5 of the most cliché (but necessary) Charlotte-area fall dates you should go on this year

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Colder weather, turning leaves, light jackets, Panthers football and PSLs (pumpkin spice lattes, for those uninitiated to Starbucks’ annual welcoming of the season) can only mean one thing: Fall is here.

Or it’s close, anyway, with an official start date of September 22, and with it will come a new wave of cliché weekend activities and dates that are practically stamped with the word ‘cheesy’ across them.

Here are five of the best ones.

Go on a hot air balloon ride

Most rides last around an hour and a half or less, but offer unparalleled, sweeping views of North Carolina and an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Yes, you’ll likely be riding with other passengers, but places like Eagle’s Wings Hot Air Balloons and AirTime Balloon Company do offer private basket packages.

[Related: Here’s where to ride a hot air balloon near Charlotte]

Want to experience the childlike wonder of a hot air balloon without having to do it 3,000 feet in the air? Head to Statesville’s Carolina BalloonFest, October 20-22.

Head to a pumpkin patch

Corn mazes, hayrides and choosing which pumpkins you’ll carve are staples of the season. Most area patches don’t open until the first week of fall (think the week September 23-30), but if you just can’t wait, Aw Shucks Farm will open September 15, followed closely by the Shelby Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch on the 16. Both start at $8.

[Related: 13 pumpkin patches to visit in the Charlotte area this fall]

Hop in the car and head to the mountains for some grade-A leaf peeping

Throw on your best flannel, load up your Spotify playlist and fill your Thermos with something warm and, in the beginning of October, head for higher ground.

Never gone leaf peeping? Andrew, the Agenda’s resident Leaf Peeping Enthusiast and Expert, has done your research on best times and locations for you.

A few suggestions: Mount Mitchell State Park, The Orchard at Altapass, South Mountains State Park and Morrow Mountain State Park.

Spend the day at Windy Hill Orchard

Nothing says fall like a hearty helping of Windy Hill‘s apple cider, hard cider and freshly made apple cinnamon donuts.

Find it in York, South Carolina, 19 miles from Charlotte, and spend the perfect Saturday afternoon there with cider flights, donuts and, on October 21, a Harvest Festival.

Note: The orchard’s Pick-Your-Own Apples is already over for the season. Owners cite “overwhelming crowds, damage being done to the orchard and farm equipment as well as additional vandalism” and “unsupervised and destructive behavior” by children and adults alike.

Visit a fair or a festival

The weather cools and the fairs and festivals, filled to the brim with great food, questionable rides and games you know you won’t win come crawling out of the woodwork. Some you can’t miss:

See a full list of upcoming festivals here.

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Kylie Moore

Writer doubling as a travel, wine, and Oxford Comma enthusiast.