Summer is coming to an end in the mountains of Western North Carolina. What this means for Asheville residents, aside from the explosion of color and the introduction of cozy favorites like wool sweaters, corduroy pants, warm apple cider, and pumpkin-spiced treats, is a long, healthy list of fall festivities. There's nothing quite like fall in southern Appalachia — when the mountain air turns crisp and cool, the nostalgia returns in overwhelming waves of inexplicable sensation, and the banjos and fiddles slow their pace to something more fitting for the season. The only problem with this time of year is its impermanence. Autumn in Asheville is gone in the blink of an eye. Be sure to embrace the season for as long as you can by visiting these 5 festivals. There will be plenty of food, folk music, and flowing taps to help you celebrate one of this region's favorite times of year.
1. Brewgrass Festival, Memorial Stadium, Asheville, NC
September 20, 1 to 7 pm
Brewgrass is an annual beer and bluegrass festival that showcases over 100 beers from close to 40 American breweries, all to be enjoyed while listening to old-timey bluegrass. This year, acts include Foxfire, Blue Highway, Smoke from the Kitchen, Barry Waldrep, and Lost River Cavemen. Participating breweries include Asheville’s Altamont Brewing Company, Wicked Weed, and Hi-Wire Brewing companies (among others) as well as other North Carolina, Southeastern, and national breweries. Local food vendors will offer plenty of options and there are lots of non-beer beverages for the kids. The festival is free for children under the age of 7. Bring chairs, umbrellas, and backpacks, but no coolers.
2. Nantahala Outdoor Center Guest Appreciation Festival,
September 26-28, 8 am to 9 pm
A different kind of festival, NOC’s GAF , as it’s known, is more of a celebration of savings for gearhounds, with new and used gear going for big discounts, plus there are a lot of family-friendly activities, such as free face-painting, crafts, a raptor show, games, contests, and a bouncy house. There’s food and live music, plus bike trials and a pump track exhibition. Guests and non-profits can also sell their used gear or crafts (to sell more than one piece, you’ll need a vendor permit) and nonprofits can distribute promotional material. Ziplining and rafting are offered at special prices and shuttles are free for those taking part in the Cascades and Upper Nantahala recreational releases.
3. French Broad Brew Fest, Hot Springs, NC
September 27, 8:00 am
Each spring, trail town Hot Springs becomes a hot spot during the French Broad River Festival . This year, for the fourth time ever, the town is hosting a fall festival at the Hot Springs Resort and Spa Campground, with the same roots-music-and-camping formula as its spring counterpart, but with craft beer thrown into the mix. This year’s musical guests include Yarn, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Tony Trischka and Territory, Hymn for Her, Empire Strikes Brass, Mountaintop Polka Band, Wick-it the Instigator and more. As the music plays, festival goers can enjoy regional craft beers and food, then camp out (first-come, first served) or show up without gear and glamp in gear provided by Solid Ground Outfitters.
4. Asheville Oktoberfest, Asheville, NC
October 11, Between Hilliard and Buxton Street, 1 to 6 pm
This 21-and-Over festival is a great expression of Asheville’s beer culture and general wackiness. The German-inspired parade and festival will feature a lovely mix of Appalachia-infused Bavaria. Think yodeling, polka, traditional German lagers, and seasonal ales all from local and regional breweries in downtown Asheville's South Slope. Also, back by popular demand, is the internationally renowned band, The Stratton Mountain Boys. When they're not touring the US performing at various Oktoberfests, they're full-time ski instructors in Vermont, so you can be sure, they'll fit right in with Asheville's mountain town sensibilities. Check the Downtown Asheville website for ticket sales, as this festival has sold out each year.
5. LEAF, Black Mountain, NC
The quintessential local festival, LEAF (formerly known as Lake Eden Arts Festival) is held twice a year (once in the fall and once in the spring) and revolves around a full weekend of live music, a crafts fair, camping, and kids’ activities in a gorgeous setting on Lake Eden, at the foot of the Black Mountains. LEAF typically brings in internationally known acts, and this year the list includes Robert Randolph & the Family Band as well as Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn; not to mention local and regional acts such as Rising Appalachia, David Wilcox and David LaMotte. LEAF is known for its socially conscious vibe, commitment to local nonprofits and super family friendly nature. Camping reservations fill up quickly, so check the LEAF website to see what’s available for a day or weekend pass.