Combine eerie haunts with a leaf-peeping vacation in the Tennessee or Southwest Virginia mountains. Hit Florida beaches for a harrowing end-of-summer hurrah. Tracing through South Carolina and Georgia to Mississippi, each is a scenic and colorful destination worth a fall drive. The added bonus: Best-in-class seasonal fright houses and paranormal and haunted history tours.
The choices include hip and happening historic towns with a walkable footprint and plenty to see and a lively dining and entertainment scene. Each provides plenty of relaxation, interesting outdoor adventures and room to wander.
These 12 unique ghostly getaways include some of the scariest fright houses in the U.S and some of the most haunted towns and historic homes in the Southeast. The historic walking tours range from mysterious and spine-tingly to certifiably paranormal. While picking the perfect destination, read the FAQ pages of the haunted tour website. Some allow photography and paranormal detection devices. While traveling, please heed area COVID safety policies and guidelines. Check each attraction’s COVID announcements.
Americus/Sumter County, Georgia: Haunted History Tours
In west-central Georgia, convenient to I-75, three hours south of Atlanta and only two hours north of I-10, Americus is not only an ideal stopping point en route to Florida, it’s a top destination for its major attractions, including two national historic sites. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains honors our country’s 39th president, while the Andersonville National Historic Site is home to the Andersonville National Cemetery and the nation’s only POW Museum. The 2021 Andersonville Camp & Battle Portrayal takes place October 2-3, 2021, in the Andersonville Civil War Village.
Take a guided walking tour highlighting nearly 200 years of haunted history, including the ghastly ghosts of Andersonville, Plains’ haunted house, the Rylander Theatre’s “Frank the Friendly Ghost” and the grave of Sumter County’s first sheriff, killed in 1839. Built in 1892 to attract Northern “snowbirds,” the Windsor Hotel is a fully restored Victorian-Moorish architectural beauty with castle-like towers, turrets, balconies and a three-story atrium lobby. The benevolent ghosts of a housekeeper and daughter who have pushed down the elevator shaft to their deaths, and that of a beloved doorman, have been detected by certified ghost hunters. Even on tours, the creaky Windsor Hotel elevator might start-up or a bell mysteriously chime. Tours held October 1, 8-9, 14, 22-23, 27-29 and October 31-November 1. By appointment and advance tickets only ($12 p.p.), tours are limited to approx. 20 people, note COVID rules on the website. Not recommended for those under age 12. Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel, 101 West Lamar Street, Americus, Georgia 31709. For more information, call or stop by the Americus Visitor Center, (229) 928-6059, or click www.VisitAmericusGA.com.
If You Go: Stay overnight and toast the spirits on the Windsor’s veranda, complete with rocking chairs and live music every Friday night. Have dinner at Rosemary & Thyme or a drink and appetizer at Floyd’s, the doorman’s namesake pub. Koinonia Farm, the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity and a place committed to peace and social justice, offers lunch and tours of its farm, gardens, orchards, walking trails, store and museum. Rooms at the farm’s Fuller House are simple, comfortable and affordable, with a shared screened porch and dining/living room. Head to Café Campesino for a healthy breakfast and organic coffee. For more ideas, go to www.VisitAmericusGA.com.
Henry County, Georgia: Fear the Woods
Only 30 minutes south of Atlanta, and a convenient stop on the way to Savannah or Orlando, Henry County includes the cities of Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove, as well as delightful family farms for tours, produce, honey, handcrafted soaps and more. Memorable attractions include Atlanta Motor Speedway, inspiring animal encounters, military museums and helicopter rides in military aircraft and one of Georgia’s few remaining Civil War battlefields.
