32 road trip ideas: Pirates, garlic, classic cars, ghosts, fairs and a big rubber duck!

On the radio the other day, I heard someone saying that summer was almost over. Ha! If this week’s slate of festivals and fun is any indication, summer is still well and truly in swing. You can see a giant duck in Brockville, check out a bluegrass festival in Foresters Falls, see sheepdogs in Kingston, make like a pirate in Alexandria Bay or watch movies on the Diefenbunker’s roof—and those are just a few of this week’s road trip ideas. Enjoy!

P.S.: My apologies that this week’s post and newsletter are so late. In the last eight days, I’ve been to Tremblant, taken a food tour of Cumberland and spent two days in Lanark County, all to gather up information for future posts. It’s been a ton of fun, but as a result, I’m a bit off schedule. I’ll do my very best to get back on track next week!

Revel in ribs, railway lore, rebrobates and a rubber duck in Brockville

world's largest rubber duck

World’s largest rubber duck photo courtesy of the Rails to Trails Festival.

Things are going to be hopping in Brockville this weekend. The big news is that the world’s largest rubber duck is gliding onto Brockville’s waterfront for the Rails to Trails Festival (August 10 to 13). The big bird recently took Toronto by storm (crowds were so big that one Starbucks ran out of coffee—oh the horror!), so expect lots of rubberneckers (sorry) in Brockville, too. It’s just one of many highlights of the festival, which will also include the reopening of Canada’s first railway tunnel, shows by an early-20th-century style travelling carnival, a lumberjack show, a parade, and an interactive performance called Rhythm of the Nation by Indigenous street artist DJ Creeasian.

Also in Brockville this weekend, you can check out live music, free pony rides, a free petting zoo, arm wrestling contests and, for course, lots of tasty barbecue at the Brockville Ribfest (August 10 to 13). While you’re in town, you could also learn about a bank heist and other dark deeds during the Brockville’s Criminal Past walking tour. It’s available August 10 to 12, as well as each Friday night until September 1, at 4pm and 7pm. Reservations recommended.

Watch free movies under the stars in Carp

This sounds cool: The Diefenbunker is screening free outdoor movies on its roof this weekend. Catch Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on Friday, August 11, or The Iron Giant and Miracle on Saturday, August 12.

Sample craft beers in Manotick

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Lindsey G.

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Lindsey G.

Watson’s Mill in Manotick is holding a craft beer tasting on Friday, August 11, from 7pm to 10pm. Sip beers from local breweries while enjoying food catered by the Mill Tavern and tapping your toes to live music. Tickets are $45.

See cool cars in Gatineau and Round Lake Centre

The AutoShow Gatineau revs up in Parc des Cèdres in Aylmer this weekend (August 11 to 13). Owners of classic cars will be competing for prizes, but even non-gearheads can enjoy the festival’s live music, comedy show and other free amusements (yep, that’s right—there’s no admission fee). Food vendors will be on site to keep you fueled up.

On Sunday, August 13, the Round Lake Recreation Park in Round Lake Centre (north of Killaloe and Barry’s Bay) is hosting the Party in the Park from 10am to 2pm, featuring a classic car show, a flea market, kids’ activities, live music and more. Scroll down this events page for a link to the party’s poster.

Take tea with the Papineaus in Montebello

Historical re-enactors will help set the scene at the Manoir Papineau Garden Party. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

At the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site in Montebello, you can enjoy Garden Party: Entertaining with the Papineaus this weekend (August 12 and 13). Sample oolong teas with characters dressed in 19th-century costumes from the era of Louis-Joseph Papineau, take a workshop on Victorian etiquette, tour the estate’s gardens and more.

Watch for shooting stars at Charleston Lake Provincial Park

On Saturday, August 12, at Charleston Lake Provincial Park, you can observe the night sky through a telescope with astronomer Terence Dickinson. This is prime shooting star season, so hopes are high that it will be a great night of star gazing, if the weather cooperates.

Rock on to David Usher at Tremblant

Four-time Juno-winning singer David Usher, lead singer of Moist, is giving a free solo concert at Tremblant on Saturday, August 12.

