24 road trip ideas: Fairs, mojitos, rockabilly and hot air balloons!

Summer isn’t over yet! Here are two dozen ways to say goodbye to the season in style, from family fun at the Mackenzie King Estate and rockabilly concerts in Brockville to food fests in Montreal and the Eastern Townships, and the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. (Yes, I know summer doesn’t officially end until September 22, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees Labour Day as the grand finale.)

Have a horsey weekend in Morrisburg

Horse-drawn wagon with couple in 1860s costumes at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario, during Horse Lovers' Weekend.

Horse Lovers’ Weekend is one of Upper Canada Village’s most popular annual events. Photo courtesy of Upper Canada Village.

Horse Lovers’ Weekend at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg (September 2 to 4) showcases horses and riding techniques of all descriptions. On Saturday, Lindsey Partridge will demonstrate Harmony Horsemanship techniques with her thoroughbreds and her quarter horse, Dreamer (Lindsey and Dreamer appeared in the movie Unbridled and in the related YouTube video, Dreamer’s Day Out in New York City.) Several other equine specialists will be giving demonstrations throughout the weekend.

You can see draft horses, riding horses, carriage horses, and miniature horses, and try your luck in a mock 1860s horse auction. Horse-drawn wagon and boat rides, drag saw demonstrations, and more are free with admission. This is one of Upper Canada Village’s most popular events of the year, so you’ll probably want to buy your tickets in advance.

Catch a concert at Tremblant

The hills of Mont Tremblant will be alive with the sound of music this weekend during La Fête de la Musique de Tremblant (September 1 to 4). Concerts will range across Canadian and international musical genres, from Celtic and Spanish music to Inuit throat singing and accordion versions of Bach. Choose from more than 30 performances on stages across Tremblant, all for free.

Enjoy corn, ice cream and history in Chute-à-Blondeau

The Macdonell-Williamson House in Chute-à-Blondeau is seeing the season out in style with a Summer Finale Day on Sunday, September 3. Check out the garage sale, then enjoy a corn boil and homemade ice cream. Leave time to explore the house, built in 1817 and now a National Historic Site.

Fly high at the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival

The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival can look like a children’s cartoon come to life. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

To me, the Labour Day weekend is a bit magical: it’s the one weekend of the year I can look up and be almost guaranteed to see something like a giant ice cream cone or a large pink elephant drifting overhead. Yes, this weekend you can catch the 30th annual Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (August 31 to September 4) at Parc de la Baie. If you want to enjoy a balloon ride, book ahead and be prepared to arrive at the crack of dawn (afternoon flights are available, too, but the weather can be trickier at that time of day). Throughout the weekend, you can enjoy everything from inflatable play structures and a big midway to live entertainment and a classic car show.

Find one-of-a-kind items in Maberly and Ste-Agathe-des-Monts

The Sundance Artisan Show (September 2 to 4) is a juried show held behind the Fall River Restaurant in Maberly, southwest of Perth. Browse for pottery, woodworking items, jewellery, stained glass, encaustic paintings and more, and enjoy special dishes from Fall River, along with Perth Brewery beers and Ontario wines.

In the Laurentians, L’été des Métiers d’art (September 2 to 4) in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts is a show and sale of jewellery, clothing, mosaics and other products by 16 selected Quebec artisans. Live violin and guitar music, and catering by a local bistro, will add to the creative vibe. (Website is in French.)

View thought-provoking art at the Central Experimental Farm

White frame surrounding sculpture in garden. Bee Haven by Engelina Schmitz with Canada Council Art Bank sculpture. Photo courtesy of Beyond the Edge: Artists' Gardens.

Bee Haven by Engelina Schmitz with Peter Kolisnyk’s Canada Council Art Bank sculpture, Ground Outline. Photo courtesy of Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens.

You have until Sunday, September 17, to see Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens at the Central Experimental Farm. This art project, first mounted in 2014 and since expanded, is inspired by the combination of rural and urban forms that exists at the farm. (How often do you see apartment blocks towering above fields of corn, after all?) The eight-acre site includes outdoor works created to respond to sculptures borrowed from the Canada Council Art Bank. Admission is free.

Bring the kids to the Mackenzie King Estate

Face painting at the Mackenzie King Estate

Photo courtesy of the Mackenzie King Estate/National Capital Commission.

There’s lots of free fun on the agenda at the Mackenzie King Estate Family Event this weekend (September 2 to 4), including blacksmithing demonstrations, face painting, horse and carriage rides, chocolate tastings, and old-fashioned lawn games, such as croquet and badminton. Activities are free but there is a per-car access fee.

Get your music fix in Brockville

The Red, Hot and Blue Rockabilly Weekend (August 31 to September 3) features four days of live rockabilly music in Brockville, along with a fashion show, a vintage market, a boat cruise and more. While you’re in town, perhaps you could catch The Legend in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at the Brockville Arts Centre (August 30 and 31).