Fear the Woods is a professionally produced haunt emphasizing ghoulish actors over animatronics; it has consistently been ranked one of the top haunted tours in Georgia. The Haunted House preys on one’s psychological fears; the Haunted Trail challenge is finding the way back after being dropped off in the middle of the woods and cornfields with the Skinner family. Pandemic is a new 80,000-square-foot interactive, competitive, combat field where skills determine each guest’s fate. The Yule Forest Family Farm offers kid-friendly outings from October through mid-December. The farm is open seasonally for pumpkin picking, fall fun, free Saturday afternoon concerts, an action-filled festival with a hay maze, hayride and petting zoo. Kid-friendly Pumpkin Patch open every day. Fear the Woods open Friday-Sunday in October, not recommended for small children. Call or check the website for pricing, times and details. From Thanksgiving through mid-December, return for pre-cut and cut-your-own Christmas trees. Yule Forest Family Farm, 3565 North Highway 155 Highway North, Stockbridge, Georgia; (770) 954-9356. FeartheWoods.com
If You Go: At Southern Belle Farm, enjoy a pumpkin patch, four-acre corn maze, U-pick flowers, farm market and bakery. At The Georgia State Fair enjoy exciting attractions and shows along with live music, carnival rides and your favorite fair foods. Held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway October 1-10, 2021, tickets should be reserved in advance. The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Museum honor the military’s “Sky Soldiers” by restoring and maintaining vintage aircraft of the Vietnam War. Veteran pilots take guests on chopper rides aboard a UH-1H Huey or AH-1F Cobra attack helicopter. Visitors can find family-friendly and upscale dining as well as a variety of lodging options from familiar brand hotels to sleeping under the stars at beautiful campsites. www.VisitHenryCountyGeorgia.com
Loudon County, Tennessee: Dead Man’s Farm/Nightfall Acres
Located between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Loudon County is known as the less-congested Lakeway to the Smokies, full of fall color, beautiful scenery and a multitude of outdoor water and mountain activities. It’s the best of both worlds: close to the park while staying on the lakes and rivers in cabins far from the madding crowd.
Nightfall Acres is a working family farm with harvest delights like pre-picked pumpkins and cornstalks for sale, but the biggest draw is after dark. Celebrating its “Lucky 13th” year in business, Dead Man’s Farm enjoys many “Best Haunted Attraction” accolades, including USA Today’s 2019 “10Best Reader’s Choice Awards. They’re back in the “10 Best” contest in 2021, with voting closing Monday, August 30. Each year the sprawling attraction adds new twists and themes to the frightening fun. Scream your way through the revamped-every-year Haunted House Tour, with its storyline of atrocities acted out in vivid detail. Facedown evil clowns in a three-acre corn maze, be buried alive in a sensory coffin simulator, choose from four Face Your Fear Virtual Reality experiences and three horror-based escape rooms. Inside is not recommended for children under 12. Outdoor midway entertainment includes excitement for those more into freaky fun and less into fear, with performer photo ops. Open Thursday through Sunday every weekend in October. Check the website for details/updates. Dead Man’s Farm, 13100 West Lee Highway, Philadelphia, Tennessee 37846 (also named Highway 11); (865) 408-8527. www.DeadMansFarm.com
If You Go: In a state full of fall color and made for road trips, Loudon County, in east Tennessee, is golden. With the Smoky Mountains creating a backdrop for kayaking, boating and fishing on Tellico Lake or the Tennessee River, visitors can enjoy scenic drives, stunning sunsets and trademark misty mornings. Located between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Loudon County’s Highway 321 is the most scenic and least congested route to the Smokies from I-75 and I-40 East. Lenoir City and Loudon each have unique boutiques, antiques and dining spots. Near Loudon is the oldest family winery in the state, Tennessee Valley Winery. Sweetwater Valley Farm in Philadelphia demonstrates cheese and milk-making, offers tastings and a farm store. www.VisitLoudonCounty.com
The Mountains: Southwest Virginia
Abingdon, Virginia: Spirit Tour with the “Haint Mistress”
Founded in 1778, Abingdon is one of the oldest English-speaking settlements west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, two hours northeast of Asheville, North Carolina. Abingdon lies between the soaring peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Great Appalachian Valley, offering breathtaking fall color. Many ghosts are entrenched within its perfectly preserved Federal, Victorian and Colonial architecture. It’s a town to fall in love with, in spite of—or because of—its haunted history.
