A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Standing on the covered rooftop at Charlotte Beer Garden, the three-story South End bar and restaurant that he’s owned for three years, Niall Hanley is ready for the evening crowd.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Standing on the covered rooftop at Charlotte Beer Garden, the three-story South End bar and restaurant that he’s owned for three years, Niall Hanley is ready for the evening crowd.

Falling for Charlotte

Standing on the covered rooftop at Charlotte Beer Garden, the three-story South End bar and restaurant that he’s owned for three years, Niall Hanley is ready for the evening crowd. He greets guests who saunter in from the ground floor as friendly barkeeps light fire pits and switch on heaters to keep them toasty. “People love it up here during the fall season,” he says. For Hanley, al fresco dining should always be a cozy affair. But when the crisp autumn air gets a little too chilly, patrons can head inside for an experience that’s just as impressive. “The view of the city draws them up,” he says, “but seasonal beers from local breweries can be found on the ground floor.”

For design inspiration for the 16,663-square-foot beer garden, Hanley didn’t have to look farther than the view outside. With deep greens and warm earthy tones, the space evokes a continuation of the beauty that surrounds the Queen City: Chocolate vines and Confederate jasmine adorn retractable walls, a massive walnut tree sits center stage, and wooden tables assert rustic elegance. “There’s so many amazing breweries in Charlotte,” he says. “Our goal is to showcase them all under one roof — with plenty of plants, of course.”

The Charlotte Beer Garden is one of many can’t-miss destinations to add to your fall bucket list. From scenic rooftops and patios to local festivals and applause-worthy cuisine, read on for a round-up of a few of our favorites.


Sip a cocktail by the fire at Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Soak in the Cooler Temperatures with a View

As temperatures cool and the sun sets, head to Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo in Uptown where the best selection of bites, sips, and skyline views starts 22 stories up in the sky. Located in the dual-branded AC Hotel and Residence Inn, North Carolina’s highest indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge boasts 2,400 square feet of partially covered patio space equipped with fire pits and outdoor heaters to provide a relaxed ambiance. Take in the twinkling Uptown lights, sip on tasty mixed drinks, and try crowd-pleasers like Birria steamed mussels and clams and grilled steak flatbread from a menu divided by land and sea.

Also Uptown, panoramic sights of the Queen City are par for the course on the rooftop of Búho Bar. The luxurious, bohemian-style cocktail lounge inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel, sitting 16 floors above the city, is inspired by the rooftop bars and lounges found in South America. Come for the comfortable open-air space and stay for the expertly made drinks and small plates as the sky turns from brilliant daytime blues to the golden hues of an autumn sunset.

Try a variety of bites at Trolley Barn, a brewery and food hall. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Adjacent to the Rail Trail at Atherton Mill in South End, the Trolley Barn, a two-story brewery and food hall, is named after Charlotte’s electric trolleys that began operating in neighborhoods like Dilworth, Myers Park, and Elizabeth in 1891. The 11,400-square-foot Trolley Barn includes indoor and outdoor seating, a second-floor mezzanine, a patio with wide-ranging views of Uptown, and three food stalls.

Less than five minutes away, find Sycamore Brewing, which has become Charlotte’s largest craft brewery since co-owners Justin and Sarah Brigham opened its doors in 2014. Overlooking Charlotte’s Rail Trail and city skyline, the brewery’s new two-story taproom expands more than 21,000 square feet with its four-in-one concept: a taproom, beer garden, café, and Airstream food truck. Spend an evening listening to live music under the warm glow of string lights, sip Apple Pie Cider, and take in the beauty of fall from the second-floor patio.

If you’d rather take in autumn views on solid ground, you’re in good company at NoDa Company Canteen. Before opening his brick-and-motor location at Camp North End’s 76-acre campus, co-owner Scott Lindsley operated NoDa Company Canteen as a pop-up in the Boileryard District, serving beer, wine, sangria, and snacks on Friday nights and during special events. Now, housed in a 1,650-square-foot facility, the establishment includes indoor and outdoor seating next to the original kiosk where visitors can enjoy views of the Boileryard Stage, which often features live music. “We wanted to create a relaxing space where people feel like they’re on vacation,” Lindsley says. “Our outdoor seating area makes us a great place to visit in the fall.”

Choose from three different floors — including the rooftop — at Charlotte Beer Garden. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

At Charlotte Beer Garden, you’ll feel connected to the city’s outdoor beauty while still enjoying all the amenities of an indoor space. Find local North Carolina beer on the first floor, international beers on the second, and the beer garden’s best sellers on the rooftop. “We’re always upping the ante and currently have close to 400 beers on tap,” Hanley says. “Any of the seasonal beers that come out of the Charlotte breweries are amazing for the fall.”


Try dishes and drinks created by notable chefs during the BayHaven Food & Wine Festival in Uptown and West End. photograph by Clay Williams

Partake in Festivities

Fall is prime time for outdoor festivals and events, and there are ample options lined up in the Queen City. On October 7, the Hola Charlotte Festival, an annual street-style Hispanic heritage celebration in Uptown, welcomes a packed day celebrating Latin American culture. Enjoy musical and dance performances, cultural arts and crafts, foods, exhibits, and educational activities that pay tribute to more than 10 Latin countries.