Tap your toes to fiddlers and step dancers in Pembroke

five fiddles (violins) on a carpet

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Joseph Brent.

Want to see some impressive musicianship and dancing—possibly by the same person at the same time? Then the Pembroke Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championships (September 1 and 2) will be just your cup of tea. Over $20,000 in prize money and trophies are on the table, so the competition—in age groups ranging from “9 and under” to “65 and over”—will likely be fierce.

Eat, drink and be merry at an Eastern Townships festival

The Fête des Vendanges in Magog (September 2 to 4, and September 9 and 10) offers culinary demonstrations by Eastern Townships chefs, food and wine tastings, food trucks, yoga, and more, all on the shore of Lake Memphrémagog.

Learn to fish at Bonnechere

Ever wanted to learn how to cast a line and reel one in? Then check out the Learn to Fish sessions at Bonnechere Provincial Park on Friday, September 1.

Dance to a Cuban beat in Saint-Sauveur

four mojitos

Flickr/Creative Commons photo of mojitos by Michael Budde.

Saint-Sauveur will be moving to a Caribbean beat this weekend during L’Auténtica Fiesta Cubana (September 1 to 4). Sip a mojito or a Cuba libre, test your salsa-dancing skills, or just kick back and enjoy the music. (Website is in French.)

Nosh your way across the Old Port of Montreal

Old Montreal is hosting three days of fun for food lovers during the YUL EAT festival (September 2 to 4). Amusements include a kids’ zone, a farmers’ market, food trucks, wine and beer tastings, and a waiters’ race.

Go mountain biking in the Adirondacks

The first-ever Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival will take keen mountain bikers along forest trails in the Adirondacks this weekend (September 1 to 3). As well as hurtling down more than 40 kilometres of trails in group rides and races for all levels (including a kids’ race), you can check out bike demos, camp, and enjoy live music, local food and beer. (P.S.: National Geographic recently named Wilmington one of America’s 20 best mountain-biking towns.)

Savour spicy food in Toronto

Do you love food that tingles when you eat it? And, if so, would you be willing to drive all the way to Toronto for it? Then the Hot and Spicy Food Festival (September 1 to 4) is for you. Shop for spicy sauces, learn tips for making Mexican dishes or kimchi, watch foodie films, and cheer on junior chefs in the ChilliKids Competition, all while enjoying live blues, big band and jazz performances.

Have fun at a fair in Shawville, Perth or Newington


Feel like a fair? At least three nearby communities are hosting one this weekend.

Country star Dean Brody and classic rock radio fixtures April Wine are among the headliners at the  Shawville Fair (August 31 to September 4). There’s lots here for kids, as the event bills itself as the Valley’s most family-friendly fair.

The Perth Fair (September 1 to 4) features lawn mower races, a dog training camp, an AC/DC tribute band and zucchini car races (zucchini car races?).

Like Canada, the Stormont County Fair in Newington (September 1 to 4) is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Highlights of the fair include a dog show, a petting zoo, wrestling matches and a baby contest.

All three fairs offer a midway, a demolition derby, horse shows and lots more.

See award-winning photography in Montreal

Judges sifted through thousands of photos submitted by photographers around the world to select prize-winning images, which will be on display at the World Press Photo exhibition at Montreal’s Bonsecours Market (August 30 to October 1). The show will be open daily until 10pm and until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Enjoy a wee dram at Fort Wellington in Prescott

Photo copyright Parks Canada.

Photo copyright Parks Canada.

Fort Wellington National Historic Site in Prescott is holding a whisky tasting on Thursday, August 31. Sample bourbon, Canadian whisky, and two single-malt Scotch whiskies paired expertly with food, then repair to the nearby Red George Pub for a Q&A session. Don’t forget to bring a designated driver!

Go mad in Maynooth

It’s Maynooth Madness this weekend (September 2 and 3) in the community between Barry’s Bay and Bancroft. Highlights of the weekend include a parade, a motorcycle and vintage car show, a turkey supper, and a mud run event (for cars and trucks).

Take a studio tour along Rednersville Road

Twenty-nine artists and artisans are participating in the eighth annual Rednersville Road Art Tour (September 2 to 4). Watercolours, sculptures, mixed media pieces and many other types of artworks will be available to buy. So where the heck is Rednersville Road? It hugs the shore of the Bay of Quinte in Prince Edward County.

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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2 Responses to 24 road trip ideas: Fairs, mojitos, rockabilly and hot air balloons!

  1. Katharine Ray August 29, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    https://www.facebook.com/events/263277344175880

    Hello Laura,

    Thank you once again for an amazing list of things going on.
    Above is a link to a CD release happening for Jack Pine and Fire at Irene’s on September 8.
    Let me know if you need any more info.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet August 29, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

      Thanks, Katharine–both for the compliment and for the info!

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