Haint Mistress Donnamarie Emmert has been sharing stories of Abingdon’s “haints” for 20-plus years. With a Master’s in storytelling and a love of eerie history, she takes visitors down the brick sidewalks of the Historic district where colorful fall scenery and shivery stories abound. Historic courthouse legends include a mysterious murder weapon disappearing act and a ghost that physically reacts to change. The landmark 1930s Barter Theatre entertains thespian ghosts (don’t be the last one out of the building). The Tavern, established in 1779, serves up German specialties, seafood, steaks—and spirits, including murdered card players, dead soldiers and one lively Tavern Tart. While the luxury accommodations at the four-star Martha Washington Hotel and Day Spa inspire peaceful sleep, its long service as a private residence, women’s school and makeshift Civil War hospital carry haunted history. Hear tales of apparitions floating downstairs, haunting violin music and a bloodstained library floor.
Abingdon Spirit Tours with the Haint Mistress, Downtown Abingdon, Virginia. Check the website for dates, times and meeting spots. Year-round Haints or History tours by appointment. Haunted tours, no younger than age 10. HaintMistress.com
If You Go: Abingdon’s 20-block Historic District is filled with art galleries, distinctive shops and 34 independently-owned restaurants. For nearby and unique fall color viewing, the Virginia Creeper Trail offers elevated mountain and valley views from one of the country’s best rails-to-trails. Hike the Appalachian Trail, see wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park and navigate natural geological mazes at The Channels Natural Area. www.VisitAbingdonVirginia.com.
Wytheville, Virginia: Helheim Haunted Attraction
Head high into the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachians to Wytheville in Southwest Virginia, at the crossroads of I-77 and I-81, 2.5 hours from Charlotte, North Carolina. Wytheville (ca. 1790; pronounced WITH-vil) is an off-the-beaten track getaway with unique in-town attractions, breathtaking mountain scenery and activities from fly-fishing and watersports to horseback riding and wilderness adventure.
Helheim Haunted Attraction promises to “put the evil in Wytheville,” with a scare-you-to-death vibe. Two enthusiastic veterans took their 20-plus years of experience and created an over-the-top thrill-a-thon in an old 6,000-square-foot amusement park. The result is top ratings on sites like www.TheScareFactor.com. Actors are meticulous about makeup, costumes and special effects, which comes across in authenticity and thrills in this post-apocalypse-meets-Viking-themed attraction. Helheim is the Norse word for hell, land of the dishonorable dead, but the owners won’t reveal the delicious chills in store. They do hint at playing upon the psychological fears of a lack of control over surroundings and the loss of sight, direction and sound. Not intended for anyone under age 18. Fridays and Saturdays, September 24-October 30, 2021. Helheim Haunted Attraction, just off of I-81/I-77 at exit 77, 3081 Chapman Road, Wytheville, Virginia 24382, (276) 239-2666; www.HelheimHaunt.com
If You Go: Wytheville’s classic downtown includes the old, the contemporary and the quirky, like the selfie-worthy “biggest pencil in Virginia” outside the old Wytheville Office Supply. Just three miles from downtown, Crystal Springs Recreation Area and Big Survey Wildlife Management Area offer more than 9,000 acres of preserved lands, 13 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. A 57-mile trail, canoeing, tubing, kayaking and fishing are all favorites at the New River Trail State Park. Climb the 100-foot Big Walker Lookout at Big Walker Mountain for views of five states at an elevation of 3,405 feet. For more information, www.VisitWytheville.com.
Chase the last notes of summer sunshine into the fall on a visit to some of Florida’s best-hidden gems, where vintage and retro have been preserved and polished. Uncrowded beaches, nature preserves, natural springs, Native American history and Florida cowboy ranches are among visitor superlatives.
