Charlotte food festivalFall is a wonderful time to explore the great outdoors and visit family-friendly festivals in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the surrounding area. The autumn months mean great weather, lots of sunshine, pumpkins, apples and fun events. Check out these outstanding annual festivals and fall treats before the season slips away.

Kick off fall with a visit to the Carolina Renaissance Festival, which opens on October 5, 2013, and runs every weekend through November 24th. This whopping 20-acre festival features arts and crafts, live entertainment, music, wild medieval sports and plenty of food.

Picking pumpkins is a great North Carolina tradition. Take the whole family to a local farm for a hayride and outdoor adventure. Pumpkin picking weekends start in early October and are offered by several farms, including the Hall Family Farm, Riverbend Farm and Hodges Pumpkin Patch.

Visit the Latta Plantation on October 5th for the Fall Farm Festival. Kids can learn farm skills, experience life in the 19th century and learn about historic animal breeds. Admission for this event is $8. Come back Friday and Saturday nights in October for ghost stories and a candlelight tour of the plantation.

On October 12th, head over to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for their Fall Finale and the last installment in the River Jam concert series. This is a great opportunity to test the facility’s flatwater and whitewater practice areas while the weather is still warm. There will also be a trail race, an obstacle course and live music.

Mid-October is the perfect time to enjoy a fall drive in the mountains. State highways 161 and 49 are ideal for leaf peepers. On the way, stop at Crowders Mountain State Park or Uwharrie National Forest to stretch your legs and enjoy a scenic hike.

Kick up the heat at the 32nd Annual North Carolina Chili Festival, which takes place in Havelock, North Carolina, on October 18th and 19th. On Friday, cooks will bring their best chicken wings, salsa and chili verde recipes to the table. The red chili competition takes place on Saturday.

Celebrate Halloween at the Carolina Raptor Center’s Hoot and Howl O’Ween Festival in Huntersville. This family-friendly event takes place on October 26th and includes fun activities for all. Visitors can tour the raptor trail, meet resident owls, get their faces painted and enjoy a variety of Halloween-themed contests and games.

Fun Halloween events continue into November at the Statesville Pumpkin Fest, which is held on the second of the month. This historic town will be filled with craft vendors, food stands and entertainers. There’s a special kid’s zone, a pie eating contest and a beanbag tournament. All events are free.

Avoid the crowds on November 2nd by visiting the Fur, Fangs and Feathers Fall Festival at Crowders Mountain State Park. This free festival features wild animals, craft activities, nature programs, live music and survival demonstrations.

There are so many fun events happening in Charlotte that deciding which ones to attend will be the hardest part.