The 16 Best Things to do in Asheville in October
There are all kinds of amazing shows in Asheville, from improv comedy and dance performances to theater and live music. But I’d say the most impressive show of all is put on by the mountainsides themselves in October, when the leaves flare red, orange, and yellow and become an incredible backdrop.
If you thought this was the best time to visit Asheville, you would have good company: lots of people drive to the mountains this time of year specifically to take in the natural splendor of autumn.
The good news is that once you’re here, there are lots of fun things to do in town, even when you’ve gotten your fill of beautiful leaves. Looking into what to do in Asheville in October will turn up spooky fun for Halloween, great harvest-related festivals, and activities of all kinds that get you outside in the crisp air.
Check out just a few of the options available to you when you are searching for October events and activities in Asheville!
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The 16 Best Things to do in Asheville in October
Visitors and locals alike will find that October is a busier time than most. Unlike beaches, where October tends to be the last little bit of the busy season, October sees a resurgence in Asheville in the fall, so plan ahead when you can and get your lodging and dinner reservations squared away early.
An impromptu trip can also be arranged, but do expect things to be bustling this time of year. Here are just a few great ways to spend your time once you arrive.
1. Take Advantage of the Parkway for Leaf Peeping Season
If you’re here in October, your priority is likely to involve getting out to see some beautiful leaves, and there’s really no better place to start than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plenty of amazing days have started by packing some snacks, drinks, and brown bag lunches and just heading out to the parkway.
Drive slow enough to see all the scenic vistas and catch sight of trailheads as you go, and just pick somewhere to explore! Luckily, if you want a little more prep, there are lots of guides online to finding the perfect length and difficulty level of a hike along the parkway.
But you also don’t have to hike at all – there are overlooks with picnic tables or great flat rocks where you can share a meal, just remember the policy of Leave No Trace so that the space remains pristine. Along the parkway, you may also stumble upon gems like the Folk Art Center, which showcases incredible examples of local craft and artistry, many of which are for sale. Nature is truly the star of the show when you are visiting Asheville in October, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is your path to see the show.
2. Experience the Best Mountain Biking that Western NC Has to Offer
If you’re a major mountain biking aficionado, you’ll be in heaven if you’re spending time in Asheville in October, whether you’re here for a weekend, coming for a program or class and staying for months, or moving here for years!
In town, many greenways and nearby Bent Creek Experimental Forest offer a variety of beginner-friendly but exceedingly beautiful places to bike. Just short drives out of town, you’ll find that DuPont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest have beginner, intermediate, and advanced mountain biking areas, with dozens of miles of trails between them.
Mountain bikers who live here year-round are always falling in love with a new trail or making a favorite trail a new adventure again, so you’re likely to have a particularly good time here.
3. Catch a Buzz on an Asheville Coffee Tour
A local barista and coffee aficionado in Asheville began a business giving tours highlighting the great coffee in Asheville, and the result is that you can now add an Asheville Coffee Tour to your list of things to do during your October trip to Asheville.
She brings a nuanced knowledge of coffee’s origins and preparation to a journey between six different coffee shops and micro-roasters around downtown. The three-hour tours also include knowledge about historic Asheville landmarks, and you’ll definitely leave both caffeinated and better informed about the craft coffee scene here in Asheville.
It’s a great idea to book a tour early during your trip to Asheville since you may meet other travelers who would be fun to share other experiences with, but you’ll also get a bit of orientation to the fun sights, sounds, and flavors of downtown. Particularly if anyone in your crew isn’t much for alcohol, this is a chance to see craft beverages in a different light.
4. Tackle the Graybeard Trail for a Serious Hike
The weather has gotten a little cooler in October, and you’re traveling to Asheville with a serious hiker – you might be the serious hiker yourself! Either way, a great area to explore if you’re ready to hit an advanced slope is the Graybeard Trail near Montreat/Black Mountain.
This 5-mile trail-to-summit journey is 10 miles when you count going out and back and will typically take 5 to 6 hours due to an impressive 2,400 feet in elevation gain. The trail is beautiful, with short spur trails to some small waterfalls and beautiful views, including views of the changing colors of the fall foliage.
The walk back is, of course, less uphill, but do be aware that downhills are often hard on the knees, so save plenty of time to protect your body by coming down at a relaxed pace. Enjoy the rewards of your hard work with a relaxing sip or snack in Black Mountain, a charming town just outside Asheville.
5. Head to a Pumpkin Patch
Asheville in October gets progressively spookier over the course of the month, with more and more ghost tours and Halloween decorations springing up as the weeks pass. One way to have good autumnal fun with the option for some haunted hayrides is to visit a local pumpkin patch!
If you head south to Hendersonville, many of the major apple orchards also have pick-your-own pumpkins, and kids get a hoot out of finding the one that is just the size and shape that they like. Afterward, pumpkin carving and seed roasting is another fun activity you can do from your own residence or in a vacation rental with a kitchen.
