Nine Southern Fall Escapes

Autumn adventures for foodies, thrill seekers, outdoors lovers, and more

Photo: Courtesy of The Gorge Zip Line

Fly through the fall foliage on a zip line at Green River Gorge in North Carolina.

Summertime gets all the buzz when it comes to travel. In the South, however, fall can be the superior season for an excursion, especially one that brings you outdoors. Crowds thin at popular hotspots, mosquitos cease their hostilities, and if a road trip is on the agenda, you can turn off the air conditioning and—aaahhhhh—actually roll down the windows.

Should you need a quick getaway as the days grow shorter, we’ve pulled together a cheat sheet of fall escapes and events around the South—from an open-air Halloween bash to a treetop view of autumn leaves to a global barbecue feast on the banks of the James River. Just remember to pack a sweater.

Vintage Train Trips
Through October 28 • 
West Virginia

West Virginia does an admirable job of preserving its railroad history, and sharing it with all who care to climb aboard. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad operates out of four tiny mountain towns and offers excursions pulled by a variety of vintage diesel and steam locomotives, some more than a century old. A seat in an open-air car guarantees stunning views.

October 31 • New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy’s Faubourg Marigny neighborhood is bewitching even on a regular fall afternoon. But the costumed ghouls and goblins who come out on Halloween for the open-air party on Frenchmen Street are truly a sight to behold. Revel with the outdoor throng, or commune with some distilled spirits in the neighborhood’s many distinctive watering holes. It’s a treat.


A grilling demo at Fire, Flour & Fork.

Fire, Flour & Fork 

November 2–5 • Richmond, Virginia

Richmond’s ascendant culinary scene is on full, collaborative display in the fourth year of a city-wide fest that pulls together chefs, pit masters, brewers, and cocktail gurus. Attend cooking demos, visit a cidery, dine at the city’s hottest restaurants, and sample barbecue styles from around the world on the banks of the James River.

Waterfowl Festival 

November 10–12 • Easton, Maryland

Whether you’re looking to add a new decoy to your collection, view the latest wildlife art, watch retrievers in action, or listen to the virtuosos of duck and goose calling at the World Waterfowl Calling Championships, Easton’s annual Waterfowl Festival is a celebration of Eastern Shore sporting tradition and conservation.

Annie Oakley Tournament 

November 10 • Mansfield, Georgia

The Atlanta-based Annie Oakley Shooters is an all-female club that regularly gathers to break clays. Enjoy some friendly competition during their annual sporting-clays tournament at the 1,000-acre Burge Club. Open to female and male shooters of all skill levels, the event benefits the Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative for veterans, and even if you’re not shooting, you can still take aim at the live bluegrass, prize drawings, and a bourbon tasting.

Virginia Cider Week
November 10–19 • Virginia

Virginia may have developed a reputation for wine, but for a week in November, it’s all about cider, with tastings, pairings, dinners, and workshops at venues across the state. Learn to grow your own heirloom apples at Foggy Ridge Cider, in Dugspur, or opt to kick back by the band with a crisp pour from one of eleven different cideries at the Richmond Cider Celebration.

Blessing of the Hounds 

November 25 • Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Two days after you finish counting your Thanksgiving Day blessings, join the Woodford Hounds fox hunters at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill for the annual Blessing of the Hounds. Send the team out on their first meet of the season—after you grab a ham biscuit and an Irish coffee by the outdoor fire pit, of course.


Dale Chihuly’s “Blue Marlins.”

Chihuly at Crystal Bridges Museum 

Through November 27 • Bentonville, Arkansas

The renowned installation artist Dale Chihuly creates outsize sculptures out of wildly colorful glass spears, spikes, and tendrils. For the first time, Crystal Bridges has positioned nine of his most breathtaking along a paved path into an equally stunning stretch of Ozark forest. Plan to visit after dark to witness the works lit up to dramatic, practically psychedelic, effect.

The Gorge Zipline Canopy Adventure 

Saluda, North Carolina

Sure, you could take a leisurely drive to see the turning leaves. Or you could fly through the forest canopy on eleven ziplines descending 1,100 vertical feet (the steepest in the country) and spanning more than a mile of old-growth wilderness on the Green River Gorge. Fall foliage has never been so extreme.