Step outside the ‘Elon bubble’ for fall adventures in NC

As fall descends upon North Carolina, there is so much to look forward to besides pumpkin spice lattes. But what Elon University students may not be aware of is just how many fall-centered activities are available outside the “Elon bubble.”


Carowinds Amusement Park, located about two hours away in Charlotte, gets a little more sinister come October. Rebranding itself as Scarowinds, the amusement park offers a new type of thrill, which Park Representative Julie Whitted said is meant to scare anyone who dares to enter.

“We have over 500 monsters come in to our five mazes and our eight scare zones while also roaming around the park,” she said. “Our No. 1 goal is to scare people and make people scream.”

But Scarowinds isn’t just about being spooked. The rides will still be open during the Halloween attraction, which runs on select weekends between Sept. 26 and Nov. 1.

Whitted said the rides as well as restaurants and restrooms are safe zones from the scare actors.

Whitted said Elon students should come out and join the fun at Scarowinds.

“Forget about your school assignments, forget about exams. Come and have a good time,” Whitted said. “It is a visit that people remember for years to come and so many people make it a tradition to visit every year. It is an experience that your group of friends will talk about again and again.”

NC State Fair

The North Carolina State Fair, hosted in Raleigh, runs from Oct. 16 to Oct. 26. The fair offers a wide range of activities for all ages, from rides to performances and fair foods. Fried Oreos, anyone?

For college kids on a budget, public information officer Heather Overton suggested the fairly priced musical acts appearing at the fair, from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to Vanilla Ice.

She also recommended visiting the fair Oct. 23, when five canned goods earn fairgoers free admission. Proceeds go to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

This year’s fair is called the October Original, which Overton said is a perfect way to describe this classic North Carolina experience.

“It’s a good time to be had by all,” Overton said. “The fair is a rite of passage in North Carolina. It’s an experience you can’t find anywhere else. Some people may come for food, others to compete in shows or even just to people-watch. We want people to come and customize their own fair experience.”

Woods of Terror

If students are looking for a more traditional scare during the fall, the Woods of Terror in Greensboro is the place for them. Open on select dates between Sept. 26 and Nov. 8, the Woods of Terror prey on guests’ greatest fears, from phobias to zombies to undead stalkers among the corn fields.

Ganyard Hill Farm

Milton Ganyard, an eighth-generation American farmer, has been growing pumpkins at Ganyard Hill Farm, his second of two locations, for 20 years. He said his farms offer an authentic experience compared to most farms in the area.

“The most important thing [is] we grow pumpkins right in our fields that you pick them from,” Ganyard said. “Some [farms] claim they grow them, but they truck them in. You walk among our vines, and there are tens of thousands of pumpkins, which makes us unique.”

Along with pumpkin picking, visitors to Ganyard’s farm can go on hay rides, navigate the corn maze or just enjoy the day outside.

Ganyard said his other college visitors tend to like the same attractions as his younger customers.

“We get a lot of students from Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State, and they all enjoy the same kinds of things the kids do,” Ganyard said. “They jump in the corn crib and climb on the hay mountain and run through the maze just like [the kid visitors].”

Haw River Trail/Paddle Trail

With cooler temperatures and changing foliage, some students may opt for outdoor fall adventures. Brian Baker, Upper Haw River trail coordinator, said the Haw River hiking and paddle trails open in this county offer countless opportunities for Elon students on a fall weekend.

“There are 35 miles of river you can paddle right now and 10 miles of unpaved hiking trails to explore,” Baker said. “You can start in the Shallow Ford Natural Area and do some hiking trails, paddling or even backcountry camping in the area.”

Baker suggests two outfitters, Haw River Canoe and Kayak and River Run Outfitters, as places Elon students can rent river crafts for the paddle trails. Maps of the hiking trails are available online at

Baker added through the hiking and paddle trails, students may appreciate seeing a different side of Alamance County.

“Students spend a relatively short time in Alamance, and most of what they see is Alamance Crossing and Target,” Baker said. “Paddling and hiking the river is such a unique perspective. There is no other way to see it.”