17 road trip ideas: Comedy, jazz, theatre, shopping, wine, cheese and Blue Rodeo!

See Ron James or Blue Rodeo. Shop for honey or garden seeds. Go tobogganing or “chicken bowling” (your guess is as good as mine). Ski across a good chunk of Quebec or through Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. Head to Merrickville or Montreal, Kemptville or Kingston, or stay here in town. And wherever you go, enjoy!

Shop for local products in Merrickville

The first-ever Merrickville Winter Makers’ Market is taking place in the village’s community centre at 106 Read Street on Saturday, February 11. Some 40 vendors from Merrickville and beyond will be selling honey, pottery, books and all sorts of other goodies. If shopping makes you hungry, there will be tapas to nibble on, too.

Laugh at a comedy festival in Ottawa

Canadian comic comedian standup Ron James

Photo courtesy of Ron James.

Laugh for a good cause! The Alterna Savings Crackup comedy festival (February 7 to 18) brings top comic talent to TD Place at Lansdowne Park and raises money to improve mental health services in the Ottawa region. Headliners include Ron James, Mary Walsh and Jeremy Hotz.

Delve into art and classical music in Kingston

On the second Sunday of every month, from September through April, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston presents an afternoon of music and art. This month’s event, on February 12, combines music by the Badass Brahms Chamber Collective (love the name) with a talk about the museum’s current show, Stories to Tell: Africans and the Diaspora Respond to the Lang Collection.

Celebrate winter in Chesterville, Kemptville, Hammond and Rockport

Haven’t had your fill of winter carnivals yet? Then check out the fun this weekend at the Chesterville Winter Carnival (February 10 to 12), including dances, a firemen’s breakfast, a silent auction and a hockey tournament.

Also this weekend, eQuinelle’s Golf and Resident Club in Kemptville is hosting a Valentine’s Carnival from noon to 3pm on Sunday, February 12. A barbecue, face painting, wagon rides, musical entertainment and more are on the agenda, and admission is free.

East of Ottawa, the Hammond Winter Carnival (February 8 to 12) features darts, broomball, a parade and an illusionist, among other amusements.

In the 1000 Islands, Rockport is also hosting five days (February 8 to 12) of frosty fun—everything from a spaghetti supper and toboggan races to something called “chicken bowling” during the Rockport Winter Carnival.

Ski from Lachute to Gatineau…


Okay, you don’t have to ski the entire 160 kilometres! You can pick one or more of the 16km sections of the Canadian Ski Marathon (February 10 to 12), put on your cross-country skis and hit the trail to join others in what the organizers bill as “North America’s longest and oldest Nordic ski tour.” They also note that it’s not a race; it’s designed to get people of all ages out on the trails.

…or ski in Murphy’s Point Provincial Park

Hurry if you want to try this one; registration for the Tay Valley Loppet 2017 closes on Friday, February 10. The event itself takes place on Sunday, February 12, at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park near Perth. It features 2.5km, 5km, 10km and 20km events, and you get a reward of hot food after your exertions.

Get gardening inspiration in Almonte or Montreal

Swap your extra seeds for new seeds, or buy new seeds, and chat with gardeners of all sorts at Almonte Seedy Saturday, taking place on February 11 at the Almonte Civitan Hall. Further afield, the Montreal Botanical Garden is holding an entire Seedy Weekend (February 10 to 12).

Enjoy theatre in Kingston and Ottawa


Infinity is an intense, thought-provoking play by Ottawa-raised playwright Hannah Moscovitch about a mathematician named Sarah-Jean Greene, who is trying to apply science to understand her inner emotional life. The play blends elements of physics with original violin music. This Volcano Theatre (Toronto) production is at the Grand Theatre in Kingston this week (February 7 to 12), and it comes to Ottawa’s National Arts Centre from February 28 to March 11.

From February 9 to 18, the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa is presenting Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley’s Pulitzer-winning play about three Mississippi sisters and their often-funny efforts to move on from a troubling past. Bring your sister and she gets in for half price.

Fans of original contemporary theatre can also check out Undercurrents (February 8 to 18), a winter festival produced by Ottawa Fringe and featuring original plays by artists from Ottawa and beyond. Choices include a one-man show about twins dreaming of music stardom called Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera; the world premiere of Un-Countried, about two hapless border guards dealing with the fall of the Berlin Wall; and Faster Than the Speed of Dating, a comedy about—you guessed it—speed dating.

Get jazzy in Ottawa

The Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival (February 9 to 12) is offering a diverse roster of shows at La Nouvelle Scène—everything from a tribute to Prince featuring a range of local artists to an evening of Afro-Cuban jazz with Jane Bunnett, the Miguel de Armas Quartet and Amado Dedeu Garcia.

Catch Blue Rodeo in Kingston, Montreal or Ottawa

Photo of Blue Rodeo by Dustin Rabin.

Would you be “Head Over Heels” to see Blue Rodeo in concert? Then you should “Try” to get to Montreal on Wednesday, February 8, Kingston on Thursday, February 9, or the NAC in Ottawa on Saturday, February 18—all dates on the band’s 1000 Arms tour.

Sample wine and cheese in the Finger Lakes

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail is hosting two Preferred Pairings days—one on Saturday, February 11, and the other on Saturday, March 11. Each day features small events where participating wineries’ vintages will be paired with Finger Lakes cheeses. Advance tickets for the February Preferred Pairings are on sale until Wednesday, February 8.

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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