Why stay home when you can learn to make a train whistle or perfect your downward dog, shop for antiques or cheese, eat fried Oreos or watch a fashion show, or see leaping dogs or howl with wolves? All this, plus you can catch a free concert by Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies! Time to start planning this weekend’s road trip.
Ride in a caboose and see model trains in Smiths Falls
All aboard! The Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls is hosting Trainfest this weekend (August 26 and 27), with the chance to ride in a 1940s caboose on a vintage train (offered between 10:30am and 3pm on both days), watch a steam locomotive in action, make a train whistle, learn to use a telegraph, see model train layouts galore and more. A new addition to the festivities this year is Trainfest—Afterdark. Beginning at 7 pm in the Rideau Canal Visitors’ Centre theatre, you can enjoy railway-themed music and storytelling.
Check out a summer festival in Campbell’s Bay or L’Isle-aux-Allumettes
From a soap box derby and free wagon rides to bingo and glitter tattoos, there’s lots of fun on the schedule at the Campbell’s Bay Summer Festival (August 25 to 27). Live music, a men’s fastball tournament, youth ball hockey games, clowns, face-painting and more will keep things hopping all weekend.
Also in the western Outaouais, you can check out Islandfest in L’Isle-aux-Allumettes on Saturday, August 26. Highlights include a street dance, a vendors’ market, kids’ activities, a duck race and a concert by the Ramblin Valley Band.
Howl with the wolves at Bonnechere Provincial Park
Naturalist Mike Runtz is returning to Bonnechere Provincial Park on Saturday, August 26, to lead the park’s annual Wolf Howl. The evening begins with a multimedia presentation about eastern wolves at the park’s Davenport Centre, then everyone carpools to Basin Depot to hear Mike call to the wolves, hoping for an answer from the wilds.
Cheer for jumping dogs in Brockville
The concept behind dog dock jumping is pretty simple: Dog stands at shore end of dock. Handler stands at water end, dangling toy. Dog, predictably, bolts down dock—just as handler tosses toy over water. Dog leaps into air in hot pursuit, soaring over water. Splashdown. Cheering. Repeat with next dog. I had never heard of the Canine Watersports Canada Championships, and I’m actually more of a cat person, but this sounds like a total hoot. Just check out the video! The competition is coming to Brockville’s Hardy Park from August 25 to 27.
Hear classical music in gorgeous settings in Prince Edward County
You still have time to catch the last weekend of the lovely looking Classical Unbound Festival in Prince Edward County (until August 27). Concerts this weekend are taking place at Hillier Creek Estates Winery, the Grange of Prince Edward Winery and the Mount Tabor Theatre.
See a play in Bristol, Prescott or Gananoque
The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival presents its community play, Annie: The Musical, on August 25 and 26. The tale of the plucky red-haired orphan is a great favourite with families.
The Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque is presenting its take on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors from August 25 to September 16. And here’s a cool twist: the afternoon matinée on Sunday, September 3 is a “relaxed performance.” That means audience members can feel free to move around and make noise, which makes it ideal for people who are on the autism spectrum, who have breathing difficulties or who have a learning disability, for instance.
In Bristol, the Pontiac Community Players’ production of Hot Bed Hotel runs from August 23 to 26. The farce features a couple trying desperately to sell a flea-bit hotel in the Florida Keys.
Hear Steven Page for free in Ottawa
The Great Trail, a 24,000-kilometre path stretching across Canada, is finally finished after 25 years of construction, and hiking fans across the country are throwing parties to celebrate this weekend. In Ottawa, there’s a free event at Major’s Hill Park on Saturday, August 26, from 11am to 2pm. Headlining a diverse musical roster is Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies. While you’re at the park, you can also nibble on food truck goodies, browse for hiking shoes, learn about trail safety and get a free CLIF bar.
Communities across the country—including La Pêche, Sharbot Lake and Kaladar—are also holding special events. (The Canada-wide events listing is a bit hard to navigate. To find an event, click the “+” sign on the map until little tent icons start to appear. Click on an icon to find out more information about the event in that location. If you can’t see the whole pop-up window, click the rectangular “maximize” button at the top of the window.)
Immerse yourself in yoga and more at Tremblant
Yoga with celebrity teachers such as Seane Corn is one of the big attractions of the Wanderlust Tremblant festival (August 24 to 27), but it’s just one aspect of this freewheeling event. You can also join a meditation session, take a guided hike, learn about nutrition or photography, catch a concert, try hoop dancing, inhale some essential oils….the list of crunchy granola fun is long and diverse.
Enjoy mid-week music in Manotick
Can’t wait for the weekend to enjoy a getaway? Then head to Manotick on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to catch one the 5525 Music Series at Watson’s Mill (August 22 to 24). This week’s featured performers are Suzie Vinnick (Tuesday), Tyler Kealey (Wednesday) and Lynn Miles (Thursday).
Browse at antique and artisan shows in Merrickville
You get two shows for the price of one this weekend, when the Merrickville Antique Show and the Merrickville Artisan Show run concurrently (August 26 and 27). Shop for folk art, furniture, art glass, jewellery, dolls and much more.
