Want to move to coastal North Carolina and enjoy the sunshine and moderate temperatures? We need to make one thing abundantly clear – we don’t really “do” fall. Oh, sure, we get the pumpkin spice lattes, “Fall Festivals”, and pumpkin decorations (just like the rest of North Carolina), but if you ask where the local pumpkin patch is, someone is going to respond with the closest parking lot filled with pumpkins. Coastal North Carolina also isn’t the best climate for apple trees, so you won’t find an orchard for stocking up on your next batch of cider. Matter of fact, fall is often called the “Locals’ Summer”, because the weather is still warm but most of the tourists have left town (let’s celebrate uncrowded beaches!).
Nevertheless, if you want to take the family to a farm to experience a hayride and pumpkin picking, 1-hour from Wilmington is Mike’s Farm in Beulaville, NC. It comes highly recommended for all events throughout the year and is one of the few true pumpkin patches in our area. But remember to bring your sunscreen and wear some breathable fabric, because we don’t have the fall temperatures of the north.
Yep, the “changing of the seasons” means something completely different to the folks on North Carolina’s coast. October is the start of one of our favorite seasons – Oyster Season! The NC Oyster Festival is a long-standing tradition in Ocean Isle Beach. Every October, the town fills with people ready to enjoy good food, live music, cook-offs, and shucking contests. It’s a great time to experience local seafood.
Fall is also prime festival time on the coast and food is an awesome highlight. In addition to a ton of fall festivals catering to kids and families, the St. Stanislaus Polish Festival and a myriad of German Oktober festivals happen this time of year. Beach festivals are very common with most recent additions including the Beach, Bacon, and Beer Festival in Carolina Beach. Of course, there is the Wilmington Riverfest, which has showcased the Cape Fear Riverfront since 1979, and features multiple vendors, music, art, and entertainment.
Some folks say fall doesn’t arrive until the Cape Fear Fair & Expo does. The county fair has everything you’d expect – livestock, games, rides, comfort food, and performances from traveling acts (i.e. magic shows, hypnotists, etc.). It sets up at the Wilmington International Airport and runs almost every day for two weeks in November.
With the onset of fall and slightly cooler temperatures, coastal North Carolina goes to the dogs…literally. Many of our area beaches become dog-friendlier starting September 30th. Bark in the Park, Wrightsville Beach’s canine athlete competition (frisbee catching), happens in October. Also of note, despite it being not quite fall, is the Pooch Plunge. Around Labor Day (the end of the summer season), the YMCA and Legion Stadium open the pool to dogs. It’s become a very popular event with pet owners.
Finally, the less crowded beaches of fall lend the perfect time to enjoy the annual Cape Fear Kite Festival at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in November. This fun event brings food trucks and giant balloons to Pleasure Island for two days. It’s a big hit with kids!
So, while coastal North Carolina doesn’t have many hayrides, apple tree orchards, and color shows (unless you count the leaves of the Virginia Creeper turning red), we do have great food, plenty of festivals and fairs, and uncrowded beaches (to enjoy with our dogs). Of course, if you really miss the traditional fall experience, the North Carolina mountains are perfect for a weekend getaway this time of year.
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