24 weekend road trip ideas: Fests of all sorts, from film and log-building to comedy and literature!

I have lots of new reasons for you to hit the road this week—everything from an international film festival in Montreal and a haunted fort in Kingston to three Oktoberfest celebrations, five studio tours, two writers festivals and a carved pumpkin extravaganza. Enjoy!

Celebrate fall in Gatineau Park


Saturday kicks off the first of three weekends of Fall Rhapsody, a festival of autumn fun in Gatineau Park (October 1 to 16). Free activities include authors’ readings, concerts, a jam session and a kite-making workshop. No car? No problem—the NCC is piloting two free shuttle services this year that will pick up passengers at several points in Gatineau (including Terrasses de la Chaudière, easily accessible via OC Transpo) and ferry them to and around the park. Another new feature this year is the Epicurean Dining Tour, where local chefs will be serving dishes featuring Outaouais ingredients (reservations required). And if you’ve ever wondered why leaves change colour in the fall, a park interpreter provides the answer in the video above.

Hobnob with authors in Kingston and Montreal

Book lovers will be heading to the Limestone City this week for Kingston WritersFest (September 28 to October 2). Writing workshops, authors’ talks, book signings and lots of other literary fun is on the agenda. Participating authors include Gail Bowen, Ian Brown, Emma Donoghue, Annie Proulx and Shyam Selvadurai.

This is also the last weekend to catch the Festival International de la Littérature in Montreal (September 23 to October 2). Events include everything from readings to films and concerts, with events as diverse as a tribute to Jack Kerouac (September 29) and a movie about Patti Smith (September 30). Website is in French.

Take in a country fair in Metcalfe

The Metcalfe Fair (September 29 to October 2) is marking its 160th birthday this year with an array of fair fun, including a midway, a demolition derby, boxing demonstrations, a horse show, a truck pull and a fashion show.

See elaborate pumpkin displays in Morrisburg

Dracula

Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

This event is one of the coolest things in Eastern Ontario, in my humble opinion. Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village (September 30 to October 30; check website for exact dates and times) is a nighttime…well, I’m not quite sure what to call it. Sound-and-light show? Halloween on steroids? Really, you’ve just got to see it to believe it. Almost 7,000 glowing, hand-carved, artificial pumpkins are arranged in theatrical displays throughout the living history village, with eerie music wafting about. The photo above is from 2014; the displays have changed since then, but it gives you an idea of what to expect.

Enjoy some harvest fun in Delta

The village of Delta (between Smiths Falls and Gananoque) is hosting a Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 1. Fun for the whole family includes tours of the Old Stone Mill, a bread-baking contest, food vendors, blacksmithing demonstrations, a hot dog and sausage BBQ lunch, wagon rides, rope-making and corn-shucking demonstrations, a car show, and an evening dance.

Scare yourself silly in Kingston

Do you frighten easily? Then steel yourself before entering Fort Fright, the annual haunted house installation at Fort Henry in Kingston (September 29 to October 30; check the fort’s website for specific dates and times). Just being in the 19th-century fort at night is scary enough for me, thank you, but the ghouls and goblins popping out from around every corner really are terrifying. Your kids, of course, will eat it up and yell for more.

Catch a movie (and see Spike Lee) in Montreal


The Montreal International Black Film Festival (September 28 to October 2) offers a chance to see documentaries, short films and features focusing on the Black experience around the world. There’s been a lot of buzz about Spike Lee’s documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off the Wall, and Lee himself will be fielding questions at the film’s screening on October 1. However, that’s just one of the many intriguing-sounding movies playing during the festival, which also include documentaries about the Black Lives Matter movement and Maya Angelou, and feature films set in locales as diverse as Brussels and Addis Ababa.

Tap your toes in Pembroke

Echoes of Erin, a touring production of traditional music and dance presented by Irish performers, makes a stop at Pembroke’s Festival Hall Centre for the Arts on Friday, September 30. Enjoy fiddlers, harpists, accordion players, step dancers and more.