Martin County, Florida: Port Salerno Ghost Tours
Stretching more than 22 miles along the Atlantic coast of South Florida, Martin County provides an uncrowded escape that combines Old Florida nostalgia and authentic seaside charm. From secret sun-drenched coves and private stretches of sand to expansive, lifeguard-protected beaches, there’s plenty of room to spread out and explore. This easy-to-get-to but hidden gem also offers more than 100,000 acres of parks and conservation land, world-class fishing, lively downtown districts, endless golfing, unique attractions and more.
Port Salerno Ghost Tours “throws shade” on Florida’s sunny reputation with dark, shivery tales of this historic fishing town. During the bone-chilling tour, guests meet the spirits of ancient Indians, plundering pirates, a phantom widow watching for lost seamen and the victims of a deranged police officer who still linger at the Devil’s Tree (where their bodies were eventually found). Does Black Caesar still steer his ghost ship toward Dead Man’s Point? Are there ghostly clues to sunken treasure off Port Salerno’s coast? What other spirits still lurk along these picturesque shores?
Tours are led by Patrick and Patricia Mesmer, authors of “Ghosts of the Treasure Coast” and experienced local guides who base their stories on extensive history and professional paranormal research. They also conduct separate paranormal investigations and events at other haunted locations throughout the year, such as the House of Refuge—Martin County’s oldest surviving building, which once served as a safe haven for travelers who shipwrecked along Florida’s treacherous shores. To assist on the tour, guests are equipped with instruments like electromagnetic field detectors and infrared thermometers; the same tools used on TV shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” The two-hour walking tours take place most Saturday nights, with equal emphasis on local history and paranormal activity. Port Salerno Ghost Tours, 4745 Southeast Desoto Avenue, Fish House Art Gallery, Stuart, Florida; (772) 223-5482 or check https://www.facebook.com/portsalernoghosttours for updates and upcoming events.
If You Go: Martin County is within 90 minutes to two hours of the Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando airports. A thriving arts and culture scene celebrates historic preservation and the region’s rich legacy. Area restaurants feature fresh-caught fish served alongside ingredients from local, organic farms. Martin County offers many lodging options, including quaint inns, one-of-a-kind bed and breakfasts, chic oceanfront resorts, quirky fish camps, rustic campgrounds and your favorite national and global hotel brands. www.DiscoverMartin.com
West Volusia County, Florida: Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Tours
West Volusia encompasses 14 communities with an eclectic collection of attractions between Orlando and Daytona. From top-rated stylish and funky downtown DeLand to the scenic St. Johns River, this is real and authentic Florida. The region is known for everything from skydiving to manatee-sightings in Blue Springs State Park.
Neither haunted house attraction nor typical historic ghost tour, Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is in a class by itself. Established in 1894, visitors are drawn to the spiritual teachings and to experience the peaceful, healing energy of this community. Seminars and historic tours take place among the quirky cobblestone streets and meditation gardens. Walk and discover Cassadaga’s historic, unique and mysterious beginnings and the spirit activity that still goes on in the historic homes of present-day mediums. As the oldest active community of mediums in the Southeastern United States, and known as the Psychic Center of the South, readings (tarot, palm, psychic) and spiritual healings are given daily. Nearby, stay at Hotel Cassadaga, where Halloween takes on a more nuanced meaning. Mostly weekends, prices and hours vary with tour type. Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, 1112 Stevens Street, Cassadaga, Florida 386-228-2880; www.Cassadaga.org
If You Go: DeLand’s “real Florida” downtown takes top rating as best outside of Orlando. Combining a sense of history and a contemporary vibe, it’s home to shops and boutiques, galleries and (nine!) museums, as well as a slate of annual events. Fabulous restaurants, microbreweries and a series of murals combine in this delightful downtown setting. Skydive DeLand is one of the busiest drop zones in the world. Eco-tours and fishing the St. Johns River are magnets for visitors. www.VisitWestVolusia.com
In north-central Louisiana along the banks of the Cane River is the oldest city in the state, Natchitoches. Named after an American Indian tribe, Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) is easy to access via I-49 which connects to I-20 to the north in Shreveport and to I-10 in Lafayette, to the south. Its 33-block National Historic Landmark District is paved with weathered brick and lined with wrought iron-laced buildings, stately live oaks, magnolia trees, shops and restaurants. Nearby, Melrose Plantation was built by the family of a former slave who attained her freedom. Don’t miss the works of renowned folk artist Clementine Hunter who began life as a field hand and cook here.
