29 road trip ideas: Polo, pancakes, movies and music, from Tremblant to Alexandria Bay

This week’s roundup has folk music and classical music, polo and tattoos, beans and wine, hiking and shopping, plus a wood-stacking competition, tractor square dancing and an event where people fling cast-iron frying pans. Aren’t you curious to find out more?

Cheer for the sport of kings in Nepean


Polish your Porsche and grab your fascinators: It’s time for Polo in the Park, a fundraiser at Wesley Clover Parks in Nepean on Saturday, September 16. All kidding aside, you don’t have to have a fancy car or posh clothes to enjoy this event (although there is a best hat contest). Aside from polo, there will also be dog agility demonstrations, a kids’ zone, food trucks and other fun. It’s all in a good cause; the Rotary Club of Ottawa South, Wesley Clover Parks and the Ottawa Polo Club are using the event to raise money for Wounded Warriors Canada and the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Nibble your way around Mont Tremblant

Tremblant Gourmand (September 14 to 17) is a huge celebration of everything fit and foodie (with all these activities, I wouldn’t feel guilty about noshing on the tasty-sounding treats). There’s a 50K bike ride with culinary stops along the way, a yoga class that includes a snack, and a mushroom-picking trip through the forest, among many other activities. I’m particularly curious about the Great Gourmet Hike, a 2K walk with 15 stops where you can nibble on samples. That sounds like my kind of hike.

Shop local in Kingston

Finding local products is one of the best things about road tripping, right? The Shop Local Showcase Kingston on Saturday, September 16, is a chance to discover lots of artisans, food producers, beverages makers and more, all in one place. A kids’ fun zone will help keep the whole family amused. It’s happening at the Ambassador Hotel, and admission and parking are free.

Head to a music festival in Ottawa, Montreal or Prince Edward County


I swear that Montreal has a cool-sounding music festival every week. This week’s event is the POP Montreal International Music Festival (September 13 to 17), showcasing 400 bands (yes, you read that right) from around the world on multiple stages, as well as art exhibitions, fashion shows, kids’ programming and more.

This weekend, you can also check out two music festivals in Prince Edward County. The Sandbanks Music Festival at Sandbanks Provincial Park on Saturday, September 16, features a wide range of performers, including Great Lake Swimmers, the Inbreds and By Divine Right. If classical music is more your style, the Prince Edward County Classical Music Festival (September 15 to 24) features two weekends of concerts in Picton, with music by stalwarts such as Bach and Brahms, as well as modern Canadian composers.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, the lineup at the City Folk Festival at Lansdowne Park (September 13 to 17) includes Post Malone, Amanda Marshall, Father John Misty and Jack Johnson. And if you have a City Folk pass, you can ride OC Transpo to and from the festival for free on that day.

See new movies in Sudbury or Quebec City

The Quebec City Film Festival (September 13 to 23) will be screening about 200 features and short films from Canada and abroad, with a special focus on Quebec movies. Cinéfest Sudbury (September 16 to 24) will be showing a diverse range of about 135 features, documentaries, shorts and animated films; there will be gala presentations of Borg/McEnroe, Don’t Talk to Irene, Indian Horse and Mary Shelley, among other movies.

Sample great food and craft beer in Ottawa

People sampling food at booths along Wellington Street during Tastes of Wellington West.

Photo of Tastes of Wellington West courtesy of the Wellington West BIA.

Food lovers will likely flock to Tastes of Wellington West on Saturday, September 16, from 11am to 4pm. Along Wellington Street in Hintonburg and Wellington Village, you’ll find food samples, kids’ activities (such as mural painting, storytelling and escape room-style puzzles), a Window Scrabble Game (you could win a $100 gift card for neighbourhood businesses), live performances and more. The Brew Donkey bus will be chauffeuring visitors through the ‘hood’s craft beer haunts, including the Tooth and Nail Brewing Company and the new Vimy Brewery, and to the family-friendly Brewery Market event in Hintonburg Park (which runs from 12pm to 8pm).

Discover new tastes in Saint-Eustache

Saint-Eustache in suburban Montreal is holding a whole festival dedicated to the buckwheat pancakes called galettes, as well as to regional cuisine in general. La Festival de la Galette et des Saveurs du Terroir (September 16 and 17) features a food market, an artisans’ village, kids’ activities and more. Did you know that Saint-Eustache is home to the oldest water-powered flour mill still operating in North America (built in 1762)? Well, now you do. (Website is in French.)

