24 road trip ideas: Sunflowers, buskers, fireworks and Cirque du Soleil!

Have you recovered from the invasion of Kumo and Long Ma during last weekend’s amazing La Machine event? I hope so, because I’ve got lots more fun for you to check out this weekend, including the Glengarry Highland Games, Osheaga in Montreal, a garden tour in the Pontiac, a street festival in Carleton Place and a brewfest in Plattsburgh. Happy travels!

See Cirque du Soleil in Gatineau


Acrobats. Contortionists. Ethereal costumes and moody lighting. If VOLTA is like its Cirque du Soleil predecessors, it will be a memorable night under the big top on the Zibi site (just off the Booth Street bridge as you come into Gatineau). The show runs from August 3 to 27.

See art in the Pontiac, Haliburton or Vermont

Art lovers are in luck this weekend, with three events to choose from. Close to home, the Pontiac Gardens and Gifts Tour (August 5 and 6) features six gardens in the scenic western Outaouais, and you can shop for crafts, books and cards along the way.

Further afield, the Tour de Forest (August 5 and 6) showcases 27 artists and 16 studios in and around Haliburton, Ontario.

It’s a bit of a road trip to the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival (August 4 to 6), but with close to 200 exhibitors, it might be worth the trip. It’s part of the larger Bennington Arts Weekend.

Tiptoe among the sunflowers in Frankville

Sunflowers at Kricklewood Farm in Frankville, Ontario.

Photo courtesy of Kricklewood Farm.

Did you know this is the high point of sunflower season? Well, now you do. And this week, you can admire the giant flowers at the Kricklewood Farm Sunflower Festival on Sunday, August 6, from 11am to 4pm. That’s just the start of the fun; you can also taste dishes featuring sunflower oil, nosh on barbecued goodies, shop in an artisans’ market, pet baby goats or try your luck at a silent auction. Proceeds from the event in Frankville, between Smiths Falls and Brockville, will benefit Mel’s Farm All-Animal Rescue.

Remember Crocodile Rock in Brockville


Do you know all the words to “Pinball Wizard”? Do you own a collection of spectacular specs? Then you might want to make your way to Brockville for Elton: The Ultimate Tribute to Elton John at the Brockville Arts Centre (August 2 and 3).

Enjoy Aboriginal culture in Montreal

The 27th annual Montreal First Peoples Festival (August 2 to 9) features a big slate of performances and presentations by Aboriginal filmmakers, musicians, visual artists, storytellers, street performers and many others. For instance, there are two concerts by Silla + Rise, and screenings of films from Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Finland and elsewhere.

Race through obstacles in Calabogie

Photo of a Spartan race in Vancouver

Photo of a Spartan race in Vancouver courtesy of www.IcebreakConsulting.com.

Are you tough enough to tackle more than 20 obstacles—everything from mud and rope to barbed wire and fire—as you run through a 5- to 16-kilometre course? Then the Spartan race weekend at Calabogie Peaks Resort (August 5 and 6) will be just your cup of muscle aches. You can choose from races of different lengths for racers of different abilities, and there are separate races with pint-sized obstacles for kids. (I’m assuming no fire and wire on those ones!)

Try new-to-you beers in Plattsburgh

The third annual Plattsburgh Brewfest (Saturday, August 5) features more than 40 breweries, wineries, cider makers and food vendors from New York state and Vermont. It takes place at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Plattsburgh, New York, overlooking Lake Champlain. You can bring your RV, and designated driver tickets are available.

Shop, shop, shop in Carleton Place and Kingston

Bridge Street Summerfest Carleton Place

Photo of the Bridge Street Summer Fest courtesy of the Downtown Carleton Place BIA.

The Bridge Street Summer Fest (formerly the Bridge Street Bazaar) will keep things lively in downtown Carleton Place on Saturday, August 5. You can enjoy everything from an artisan market and boutique shopping to a log-lifting competition, kids’ activities, a Beatles tribute and a beer garden.

In Kingston, the Princess Street Promenade is a giant street fair/sidewalk sale along the Limestone City’s main shopping street, also on Saturday, August 5. Come for the sales, stay for the family fun!

Delight in buskers’ antics on the Sparks Street Mall

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa International Buskerfest.

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa International Buskerfest.

The Ottawa International Buskerfest will light up Sparks Street throughout the long weekend (August 3 to 7). Scores of jugglers, unicyclists, aerialists, comics, escape artists, fire dancers and more from around the world will amuse the crowds.