A Natchitoches couple transformed a literal ghost town into Dark Woods Haunted Attraction, an outdoor adventure that combines a vintage setting with 21st-century technology. Buildings in the former logging village have been preserved along with a rural cemetery and a turn of the century grave diggers shack. The new-each-year storylines bring the horror, folk tales and legends of Louisiana together in a unique immersive experience that is top-rated by aficionados, including The Scare Factor and Louisiana Haunted Houses websites. Character actors, detailed costuming, realistic sets and Hollywood-style special effects produce an atmosphere of foreboding and fright covering over one terrifying mile. Black lights, 3-D attractions with Chroma-depth 3-D glasses, strobe lights, fog and moving floors add to the shock, awe and fear factor. Open October 1-2, 8- 9, 15-16, 21-23, 29-31. Dark Woods Adventure Park, 4343 University Parkway (Louisiana Highway 6) Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457, (318) 289-9019; www.DarkwoodsHaunt.com
If You Go: The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum celebrates the achievements of legendary Louisiana athletes and sports figures, along with unique state cultural traditions from early Native American civilizations to the present. Take a riverboat ride aboard the Cane River Queen or tour the riverbanks and picturesque downtown streets of Natchitoches in a classic horse-drawn carriage. Don’t-miss restaurants include Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen, where the legendary recipe was thought to originate, Cane River Commissary, with Creole cuisine and a monthly Zydeco Brunch and Mariner’s, serving seafood and sunsets along Lake Sibley. Stay in one of 30-plus B&Bs in the “Bed & Breakfast Capital of Louisiana.” www.Natchitoches.com
Serving as a gateway to the history of Mississippi, both physically and culturally, Corinth sits in the northeast corner of the state where U.S. Highways 72 and 45 meet. Corinth attracts visitors in search of Civil War history and quirky surprises like the motorcycle wonder, the Bike Museum and the Corinth Coca-Cola Museum.
The National Park Service Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center shows how the town’s iconic railroad crossing thrust a community into the forefront of war. Nearby are the Shiloh National Military Park and Cemetery and the Corinth Contraband Camp which accommodated emancipated refugees with homes, a church, school and hospital. Aside from “deal with the devil” legends, crossroads have significance in paranormal research. Untouched mass graves are believed to be located near here. The Crossroads Museum Annual Historic Corinth Cemetery Tour takes visitors through the city’s oldest cemetery spotlighting notable and notorious figures from Corinth’s past, vividly portrayed/re-enacted by local talent. Tour is held at the Corinth City Cemetery at 602 Westview Drive and Cemetery Drive off U.S. Highway 72 in Corinth. (At press time, the Crossroads Museum is planning but has not finalized details for the Historic Corinth Cemetery Tour dates for 2021. Check their Facebook page for updates.) Crossroads Museum, 221 North Fillmore Street, Corinth, Mississippi 38834 662-287-3120; www.CrossroadsMuseum.com; [email protected]
Stay downtown in the beautifully restored Victorian Generals’ Quarters Inn, rated among the best bed and breakfasts in the state. In addition to elegant comfort and excellent cuisine, perhaps you’ll experience some of its paranormal activity. Guests have reported disembodied footsteps, flickering lights, opening and closing doors and ghostly voices. It’s said that the spirit of a servant who died after a fall down the stairs can be heard climbing back up during the night.