Enjoy a small-town concert in Eastern Ontario

The Abrams playing guitar and fiddle onstage at the Festival of Small Halls.

The Abrams (shown here at a Festival of Small Halls show in Seeley’s Bay in 2016) will be playing in McDonald’s Corners and Westmeath this year. Photo courtesy of the Festival of Small Halls.

The Ontario Festival of Small Halls (September 14 to October 1) is back, with dozens of concerts featuring locally and nationally popular musicians in intimate venues across Eastern Ontario. Ten new locations have joined the roster this year, including spots in Alexandria, Balderson, Dacre, Dunvegan, Kilmaurs, Merrickville, Portland, Renfrew, Tatlock and Toledo. You can now choose from shows in more than 30 communities.

Sip cocktails for charity in Pembroke

You can nibble on appetizers, sip on fancy drinks and listen to live music while raising money for a local health and community services organization at Cocktails for Carefor. There are draws and raffles, too! The event takes place at the Best Western in Pembroke on Saturday, September 16.

Tour interesting buildings in Carleton Place

Doors Open Carleton Place (September 16 and 17) features a wide range of buildings old and new, including the Carleton Place Town Hall and the recently restored Grand Hotel.

Shop for Valley products and admire vintage cars in Renfrew

Classic cars at Summer's End Car Show and Swap meet in Renfrew.

Photo courtesy of the Summer’s End Car Show and Swap Meet.

The Renfrew Fairgrounds are hosting two events on Saturday, September 16. At Taste of the Valley, you can shop for Ottawa Valley foods and crafts. And at the Summer’s End Car Show and Swap Meet for Dad, you can admire lovingly maintained cars from across the decades.

Sample wine in Alexandria Bay, New York

At the Wine Festival and Farmers’ Market in Alexandria Bay on Saturday, September 16, you can buy wines by the glass or bottle—or just enjoy the live entertainment.

Watch tractors in action in Beachburg

The Renfrew County Plowing Match will be the biggest ticket in Beachburg on Saturday, September 16. As well as watching plowing competitions, you can take in a lumberjack show, listen to a pipe and drum band, watch tractor square dancing, and more.

Eat beans and watch strongmen in Plantagenet

Woman serving baked beans.

Photo courtesy of the Festival de la Bine de Plantagenet.

The Festival de la Bine de Plantagenet (September 15 to 17) will include a baked beans contest, strongmen and wrestling competitions, comedy shows, kids’ activities, and—of course—lots of opportunities to eat baked beans and other treats.

Choose from five fall fairs

Fall fair season is in full roar this weekend.

Dating back to 1844, the Richmond Fair (September 14 to 17) is a major agricultural event but also offers a lawn tractor pull, a demolition derby and a Madeline Merlo concert, among many other amusements.

Upper Canada Village’s Fall Fair Weekend (September 16 and 17) gives you the chance to experience an 1860s-style fair, complete with a quilt show, a beard contest, people in period costume, and veggie and livestock competitions.

The Middleville Fair (Saturday, September 16) also features many livestock competitions, as well as displays of everything from baking to photography.

At the Milford Fair in Prince Edward County (Saturday, September 16), along with a dog show and a petting zoo, you can enjoy the return of Country Folk Chucking Stuff. (Where else are you going to see non-angry people throwing cast-iron frying pans?)

Finally, the Lyndhurst Turkey Fair (Saturday, September 16) serves up a petting zoo, a quilt show, an antique car show, Elvis and bluegrass tunes and, of course, the chance to meet live turkeys. You can also paddle an antique St. Lawrence River skiff.

Celebrate art on studio tours in New Edinburgh and around Bancroft

If you love paintings, pottery, jewellery, sculptures and all sorts of other creative works, you can choose from three studio tours on September 16 and 17: the New Edinburgh Artists’ Studio Tour; the Apsley Autumn Studio Tour, southwest of Bancroft; and the first weekend of the Bancroft and Area Autumn Studio Tour.

Revel in tattoo culture in Kingston

The Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival (September 16 and 17) in Kingston will feature 50 tattoo artists, live entertainment and more. You can even take the plunge and get inked on site.

Cheer on wood-stacking artists in Barry’s Bay

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a creative wood-stacking competition! It’s called There’s Art in Your Woodpile, and it’s happening in Barry’s Bay on Saturday, September 16.

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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