Head to the fair in Navan or Williamstown

If you were a Canadian teenager in the 1980s, you probably spent at least a bit of your misspent youth listening to Honeymoon Suite on your local Top 40 station. If you want to relive those days, head to the Navan Fair (August 10 to 13), where the CanCon stars will be playing on Friday, August 11. But even if ’80s tunes aren’t your scene, there will be lots to see and do at the fair, including a midway, a softball tournament, a demolition derby, a truck and tractor pull, and a baby show. Heck, you can even learn about 18th-century musketry from the 78th Fraser Highlanders.

The Williamstown Fair (August 11 to 13) has staked a claim as Canada’s oldest fair. It celebrates its 206th anniversary with a talent show, highland games, a free corn roast, sheep shearing, a midway, live music, a kids’ tractor pull and much more.

Walk with ghosts at the Mackenzie King Estate

On Saturday nights from August 12 to August 26, as well as September 23 and September 30, ghost lovers can thrill to the Haunted Walk Experience, a ghoulish 90-minute tour through the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. Learn about the wartime prime minister’s fascination with all things supernatural.

Kick back to some bluegrass in Foresters Falls


The second annual Pick N Ride Bluegrass Festival comes to the Horse Country Campground and Wilderness Tours in Foresters Falls this weekend (August 10 to 13). Choose from a packed slate of bluegrass concerts, Indigenous performances, equestrian workshops and other fun. Your festival pass also gives you access to the beach, hot tub, pool and other amenities at Wilderness Tours’ riverfront resort.

Paddle the Ottawa River in Petawawa and Pembroke

Grab your canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard and head to Pembroke and Petawawa this weekend for the Upper Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival (August 11 to 13), which celebrates watery fun with kayak and SUP clinics, a paddling film festival, races, and all sorts of other activities.

Talk like a pirate in Alexandria Bay

Photo courtesy of the Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Photo courtesy of the Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Arrgh, mateys! It’s time once again for Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days in Alexandria Bay, New York (August 11 to 20). Bill Johnston was a St. Lawrence River pirate during the Patriot War. And what was the Patriot War, you ask? I’m a history buff and I had to look it up. It was an American war waged in sympathy with the 1837 rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada (the Battle of the Windmill near Prescott was part of it). Anyway, I digress. The festivities in Alexandria Bay include pirate skits, children’s crafts and games, a parade, wine tastings, and more.

Enjoy theatre in Perth, Gananoque or in Prince Edward County

Feeling classical? Barn Door Productions in Perth is staging Lysistrata, a 2,400-year-old comedy by the Greek playwright Aristophanes (August 11 to 20). It might be old, but the plot sounds ripe for a Hollywood update: Fed up with a 20-year war, Greek women stage a “sex strike” until the guys promise to lay down their arms and make peace.

In Gananoque, the Thousand Islands Playhouse has Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth, a moving comedy by Drew Hayden Taylor (August 11 to 26). It tells the story of an Indigenous woman, adopted by a white family, who comes back to her reserve for her birth mother’s funeral.

The Festival Players of Prince Edward County are presenting Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones from August 9 to September 3, under a tent in Wellington. The award-winning comedy-drama looks at the clash of cultures that happens when Hollywood movie makers descend on a small Irish community.

Learn about railway history in Barry’s Bay

The South of 60 Arts Centre in Barry's Bay.

The Railway Station/South of 60 Arts Centre in Barry’s Bay.

On Friday, August 11, you can learn about the 90-year history of trains in the Madawaska Valley during a one-hour walking tour of local railway heritage sites. Register in advance at, naturally enough, the Railway Station (Barry’s Bay’s combined visitor centre, art gallery and museum).

Enjoy music on an island near Kingston

This weekend, the Emerald Music Festival (August 11  to 13) entices music lovers to hop the ferry to Amherst Island, between Kingston and Napanee. The Good Brothers are the headliners at this family- and pet-friendly event, which highlights country, bluegrass, Celtic and ’50s tunes.

