Friday Focus: North Carolina in the Fall

I love this time of year. I love to wear jeans again. I love that it gets dark a little earlier so I can be cozy in my house, which usually smells like a pumpkin candle on most nights. I sip a glass of red wine, have my pajamas on by 9:00 pm, and watch a new season of my favorite TV shows. Ah, that is fall to me! But, I know a lot of my Tar Heel friends like to get out and about in the fall so this post is for you.

Courtesy of Visit NC
With the arrival of fall, the leaves are beginning to shade North Carolina in hues of burgundy, burnt orange and golden yellow. Starting with the lofty peaks in the north, color spreads to the south and east in a painterly wash before slowly fading into winter.

Here are some ways to experience my home state this fall.  Visit NC gave me some great ideas to share, and of course, you know anything that concerns eating, a spa treatment, and a luxury hotel came from yours truly.

Rooftop Touring: After gazing at the vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway, exit at U.S. 25 North in Asheville, N.C., for a different vantage point: the rooftop of America’s largest home. This sight to behold is the high point of Biltmore’s hour-long Architecture Tour.

Shadow of the Bear in Cashiers, NC
Photo by: Jerry Jaynes

Bear Hunting: As the harvest sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, a bear-like shadow emerges from the colorful canopy for 30 minutes every evening from mid-October to early November. Catch the “Shadow of the Bear” from Rhodes Big View Overlook near Cashiers, N.C. The mountain, with an elevation of 4,930 feet, boasts sheer rock cliffs that are among the highest in the eastern United States. It provides a splendid setting for viewing leaves throughout autumn, especially during the emergence of the bear.

Luxury Lounging: And if you are in Cashiers to search for the bear shadow, visit the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in nearby Highlands. They have some great seasonal spa specials right now such as the Pumpkin-Apple Spice Facial. 

Ballooning: Drink in the view from hundreds of feet above ground. Carolina Balloon Fest takes place Oct. 21-13 in Statesville, N.C., and individual operators such as Carolina Balloon Adventures take fliers soaring over vibrant woodland hills.

Farmers Marketing: Farmers markets offer distinct insights into regional flavors with selections of pumpkins, apples and greens.  And the local color is dazzling at Wilmington’s popular Riverfront Farmers Market. And don't forget that biggest celebration for agriculture is the North Carolina State Fair, which runs October 11-21, 2012.

Whitewater Rafting: Under the leafy forest canopy, the Nantahala River Gorge creates lasting impressions. Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, N.C., operates a world-class whitewater canoe and kayaking program.

Wine Tasting: Fall harvest presents a reason to celebrate and sample North Carolina wines. In the flourishing Yadkin Valley wine region, Childress Vineyards and Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery are among the wineries offering tours, tastings and picnic spots with splendid scenery.

Ziplining: Experience fall color up close on a canopy tour. Choose from a dozen or more in the North Carolina mountains or opt for an unlikely destination: Fayetteville, N.C., at the edge of the Sandhills. ZipQuest features eight ziplines, three sky bridges, three spiral staircases and a 150-foot-wide waterfall.

Culinary Touring: Wilmington is an emerging dining destination and offers a variety of culinary tours and festivals including the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival (October 13-14); Encore Restaurant Week (October 17-24); the Back Door Kitchen Tour (October 20), and Taste of Wrightsville Beach (October 27).

The Inaugural Outer Banks Seafood Festival scheduled for October 20 is designed to capture the essence of what makes the Dare County community unique. Nearly 20 local restaurants have committed to serve their signature dishes featuring only fish and seafood caught along the Outer Banks - resulting in an unmatched "fusion-style" (small portion sizes) buffet from some of the best restaurants on the beach. In addition, local artisans will exhibit and offer their unique creations ranging from hand-crafted jewelry to beach shells and paintings - offering Festival-goers a great opportunity to shop the wares of our gifted artists.

If you love food then you cannot miss TerraVita in Chapel Hill, North Carolina November 1-3, 2012. Now in its third year, the unique event showcases sustainably made wine, beer and spirits from around the globe against the backdrop of North Carolina ingredients and ingenuity. 

TerraVITA, a Celebration of Food and Beverage

The headliner event, the Grand Tasting on The Green, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 3 from 1 – 4:30 p.m. This event brings together some of the best sustainably-produced wines, microbrews, coffees and spirits and offers them side-by-side with culinary tastings by James Beard-nominated chefs, artisan chocolatiers, charcuteries and cheese makers from across the state of North Carolina.  

Advance tickets are $65 for the all-inclusive event with a special designated driver/no alcohol ticket offered for $55. Tickets can be purchased at

In addition to the marquee Grand Tasting, three other events occur during the festival: Chefs’ Harvest PotluckThe Sustainable Classroom, and The Carolina TableEast Meets West Dinner. Visit TerraVita for a full-line up, and costs. 

Corn MazingGillis Hill Road Produce produces “The ABC’s of NC” – an educational maze for children and adults.  Questions about North Carolina are found throughout the 10-acre maze.   Only the right answer takes you down the correct path. Wrong answers lead to a dead–end.  The ABC’s of NC is open through October 31st. Hours are Monday through Friday from  1 pm – 6 pm and Saturdays from 10:30 am – 6 pm.  Location:  2899 Gillis Hill Road in Fayetteville.  

See you around North Carolina, and my thanks to all of North Carolina's Tourism Bureaus for keeping me in the loop on the latest travels in my home state.

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