Wondering where to travel in the Carolinas this fall? The season brings colorful foliage, cooler days, and a whole lot of beauty to our area. It is the perfect time to spend a weekend exploring a new place, reconnecting with yourself in nature, or getting some holiday shopping done early. Our list of road-trip destinations will make this autumn one to remember.
Durham is a fun, artsy town in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. While there, stay downtown in the 21c Museum Hotel Durham, which is located in a historic bank. The museum is actually attached to the hotel, which, combined with the rich history of the bank, makes this unique stay well worth it. From the hotel, you will be within walking distance of downtown Durham’s coffee shops, boutiques, and warm, inviting restaurants. Bar Virgile is a popular stop, where you can enjoy high-end drinks, small plates, and entrées, including Angel Hair Pesto and Norwegian Salmon. Spend some time on Duke University campus at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which boast floral colors that perfectly coincide with surrounding foliage; and the Historic Duke Chapel, which stands out among the gorgeous autumn colors. Also on Duke’s campus is the Nasher Museum of Art, which has been praised for “raising the cultural bar.” Inside you’ll find a shop with many great gifts for children and adults alike.
Asheville, about two hours northwest of Charlotte, is a great place to visit all year round, but like any mountain town, the fall foliage changes the scenery for the better. To fully immerse yourself, find an AirBnb off the beaten path, and enjoy crisp autumn mornings from a balcony overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Asheville is famous for its hippy vibes, so venture downtown for fun, art, music, shopping, farm-to-table restaurants, and craft beer and wine. If you want more to do, the Biltmore Mansion is stunning at this time of year, and the North Carolina Arboretum has over 400 acres of gardens available for visitors to admire.
Bryson City to Dillsboro and back: Tuckasegee River Excursion
Take in the smoky mountains, river gorges, and colorful fall leaves with the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Fall Foliage Ride. This has to be one of the most underrated ways to travel in the Carolinas this fall: There are several routes offered, with the Tuckasegee River Excursion stopping in Historic Dillsboro, where there will be over an hour for shopping, eating, and exploring the well-preserved architecture. While downtown, stop at one of the many restaurants for some Oysters, Thai, Greek, Italian, Mexican, or good old Southern Comfort food. Or, for a quick coffee and snack, drop in at City Lights Café. The ride average a total of four hours, which is the perfect length to spend with family, friends, or even children.
Medoc Mountain State Park – Hollister, NC
Northeast of the Research Triangle is Hollister, North Carolina. One of Hollister’s main attractions is Medoc Mountain State Park, which hosts Fishing Creek, one of the cleanest streams in the region. With a climbable peak of 325 feet, and over 10 miles of walking trails, it is the perfect spot for hiking, biking, paddling, canoeing, and even camping. Medoc Mountain State Park also offers fun group hikes for events (i.e., the full moon). Try camping at the park with your crew, which provides the perfectly peaceful ambiance within nature. If you aren’t into camping, stay the night in one of Hollister’s hotels, a short drive away.
Black Mountain, NC
A mere 20 minutes outside of Asheville, North Carolina is Black Mountain. Black Mountain was voted America’s Prettiest Small Town by TripAdvisor in 2017. It makes a wonderful weekend getaway, or even a day-trip if you are staying in Asheville. While in Black Mountain, check out Lake Tomahawk Park, several museums and art galleries Downtown, and fun local breweries. If you decide to stay in Black Mountain, snag a quaint AirBnb on Lake Eden, a quiet attraction that will provide incredible views of foliage as the seasons change. Louise’s Kitchen is a charming spot for brunch, serving “eclectic comfort-food” in an old-house setting.
After the Carolina Balloon Fest in October, Downtown Statesville will continue the Holiday spirit by hosting a Trick-or-Treating event on Halloween, and a Pumpkin Fest during the first weekend of November. While in Statesville, enjoy the nice weather in the walkable Downtown scene by checking out boutiques and restaurants, or you can even catch a show at the nearby Theatre Statesville, which will perform holiday favorites. Stay five minutes away from Downtown in the Clichy Inn, a cozy BnB in a classic 1917 building.
Greenville, South Carolina is gaining traction for its culinary scene, which boasts everything from deep-south flavor to Mediterranean cuisine. Enjoy downtown restaurants such as Soby’s, Jianna, or Halls Chophouse, which is located on the river and provides beautiful table views. After dinner, spend some time in the walkable downtown, and maybe venture out to the Greenville County Museum of Art. And before you leave, Falls Park on the Reedy is a must to complete your trip, with 26 acres of gorgeous gardens, trails, and waterfalls.