Browse for antiques in Odessa


Billing itself as Eastern Ontario’s largest such event held outdoors, the 28th annual Odessa Antique Show is on this weekend (August 12 and 13). More than 100 dealers, some from as far away as the Maritimes, try to tempt browsers with vintage housewares, textiles, china, glass and other goodies. The show will go on rain or shine.

Row, row, row your dragon boat in Cornwall

The Cornwall Waterfest (Saturday, August 12) is centred on the historic Old Cornwall Canal. Dragon boat races are the highlight, but you can also enjoy an artisans’ market and live music.

Shop for garlic goodies in Carp or Perth

garlic bulbs

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Julie Gibbons.

Vampires, beware: Not one, but two, garlic festivals are on the local agenda this weekend. At the Carp Farmers’ Market’s annual Garlic Festival (August 12 and 13), all kinds of garlic products will be on sale, including bulbs, spreads, dressings and more. Chefs will be whipping up garlic-accented dishes and experts will be giving garlic-growing tips. And once you’ve exhausted all the garlic options, you can check out the rest of the farmers’ market.

Meanwhile, the Perth Lions Garlic Festival (August 12 and 13) is marking its 20th anniversary with cooking demonstrations, beer and wine tastings, a birds of prey show, a garlic bread tasting, a silent art auction and more. You can even taste some garlic ice cream…if you dare. Hey—anything to keep away those vampires.

Step right up to the Vintage Carnival in Spencerville

Old-fashioned fun at old-fashioned prices ($5 a person!) is on the bill at the Vintage Carnival at the Spencerville Mill and Museum on Saturday, August 12. Face painters, sack races, live music and more will keep everyone amused.

See the world in Montreal and Sherbrooke


The Festival des Traditions du Monde de Sherbrooke (August 9 to 13) celebrates the cultures of the world with more than 100 dance and music shows on multiple stages—everything from Estonian rock and traditional Japanese music to Afro roots reggae, urban Latin music and modern Bollywood dance. You can also sample international food, check out theme pavilions and browse for international goods.

Closer to Ottawa, you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Asia and the Middle East at Montreal’s Festival Orientalys (August 10 to 13). The free event takes place in the Old Port of Montreal.

Sanskriti Arts, a dance troupe from Mississauga, is performing at both festivals (see video above).

Go to the dogs (and sheep) in Kingston

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by SheltieBoy.

I’ve always thought it cool that dogs can be trained to herd sheep. If you have, too, why not check out the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials Festival at Grass Creek Park this weekend (August 11 to 13)? As well as bringing your own dog to enjoy the canine lure course and play zone, you can also see K9 police dogs, watch spinners and weavers, shop for crafts and pet supplies, enjoy a pet fashion show, and—of course—see sheep dogs at work.

Get artsy in Ottawa or the Haliburton Highlands

Art lovers have three events to choose from this weekend. Here in town, Art on the Farm on Saturday, August 12 (rain date August 13) will feature artists selling their works under the trees at the Arboretum at the Central Experimental Farm. On Saturday, August 12, you can enjoy art while learning about social justice issues, when ACORN sponsors Art in the Park at McNabb Park on Percy Street. If you’re looking for a weekend-long road trip, check out the Highlands East Art Tour, a studio tour that runs this weekend and next (August 12 to 13, and August 19 to 20) in the Haliburton Highlands, between Bancroft and Haliburton.

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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4 Responses to 32 road trip ideas: Pirates, garlic, classic cars, ghosts, fairs and a big rubber duck!

  1. SoloSpirit August 10, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    Another good issue; there sure is a lot going on in Eastern Ontario! I’m glad to hear about the Ghost Walks at Mackenzie King Estate. I had not heard about this before and I went ahead and made plans to go. Thanks for the useful information!

    • Laura Byrne Paquet August 10, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

      Thanks–I’m glad you liked it! I thought those ghost walks might be right up your alley.

  2. Joan August 12, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    thanks for all the info….look forward to it every week!
    Went to see mama duck today !

    • Laura Byrne Paquet August 14, 2017 at 8:46 am #

      You’re most welcome! I hope you had fun seeing the big duck!

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