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Celebrating fall in North Carolina
Fun ways to enjoy beauty of the season
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

The cooler temperatures and changing leaves signify fall's arrival. Whether you want to get closer to nature enjoying a day of family fun petting zoo animals, try your skill at navigating a corn maze, curl up with a mug of hot cider or enjoy a hot air balloon adventure, we’ve got you covered with our list of nine ways to celebrate the season.

Soar through the canopy: With more than 200 species of trees, North Carolina puts on a kaleidoscope show in the fall, and there are a myriad of ways to take on the full glory of the state’s beauty. North Carolina is a national zip line leader with more than 20 tours, including The Gorge (thegorgezipline.com) in Saluda, which is the steepest in the continental United States. First-timers might want to consider kid-friendly Beanstalk Journey at Catawba Meadows in Morganton (thebeanstalkjourney.com).

Hop a train: Climb aboard and let The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (gsmr.com) take you on a tour through exploring the beauty of fall’s foliage and its dramatic display of fiery sugar maples, buttery poplars and crimson oaks. The ride follows a historic trail line into river gorges, across valleys and through tunnels carved out of the mountains of Western North Carolina. In October, the Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express offers family fun with excursions themed after Charles M. Schulz’s classic story “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”  Children can take photos with the Peanuts gang and enjoy an afternoon of campfire marshmallows, coloring, trick or treating, live music, hayrides and more.

Uncork the color: Sip reds and whites in the woodlands of North Carolina’s wine country. The Vineyards of Swan Creek Wine Trail (swancreekvineyards.com) include Raffaldini vineyards and winery in Ronda, which are known for panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Brush Mountains. Head farther to Surry County and relax on the patio known as the “crush pad” at Round Peak Vineyards and Winery (RoundPeak.com) in Mount Airy and take in the spectacular view of the Yadkin Valley mountains. On weekends when the weather is nice, guests are welcome to throw some meat on the grill, have a picnic and hang out.

Go Airborne: Drink in the view from a hot-air balloon. Join the crowd at the colorful Carolina Balloon Fest Oct. 18-19 in Statesville (carolinaballoonfest.com), which is celebrating its 40th year. Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to attend and watch as dozens of balloons take off against the backdrop of the Carolina blue skies. Can’t make it? Consider booking an individual operator such as Carolina Balloon Adventures (usaballoon.com), Balloons Over Charlotte (balloonsovercharlotte.com) or Asheville Hot Air Balloons (AshevilleHotAirBalloons.com).

Wings in flight: Vibrant orange wings flutter en masse during the monarch butterfly migration. The flight path of monarchs on their way to Mexico crosses the North Carolina mountains starting in mid-September and continues for several weeks. The best odds of seeing them are in the Blue Ridge Parkway at Cherry Cove (milepost 415.7) and Wagon Road Gap (milepost 412.2) and at Chimney Rock.

Sip some cider: You don’t have to be an experienced bartender to whip up a mug of this seasonal favorite. Try the following recipe: 1) Combine 4 cups apple cider, 1 stick cinnamon, 4 whole cloves, 3 allspice berries with the peels of 1/2 medium orange and 1 lemon in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. 2) Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. 3) Remove from heat and let steep for 7 to 10 minutes. 4) Strain the liquid into a coffeepot, discard the solids, and add 2 cups bourbon. 5) Serve warm in coffee mugs with a twist of lemon and grated nutmeg.

Patch it up: Visit a local pumpkin patch to pick the perfect pumpkin or try your luck finding your way through a corn maze. Hodges Farm (hodgesfarmnc.com) in North Charlotte is open daily throughout October. Stop by for some family fun enjoying hayrides, a petting zoo, weekend pony rides, corn mazes and more. Historic Rural Hill of Huntersville (RuralHill.net) is hosting its annual Halloween Festival Oct. 26 featuring games, vendors, face painting, food, music, costume contests and plenty of activities for the kids. Aw Shucks Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch (awshuckscornmaze.com), home of the 13th Acre Haunted Trail, is open now through Nov. 17. For more information on the haunted trail, which is not recommended for children, visit The13thAcre.com. 

Get in touch with nature: During fall, the forest is alive and filled with animals slithering, calling and scurrying to prepare for the cold winter months ahead. Stop by Charlotte Nature Museum (charlottenaturemuseum.org) during the month of October for story time with “Grandpa Tree” and learn more about the nocturnal creatures of the woods. This month’s Creature Feature at the museum is “Spinning Spiders and Creepy Crawlers,” which will be held Oct. 26, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Visitors can enjoy Halloween treats and learn about creepy creatures like spiders, scorpions, bats, millipedes, cockroaches and other insects.

Discover seasonal science: Learn what makes fall special through stories and hands-on science and art at Discovery Place Huntersville. Families can dig inside pumpkins, make their own fall-themed candy and other creative concoctions. For a full list of events, visit discoveryplacekids.org.



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