Cool Things to Do in Raleigh in the Fall (see, eat, drink, play)

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.

things to to in raleigh in the fall
Fall colors at Lake Johnson

Fall season is my 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. Christmas in Raleigh is fun too!

Most of the best fall things to do in Raleigh are back on again this year after the pandemic, such as the NC State Fair, Brewgaloo beer fest, Hopscotch Music Festival, Wide Open Bluegrass, and many other smaller events.

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 and activities to partake in, and the leaf colors can be impressive here too!

Apex Lake (Lake Pine Loop Trail)
Apex Lake Trail

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. 

Down below we are sharing some of the best things to do in Raleigh in the fall to help keep you, and your kids busy. 

Chase the Fall Colors

Reflections at Lake Johnson, Raleigh
Reflections at Lake Johnson

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, typically the most vibrant colors are near the water, and some of the best spots to explore include:

Bond Lake, Cary, NC
Bond Lake, Cary

Also, keep in mind botanical gardens, parks and preserves like:

  • J.C. Raulston Arboretum
  • Pullen Park
  • Dorothea Dix
  • Durant Nature Preserve (North Raleigh)
  • Robertson Millpond Preserve (Wendell)
  • Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve (Wake Forest)
  • Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve (Cary)
  • Duke Gardens (Durham) 

Seasonal Drinks & Treats

Sir Walter Coffee, Raleigh
Graham Cracker Latte from Sir Walter Coffee

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 their 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)
  • Big Boss Brewing usually has their Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale, a fall favorite that is brewed with real pumpkin and their own proprietary blend of spices but still tastes like beer.
  • 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!
  • Jubala Coffee has their 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.
Black and White Coffee Roasters, Raleigh
Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Black & White
  • 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.
Things to do in Raleigh in the fall
Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse / Autumn Mousse
  • 42 & Lawrence also typically have 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.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Eclair at Lucettegrace
Pumpkin Cheesecake Eclair. Image by Lucettegrace
  • 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!
Pumpkin pie special at Raleigh Rolls
Pumpkin pie special

PLEASE NOTE: These are seasonal items. Please visit each businesses website for up-to-date offerings before driving there!

Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, and Fruit Picking

boyette family farm 2

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. 

Naylor Family Farm & Giant Corn Maze

naylor family farm
Image by Naylor Family Farm

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 berry patch
Image by DJs Berry Patch

DJ’s Berry Patch is a family owned and operated business located in Apex who offer U-Pick Pumpkins & Mums, produce and Strawberries. Bring the family to pick your own pumpkin, they also have beautiful fall mums (fall flowering plant).

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)

phillips farm

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.

Video: Pumpkin Farm in Johnston County

Eat or Drink on the Patio at some of the Best Raleigh Restaurants

wye hill kitchen and brewery raleigh nc 9
Brunch with a view at Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

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 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

wye hill kitchen and brewery raleigh nc 21

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

Rooftop at Raleigh Times Bar
Rooftop at 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
Cow Bar Burger

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!

Taverna Agora

Taverna Agora, Raleigh

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

Pitt BBQ, Raleigh
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

Raleigh Beer Garden
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.

Whiskey Kitchen

whiskey kitchen raleigh 1

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, Raleigh
Burger from Mama Crow’s

Transfer Co. Food Hall is the other of the two food halls in downtown Raleigh. There’s 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.

Festivals & Events

Wide Open Bluegrass

bluegrass festival raleigh 2

Fayetteville Street and surrounds is closed off for one of the best things to do in Raleigh in the fall – the two-day Wide Open Bluegrass Festival.

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.

Brewgaloo Beer Festival

Brewgaloo Beer Fest

North Carolina’s largest craft beer festival, Brewgaloo, is held annually in Raleigh and features over 110 craft breweries from around NC, plus 50 food trucks and local vendors.

This street festival spans the length of Fayetteville Street in downtown with two stages featuring local bands all day long. 

NC State Fair

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.

Triangle Oktoberfest

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.

Falling for Local

Falling for Local Festival, Dorothea Dix Park

Autumn lovers will love this festival at Dorothea Dix Park every October. Featuring live music, local makers and vendors, craft beer, food trucks, games for kids, hay rides, 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 90 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. Widely recognized as one of the most important events of the year.

NC Wine Festival

Held at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary in October, the NC Wine Festival showcases more than 30 North Carolina local wineries to sample from, plus artisans, music, food and fun.

Cinema in the Square (Moore Square)

Every Friday night from Friday October 15th-November 12th, Downtown Raleigh Alliance are hosting an evening of movie magic with pre-show entertainment before full-length screenings of popular musical films outside in the park.

Explore Nature Trails

One of the fun things to do in Raleigh is explore the greenways and nature trails. 

Now that the high heat and humidity has 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

Sals Branch Trail, Umstead State Park
Sals Branch Trail, 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!

We suggested the easy 2.8 mile Sals Branch Loop Trail as a good place to start!

Lake Johnson Nature Park

Lake Johnson nature trail in the fall, Raleigh
Lake Johnson loop trail

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

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.

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

Neuse River Greenway Trail
Neuse River 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

shelley lake park 5
Shelley Lake Trail

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

Lake Lynn Trail, Raleigh, North Carolina
Lake Lynn has lovely boardwalks

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.

Hit the Raleigh Beer Trail

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing
Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

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.

Picnic at NC Museum of Art & Dorothea Dix Park

North Carolina Museum of Art Trail
North Carolina Museum of Art Trail

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!

dorothea dix park 1
Dorothea Dix Park

See the Carolina Hurricanes Play

Carolina Hurricanes

The National Hockey League is in full swing, and you can join the loudest and best fans in ice hockey at PNC Arena to cheer on Raleigh’s own Carolina Hurricanes in action. See their schedule here.

Go Paddle Boarding or Kayaking

 

Padddle boarding on Lake Johnson, Raleigh
Padddle boarding on Lake Johnson

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 a lakes edge being one of the prime locations for leaf peeping, you can get a great perspective out on the water. 

Our local favorite spot is Lake Johnson, with other top spots being:

Lake Raleigh, North Carolina
Lake Raleigh

Visit the State Farmers’ Market

State Farmers Market., Raleigh
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!

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.

Go Ziplining and Take on a Tree-Tops Adventure Course at Go Ape

Go Ape tree tops course
Go Ape tree tops course

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.

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!

Plan a Fall Road Trip to the Mountains (or Coast)

Nags Head Beach, Outer Banks
Nags Head Beach, Outer Banks

If you’re interested in getaways from Raleigh, or even just day trips from Raleigh to nearby towns, the fall is a great time to plan a road trip.

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

Check out our posts on 8 fun day trips from Raleigh or our 1 day itinerary for Wrightsville Beach.

For longer breaks, read about the top places to go in the North Carolina Mountains, and our 20 things to do in the Outer Banks.

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. 

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