Bringing home some toothy friends to decorate the front stoop when trick-or-treaters visit on the 31st is a great way to have fun in Asheville in October! Be aware that pick-your-own pumpkins are often priced by the pound, so expect to spend a few extra dollars if your crew opts for huge orange squashes.
6. Bond With Family and Friends at the Adventure Center of Asheville
If you happen to feel that the group could use a little bonding, the Adventure Center of Asheville can offer you some serious team-building that can also be incredibly fun. Their Treetops Adventure Park offers aerial trails that are anchored to trees, letting you swing, roll, and step your way through a wood-and-ropes course, having to rely on your team members when the footing gets a little tricky (even though safety equipment keeps you steady the whole time!).
They also offer a zipline canopy tour that flies through and over incredible forests despite being right near downtown. There are stunt mountain biking trails that let beginners and advanced cyclists experience the thrills of a mountain trail, and even a special zipline adventure that kids ages 4 to 10 can go on, a course that is the first in the country to aim for this young age range.
Adventures await the whole family – all just minutes from your stay in Asheville.
Location: 85 Expo Drive, Asheville
7. Support Local Kids At the Eliada Corn Maze
The Eliada Children’s Home is a longstanding part of the Asheville community, an agency that began as an orphanage but which has developed foster care programming to help develop services to help foster children, childcare and preschool options, and training programs to help children aging out of foster care into the adult world.
One of the best-known fundraisers of the Eliada program is their Fall Festival and Corn Maze, where for a single fee, families can visit and explore an enormous corn maze, bounce on a puffy air pillow, take hayrides, and explore other fun activities like a spider climber and lawn games.
My own kiddo particularly loved a natural slide in the property that was turned into one of the longest slides I’ve ever seen – a true rush! There are also pumpkins and food available for purchase.
Keep an eye on the days and hours that the event is open, but it’s generally one of the more affordable options for fall festival fun since all the attractions are included in the initial ticket price rather than being a la carte.
Location: 2 Compton Drive, Asheville
8. Find a Spooky Abandoned Mine Village at Henry River Mill
Around the country, people flock to abandoned and otherwise spooky sites near Halloween, and if you’re a ghost hunter in Asheville in October, you very well might head toward Henry River Mill Village.
This town was supported by a thriving mill until 1979, when the mill was shut down. Residents slowly left until 1987, when the mill village was officially abandoned. It gained notoriety beyond locals when it was chosen as the filming location for District 12 of The Hunger Games, a hard-times coal mining area of that dystopian futuristic movie.
Now, you can visit and walk among the quiet buildings, admiring the natural beauty of this area but also thinking about the lives that were interrupted there when the mill no longer provided a livelihood.
People visit frequently, and those who are keeping track have said that similar spooky occurrences – like hearing voices at a particular spot – occur to many of the visitors, making it one of the spookier spots and a potential area for paranormal activity. If you dare, visit the mill village yourself and see what you think.
9. Drink Some Dark Oktoberfest Beers
Even though the actual Munich Oktoberfest is celebrated mostly in the month of September, you’ll find that breweries around Asheville release Oktoberfest beers all autumn long, increasing your chance of sampling some while you’re visiting Asheville in fall.
Beers like Hi-Wire’s Zirkusfest and Highland Brewing’s Clawhammer offer Marzen-style Oktoberfest flavors, while Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest and Burial’s Culture Keepers are some tasty examples of Festbier, another Oktoberfest staple that tends to be very drinkable.
No need to stop there: many other microbreweries and nanobreweries in the area offer tasty Oktoberfest options as they transition toward more wintery beers with warm spice profiles, so check with each brewery or taproom you visit and see what Marzen or Festbier options they may have available, fresh and local!
10. Get Merry for Dairy at the Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest
You can absolutely check out the Western NC Cheese Trail any time of the year, a non-profit that helps connect visitors and locals to incredible cheese makers in the area. However, if you’re lucky enough to be in Asheville in October, you can come to the Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest, which raises money for the WNC Cheese Trail while also sharing the bounty of local cheese with you.
Vendors at past cheese festivals have included local cheese makers, including goat cheese producers, vegan cheese makers (they use nuts and seeds to make cheese-like products!), and even a pimento cheese maker. You’ll also find vendors of local items that go great with cheese, from pickles and crackers to bread, wine, and chocolate.
The combinations just from these options alone are great, but you’ll also find cheese-making demonstrations and workshops, a chef competition for cooks using local cheeses, entertainment like live music, and even a kids’ area where you can meet baby goats! There’s something cheesy for everyone to enjoy.