Keep the celebration going at the BayHaven Food & Wine Festival in Uptown and the historic West End neighborhood. Inspired by the culture of HBCU homecomings, the ticketed, five-day festival kicks off October 4 with a family-style feast at West Complex and wraps up October 8 with a “Boogie Down Brunch and Day Party” featuring dishes created by 12 notable chefs and live entertainment. The lineup includes chefs Gregory Collier, Keith Rhodes, Cleophus Hethington, Ricky Moore, Jermaine Blackmon, Nana Wilmot, and Chef Joya.

For an expansive and interactive art experience, attend the Charlotte International Arts Festival. Hosted by Blumenthal Performing Arts, the event brings together dozens of local, national, and international artists, musicians, and performers — including returning favorites Birdmen and Lotty by Moradavaga — and food from across the globe. The festival takes place across multiple sites in Uptown and Ballantyne from September 15 through October 1.

Take a step back in time at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

To channel your inner royalty, stop by the 30th annual Carolina Renaissance Festival. Since 1994, the festival — held on Saturdays and Sunday from September 30 through November 19 — has been wowing attendees with its enchanting mix of attractions, time-honored entertainment, and authentic Renaissance fare. In addition to returning popular festival attractions (think jousting, circus merriments, and majestic falconry presentation), new attractions include guest performances by three variety acts visiting from around the globe and performing on stage for limited dates. “It’s a beloved fall tradition for many families in the Charlotte area and an escape to simpler times,” says Matt Siegel, the festival’s director of marketing and entertainment. Immerse yourself in the magic of the 16th century, cheer for the knights on horseback, and enjoy the charming cottages and castles in the stunning 325-acre woodland just north of Charlotte.

Get a bird’s-eye view of autumn leaves during the Carolina BalloonFest, or simply watch the action from below. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

For the best vantages of seasonal beauty, take to the skies. Established in 1984, the Statesville-based Carolina BalloonFest is the second oldest hot air balloon festival in the world. To celebrate the season with crisp air and crimson leaves, book a flight during one of two mass ascensions, when as many as 50 hot air balloons inflate and leave the ground simultaneously. “It’s a great fall event,” says Don Edwards, executive director of Carolina BalloonFest, “especially for enjoying the turning color of the leaves.” And while you’re waiting for your turn to fly, there’s plenty to do on the ground, with live music, craft and food vendors, and a Kids’ Zone.


Try a Mecktoberfest at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Savor the Flavors of Fall

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, the city’s largest and oldest independent craft brewery, takes pride in following the German Reinheitsgebot beer property law: Only water, barley, and hops are allowed. Stroll the eight-acre property’s gravel beer garden — the largest in the Southeast — modeled off of the famous beer gardens of Munich, and enjoy the brewery’s Mecktoberfest, a seasonal Märzen-style beer with notes of honey and caramel. “We want people to feel like if they’re sitting in our beer garden, they’re sitting in Germany, and to be able to experience German culture with the types of beers and foods that we offer,” says Chief Operating Officer Jim Birch. Some of the most popular food pairings with Mecktoberfest, Birch says, include Bratwurst sausages, Bavarian-style pretzels, and potato salad.

NoDa Brewing Company Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

It wouldn’t be fall without pumpkin spice, so take a trip to NoDa Brewing Company, where, this year, co-founders Chad Henderson and Suzie Ford will mark a decade of crafting their award-winning pumpkin ale, Gordgeous. The medium-bodied ale is made using authentic pumpkin puree, complemented by brown sugar, ginger root, and hand-cracked allspice, cloves, and cardamom.

Tip: Get the Charlotte Brew Badge, a mobile exclusive passport that unlocks vouchers at participating breweries (NoDa Brewing Company and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery included) and discounts at select locations, to save on your brewery experience.

Indulge in seasonal treats at Sunflour Baking Company Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Seasonal flavors also steal the show at restaurants across the Queen City. At The Teal Turnip, executive chefs and owners Taylor Kastl and Steve McGinley whip up dishes like Gordgeous Bruschetta, made with pickled pumpkin and onion. If you can’t decide between savory or sweet, swing by Amelie’s French Bakery, where seasonal soups, salads, and dessert recipes are made using autumn-inspired ingredients such as pumpkin, pecan, apple, butternut squash, and spiced cherry. Or pop in for a breakfast sandwich or a box of desserts from the fall menu at Sunflour Baking Company, where everything is made from scratch in small batches to ensure freshness and authenticity. Feast on fresh-out-of-the-oven treats like maple pecan shortbread, pumpkin apple muffins, and cranberry orange scones — plus apple cider, of course. It’s bound to put you in the fall spirit.

This story was published on Sep 28, 2023

Tamiya Anderson

Tamiya Anderson is a Concord-based writer and former Our State intern who is proud to call The Tar Heel State home.