Fall Favorites | Bucket List Edition

Happy Fall Y’all!

Last week, I decided to kick-off my “Fall Favorites” through the month of October (since it’s my favorite month and all). My previous post was the Style Edition which focused on cute kicks, scarves, hats and all of your autumn essentials! This week I wanted to focus more on my favorite part of Fall (I know…it’s surprising that clothes and accessories aren’t, right?). One word: activities. I mean, really…it would not truly be Fall without “autumn-esque” things to do. Now, please keep in mind that some of my suggestions are geared more toward the local, North Carolina-based crowd because I am providing specific examples, however, if you’re not in North Carolina, this may get your wheels turning as I’m sure you can find similar activities in your area! So without further adieu, enjoy my Fall Favorites – Bucket List Edition!

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1. Apple Picking / Hard Cider Drinking / Apple Pastry Tasting

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It’s not as cliche’ as you think, I promise. Grab your friends or your significant other, find a local apple orchard and make a day of it! The best part is that some of these orchards offer an array of different goods and activities beyond apple picking! Many of them even have hot, apple cider in addition to hard cider (when you’re craving an adult bev), as well as delicious apple donuts and pastries. There are a few I recommend in the Carolinas that are not far from all of you Charlotteans — Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill (in York, SC), Sky Top Orchard (in Flat Rock, NC) and Justus Orchard (in Hendersonville, NC).

2. Visit the Local Farmers Market

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Sure, you can do this practically any time of the year, but there is something very autumn about going to the Farmers Market to pick up some ingredients to make a delicious pie or strudel while grabbing a bunch of wildflowers to spruce up your cozy, little home. What a fun Saturday morning activity and a great way to kick-off your weekend! My absolute favorite Farmers Markets in Charlotte are: Atherton Mill, King’s Drive Farmer’s Market, & Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. I can say that I’ve been to all of them and they each offer something very special and unique – check it out if you haven’t already!

3. Visit the Biltmore & Watch the Leaves Change in Asheville, NC

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Asheville, NC is hands down one of my favorite cities in the U.S. It’s artsy, warm, quaint – but even more, as soon as autumn rolls around – the entire place transforms into a magical wonderland! I am absolutely convinced that there is no where else on this earth where the leaves change as beautifully as they do here. Plan a little weekend retreat in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, visit the largest privately owned home in the United States (the Biltmore Estate), and enjoy the scenic paradise that is Fall in Asheville.

4. Brewery Hop in Your Lovely City

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Who doesn’t enjoy a craft beer? Even more, a LOCAL craft beer? But even beyond that, a SEASONAL, local craft beer? I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I’m a big fan of any type of Octoberfest type beer or a pumpkin beer – it’s pretty much my weakness. I am also a big fan of supporting local. So what better way to get into the Fall season than taking a little brewery hopping tour and checking out the craft beers each have to offer? It’s a great way to take in the autumn air, support your local businesses while enjoying a delicious beverage! My favorite local pumpkin beer is NoDa Brewing Company’s Gordgeous (and I may be just a tad biased because I love the people there). What are some other excellent breweries in the Charlotte area? Check out Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Triple C Brewing Company, Sugar Creek Brewing Company, Heist Brewery, Birdsong Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company, Four Friends Brewing and more!

5. Pick a Pumpkin

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I know, I know. Traditional. But a classic. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin picking – and it never gets old!

6. Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!

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Autumn is the time for my favorite thing ever – FESTIVALS! Not even just music festivals…I’m talking legit festivals filled with activities and fun! It provides you with hours of enjoyment with your friends and loved ones – that’s a win in my book. Below are a list of my favorite local/North Carolina festivals that you should definitely add to your Fall Bucket List!

1. Carolina Balloon Fest

2. The Renaissance Festival

3. Uptown Charlotte BBQ & Blues Festival

4. Stechoa Valley Harvest Festival

5. North Carolina Oyster Festival

7. Create + Implement a Fall Tradition

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I am a HUGE fan of tradition and as a newly married couple (our 1 year is actually next weekend!), I want to create as many meaningful traditions as possible for us to carry with us our whole lives. My husband’s family’s tradition was making Cincinnati style chili and watching Halloween movies each October 31st while passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Last year was the first year we adopted this same tradition because it was one that I want us (and our future family) to have. What traditions do you have or wish to have?

