From early September to late October, Carowinds is fully transformed into a land of horrors and haunts. In addition to the normal thrill rides of Carowinds, Scarowinds is filled with terrifying haunted mazes, themed “scare zones” and several spectacularly spooky shows. It is not a cheap activity but it’s worth it for a night of fantastic frights and some of the best roller coasters on the east coast. If you’re brave enough, I definitely recommend riding the Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, and visiting all six of the haunted mazes.

Gate tickets are normally $59, but online tickets only cost $41. There are also discounts for active/retired military personnel and students. Tickets for military personal are only $33, and students can get tickets for only $39.99. In order to save money, I recommend carpooling since parking is $15 per car and eating beforehand since in-park restaurants are a bit pricey.

Pumpkin Carving

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Pumpkin carving is one of my favorite fall traditions. It’s simple, fun and it’s perfect for artists or people who just enjoy stabbing things. Gather some friends and go pick out pumpkins from a local patch. Once you have found your perfect pumpkin, carve it into whatever image your heart desires. A medium sized pumpkin will cost around five dollars, and, if you feel inclined, you can purchase a specialized pumpkin carving kit for less than ten dollars. I have always used a normal kitchen knife though and it has never hindered my artistic abilities. With a low price tag and simple setup, pumpkin carving with friends is a perfect way to spend a relaxed autumn night. 

Blue Ridge Mountains

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The Blue Ridge Mountains is a 469 mile long mountain range that shows off the best sites in North Carolina and Virginia. Explore mountains sides, waterfalls and vast wilderness at your own pace. There are over 100 hiking trails and numerous camping sites. If hiking or camping isn’t your thing, you can stick to the parkway and still enjoy a plethora of beautiful sites from the comfort of your car. I recommend making a day trip out of it. Get up early, pack a picnic and spend a day exploring the mountains. A couple sites do charge an entrance fee; they are typically worth the price, but are always totally optional. For the just the cost of gas and food, exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains is the best autumn activity for its price.

Horror Movie Night

Gather as many friends and blankets as you can and head to that one friend’s dorm with the good TV and the Netflix password. Binge watch some classic horror films like “The Shining” and “The Conjuring” or catch up on some modern horror films such “It” and “It Follows.” If horror movies are too spooky for your liking, there are plenty of non-scary movies like “Beetlejuice” or “Ghostbusters” that will still get you into the Halloween spirit. This shouldn’t cost anything, except for maybe the price of snacks, and it makes for an awesome laidback night with friends.

Carolina Renaissance Festival

The Carolina Renaissance Festival allows you to travel with your friends to a land of magic and make believe. The festival is filled with over 500 costumed characters that are constantly entertaining guests through comedy, music, dance and many circus style acts like jousting falconry. The interactiveness and overall excitement of the festival will be sure to fully thrill your inner child. For $24, you are fully immersed into the times of the Renaissance. The park also has several rides and games, but they typically cost $1-$5 extra. They also have some fantastic themed food but expect to overpay for it. There are several vendors where you can buy some awesome souvenirs.

To make the most of the Renaissance experience, buy into the experience wholeheartedly. Plan with your friends beforehand and wear costumes to the event. Talk to the characters like you are from the Renaissance. Fully unleash your inner fantasy geek and it will transform a fun experience to a downright phenomenal day filled with geeky memories.