29 road trip ideas: Camping, purses, wine, hockey, car rallies, art, boats…and swans!

Jazz up your wardrobe, buy a new tent, groove to John Mayer, sample Ontario maple syrup or California wine, cheer on major-league baseball players or hockey-playing rock stars, catch a play, try your luck in a car rally, enjoy opera or theatre…or see a swan parade! With events in Montreal, Wakefield, Carleton Place, Brockville, Winchester and many more this weekend, it’s really feeling like spring is here. Wherever your travels take you, enjoy!

Shop for outdoor adventure gear in Ottawa

You can learn about oTENTiks—no-hassle tents with floors!—at the Parks Canada booth at the Outdoor and Adventure Travel Show. Photo courtesy of Parks Canada.

If you love hiking, camping, fishing and paddling, head to the EY Centre this weekend for the Outdoor and Adventure Travel Show (April 1 and 2). Browse for gear and take in presentations on everything from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding to marathon running and wildlife photography.

Shop for jewellery in Winchester or purses in Smiths Falls

Looking for some accessories to perk up your spring wardrobe? In Winchester on Saturday, April 1, you can browse for second-hand jewellery and support a worthy cause at the Spring Bling sale at the Winchester Old Town Hall. Proceeds will support Gloria’s Companion Trust, which matches visitors with residents who could use a friend at Dundas Manor Long Term Care Home.

On Sunday, April 2, in Smiths Falls, you can browse for gently used handbags at the Purse Event, which includes a sale, live and silent auctions, a draw and more. Funds raised from the annual event, organized by Tammy’s Nails, go toward Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Taste California wines in Ottawa

If you like California wines, here’s a great opportunity: the chance to sample a whole bunch of them, all in one place. The California Wine Fair is taking place at the Westin Ottawa on Friday, March 31 (the public tasting portion of the event runs from 7pm to 9:30pm).

Catch a play in Ottawa, Greely or Perth

Tom Sawyer Greely Players

Photo of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer courtesy of the Greely Players.

It’s a busy weekend for theatre. In Greely, the Greely Players are presenting The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (March 29 to April 2). This production of the Broadway musical, based on Mark Twain’s famous book, features a big cast—including, naturally enough, lots of talented local kids and teenagers.

In Perth, the Studio Theatre is staging Norm Foster’s charming and bittersweet romance, Wrong for Each Other (March 30 to April 9). It tells the tale of a divorced couple who relive their days together in flashback, after bumping into each other in a restaurant.

Relationships of a different sort are on stage in Plan B at Ottawa’s Gladstone Theatre (March 31 to April 8), playwright Michael Healey’s satirical take on Quebec separation, set in some unspecified future. Quebec has voted to leave Confederation and negotiations are proceeding, but things go a bit sideways when the federal finance minister and Quebec’s intergovernmental affairs minister start engaging in, well, an intergovernmental affair.

Enjoy maple fun in Vanier and across Eastern Ontario

The Sugar Festival at the Vanier Museopark (April 1 and 2) gives you the chance to explore Ottawa’s only urban sugar shack, but that’s just the beginning of the fun. There will also be zydeco music, storytellers, lumberjacks, a bouncy castle, buskers, birds of prey and all sorts of other amusements.

Choose from many types of maple syrup at Fortune Farms near Almonte. Photo by Simon Lunn courtesy of Lanark County Tourism.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association is holding its third annual Maple Weekend (April 1 and 2), with special events at sugarbushes, including lots in Eastern Ontario—a quick glance through the list of participating farms includes spots in Chesterville, Hammond, Moose Creek, Clayton, Almonte, Athens, Frankville, Killaloe, Pembroke and many more.

Visit artists in and around Pakenham

The studio tour season kicks off this weekend with the Pakenham Maple Run Tour (April 1 and 2), which gives you the chance to visit some 30 artists in their studios and shop for paintings, jewellery, pottery, photography and more.

Watch rockers and NHL stars play hockey in Ottawa

The Juno Cup: Rock vs. Jock is a one-of-a-kind hockey game coming to TD Place at Lansdowne Park on Friday, March 31. For $20 a ticket, you can see NHL stars such as Daniel Alfredsson, Paul Coffey and Gary Roberts face off against members of Blue Rodeo, Billy Talent, the Strumbellas and more. Money raised goes to MusiCounts, a Canadian music education charity.

Nosh your way around Prince Edward County

East & Main Bistro in Wellington is one of the restaurants participating in the spring edition of Countylicious. Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

Food lovers, start your engines: this weekend marks the beginning of Spring Countylicious (March 31 to April 23), a celebration of good food in Prince Edward County. Participating restaurants are offering prix fixe dinner menus for $40 per person, and various inns and B&Bs have deals, too. (I checked out the East & Main Bistro in Wellington during last year’s promotion and had a great time.)

Go out to the ball game in Montreal

It’s major league baseball time in Montreal! Wait a minute, don’t jump to conclusions; the Expos aren’t coming back (as far as I know). But you can take in two pre-season games between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Olympic Stadium on March 31 and April 1.