8. Go Camping / Eat S’mores / Sleep Under the Stars

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What is more satisfying on a crisp, Fall evening than sitting around a fire with some of your closest friends, making s’mores and sleeping under the stars? This was the first year I’ve ever gone camping in my almost 29 years on this planet – crazy, right!? And let me tell you, I had an absolute blast! Throw on the flannel shirt, grab a few pals and drive to the mountains or nearest campsite. Camping is a great activity for Autumn because it’s not too hot or too cold – enjoy the cool weather while it lasts!

9. Try Out Some New Fall Recipes

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What better way to embrace Autumn than utilizing the seasonal fruits and veggies available and implementing them in a meal? Below are a few of my favorite Fall recipes that you’ve got to check out!

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts with a Maple Glaze

Root Vegetable Pan Roast with Chestnuts & Apples

Potato, Dried Apple & Chorizo Hand Pies

Bourbon Maple Apple Cider

Fall Browned Butter & Cinnamon Spiced Rice Krispie Treats

Twice Baked Butternut Squash

10. Snuggle Up with a Warm Throw + a Good Book

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As the weather gets cooler this season, take some time to yourself by snuggling up in a blanket on the couch while reading a good book – add a mug of hot chocolate and you have a recipe for pure bliss. There are so many incredible books out there that I’m dying to read this Fall. Below are the ones I have on my must-read list!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I know, I’m a little late on this one because it’s already a movie but I REFUSE to see the movie until I’ve read the book – so I’ll probably knock this one out first.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – Sounds extremely intriguing – about all of the experiences that make up your path in this world such as falling in love, feeling alone and more.

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki – A historical novel about Benedict Arnold’s wife.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Sounds gripping and suspenseful – check out the description on Amazon!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I’ve heard great things and it sounds super powerful – definitely looking to give it a go.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – Takes place on the Italian coast…(#TBT take me back to our honeymoon in Positano, Italy). So reading this one.

Top Ten List | Fav Craft Brews of All Time

The weather is finally starting to heat up here in the Carolinas but what it is really doing is making me crave an ice cold craft brew on a picturesque patio. There, I said it. Of course there are tons of summer activities to plan like concerts, festivals and road trips…but nothing truly beats good company and the frothy, carbonated goodness of a delicious beer. So in honor of all the beer lovers out there, I have cultivated a list of my top ten favorite craft brews of all time. Some are year-round while others are seasonal – each bring something very special to the table.

Now, I will go ahead and give you my “fine print”: I am not a craft beer guru or connoisseur…nor do I claim to be. However, I would consider myself a craft beer advocate and I know what I like. So without further adieu, below is my go-to list of beers that I’ve experienced and loved. Maybe if you see one that you haven’t tried yet you can give it a go next time you’re out and about! { What are your favorite craft beers? What style of beer do you love? Share in the comment section as I’m always looking for something new to sip on! }

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 10.  Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery – Belgium

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I remember the first time I picked one of these up at Common Market. I loved the bottle but wasn’t too sure what to expect regarding the beer itself. Delirium Tremens is a golden colored Belgian Strong Ale that is both fruity and hoppy with a slightly bitter finish.

 

9.  Maharaja Imperial IPA from Avery Brewing Company – Boulder, Colorado

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This is a beer I have been drinking for a few years now – why mess with a good thing? Maharaja is an American Double/Imperial IPA with a very high alcohol content of 10.2%. This smooth, amber colored beer is fairly hoppy but truly encompasses the perfect blend of bitter and sweet. Maharaja definitely has some subtle notes of pine and citrus (perhaps some orange) and the aroma is divine.

 

8.  Anchor Steam from Anchor Brewing Company – San Francisco, California

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This year-round brew is a solid go-to and I would even consider it a classic. I’m a big fan of San Francisco and as silly as it sounds, the taste of this beer reminds me of the city in every shape, way and form. It’s clean, refreshing and magical.

 

7.  Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue – Newport, Oregon

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If you’ve never experienced any Rogue beer before, stop what you are doing right now and find the closest store that carries them. I’ve been an advocate of Rogue for several years because they consistently put out a solid beer. Their Hazelnut Brown Nectar in particular is hands down one of my favorites although there probably isn’t a Rogue beer I haven’t loved. As you can probably infer from the name, this beer definitely tastes like rich, roasted hazelnuts. Sweet in flavor and copper in color, this beer is another good one to have in your arsenal.

