Events & Festivals
Fall colors appear first at the highest elevations and work their way down over a 5-6 week season. So you should be able to find beautiful color no matter when you visit in the fall. According to Asheville WX Meteorologist Hunter Ware, “All signs are currently pointing to a beautiful fall for all of Western North Carolina.”
Not only do the Smoky Mountains explode with beautiful color in the fall, the small town of Bryson City itself puts on a festive fall show, too! Colorful fall flowers, corn stalks and hay bales decorate the streets mixing with the beautiful fall foliage changes. There are hayrides, a pumpkin patch and a corn maze, ghost stories and legends, harvest festivals, live music, and scenic roads and train rides to view the leaves.
Events are in Bryson City/Swain County unless otherwise noted. Events are subject to change. For detailed information, visit event websites.
Daily ranger led programs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (October). 828-497-1904.
Farmers Market– Every Friday morning May thru October, 9 am – 1 pm on Island Street in Bryson City.
Thru November 10 – Oconaluftee Indian Village open Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm. Tour the authentic working village with dwellings, residents and artisans right out of the 1760’s.
Mid-September – October 31- Fall Events at Darnell Farm: Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch daily. Hayrides, Thursday – Sunday. Haunted Barn the week of Halloween. Click image tp enlarge.
September 14 – Octoberfest at Nantahala Brewing’s Brewpub. Traditional German dishes such as pretzels and bratwurst with house-made mustard. Lawn games such as corn hole, bear pong, and a Nantahala Brewing Harvest display for people to take pictures with.
September 21 – “Uncorked” event train food with wine pairings. All adult-first class car.
September 27-29 – Guest Appreciation Festival at Nantahala Outdoor Center.
September 28 – Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee.
September 30 – November – Beer Tastin’ at the Station. On all Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Tuckasegee River Excursions (check site for days of service). At the Dillsboro layover you’ll visit a reserved seating area at Innovation Brewing and sample 4 of their beers with food samplers from Foragers Canteen.
October: Fridays thru Sundays – Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express Train Event. Ride to pumpkin patch, meet Peanuts characters, enjoy activities and music, pick your own pumpkin.
October: Fridays & Saturdays – Spooky Tales at the Storytelling Center. 8 pm, around the fire pit in the train depot area.
October: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays – Cherokee Bonfire & Storytelling, 5-7 pm. Islands Park in Cherokee.
October 1-5 – Cherokee Indian Fair. Traditional Fair with parade, carnival rides, food and entertainment.
October 5 – ColorFest arts and crafts show with working artisans, food and entertainment. Dillsboro.
October 5 & 19 – Old-time music jam at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 1-3 pm. (Cherokee)
October 5-6 – Fall Arts & Crafts Festival at John C. Campbell Folk School, Hayesville.
October 12 – Spirit of the Smokies Car Show in Dillsboro. More than 100 participants. 10 am – 3 pm.
October 17 – November 3 – The Sleepy Hollow Experience Comes to Cherokee. Twice nightly, Thursdays – Sundays at the Mountainside Theater.
October 18-19 Cruise the Smokies Fall Rod Run, Cherokee, 9 am – 5 pm.
October 18 – Trail Magic 24 Release and live music. Nantahala Brewing Co.
October 18-19 – Stecoah Harvest Festival, crafts, food, music and country fair. Evening concert featuring The Gibson Brothers. Stecoah.
October 25-26 – Witch’s Brew Release & Halloween Party with live music. Nantahala Brewing Co.
October 26 – NOCtoberFest Great Pumpkin Pursuit, games and music on the Nantahala River.
October 26 – Plow Day & Harvest Festival at Darnell Farms. Music, food, crafts and farm demos.
October 31 – Downtown Trick or Treat. 4 – 7 pm safe trick or treating with merchants on Everett Street in Downtown Bryson City (street is closed to vehicles).
November 2 – WNC Pottery Festival, Sylva. Potters from all over the country demonstrating and selling their beautiful and functional pottery.
November 2 – “Uncorked” event train food with wine pairings. All adult-first class car.
November 2 – Smoky Mountain Fly Fishing Festival. Noon – 4 pm at the Nantahala Brewing –. Sylva,NC Outpost.
November 2-3 – Rumble in the Rhododendron Fly Fishing Tournament, Cherokee.
November 9 – Heritage Arts Festival, 10 am – 4 pm. SW Community College/Swain Center.
Special Train Rides
Leave the driving to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on the special “Leaf-Looker” excursions to the Nantahala Gorge. Daily. (Named one of the 10 Top Fall Foliage Trains by Travel and Leisure)
Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express – Friday-Sunday in October. Enjoy the ride, play games, pick out your own pumpkin & meet Charlie Brown, Lucy & Snoopy.
‘Shine & Dine’ Nantahala Gorge excursion all-adult first class moonshine car featuring spirits from area distilleries.
A Travel Writer Recommends…
Read Paul Anderson’s excellent article about getting the most out of your Fall getaway to the Smokies — Autumn in Bryson City – the spectacular grand finale of summer fun in the Smokies
More Ways to Enjoy Autumn
Biking trails – ride through a canopy of color
Easy hikes to waterfalls in the area
Soar above the trees on a zip line
Scenic drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway or through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or on “The Dragon.”
Take the “Road to Nowhere” for beautiful fall color and a spooky tunnel.
Listen to The Bugle of the Smokies Elk
Hearing a bull elk’s bugling during the fall rutting season is a memorable experience… that comes with a caution. While the animals are not frightened by humans, they are wild and potentially dangerous, particularly during mating season when the males are aggressively guarding their harems. Observers should stay at least 50 yards away and use binoculars or telephoto lens for a closer view.
Where to view elk. For years following the herd’s 2001 reintroduction into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, elk watching meant driving deep into the Cataloochee area of the park, about 1.5 hours from Bryson City. But these days, you’re just as likely to see elk grazing in the fields next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, or in the lowland fields along US 441 in the National Park, or in the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center just north of park visitor center. Where to find elk
Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce
210 Main Street
P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713
Free 2020 Travel Guide to the Smokies — Includes the Official 2020 All Aboard for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
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