Say cheers in Barrhaven, Ladysmith or Ste-Adèle

Beer lovers, this is your season! You have three Oktoberfest celebrations to choose from this weekend, including Oktoberfest Ottawa in Barrhaven (September 30 and October 1),  Ladysmith Oktoberfest (September 30 to October 2) and Oktobierfest Ste-Adèle (September 30 to October 2).

Enhance your 100-mile diet in Renfrew

Shop for local foods and other goodies at the second of this year’s four Taste of the Valley events. The Renfrew County promotion takes place at the Renfrew Armouries and Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 1, and highlights farmers and packaged food producers from across the county. (If you’re planning ahead, the next Taste of the Valley event is taking place at the Cobden Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 15.)

Learn all about logs in Montebello

The West Entrance of Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello.

The West Entrance of Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello.

This weekend (September 30 to October 2), the International Festival of Log Buildings (aka Logfest) comes to Montebello, home to one of the world’s largest log structures, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. As well as seeing the hotel, you can learn how to build a log picnic table, cheer on competitors in log games, visit log homes dating to the 1930s, see a miniature version of Montebello called Turtle Lodge on the Ontario side of the river, check out a log-building trade show, watch chainsaw sculptors in action and more…there are 13 activities in all.

Get cultured across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec

Culture Days, a nationwide festival of arts and culture, is taking place this year from September 30 to October 2. The slate of activities in and around Ottawa is amazingly diverse, from a Persian dance workshop in Nepean and a Nigerian storytelling and drumming session in the Hull sector of Gatineau to a visit with alpacas at a farm in Oxford Station, an art show in Burnstown and a “Ball for Fairy Godmothers and Ogres” in Cornwall. Use this search page to find activities happening near you. (The search page isn’t perfect; when I searched on my postal code, it suggested several activities in Kelowna, British Columbia! But most of the suggestions were useful.)

Enjoy some laughs in Prince Edward County

Tom Green is one of the biggest names on the bill at Comedy Country (September 28 to October 2), a comedy festival taking place across Prince Edward County this week. But if he isn’t your cup of tea, you have lots of other choices, including improv performances, comedy classes and a night featuring multiple standup comedians.

Meet artists in the Outaouais, Merrickville, Madawaska Valley, Haliburton and Vermont

The packed fall slate of artist studio tours has five events to tempt you this weekend, whether you’d like to stick close to home or make a weekend of it. All of them are taking place on October 1 and 2. You can check out the second weekends of the Chelsea Wakefield Studio Tour and the Merrickville Artists’ Guild Studio Tour and Sale, or explore the region between Eganville and Combermere on the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour. Further afield, there are the first weekends of the Haliburton County Studio Tour and the statewide Vermont Open Studio Weekend.

Enjoy bluegrass tunes in Spencerville


The Spencerville Mill and Museum is hosting a rousing evening of bluegrass music with Pat Moore and Maple Hill on Saturday, October 1. The video above gives you a taste of what’s in store that night!

Discover cutting-edge art in Toronto

Nuit Blanche returns to Toronto with another all-night cultural festival on Saturday, October 1. Artworks, installations and exhibitions run the gamut, from an outdoor sound installation on themes of recovery and wellness at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, to an interactive light installation featuring a “river of books” in front of Old City Hall. Some streets will be pedestrians-only for the event, and parts of the transit system will run all night. It’s the perfect festival for nighthawks and insomniacs.

Go buggy near Kingston

For every child who runs screaming from the yard when a wasp or beetle appears, there’s another bent on capturing the critter and seeing what makes it tick. If you have one of the latter in your family, this weekend’s Bug Safari at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area is just the ticket. On Saturday, October 1, from 2pm to 3:30pm, budding entomologists (see, we know some big words over here at Ottawa Road Trips!) can learn about, capture and release marsh insects of all sorts.

Want more tips on road trips from Ottawa—including info on hotel discounts, contests, festivals and other cool news? Subscribe to my free weekly e-newsletter! I will never spam you—promise.

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2 Responses to 24 weekend road trip ideas: Fests of all sorts, from film and log-building to comedy and literature!

  1. Shely September 28, 2016 at 6:03 am #

    Thank you for posting this weekly list promoting the region.

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