Sample local foods in Ottawa, Chelsea and Munster
Attention, food lovers: the Outaouais Gourmet Festival is happening on Sunday, August 27, at Hendrick Farm in Chelsea. Enjoy tastings, family activities, chef demonstrations and more. Exhibitors—including Ferme Brylee, la Trappe à Fromage, la Confiserie Wakefield, Les Fougères and the Chelsea Pub—will be selling marmalade, cheese, beer, honey, chocolates and many other locally produced foods. Admission is free.
Also on Sunday, August 27, Saunders Farm in Munster is hosting one of its regular farm-to-table dinners, featuring local produce. The menu for this one includes five-spice roasted lamb, tandoori chicken, and fondue with chili-infused chocolate and salted cardamom caramel (that last item alone has my mouth watering).
Finally, all weekend long (August 25 to 27), you can indulge your love of all things carnivorous at Baconpalooza at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, featuring food trucks, cooking demonstrations, live music and more.
Put on your cowboy hat in Gracefield
The Festival Country-Western La Vieille Grange (August 23 to 27) comes to Gracefield, Quebec, this week with five days of music, horse competitions, bingo games and other western-themed events. Performers include Manon Bédard and Danie Daraîche.
Channel your inner Scot in Almonte
With almost two dozen pipe bands, athletes galore and a hundred dancers, the North Lanark Highland Games (Saturday, August 26) will bring a little bit of Scotland to Almonte this weekend. In between competitions and entertainment, you can nosh on Scottish food and shop for Celtic souvenirs, clothing and crafts.
Savour all things garlic in Cornwall
The Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival comes to the NAV Centre in Cornwall on Sunday, August 27. Enjoy foods laced with garlic, relax in the wine and beer garden, and drop by the corn roast, all with the backdrop of live music.
Kick back with the blues in Kingston
Four days of outdoor blues concerts for just $15 sounds like a pretty good deal to me. That’s the admission fee for the Limestone City Blues Festival in Kingston (August 24 to 27). Hear tunes by Blackburn, Dawn Tyler Watson, Carlos Del Junco and the Nick Moss Band, among others.
Check out fairs in Chesterville, Cobden, Riceville, Maberly, Mallorytown and Syracuse
The amusements at the Chesterville Fair (August 25 to 27) include a midway, tractor and truck pulls, a baby show, a demolition derby, and a petting zoo.
Meanwhile, at the Cobden Fair (August 25 to 27), you can enjoy another midway and demolition derby, along with a rabbit agility show, a roast beef dinner, a Beach Boys tribute band and more.
At the Riceville Fair (August 25 to 27), amusements include an excavator challenge (I’m intrigued), a motocross stunt show, a turkey supper, horse shows and an antique tractor pull.
Then there’s the Mallorytown Village Fair on Saturday, August 26, featuring clowns, artisans, a blacksmithing demonstration, free wagon rides and a public address by Sir John A. Macdonald (or someone claiming to be him!).
The Maberly Fair (Saturday, August 26) is also short but sweet. Competitors will vie for prizes in everything from equestrian skills to quilting.
Finally, Syracuse might seem to be a long way to drive for a fair, but don’t knock it until you’ve seen the New York State Fair (August 23 to September 4). This thing is massive. Check out the life-sized butter sculptures! Try your luck on a mechanical bull! Have chocolate-covered bacon for dinner and fried Oreos for dessert, all washed down with a wine slushie! I am not making any of this up!
Looking for more ideas? Check out my roundup of 20+ fabulous fairs.
Sample Palestinian culture in Ottawa
The fourth annual Ottawa Palestinian Festival (August 25 to 27) will transform the grounds of Ottawa City Hall into a Middle Eastern fair this weekend. Nosh on hummus and falafel, shop for spices and jewellery, get a henna tattoo, hear traditional and modern Palestinian music, and take in a fashion show.
Eat, drink and support a great cause near Perth
This year’s edition of Barns, Farms and Wicked Chefs (Saturday, August 26) showcases the talents of chefs from across Eastern Ontario. Buy a ticket and you too could be strolling from food station to food station in a pretty setting—EcoTay Farm, on the outskirts of Perth—while enjoying live music and sipping on drinks. Proceeds go to support The Table Community Food Centre.
See the latest fashions in Montreal
Fashionistas, rejoice: the Festival Mode & Design Montréal takes over the Quartier des spectacles for six busy days this week (August 21 to 26). Choose from roughly 30 fashion shows and talks featuring Canadian and international designers, some 40 pop-up shops and fashion trucks, and a busy schedule of live music, design installations, workshops and more.
See art in Vankleek Hill
Until September 3, the Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre in Vankleek Hill is hosting an exhibition called Studies After the Old Masters, featuring works by eight artists.
Say cheers in Ottawa
Ottawa’s Mill Street Brewery is presenting the Hopped and Confused Festival (August 25 and 26), featuring live music by the Trews, Yukon Blonde, Tokyo Police Club, Hollerado and more, along with 15 Mill Street beers on tap (including one brewed just for the festival) and food. The website is a bit confusing; you have to click on each date on the calendar icon separately to see information for that day.
See foreign films in Montreal
Do you like international cinema? Then the Montreal World Film Festival (August 24 to September 4) will be like Christmas in the summer for you. Movies in competition this year come from locales as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, China, Chile, Italy and Iraq.
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