If You Go: This quintessential small Southern town offers a thriving shopping district with art, antiquing, a spa, salon and boutiques. Enjoy a nightcap on a rooftop bar and Bluegrass jams on the Square. Stroll through a charming downtown filled with tree-lined streets and a culinary scene with storied restaurants that make you want to come back for more. Save room for the regional tamales at a drive-up and a Depression-era Slugburger at Borroum’s Drug Store. Unique lodging options make the visit even more remarkable. www.Corinth.net
Mississippi Delta, Vicksburg
The Mississippi Delta runs south from Memphis through fertile fields and welcoming communities along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Visitors will see why the landscape, the languid ambiance, the architecture and the hospitality invite long stays for plenty of time to dine, explore and experience. With nine counties to explore, there is plenty to do, including driving The Mississippi Blues Trail and savoring unique food and dining opportunities from roadside stands to white tablecloths. Casino entertainment, Civil War history, shopping and family-friendly fun add to the mix. www.VisitTheDelta.com
Just 45 miles west of Jackson and 75 miles north of Natchez, Vicksburg sits at the intersection of I-20 and the famed U.S. Highway 61, known as the Blues Highway. According to all accounts, Vicksburg is the most haunted town in the Mississippi Delta, with seven locations holding years of anecdotal and paranormal-investigator evidence. From a former Civil War battlefield and hospital to stately homes, Mississippi’s most haunted house and one of the state’s most haunted hotels, visitors have plenty of opportunities for eerie shivers. Four historic Bed and Breakfasts even welcome guests to an overnight fright.
Why so many haunts? Vicksburg has a long and bloody history of conflict, between Native American and European settlers to brother against brother in the war between North and South.
At Vicksburg National Military Park, where thousands of soldiers perished, paranormal investigations and ordinary visitors have reported hearing sounds, smells and sights of battle, including cannon fire, horses, orders issued and screams of the wounded over empty fields. Haunted Vicksburg Ghost Walk includes a 12-block, leisurely stroll through Vicksburg’s oldest, most haunted neighborhood. The Trail of Tears, antebellum duels, yellow fever epidemics and a 47-day siege have left quite a legacy of restless spirits. Old Court House Museum at the corner of Monroe and Grove Streets. Tours are March-December. Social distancing required. Booking is online only. www.HauntedVicksburg.com/newghostwalk.htm
McRaven Tour Home is Mississippi’s “Most Haunted House” and is considered to be the third most haunted house in the entire United States. Years of ghostly and paranormal activity have been documented by professional paranormal researchers and explored on A&E, The Travel Channel, 48 Hours and more. From the hideout of a notorious highwayman on the Natchez Trace to a prominent businessman who was murdered by Union troops, discover why spirits have lingered in the gardens and home that held a Confederate campsite and field hospital. Year-round historic and ghost tours, private paranormal discovery tours, no charge for children 5 and under. McRaven Tour Home, 1445 Harrison Street, Vicksburg, www.McRavenTourHome.com.
The elegance, cuisine and comfort of four Inns and B&Bs make them popular with visitors who scoff at—or search out—eerie adventure. Duff Green Mansion, the McNutt House, Anchuca Historic Mansion and Annabelle Bed and Breakfast all have haunted history. Details can be found at https://www.visitvicksburg.com/mississippi-haunted-hotels).
If You Go: Overlooking the banks of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg is quintessentially Southern. Live music adds to the fun at rooftop bars overlooking the river and outstanding local restaurants throughout the downtown shopping and entertainment district. Historic trail bicycling, fishing and paddling the river are favorite outdoor pastimes. The cuisine is as diverse as the Mississippi culture. Both the Mississippi Tamale Trail and the Mississippi Seafood Trail are represented here, as are revered establishments featuring local produce, original recipes and a reputation for Southern hospitality. www.VisitVicksburg.com
For information on the nine of the region’s counties and the congressionally designated Mississippi Delta Heritage Area, events and more, go to https://www.travelmediapressroom.com/mississippi/mississippi-delta
Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina
Just east of Augusta, Georgia, along I-20 between Atlanta and Charleston are the rolling hills of Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina. This four-county part of the Palmetto State is filled with world-renowned horse racing, training and tracks, Civil War sites, gardens and plantation homes, state parks, historic healing springs, folk art and antique shops in charming towns. Thoroughbred Country’s epicenter is Aiken, developed in the early 1900s as a “Winter Colony” for the rich and famous, who introduced the traditions of polo and thoroughbred racing.
