 16th, head over to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for the largest bug-centered event in the USA! BugFest is a day celebrating everything creepy crawly, with the aim to educate and inspire the public about bugs.
There will be more than 100 exhibits, craft tables and games for kids, as well as the chance to chat with etomologists and scientists. In 2023, the focus will be on the eight-legged friends, spiders! BugFest starts at 10.00am and ends at 7.00pm.
Barbecue at Theatre Raleigh
Hitting the stage at the Theatre Raleigh this fall is the theatrical drama “Barbecue” which is showing every night from 18th October until 29th October.
This performance is all about a dysfunctional group of siblings who come together for a barbecue in the park. However, it’s no ordinary barbecue, and is in fact an intervention for their sister Barbara who has a substance abuse problem.
What’s fascinating about Barbecue is the story is told through two families, one black and one white, highlighting the juxtaposition between race and family politics.
It’s both poignant and a little bit funny, and was written by Obie and Helen Hayes Award winner, Robert O’Hara. It’s a show that contains strong language and subject matter and only for ages 16+.
6. Check Out The Nature Trails In Raleigh
One of the fun things to do in Raleigh in autumn is explore the greenways and nature trails. Now that the high heat and humidity have passed, fall is an optimal time to hit one of the many trails and greenways on offer in the Triangle area.
Hike at Umstead State Park
William B. Umstead State Park is North Carolina’s most visited state park and a natural oasis just 15-minutes from downtown and one of the top places to go in Raleigh.
Surrounding three man-made lakes, if you love nature trails through the forest, biking, trail running, picnicking, camping, canoeing, and horseback riding and haven’t visited Umstead yet, take advantage of the ideal fall weather and leaf colors. Here are a few Umstead Trails we love:
Lake Johnson Nature Park
Located near NC State University, Lake Johnson is a popular lake for students to get active, and for locals living in Raleigh.
With 300 acres of land surrounding the 150-acre lake, there’s a lovely three-mile paved loop around the lake (our favorite trail), plus a separate two miles of unpaved trail, a 700-foot-long boardwalk across the lake, a boat house, small beach area, and picnic shelters.
Bond Lake Trail
The 2-mile Bond Park Lake Trail is another favorite of ours, and we have walked it many times with our kids. It hugs a picturesque lake, and the trail is a mix of paved and unpaved natural woodland setting. Read our review of the Bond Lake Trail.
Art to Heart Trail
Beginning at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the 5.9-mile Art to Heart Trail winds through the museum’s 164-acre park, passes behind Meredith College, cuts through the main campus at NC State, passes by Pullen Park and finishes in downtown just outside of the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center.
Watch this video of the trail:
American Tobacco Trail
The 23-mile American Tobacco Trail runs along the abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 70s. The trail crosses through Wake County, Chatham, and Durham County. Part of the East Coast Greenway, it’s open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, and other non-motorized users.
Neuse River Greenway Trail
The 27-mile paved Neuse River Greenway Trail is considered the gem of the 100-mile Capital Area Greenway system. It stretches from Falls Lake in North Raleigh to the Wake County border line in southeast Raleigh. A good place to start is Anderson Point Park
Shelley Lake Park
An easy 2-mile paved scenic greenway trail loops around Shelley Lake and is popular with locals in North Raleigh, so it’s better for walkers and runners than cyclists at peak times.
Lake Lynn Trail is a 2.6 mile heavily trafficked paved loop trail with scenic views and a couple of hills but nothing too challenging.
7. Hit the Raleigh Beer Trail
Speaking of trails (of a different kind) if you like sampling beers at different breweries, and there are plenty of great Raleigh breweries, consider the Raleigh Beer Trail for a fun fall challenge and earn rewards!
Download and print your Raleigh Beer Trail Passport, then make your way around and collect 15 or more stamps to earn a stainless steel bottle opener, a Raleigh Beer Trail pint glass hugger, and a limited edition T-shirt.
Read More: 20 Local Breweries in Raleigh to Love
8. Picnic at NC Museum of Art & Dorothea Dix Park
North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the most popular Raleigh attractions, not only for its excellent display of creative art but for its large 164-acre park and trail system through natural areas featuring more than a dozen commissioned works of art.
