Savor the cool autumn weather with Charlotte’s colorful foliage, lively festivals, and seasonal local beers.
When autumn arrives in Charlotte, you can see it everywhere: not just in the willow oaks that turn to a burnt goldenrod along Queens Road West, the city’s showpiece street lined with stately homes, but also in the new crop of spicy beers that flow in its breweries and in the festival tents that pop up across Queen City.
Two festivals in particular are decades-long favorites. Since 1964, Festival in the Park(September 24–26) has drawn locals together in Freedom Park to celebrate Charlotte’s creativity. Musicians perform everything from choral to country, and more than 150 artists and craftmakers showcase and sell their art and wares. The beloved Yiasou! Greek Festival (September 9–12) brings the sights, sounds, and vibrant cultural energy of Greece to the city’s historic Dilworth neighborhood. The festival, which highlights music, art, dance, and of course, food—think gyros and homemade baklava—began in 1978 and has become one of the city’s most highly anticipated events.
Fall also brings seasonal beers to the Queen City’s dozens of breweries. This time of year, NoDa Brewing Co. boasts its award-winning Gordgeous ale, infused with pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and spices. And the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, the city’s oldest, celebrates Mecktoberfest (September 17–19, 24–26) in its sprawling beer garden with special beers, tasty German-style pretzels, and other bites. Birdsong Brewing Co., Legion Brewing, and Wooden Robot Brewery are also worth a visit, as is the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Pump House Biergarten, which serves local brews like Triple C Brewing Co.’s Golden Boy, Sycamore Brewing’s Mountain Candy, and rotating seasonal options.
Hints of cooler temperatures make it a great time to get outside. In a city known for its tree canopy—45 percent of the city is covered in trees—fall is one of the best times to walk, run, bike, or scoot along the 56 miles of developed greenway trails. Uptown, Romare Bearden Park, which pays homage to the famed artist who was born here, is another place to stroll and snap some skyline shots. A little farther outside the city, Crowders Mountain State Park offers fall foliage and 25-mile panoramic views from the peak.
Where to stay
For a bit of glam, go for the Grand Bohemian, one of the city’s latest additions. Built in 2020, this striking stop-over impresses with its Argentinian-influenced design flare and luxury amenities.
While much of Charlotte is shiny and new, underneath it all lies a city steeped in history. Tap into that past at the Dunhill Hotel, which dates to 1929 and is located within steps of Belk Theater, where you’ll find fall performances by the Charlotte Symphony, Charlotte Ballet, and other arts groups.
At Latinx-owned sweets and bread shop Manolo’s Bakery, in Charlotte’s east side, owner Manuel Betancur, a Colombian immigrant, is known for his philanthropic efforts and generosity. During the pandemic, he launched the Cake Project to ensure that every Charlotte-area child gets a birthday cake.
The original version of this story ran in AFAR magazine, September 1, 2021.