Summer may be coming to an end but in Asheville, that just means cooler weather, and brighter leaves. Yes, fall is coming. It’s the most popular time of the year to visit Asheville, and with good reason.
Just as the weather and the trees take on their signature timbres, I find that in fall the coffee tastes richer, the walks are more refreshing, and all of downtown’s window-displays are just a little bit more intriguing. It’s a romantic time to visit Asheville, a calm and pleasant time. So, if you want to spend September in Asheville, read on and discover some of the best things to do in this most special of months.
It wouldn’t be fall without some sweet local produce, fresh off the tree. September lies right in the middle of Asheville’s apple-picking season, so you’ve got your pick of orchards. And boy, are there a lot of them. I mean a lot.
Most lie either up on the Blue Ridge Parkway—an especially beautiful drive this time of year—or down south of Asheville around Hendersonville. Either way, you’re in for about a forty-minute drive.
Personally, I’m partial to Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard. Forty acres full of apples, pumpkins, and sunflowers, plus a barnful of apple-cider, donuts, and other farm-fresh goods. As the piece-de-resistance, they’ve got an apple cannon (operational on weekends) for disposing of your less-than-prime picks with suitable aplomb.
Hours: 9am to 5:30pm Monday through Thursday. 9am to 6pm Friday and Saturday. 10am to 6pm Sundays.
Frankly, coffee is high on my list of recommendations at all times of the year—pumpkin spice or no pumpkin spice. It helps that Asheville’s got such an excellent array of fine cafes. There’s practically one on every block, downtown.
You can find an in-depth and highly scientific analysis of the subject right here. As for this article, I’d like to mention a relative newcomer to Asheville’s coffee-scene: Rowan Coffee, on the north end of Broadway Street. They’ve got a cozy interior just perfect for this time of year, plus—if my memory serves—some truly superb coffee cake. Which is good. Because what else would you eat with coffee?
Hours: 7:30am to 3pm, Monday through Thursday. 7:30am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays.
For my money, there’s nothing more Septemberish than a good old-fashioned farmer’s market. ASAP (the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) runs one on downtown’s aptly-named North Market Street, between the intersections with Woodfin and Walnut.
Free parking is available at the Family Justice Center, a short and invigorating walk away. Once you're there, you’re free to sample some of the best produce of the mountains and—dare I say it—the whole of the Southeast.
Fresh-baked breads, pastries, jun, chaga-lattes, live music, and of course, a vegetable or two. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Asheville, and after a visit this September, I’m sure it’ll be one of yours too.
Hours: Every Saturday, 9am to noon, until December 17th.
September may not be prime time for Asheville’s famous fall leaves, but in some ways that’s better. Less fellow travelers, less crowds. The leaves start to change usually in late September, starting at the area’s highest elevations , around 6,000ft.
Craggy Pinnacle Summit and Black Balsam both come pretty near to that mark. Plus, they’re two of my favorite Asheville hikes in general.
The Craggy Pinnacle trail takes you through dense-forest cover, up and above the trees to one of the best viewing areas for miles. Black Balsam has the distinction of starting off in a pine-forest—a pretty unique environment among Asheville’s trails—and then takes you up to a series of rolling balds, with views to rival Craggy Pinnacle.
Between the two of them, Craggy’s probably the easier hike, but I think I prefer Black Balsam. The struggle makes for a better reward.
Distance from Asheville: Forty minutes for Craggy Pinnacle, an hour for Black Balsam.
The State Fair only comes once a year and in Asheville, that’s in September. This year of my writing it’s running from the 9th to the 18t. In past years it’s been within a couple days of that timeframe.
My earliest memory of the State Fair is walking by an enormous (fake) log dressed up as “Paul Bunion’s Cabin.” This freaked me out. What kind of man lives in a log? No man at all, but a beast. A force of nature. A force of terror.
Luckily, I don’t think Paul Bunion is coming this year. At least I couldn’t find him on the map. And the State Fair’s website does have a handy map indeed, as well as an itemized schedule. Aside from the usual fair amusements (funnel cakes, Ferris wheel, fried-something-on-a-stick), visiting the Mountain State Fair is a great way to get in touch with the local culture. Handcrafts, folk music, and livestock competitions. What more do you need?
Hours: Depends on the day. See the aforementioned schedule for details.
Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard
170 Stepp Orchard Dr, Hendersonville, NC 28792
66 Broadway St, Asheville, NC 28801