Plenty of cool spots and space to enjoy a picnic outside, so grab some food-to-go from one of your favorite restaurants in Raleigh.
Dorothea Dix Park sits on a whopping 300+ acres (the largest park in Raleigh) and offers impressive skyline views of the city from wide-open fields and rolling meadows with plenty of space for picnics!
While you’re there, we highly recommend you check out the museum and their European Masterworks collection titled “Modern Vision”.
The collection features more than 50 pieces from the Phillips Collection including works by Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and more.
9. See the Carolina Hurricanes Play
10. Go Paddle Boarding or Kayaking
If you’ve been following us for a while you’ll know that we’ve embraced lake life here in Raleigh and one of our favorite family activities is stand up paddle boarding (or kayaking).
With trees surrounding the edge of a lake being one of the prime locations for leaf peeping, you can get a great perspective out on the water. Read our guide on 9 places to go paddling.
11. Visit the State Farmers’ Market
As one of four regional Farmers Markets across North Carolina, the Raleigh Farmers Market is considered one of the nation’s best and most modern markets.
Fall in Raleigh is a lovely time to explore and pick out what fruit is in season from across NC. And they have PUMPKINS…Open 7 days per week!
12. The Raleigh Market
Fall in Raleigh is a good time to explore The Raleigh Market. With over 500 vendors selling a wide variety of items, this flea market at the State Fairgrounds is one of the unique places to visit in Raleigh and has been an entertaining shopping experience since 1971.
13. Go Ziplining and Take on a Tree-Tops Adventure Course at Go Ape
We took our youngest here for her birthday in August which was a little on the hot and humid side, but alas you are shaded by trees
Never fear though, the cooler temps in fall make for the perfect time to visit GoApe and take on the 500-foot-long zipline and tree top adventure courses. Allow 2-3 hours. Fun for the whole family. Check out our review of Go Ape in Raleigh.
Video: Go Ape
14. Pumpkin Flotilla at Bond Park
The Pumpkin Flotilla is an annual event you can take your carved pumpkins to at Bond Park in Cary, and enjoy a discounted boat ride. Typically prior to Halloween. Check their website each year for dates and times!
There are so many fun things to do in Raleigh and nearby for Halloween. Check out our guide sharing 27 Halloween experiences for the Triangle and beyond
15. Plan a Fall Road Trip to the Mountains (or Coast)
The mountains are obviously prime leaf peeping territory and beautiful this time of year. As for the coast, the big crowds and heat of summer have left but the temperatures are still pleasant in the 70s. Boone is a fantastic getaway, as is downtown Asheville.
16. Celebrate American Indian Heritage at North Carolina Museum of History
2023 marks the 28th annual festival dedicated to The American Indian Heritage Celebration at the North Carolina Museum of History. The event takes place on Saturday 18th November and also has a virtual Education Day on Friday 17th November.
The festival will host multiple demonstrations, presentations, and performances that showcase the contributions of American Indians in North Carolina.
From artistic displays to historic talks and traditional workshops, this is a great place to learn about the native communities in Raleigh.
17. Check Out “Kooky Spooky” at the Marbles Kids Museum
If you’re looking for things to do in Raleigh in fall with kids, then plan a trip to Kooky Spooky at The Marbles Kids Museum. Taking place on Friday, October 27th, this is a fun way to experience the magic of marbles and Halloween in one exciting evening.
From Monster Mash dance parties to cauldron cooking to scientific experiments, there is much to enjoy at this family friendly event. Oh, and don’t forget to wear your Halloween costumes!
18. City Of Oaks Marathon
Last but not least, don’t forget to head on down to the City Of Oaks Marathon held on Sunday 5th November. In 2023, the marathon is celebrating its 17th annual running after a five-year absence, so it’s expected to draw huge crowds and lots of participants this year!
Runners will be heading on a loop around the city, starting from the northern edge of the North Carolina State University campus, along Hillsborough Street, passing the Meredith College of Art campus and parallel to the I-440.
There will be four races of differing lengths (5K, 10K, 13.1 miles and 26.2 miles), but each race will pass through downtown Raleigh. Whether you’re participating or not, head down to downtown on the 5th November and support the runners!
I hope this post gives you ideas on stuff to do in Raleigh in the fall of a very unique year. If you have any suggestions on things to do in the Triangle, leave us a comment below.