 

6.  OMB Dunkel from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – Charlotte, North Carolina

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Where do I begin with my love affair with OMB Dunkel? If it was a year-round beer, I would be in serious trouble. This seasonal brew is only around in the Winter but it will warm your soul on those frosty nights. Olde Meck’s Dunkel is a rich brown color, medium bodied with slightly sweet malts and an earthy flavor.

 

5.  Hop Drop N’ Roll from NoDa Brewing Company in Charlotte, North Carolina

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So, you need to take me seriously when I say that I swear I am not biased. I know the owners and employees of NoDa Brewing Company quite well. Not only does my husband work at the brewery part-time, but I’ve known many of the staff members for years. No words can explain my love for these people – Chad, the head brewer, knows what the heck he is doing…and the owners, Todd & Suzie? They are truly some of the best people I know. Now, to the beer. Hop Drop N’ Roll is beyond any other American-style IPA that I’ve had. It has an intricate and complex flavor profile – seriously incredible. I’m a big fan of all of NoDa’s beers but this one definitely stands out among the rest. In fact, it just took home the Gold Award at the 2014 World Beer Cup® for American-Style IPAs which is a huge deal. The best part about it all? You do not have to go the brewery to enjoy this beverage as this past year they started selling them in cans all around town. Convenience at its finest!

 

4.  Cottonwood Spiced Pumpkin Ale from Foothills Brewing Company in Winston Salem, North Carolina 

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If you know me, it is no secret that Autumn is my favorite season and that pumpkin flavored anything makes me the happiest girl in the world. So of course, I am pumpkin beer obsessed. However, when it comes to this type of seasonal beer, I am very particular about the taste. I’ve had some where you cannot taste pumpkin at all and some that are way too sweet…to the point of nausea. I remember first tasting Cottonwood Pumpkin when I was out having a post-work beverage with a coworker. I ordered it on a whim, not expecting to completely fall head over heels…which I absolutely did. WOW. Everyone will give you an opinion on the “best” pumpkin beer and I truly believe it’s all personal. Not everyone’s palettes are the same and what each individual is seeking is very different. But Cottonwood Pumpkin is the perfect balance of a pumpkin taste with hints of nutmeg and spices without being overly sweet.

 

3.  Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina

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I cannot even begin to take credit for discovering this beer – it was truly all my husband. Shahin is a huge craft beer guy and has been in the scene for several years now. But when it’s Winter time, all that I hear him talk about is getting his hands on a Cold Mountain Winter Ale by Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. It’s clear as day that Asheville is a major craft beer hub and there are so many incredible breweries up there, but Highland Brewing is most definitely one of my favorites as they always put out a quality product. Cold Mountain is a deep, copper color beer with a creamy texture and subtle, soul-warming flavors such as nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. This well-balanced beer is definitely a wise choice for cold, winter nights.

 

2.  Coco Loco from NoDa Brewing Company – Charlotte, North Carolina

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Without a doubt, this is my favorite NoDa Brewing Company beer and number two on my favorite craft brews of all time. This American Porter is a rich, dark brown color (almost black) with a creamy, light tan head. What I love about this beer is it encompasses two of my most beloved things: chocolate and coconut. Let me sum it up for you…taste bud explosion! The flavor profile is ridiculously enchanting: the marriage of the slightly bitter chocolate with the sweet notes of the organic coconut (toasted on-site at the brewery) is pure perfection. It was even awarded the Silver Medal in 2012 at The Great American Beer Festival. Go…go try it now.

 

1.  Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo, Michigan

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There are no words to explain Hopslam except when you can actually find it…it’s like gold. You think I’m joking, but I’m totally not. Aside from this also being a Winter seasonal beer, only a certain amount is released to specific locations. That means…if I were you, I’d start researching now how to get it this Winter because those who know which bars or pubs receive shipments do not share with others. Would it be bold of me to even say that Hopslam almost has a cult-like following? Probably not…and I’m pretty darn guilty of being a part of it myself. But y’all, it’s really that good. This beer is a rich amber color and very easy to drink and goes down smoothly. As noted in the name of the beer, it is quite hoppy. But if you’re not a fan of hoppy beers, do not let that deter you from trying this because I too once felt that way and this beer changed my entire way of thinking. The aroma and flavors are so pungent: strong grapefruit, pineapple, honey and floral notes. I recommend this beer time and time again – it is worth all the hype.

Trying to better understand what kind of beers you enjoy or wish to discover something new? Check out beeradvocate.com