Hear Alexandre Trudeau talk about documentaries in Brockville

Documentary-maker Alexandre (Sasha) Trudeau will be talking about his experience making a documentary in China at the Aquatarium in Brockville on Tuesday, April 4. It’s a joint presentation of the Aquatarium and the Brockville Public Library.

Compete in a car rally in Cornwall or Chesterville

The Amazing Rotary Rally in Cornwall (Saturday, April 1) sounds like an intriguing event: It combines a scavenger hunt with trivia, photography and a car rally. If you don’t have a car, no problem—teams choose the combination of activities they want to do to earn points, so you could pick ones you can get to on foot or by bike. The event is run by the Rotary Club of Cornwall Sunrise and starts at noon.

On the same day, the Chesterville and District Lions Club is holding it 28th annual Car Rally and Chicken BBQ. Registration starts at the Legion at 11am and the event starts at noon.

Enjoy opera in Prescott


At St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Prescott, the Fort Town Concert Association is presenting Jeunesses Musicales Canada’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata for one night only on Friday, March 31. Tickets are $30 (free for kids 12 and under).

Get your geek on in Ottawa

If you have passionate opinions on the relative virtues of Star Wars and Star Trek, or if you have a Batman costume in your closet, or if you know how to build a scale model of the TARDIS from Dr. Who out of Lego, then the Ottawa Geek Market at the Nepean Sportsplex (March 31 to April 2) will be right up your alley. Try your luck in the Escape Room, enjoy a scavenger hunt, compete in a costume contest, or shop for gaming gear, anime or steampunk items. There are kids’ activities, too!

See local art in Carleton Place

On Thursday, March 30, the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum is holding an opening reception for Happy Birthday Canada, a show of works by local artists that will run until April 16. It’s part of the town’s Canada 150 celebrations.

Browse for vintage treasures in Ottawa

Sean George Pressed Glass, Goblets & Vintage Glass will be bringing to the Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market.

Here’s a sample of the products Sean George Pressed Glass, Goblets and Vintage Glass will be bringing to the Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market. Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market.⠀

Vintage quilts, estate jewellery, Depression glass, 1950s prom dresses, Danish modern end tables, Persian rugs, old shoes, well-loved Nancy Drew books…that’s just a sample of what you might (or might not) find at the Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market, which comes to the Fieldhouse at Carleton University this weekend (April 1 and 2). Like any antiques show, it’s a treasure hunt, with the best finds going to the most eagle-eyed shoppers.

Enjoy live music in Westport, Calabogie, Wakefield and Montreal

Kemptville folk/rocker John Wilberforce plays the Cove Country Inn in Westport on Friday, March 31. The same night, Renfrew-based Bahoo, Brat and the Commander bring their retro show (promising everything from ABBA to Zeppelin) to the Valley Food and Drink Company in Calabogie, and St. Stephen’s—pop/folk rockers from Chelsea—play Kaffe 1870 in Wakefield.

On Saturday, April 1, two big names are coming to Montreal: singer-songwriter John Mayer and ’60s British Invasion band The Zombies.

See off-the-radar Irish movies in Ottawa

Movies on the program for the Irish Film Festival Ottawa (March 31 to April 2) include everything from the story of a woman trying to find a wedding date shortly after getting out of prison, to a film about avant-garde dance in 1940s Dublin.

See a swan parade in Stratford

Photo courtesy of the Stratford Tourism Alliance.

Sure, it’s a six-hour drive from Ottawa. But…it’s a Swan Parade! Isn’t that worth a trip to Stratford? I mean, just look at these guys. They’re cute enough to wrest control of the Internet from kittens, at least temporarily. They hit the road in Stratford during Swan Weekend (April 1 and 2), a family-oriented festival that culminates with the Swan Parade on Sunday. That’s when the birds waddle from their winter quarters to the Avon River, led by a pipe-and-drum band.

Get a lone hand in Spencerville

OK, I can’t guarantee you’ll get a lone hand. But if you go to the Spencerville Fair/Spencerville Agricultural society euchre fundraiser on Friday, March 31, you’ll at least have a shot at one—and you’ll be supporting a good cause, too.

Ogle new boats in New York state

Yeah, a boat is a bit of a big purchase to haul across the border. However, if you just want to window shop and get ideas for the season ahead, the Great Upstate Boat Show is on this weekend (March 31 to April 2) in Queensbury, New York. That’s about four-and-a-half hours from Ottawa, just south of Lake George.

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 29 road trip ideas: Camping, purses, wine, hockey, car rallies, art, boats…and swans!

  1. Lucie March 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    What’s with the caves and dragons in your first sentence. I love dragons.

  2. Laura Byrne Paquet March 28, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    You had me confused for a minute—the reference to caves and dragons was in my newsletter, not in this post! The dragon is coming to Ottawa this summer. Here the info. http://www.ottawa2017.ca/events/signature-events/la-machine/

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