11. Celebrate Plant-Based Cuisine at Vegan Fest
Whether you’re already vegan or you haven’t ever tried a plant-based burger before, you’re likely to find culinary treats and tips at Vegan Fest. This festival gathers together both chefs who exclusively cook vegan and cooks who are experimenting with making the many elements of a plant-based diet delicious to create a tasty day of plant-based eating.
Recognizing that the way you cook veggies, beans, grains, and mushrooms can give them incredible flavors and textures, more than enough to fill an entire diet, is a huge part of this day, and many chefs would point out that learning how to make your own plant-based food in a delicious way can be the first step to seeing this kind of living as a step up, not a concession or form of scarcity.
Learn more about why people are opting to add more plants to their diets or cutting out meat, dairy, and eggs entirely while getting to know some of the creative Southern Appalachian chefs who see this as the way of the future.
12. Sample Cider at CiderFest NC
Buy your ticket for this fun festival that gathers together 20 local cider makers for a tasting event that is perfect for anyone who isn’t a big beer fan or who prefers a gluten-free drink. The festival also features multiple meaderies, places that make honey wine and other honey-related products.
To accompany all the cider goodness, local vendors offer small bites of cheese, baked goods, caramels, and even ice cream to keep you going strong as you explore the festival and eat and drink in the beautiful October weather.
The CiderFest has been held by the French Broad River in the past, making it a uniquely pretty location to compare flavors and find a new favorite cider. There is a kids’ zone to keep your young ones entertained and plenty of live music to keep the atmosphere lively.
13. Try 50 Breweries in One Place at Burnpile
Burial Beer Company brings together dozens of brewers at the same music and beer festival once a year for a delicious sensory experience called Burnpile. Rather than just drinking a pint or two of your favorite brew, use your sample glass to try beers from as many as 50 breweries, getting to see whether there’s a kind of beer you’ve never tried that is actually your new favorite.
There are usually three stellar groups headlining the all-day concert, and VIP tickets include interesting additions like “Off-Topic Conversations,” where brewers have conversations on big-picture topics that don’t even have to stay focused on the beer scene.
Few other events gather this many beer-loving fans and high-quality breweries in the same place with a wonderful outdoor atmosphere at the Forest Camp location of Burial Brewing. You’ll feel like a real industry insider as you enjoy your way through the music and suds.
Location: 10 Shady Oak Drive, Asheville
14. Celebrate the World’s Art Scene at LEAF
While many concerts in the Asheville area focus primarily on the sounds of Appalachian music, the multi-day LEAF festival in Black Mountain is as international as it gets. You’re likely to hear music that is African, Latin, Cajun, Celtic, and more, alongside plenty of bluegrass and other Appalachian mainstays.
There are four stages, a jam tent for musicians, healing arts, and even drums and poetry! Thousands of people join each other to camp for this weekend and, in the process, become fast friends, all while experiencing the dancing – oh, the dancing!
You’re likely to find people salsaing, dancing swing, waltzing, and all kinds of contra dancing, as well as acrobatics, folk arts, handicrafts, and even water sports options on nearby Lake Eden. Because the festival is set in nature on the site of a summer camp, you’re in for swimming, canoeing, creeking, ziplining, hiking, and so much more.
Don’t be afraid to really let your hair down since you’ll be in good company with the other revelers.
15. Enjoy the Atmosphere During Halloween in Asheville
If you are here for the last few days of October, you’ll likely see the cobwebs, fake spiders, and silly skeletons pop up in both downtown shops and residential neighborhoods all over the city – people do enjoy their Halloween here!
Whether you’re more in the mood to design your own Fright Night bar crawl or find a guided ghost tour, you’ll find plenty to entertain you on the spookiest day of the year. If you’re traveling with kids, some neighborhoods and community centers put on Halloween events that are open to the public, or else create a festive atmosphere with trick-or-treaters visiting participating houses who set out a table and chat with passersby, admiring the many fun costumes. Vermont Street in West Asheville, in particular, goes all out on their decor and welcomes many out-of-neighborhood guests some years.
16. Find Your Rainy Day Read at an Independent Bookstore
Asheville’s many bookstores provide great options for rainy days, where you can often get a coffee while you enjoy your latest read in a cozy atmosphere. Every bookstore has a different vibe: Downtown Books and News offers a straightforward collection of used books, art, and news materials like magazines and newspapers, all in a compact store with a knowledgeable team running it – a great place to find a read while you visit.
Bagatelle Books is a classy used bookstore in West Asheville full of unusual, esoteric, and scarce books, making it feel a little bit magical when you’ll find yourself considering books you might never have found otherwise.
Firestorm is a radical, cooperatively owned store that is a progressive and social justice haven, selling all kinds of indie books but also hosting events like book clubs and film screenings – this is truly the community bookstore of West Asheville.
You can also find the better-known Battery Park Book Exchange and Malaprops in downtown, but don’t let any of your choices about bookstores feel “either-or” – you can do a whole tour of the options available to you.