Fall is festival season in the South. Nearly every small town and big city hosts a seasonal shindig to get people outside when the leaves are changing and the air’s turning cool. Whether you head to the coast, the mountains or back in the time, there is a festival for you.
National Shrimp Festival. Every day 10,000 pounds of shrimp are prepared and served at the National Shrimp Festival, and not a bit of it goes to waste because 300,000 people attend this long-running annual event on the Alabama Gulf Coast. The white sands and azure waters of the Gulf serve as a scenic backdrop to 300 food vendors. The festival also features live music, a children’s activity area and 200 arts and crafts booths. For a quiet break from the festivities, Gulf State Park is nearby with plenty of trails through the maritime forest and an uncrowded beach. Oct. 11-14. Free. 101 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, Ala., 251-968-7200, www.myshrimpfest.com
Florida Seafood Festival. This granddaddy of all seafood festivals — now in its 55th year — packs out Battery Park on the waterfront of Apalachicola Bay in the shadow of the U.S. 98 bridge. Oysters are king here, but all kinds of fresh-off-the-boat seafood can be sampled. The seafood industry is huge in this historic port town where the boats literally dock next to the festival site. Festivities include an oyster eating contest, an oyster shucking contest, a parade and the always-popular blue crab races. Nov. 2-3, Apalachicola, Fla. Free on Friday, $5 Saturday. 850-653-4720, www.floridaseafoodfestival.com
Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival. The small mountain town of Cashiers (pronounced “cashers” by locals) is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountain, making it a great spot for autumn leaf peeping. Besides the scenery, the focal point of the festival are the arts and crafts vendors who line the winding footpaths of the Village Green showcasing all manner of handcrafted items, along with plenty of food, drink and live music on hand. Oct. 5-7. Free. Village Green in Cashiers, N.C. 828-743-3434, www.villagegreencashiersnc.com
Georgia Apple Festival. Spread over two weekends, the Georgia Apple Festival takes place in the heart of North Georgia’s apple country during harvest time. Now in its 47th year, thousands converge on tiny Ellijay to indulge in all things apple, as well as for the arts and crafts. An antique car show on Oct. 13 and a parade on Oct. 20 are other highlights. Park downtown or at Gilmer High School and take the free shuttle to the festival site. If you want to pick your own apples straight from the tree, visit one of the many orchards in the area. Oct. 13-14, Oct. 20-21. $5. 1729 S. Main St., Ellijay. 706-636-4500, www.georgiaapplefestival.org
Mountain Heritage Day. The heritage of Southern Appalachia is a proud but disappearing one, and Mountain Heritage Day aims to keep it alive. Expect clogging, mountain music, potato sack races and other old-time family fun. All the arts, crafts, entertainment and activities are traditional to the region and represent the ways of pioneer settlers, as well as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, which have a strong presence at the event. The festival takes place s on the campus of Western Carolina University with free shuttle service provided from on-campus parking lots to the site. Stay in nearby Dillsboro or Sylva for the true mountain town experience. Sept. 29. Free. 1 University Way, Cullowhee, N.C. 828-227-3039, www.mountainheritageday.com
Colonial Times: A Day to Remember. Living History Park, a verdant 7.5-acre complex of buildings constructed using Colonial era methods, is the site of this annual festival that celebrates what life was like when our country was brand-new. Costumed re-enactors demonstrate blacksmithing, butter churning, musket firing, meat curing and so much more. There’s even an apothecary that will have old-time medical demonstrations complete with leeches. Oct. 20-21. Free. 299 W. Spring Grove Ave., North Augusta, S.C. 803-979-9776, www.colonialtimes.us
Arts in the Heart of Augusta. A multicultural, international flair makes this festival a standout. The Fine Arts and Crafts Market will spotlight more than 150 artisans working in a variety of mediums. The Global Village will feature food from more than two dozen countries. And music, theater and dance performances will take place on five stages along Broad Street downtown. Worth a two-block detour from the festival is the Morris Museum of Art, home to an impressive collection devoted entirely to the work of artists from the American South. Sept. 14-16. $7 advance, $12. 836 Broad St., Augusta. 706-826-4702, artsintheheartofaugusta.com
Fall for Greenville. Main Street in downtown Greenville, S.C., is a true success story of urban revitalization, and Fall for Greenville is a great time to experience the culinary and cultural treasures of this resurgent city. Music stages and food and drink vendors will line a multi-block area. It’s one of the best city strolls in the South, especially when you factor in adjacent Falls Park, a 32-acre greenspace on the Reedy River. Oct. 12-14. Free. Greenville, S.C. www.fallforgreenville.net
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