There’s a chill in the air. Leaves begin to change into their flashy fall attire. Across the country, festivals, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses come alive to celebrate the change of season.
Alabama is no exception except that they do it a little differently than most places. Oh, there are your traditional fall festivals and events, but Alabamians tend to put a twist on the traditional as the air turns crisp.
Here are eight of the best places for fall fun across the state.
1. Fall Color Trail
All of the festivals, corn mazes, and haunts that I’ll describe here are only half the fall fun you can have in Alabama when the landscape begins to blaze with color. The other half is the drive to get to them.
The Alabama Department of Tourism has laid out the route for you. It’s called the Fall Color Trail, a series of highways, many that form loops, that you can drive over the state’s mountains, hillsides, and backcountry to experience fall’s spectacular beauty.
Highlights of the road trip include the New England-esque beauty found at Swann and Old Easley covered bridges, a drive up the Natchez Trace Trail, and the route that takes you over the tall peaks of the southern Appalachians in the Talladega National Forest.
The department’s website features an interactive map that gives you a week-by-week view of the progression of the color change across the state.
2. Sand Mountain Corn Maze And Pumpkin Patch — Sardis City
“They’re coming back to life! They’re everywhere!” actor Ian McCullough shouted in the 1979 movie, Zombie. He could have been talking about Zombieville at the Sand Mountain Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Sardis City but never fear! You have the power to stop them at the Zombie Splatter. Hop aboard a wagon and shoot as many of the living dead as you can with paintballs. The fun — and terror — begins every night at dark.
But there’s more to the Sand Mountain Corn Maze than shooting zombies. Ride the wagon to the huge pumpkin patch to pick your own and then get lost in the magnificent corn maze that features different patterns and themes every year like the Wild West with 14 different checkpoints.
Stop by the Snack Shack in the old General Store for delicious burgers hot off the grill, barbecue sandwiches, and nachos.
You’re in for a rare treat only two miles south of the Pumpkin Patch — one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters left in the country: the Sand Mountain Drive-In that features two screens showing double features and of course, has the quintessential drive-in concession stand.
3. Corndodgers Farms Corn Maze — Headland
While many fall festivals across the country have morphed into arts and crafts festivals or concert-centric affairs, the Knight family in Headland, Alabama have kept the celebration at Corndodgers Farm just good, old-fashioned fun with everything you would expect from a traditional fall festival.
Corndodgers Farm has hayrides and giant tractor tire swings, rubber duck races, farm animals to pet and feed, corn cannons, and fun games like human foosball, horseshoes, and tug of war. Oh, and we can’t forget acres of fun getting lost in the corn maze. Before you leave the farm, be sure to roam Corndodgers pumpkin patch and pick the perfect jack-o’-lantern for your front porch.
And what would a fall festival be without food and treats? The Rustic Rooster offers up incredible mouthwatering pulled pork barbecue made from a secret family recipe and other delicious meals as well as treats like kettle corn and boiled peanuts.
The farm is located only 10 miles north of Dothan in southeast Alabama. The fall fun runs the entire month of October with special admission discounts for seniors, military, and their families, and by purchasing your tickets online.
Pro Tip: The first weekend of October is Heroes Weekend where first responders, military, and their immediate families are honored with half-price admission.
4. Flora-Bama Oktoberfest — Perdido Key, Florida
Straddling the state line between Alabama and Florida, the famous Flora-Bama Lounge invites you to join them for a good old-fashioned German Oktoberfest celebration along the shimmering white beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
Held annually the second Sunday of October, the lounge serves up incredible German bratwurst, sauerkraut, and hot and tangy German potato salad (all complimentary from the buffet while it lasts) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Get there early to claim your free commemorative beer stein and drink.
The beach comes alive with upbeat, bouncing polka music and contests for prizes including the costume contest where you are invited to put on your finest lederhosen or dirndl and the stein hoisting competition.
Pro Tip: The Oktober Fest is a family-friendly evening. There is no cover charge.
5. Elberta Sausage Festival — Elberta
More Oktoberfest fun will be had in south Alabama as the Elberta Volunteer Fire Department hosts its bi-annual sausage festival.
The event, which has been held on Main Street in Elberta the last Saturday in March and October since 1978, is a fundraiser for the fire department and features carnival rides, polka music and dancing, over 200 arts and crafts vendors, and delicious German food including the event’s centerpiece — locally made sausage.
The population of this tiny town explodes on festival day and over 6,000 pounds of sausage is grilled. The taste of those mouthwatering sausages has changed slightly over the years, but it is still one of the best bites you’ll ever taste.
Pro Tip: Parking is available just off of Main Street but arrive early to get a good spot. Handicap parking is available at police headquarters and the municipal complex. Pets are not permitted.
6. Alabama Butterbean Festival — Pinson
On the first Friday and Saturday of October, the town of Pinson (which is located only 15 miles northeast of Birmingham) pays homage to the savory, buttery goodness of the butterbean during the annual Alabama Butterbean Festival.
Sure, the butterbean is the centerpiece of the festival, but the weekend is not just about the bean. Food trucks and vendors from around the region cook up delicious Southern and traditional festival treats while the rides at the carnival pump up your adrenalin and almost 100 arts and crafts booths line the festival grounds. The weekend wraps up with a spectacular fireworks display.
After a fun day at the festival, drive up Old Bradford Road/Turkey Creek Road to visit the beautiful Turkey Creek Nature Preserve where the soothing sound of the waterfall on the park’s namesake creek will relax you, the geologic rock formations will amaze you, and several short and easy walking hiking trails take you through the peaceful forest which is spectacular when dressed in fall colors.
7. National Shrimp Festival — Gulf Shores, Alabama
Residents of the Alabama Gulf Coast welcome fall by celebrating one of their most popular seafood catches: big, delicious Gulf Shrimp at the annual National Shrimp Festival.
The Shrimp Festival is held over 4 days the second week of October with dozens of chefs, restaurants, and food trucks converging on the beach to serve up the most delicious blackened, grilled, and fried gulf shrimp dishes you will ever taste. The event has become so popular that organizers say on average they serve over 10,000 pounds of the crustacean over the weekend. That’s a lot of shrimp!
The fun begins on Thursday with nonstop rock, country, zydeco, and blues music rocking the beach, contests like the 5K and 10K race, and the incredible work of artists forming beautiful and intricate sand sculptures on the beach.
Admission to the National Shrimp Festival is free.
Pro Tip: Parking near the beach is limited so arrive early to get a spot or consider using one of the city’s shuttle buses to take you to the venue. And remember, pets are not permitted.
8. Scarecrows in the Park — Opp
Frank Jackson State Park in Opp is a beautiful park located on the banks of Lake Jackson. The park is a fun destination any time of the year with camping, swimming, and three miles of easy walking hiking trails, many with interpretive signage, that lead you through the mixed hardwood forest that is ablaze with color in the fall. One of those trails leads you over a long boardwalk to a quiet island on the lake. But in the fall, there is something else you will find along the trail besides fall’s best colors — scarecrows.
It all began in 2008 as a project of the Opp Trail Masters who help maintain the park’s trails. Local businesses and individuals donated supplies and the volunteers assembled dozens of scarecrows that greeted visitors walking the trails. The tradition known as Scarecrows in the Park continues to this day and runs from the beginning of October to the end of November. Expect to see 200 to 300 scarecrows posed in a variety of vignettes.
Pro Tip: There is a day-use fee to enter the park.
The state of Alabama has a variety of activities and events to entertain visitors: