While Georgia is known for its sizzling summer weather, the state also shines in the fall, when cooler temperatures usher in autumnal beauty. Celebrate the colorful harvest season at pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and family-friendly fall festivals, and pay a visit to Georgia’s state parks for unrivaled leaf peeping.
Through November 2 • Helen
Try to resist the oompah rhythms in the Tudor-style village of Helen. In the fall, visitors are treated to a little Bavaria in the Appalachians, complete with brats, beer, and polka music daily during Oktoberfest. Celebrating its forty-fourth year, the festival is centered in the Helen Festhalle, where rich music of lederhosen-clad bands from across the country and around the world bounces off the rafters. The gemütlichkeit (a cheerful mood) is palpable, as guests hoist their steins for a toast.
Georgia National Fair
October 2–12 • Perry
This eleven-day festival brings together thrilling water-sports, star-studded concerts, and a whole lot of Georgia livestock. See some of the world’s best wake boarders go for big air above two pools during the Rail Jam Wakeboard Show. In between pig races and Ferris wheel rides, enjoy the Sea Lion Splash show or check out renowned hypnotist Tammy Barton. Tickets are on sale now for performances by Georgia-grown Lady Antebellum (October 4) and Jennifer Nettles (October 11).
Georgia Mountain Fall Festival
October 10–14 • Hiawassee
Enjoy crisp fall weather and mountain scenery at this Northeast Georgia favorite. Living history demonstrations, such as cider squeezing and blacksmithing, and a pioneer village recall the bygone traditions of Appalachian culture in the late 1800s. A highlight of the festival is the State Fiddlers’ Convention. See fiddlers, banjo players, and guitarists compete in different techniques and styles, culminating in a “fiddle off” to crown the Georgia Mountain Fiddle King.
Georgia Peanut Festival
October 18 • Sylvester
This city is home to Peter Pan Peanut Butter—a sponsor of the festival—which uses only nuts from farmers in this region to produce its peanut butter. In 1987, organizers for the Georgia Peanut Festival set a world record for making the largest peanut butter sandwich—twelve feet by twelve feet. In its fifty-first year, the festival still celebrates regional farmers and Georgia’s staple crop, peanuts. Enjoy roasted peanuts, boiled peanuts, and even fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Gold Rush Days
October 18–19 • Dahlonega
Named a top twenty event in the southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, Gold Rush Days takes advantage of Dahlonega’s idyllic autumn weather to commemorate the 1828 discovery of gold in northeast Georgia. In addition to a gold panning contests, some 200,000 festivalgoers enjoy wheelbarrow races, arm-wrestling matches, and hog-calling contests, as well as spirited gospel music and world-class clogging in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mossy Creek Barnyard Festival
October 18–19 • Perry
For more than sixty years, this semi-annual festival has brought the artistry of traditional, functional crafts to center stage. During live demonstrations, you’ll appreciate the creativity and effort that goes into broom making, glass blowing, and lace tatting. The festival also attracts some of the nation’s best artisans to show off their products, such as specialty leather works, hand-woven baskets, and intricate intarsia, a form of wood inlaying similar to marquetry.
Zombie Run Escape
October 25 • Perry
In a scene out of The Walking Dead, runners can test their preparedness for doomsday at this unique event. The run takes place at the Guardian Center, an 840-acre disaster-response training facility, which once served as a nuclear missile plant. Runners navigate a 5K course blighted with two city blocks of collapsed buildings, deserted car wrecks, and an abandoned railway system—while avoiding zombies.
River Street Crawl-O-Ween
October 31 • Savannah
There’s no better place to spend Halloween than one of the most haunted cities in the country. Enjoy trick-or-treating for grown-ups on this bar crawl featuring fifteen establishments along Savannah’s famed River Street. Some bars will be hosting costume contests, and the pub-crawl will end with a tour of a haunted pirate ship, El Galeon Andalucia, and a dance party on the riverfront. Crawlers may also qualify for prizes ranging from gift cards to a private brewery tour.
Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival
November 1 • Bostwick
A few miles outside of historic Madison, the Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival is celebrating the year’s cotton harvest. Complete with a 5K run, a parade of tractors and antique cars, and of course, cotton ginning, the festival is plush with fun. In what may be the cuddliest festival tradition, kids can play in the harvested cotton. Make a weekend out of it, and visit the many unique shops and restaurants that have earned Madison a place on Budget Travel magazine’s “Most Picturesque Villages in the World” list.
Unicoi Wine Festival
November 1 • Sautee Nacoochee
Celebrate the fruits of the north Georgia wine country during this tasting festival at the Hartman Farm State Historic Site. Sample varietals from six different Georgia wineries beneath the yellow-orange canopy of oak trees. Participa-ting vineyards include Yonah Mountain Vineyards and Serenity Cellar, and each vendor will have bottles available for purchase. The 1870s farmhouse and grounds will be open for tours as well.
A Bumper Crop of Family Fun
Celebrate the year’s harvest with favorite down-home traditions from pumpkin and apple picking to finding your way through a cornfield labyrinth.
At Stockbridge’s Yule Forest, you can pick your pumpkin right off the vine. The property also hosts an outdoor classroom and beekeeping demonstrations. For teens and adults, the Fear the Woods haunted trail at Yule Forest offers plenty of chills—as well as the opportunity to shoot zombies with paintball guns. Another favorite pumpkin patch is Burt’s Farm in Dawsonville. Take a hayride through a stunning sunflower field and catch glimpses of Amicalola Falls, or pick up winter squash and gourds at the on-site country store.
North Georgia is also enjoying apple season. Head to Ellijay, the state’s apple capital and a great jumping off point for scenic Apple Orchard Alley, where more than a dozen apple harvesters line Georgia Highway 52. Check out Red Apple Barn, which offers tractor tours of the you-pick trees. Just north of Ellijay at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, stock up on pies, ciders, and glazed nuts.
The fall season wouldn’t be complete without the triumph of finishing a corn maze. Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville offers an intricately designed maze, with several miles of trails cut through the field, as well as hayrides, petting zoos, and even corn slingshots. Another favorite place to get lost in the spirit of the season is the Enchanted Maize by Rock City at Blowing Springs Farm in Flintstone.
Catch the Season’s Color
Cooler temperatures transform the mountains and hills of North Georgia into a tapestry of blazing reds and golds. See the show at our favorite leaf-peeping spots.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers fall leaf excursions each October. Begin at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge and wind your way along the Toccoa River in a vintage rail car, observing the canvas of bright colors.
At Amicalola Falls State Park, both easy and challenging trails lead to breathtaking views of the tallest cascading falls in the Southeast. Take a flat path to a boardwalk for some of the most spectacular views, or start from the bottom of the falls and climb a steep staircase to the top. Cap the day with a stop in at one of the nearby pumpkin patches or apple orchards.
Whether you trek to the bottom of the canyon or hike along the rim, Tallulah Gorge State Park will be doling out views of unmatched beauty from every angle. Come November, elite kayakers will take on the gorge’s bi-annual whitewater releases. The park shows a film containing heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Karl Wallenda’s high-wire walk across the gorge.
Insider Tips on Leaf Peeping from Georgia State Parks
• Georgia’s state parks tend to be pretty busy on fall weekends. Visit on a weekday and have the parks virtually to yourself.
• Campsites at the state parks fill up fast this time of year, so plan ahead and book a cabin or a funky yurt.
• Check out the Georgia State Parks website (gastateparks.org/leafwatch) for regular updates on fall color throughout the state.