23 road trip ideas, from maple syrup and mustard to golf, gardens and theatre

Spring is coming—really! And you can get ready with gardening events in Kingston, Brockville and Toronto, or a golf show in Ottawa. I also have the scoop on maple syrup events, St. Patrick’s Day parades and parties, a cool art-and-food festival in Montreal, culinary fun in Merrickville and Ottawa, and a celebration of francophone culture in Gatineau. Wherever you travel, drive safely and have fun!

Learn about food from Mrs. McGarrigle’s owner in Merrickville

Mmmm….Mrs. McGarrigle’s Merrickville mustards. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Janet Campbell, owner of the popular Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustard and food shop, is giving a talk in Merrickville on Thursday, March 9, about her life in the culinary world. The evening, sponsored by the Merrickville Artists’ Guild, starts at 7:30pm at the Sidecar Café.

Go mad for maple in McDonald’s Corners, Pakenham and Kingston

Conveniently, maple syrup season dovetails nicely with March Break next week, and things get rolling this weekend. Give the kids (and yourself) a breath of fresh country air with special sugar bush events. The March Break fun at Wheeler’s Pancake House in McDonald’s Corners (March 11 to 19) includes storytellers and chances to pet barnyard animals. Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush in Pakenham is hosting March Break Sugar Bush Magic (March 11 to 19) with outdoor activities, live music, and theme days such as Pyjama Day and Pirate Day. Wagon rides and pancakes are on the menu during Maple Madness at the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area in Kingston (March 11 to 19, March 25–26 and April 1–2).

Revel in the last week of Montréal en Lumière

Montréal en Lumière is a 17-day festival of food, music, art and more. I visited last weekend and enjoyed everything from dishes created by a celebrated chef from Lyon to illuminated artworks that appeared to clamber over a major downtown building. It’s worth the drive, and you can catch the last week of the festival until Saturday, March 11.

Get your golf fix in Ottawa

golf clubs

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Susanne Nilsson.

Can’t wait till the snow melts and you can yell Fore? Then head to the Ottawa-Gatineau Golf Expo at the EY Centre (March 10 and 11) to browse for golf gear of all sorts, try a golf simulator, or plan a golf vacation to destinations as diverse as P.E.I. and Cuba.

Get a jump on St. Patrick’s Day in Douglas, Dacre, Cobden or Pembroke…

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Douglas takes to the roads of the Ottawa Valley village on Saturday, March 11, starting at 1pm. That afternoon in nearby Dacre, there will be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with live music, starting at 2pm.

The Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum is kicking off its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with an Irish stew family luncheon on Sunday, March 12. Enjoy traditional tunes as you nosh on stew and soda bread, then check out the museum’s newest exhibition, May the Road Rise Up to Meet You: A History of the Ottawa Valley Irish. The show opens that day and runs until May 28.

And the Pembroke Knights of Columbus Dramatic Club is presenting its annual Irish play, You Can’t Beat the Irish, at the Knights of Columbus Hall at various times from Sunday, March 12, to Friday, March 17.

…or celebrate all things Irish right here in Ottawa

Ottawa St Patrick's Parade

An alternative to OC Transpo? Maybe! Flickr/Creative Commons photo of Ottawa’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade by Michelle Tribe.

The Ottawa Irish Festival starts on Thursday, March 9, with a proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson, and continues with lots of music, a fundraising dinner, a literary event and more. One of the busiest days is Saturday, March 11: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at 11am at City Hall and makes its way down Bank Street to Lansdowne Park, where Beau’s is throwing a St. Patrick’s Day Party from noon to 11pm. The festival runs until March 14.

Enjoy an Ontario-set drama in Brockville

The Brockville Theatre Guild is presenting the Canadian drama The Drawer Boy at St. John’s United Church from March 9 to 12. Set in 1972, it tells the story of two farmer brothers in southern Ontario, whose lives were changed forever when the bombing of London in the Second World War permanently damaged one brother’s memory. An actor visiting from Toronto teases out their life story, bit by bit. Here’s a bit more background on the award-winning play.

See Lumina Borealis in Kingston

Photo courtesy of Lumina Borealis.

It seems people can’t get enough of Lumina Borealis, the after-dark multimedia show at Fort Henry in Kingston. Did you miss it earlier this year? No worries—it’s back for a return engagement, from March 10 to 18.

Immerse yourself in francophone culture in Gatineau

In Gatineau, la Francofête Outaouais (March 9 to 26) showcases francophone artists from multiple disciplines, including music, visual art and theatre. You’ll find a huge range of creative events, from a group of seven artists performing the songs of Edith Piaf to an installation of metal artworks. (Website is in French.)

Catch this play (if you can) in Ottawa

A rehearsal photo (without sets or costumes) from Orpheus' upcoming production of Catch Me If You Can. Photo courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre Society.

A rehearsal photo (without sets or costumes) from Orpheus’ upcoming production of Catch Me If You Can. Photo courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre Society.

Do you love a charming rogue? Then Orpheus Musical Theatre Society’s production of Catch Me If You Can: The Musical (March 10 to 19) at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre may be just your thing. If you’ve seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, you’ll be familiar with the tale of a con artist who poses as an airline pilot, a doctor and (ironically) a lawyer, with the authorities hot on his trail.

Get seeds and gardening tips in Brockville, Kingston and Toronto

In case you’ve missed earlier Seedy Saturday and Seedy Sunday events, here are two more chances to exchange seeds and gardening tips: Brockville’s Seedy Saturday, taking place from 11am to 1pm on March 11 at the Brockville Memorial Centre; and Kingston’s Seedy Saturday, happening the same day at Loyalist Collegiate Vocational Institute (10am to 3pm). Also in Kingston, the city’s greenhouse is hosting an open house on Sunday, March 12, where you can wander among tulips, hyacinths and daffodils.

Fantasy garden built by OGS Landscape Services. Photo by David Ohashi.

Canada Blooms fantasy garden built by OGS Landscape Services. Photo by David Ohashi.

Then there’s the granddaddy of Canadian garden shows. At Canada Blooms (March 10 to 19), a huge consumer show at Toronto’s Enercare Centre (Exhibition Place), you can tour fantasy gardens created by landscape architects, relax in a wine garden, and choose from over 100 hours of gardening and floral seminars presented by gardening experts such as Mark Cullen and Tara Nolan. The plant and product showcase will feature the latest equipment and plant varieties. The show runs in the same venue on the same dates as the National Home Show (see below).

Channel your inner Mike Holmes at the National Home Show in Toronto

With exhibitors focusing on everything from kitchens and kids’ rooms to renovations and smart home technology, the National Home Show in Toronto (March 10 to 19) offers something for anyone who has ever spent a Saturday afternoon absorbed in HGTV. There are also seminars galore and the always-popular Future Dream Home.

Admire model trains in Kingston

The Kingston Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association is holding Rail O Rama, a model train show and sale, at the Ambassador Hotel in Kingston on March 11 and 12. Visitors can check out model railroad layouts, and buy model train pieces, DVDs, books and railroad memorabilia.

Tour tasty spots in the ByWard Market

C’est Bon Cooking is offering a food tour of the ByWard Market on Saturday, March 11, starting at 1pm. The 2.5-hour tour includes stops at Play Food & Wine, the Cupcake Lounge and other popular gourmet spots on the western side of the Market. Advance reservations required.

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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