Take in a country fair in Lombardy

The Lombardy Fair (August 4 to 7) is a year older than Canada—the event is celebrating its 151st anniversary this year. Equestrian competitions, a demolition derby, tractor and truck pulls, and a baby show are among the attractions.

Commune with the flowers at the Mackenzie King Estate

The annual Estate in Bloom event returns to the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park this weekend (August 5 to 7). Designed to appeal to gardeners and history buffs alike, it features garden tours, a photography workshop, demonstrations on beekeeping and edible flowers, old-fashioned lawn games, and more.

Channel your inner Scot in Maxville

 Soldiers with The Black Watch (Royal Highland) Regiment of Canada, pulling against the competition for the Highland Regiments tug-of-war trophy at the 2014 Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Jamie McCaffrey.

Soldiers with The Black Watch (Royal Highland) Regiment of Canada, pulling against the competition for the Highland Regiments tug-of-war trophy at the 2014 Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Jamie McCaffrey.

Pipe bands! Caber tossing! A whisky tasting! Fiddlers, dancers and hammer throwers! And men in kilts! What else could it be but the 70th annual Glengarry Highland Games? This festival of all things Scottish pretty much takes over tiny Maxville, north of Cornwall, this weekend (August 4 and 5). There’s also a kids’ fun area, a British car display, a harp workshop, a rugby tournament and more.

Rev your engines in Brockville

The 1000 Islands Street Machine Association is presenting the 31st annual Automotion poker run (Saturday, August 5) and car show (Sunday, August 6) in Brockville this weekend. As their slogan goes, you’ll see “everything from custom creations to extreme modifications.”

Rock on in Montreal

Lorde, Liam Gallagher, Broken Social Scene, Arkells, The Weeknd and Alabama Shakes are just a few of the many, many acts on stage at the 12th annual Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal (August 4 to 6). In a city of festivals, this is one of the biggest.

Chow down at Capital Ribfest

Bring your appetite to Festival Plaza at Ottawa City Hall this weekend, when the chefs at Capital Ribfest (August 3 to 7) will be serving up ribs of all sorts in all their messy, delicious glory. If ribs aren’t your thing, lots of other sorts of food will be available, too. You can nibble while kicking back to a packed slate of live music, including a Tragically Hip tribute band.

Admire vintage boats in Clayton, New York


One of the year’s biggest events in the 1000 Islands rolls out this weekend on the American side of the St. Lawrence River. The 53rd annual Antique Boat Show and Auction will draw fans of classic watercraft to Clayton, New York, to admire, dream and buy (August 4 to 6). The video above tells you a bit more about the museum.

Shop for bargains in Wendover

The Ultra Garage Sale in Wendover (Saturday, August 5) is a fundraiser for the effort to save the Jessup’s Falls Escarpment. If you want get a jump on your fellow bargain hunters, come early; doors open at 7:30am.

Nibble on food truck fare in Ottawa

Street Food Social food trucks, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is holding a Street Food Social at Cancer Survivors Park on Sunday, August 6. Nine food trucks will be on hand, with chefs serving up everything from Peruvian food to Italian-style gelato, and 10% of sales go to the foundation. Parking may be tight, so the organizers suggest taking the bus to nearby Hurdman station.

Learn to fish at Bon Echo

The Learn to Fish sessions at Bon Echo Provincial Park (August 5 and 6) will teach participants the basics of casting a line and reeling in a big (or little) one. Sign up at the visitor centre to snag one of the 40 rods available for kids.

Thrill to fireworks in Gatineau

Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light show in 2015. Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light show in 2015. Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

A bit confusingly, the Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light fireworks event (August 5 to 19) doesn’t happen at the casino at all. Instead, spectators gather on the grounds of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau to watch the pyrotechnics explode over the Ottawa River and the Ottawa skyline. This year, competitors from across Canada will synchronize their fireworks to a wide range of musical scores, from classical to pop. Shows take place on August 5, 9, 12, 16 and 19.

Enjoy stuffed potatoes in the Byward Market

Get a head start on the weekend by dropping by Potato Fest in the Byward Market on Thursday, August 3, from 11am to 2pm. Buy a $5 potato stuffed with cheese, chives and other fresh ingredients, and support the Ottawa Mission. (If it rains, the event will be postponed until August 4.)

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.

Are you promoting an upcoming event you’d like to see in a future weekly road trip roundup? Please email me the details at least two weeks in advance of the event, and I’ll add them to my files. If you have a horizontal photo or two I could use, even better. Thanks!

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