Tailored Tours of Aiken–Haunted Aiken
Haunted secret passages in the Old Post Office, bones in the basement. In the former 1878 Aiken Hotel, phenomena include shadowy movements, whispers, crying and screaming from empty rooms, where toilets flush and doors open or close. Housekeeping carts found down the hall when left outside a room. These hauntings and more are included on a spooktacular nighttime walking tour offering chilling stories of spirits combined with Aiken’s history. Ghost hunting tools aid in the discovery. Tours are arranged and tailored individually. Family-friendly. Masks preferred. Limit 10 people. Year-round, including historic city tours. Learn more, here or call (803) 295-3870.
If You Go: Soak in nature’s restorative power at Aiken State Park where visitors can bring canoes or kayaks and glide along the 1.7-mile glistening trail winding down the south fork of the Edisto River. Enjoy free admission to the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as concerts, culture and dining. Year-round golf can be played on courses frequented by current, past and future greats. Stay in luxury at The Willcox Hotel or delightful B&Bs including Rose Hill, the Carriage House Inn, Lookaway Inn and Rosemary Inn. Dining ranges from chef-refined and down-home Southern specialties, family restaurants, international cuisine and the unique find of a Mennonite bakery. More on what to do, eat, where to stay: TbredCountry.org
Onslow County, North Carolina
Located off of I-95, north of Wilmington and east of Raleigh and I-40, Onslow County is a destination full of history, coastal flavor, family fun and a host of water-related adventures for all ages and generations. The county encompasses Richlands, Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, North Topsail Beach, Sneads Ferry and Swansboro, and is a playground for outdoor recreation from the beaches to exploring Hammocks Beach State Park.
Lights, sound effects, woods, a scary walking trail. Fishstrong Foundation’s Annual Fright Nights brings on the fear and the fun with food and craft vendors, carnival games, a pumpkin patch and more. Proceeds from the hayride and walking Trail will go to the Fishstrong Foundation, a 501(c)3 that raises funds to assist North Carolina families that are experiencing life-altering illnesses. September 24-25, Friday and Saturday nights in October through the 31st. Fishstrong Foundation’s Annual Fright Nights, 3100 Freedom Way, Hubert, North Carolina 28539 www.Fishstrong.org
If You Go: Huffman’s Vineyard in Richlands offers handcrafted wines in small batches and Mike’s Farm in Beulaville is a popular seasonal agritourism entertainment venue. In Jacksonville, the county seat, sip and tour Walton’s Distillery, one of North Carolina’s favorite small-batch distilleries, manufacturing corn whiskey and moonshine. Nearby, local shops and eateries line the waterfront streets of charming downtown Swansboro. Locals say the best shelling can be found on Bear Island, a treasure of the beautiful Hammocks Beach State Park. All forms of fishing are popular here and plenty of experienced captains and guides can make any trip memorable. For more information, including North Carolina’s COVID guidelines and mandates, visit www.OnlyInOnslow.com.
This fall, ghost-lovers who love to travel can turn an eerie encounter into a delightful vacation getaway. Best of all, these scenic and colorful destinations are worth the drive for their attractions and amenities any time of year. Some offer tours year-round.
Savvy Fall Traveler Tip: Book accommodations far in advance. Check the leaf season predictions and consider going just before or after peak, especially Sundays through Thursdays. Although these towns aren’t known for crowds, weekday stays offer an even more leisurely experience. You’ll have more time to spend with local artisans, restauranteurs, farmers’ market producers and many others who love to share their delightful stories.