32 road trip ideas: Toss a pumpkin, light a lantern, sip a beer or stargaze

Stargaze in an orchard or make your way through a corn maze. Watch re-enactors staging War of 1812 battles. Release lanterns into the sky or launch pumpkins across a field with a catapult. Nosh on chili or maple products, or sample craft beers. Cycle along the Lake Ontario shore. That’s just a taste of the activities you can check out this weekend. Have fun!

Say “Cheers!” (and check out a corn maze) in Vankleek Hill

beaus oktoberfest crowd

Photo courtesy of Beau’s Oktoberfest.

Even though it’s not October yet, it’s time for the ever-popular Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill (September 22 and 23). Try your luck at malt sack racing, keg tossing, sausage eating and other contests, and kick back to music by the Rheostatics, Walter Ostanek and more. While you’re in the area, why not check out the corn maze at Ouimet Farms?

Watch the planes land in Petawawa

The Pembroke and Area Airport is hosting a Canada 150 Fly-In on Saturday, September 23. The goal is to get 150 aircraft to land that day. Visitors will have a chance to see two helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft from Garrison Petawawa, and to try their hand at “piloting” a plane using a flight simulator. The main event is free, and you can buy a chili lunch.

Relive the War of 1812 in Dunvegan

The Glengarry Pioneer Museum in Dunvegan is hosting a War of 1812 re-enactment this weekend (September 23 and 24). You can watch mock battles, catch a 19th-century-style fashion show, tour reproduction military encampments, hear cannon fire and generally immerse yourself in early 1800s life.

Cycle a scenic route between Bath and Adolphustown

One of the stops along the route is the Old Hay Bay Church. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Kallo39.

One of the stops along the route is the Old Hay Bay Church. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Kallo39.

The Discover L&A Ride on Saturday, September 23, is a 58-kilometre bike ride through Lennox and Addington County. The loop starts and finishes at the MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Company in Bath and winds along the shore of Lake Ontario, and through apple orchards and vineyards, and includes stops at parks and historic sites. To participate, you need to register by Friday, September 22.

Stargaze in Oxford Mills

Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills is hosting an astronomy night on Saturday, September 23 (weather permitting). Bring your own telescope, camera or other viewing equipment…or just bring lawn chairs and a picnic, kick back under the stars and sip wine. The $10 admission fee will go toward a fund for PTSD service dogs.

Get artsy with seven studio tours

Didn’t get your fix of artists’ studio tours last weekend? Well, here’s good news: there are seven to choose from this weekend. All of them take place on Saturday, September 23, and Sunday, September 24, unless otherwise noted.

In the Outaouais, you can take in the first weekend of the Chelsea Wakefield Artists in Their Environment Studio Tour.

To the southeast of Ottawa, you can enjoy the 26th annual Apples and Art tour in and around Cornwall, mainly between Ingleside and Dalkeith. See the video for an interview with one of the 2016 artists.

Less than an hour to the southwest of Ottawa, the Merrickville Artists’ Guild Studio Tour and Sale kicks off the first of its two weekends. Participating artists create everything from pottery, fabric art, letterpress works and mixed media art to paintings, sculptures, glass items, photographs, collages and cast metal pieces.

To the west, it’s the second weekend of the Bancroft Studio Tour.

Two tours bookend Belleville: the Tweed and Area Studio Tour north of the city, and the Prince Edward County Studio Tour to the south (the PEC tour also runs on Friday, in addition to the weekend).

Finally, if you want an in-town adventure this weekend, you can take in the West End Studio Tour in Westboro and Wellington West.

Savour local food in Spencerville

The Spencerville Mill and Museum is hosting An Affair With Food + Drink on the afternoon of Sunday, September 24. Guests can sample all sorts of foods and beverages, from craft beers to desserts, made with a 100-mile radius of Spencerville. The $30 to $35 admission fee includes 10 tasting tickets.

Shop for unique gifts in Kanata

Want to get a really early start on your Christmas shopping—or just pick up a treat for yourself? Then head to the Etsy Made in Canada market at the Bells Sensplex in Kanata, where more than 100 crafters will be on hand selling one-of-a-kind handmade products (September 22 to 24).

Rock on in Napanee


Voodoo Rockfest comes to Napanee this weekend (September 22 to 23) with 17 local and visiting bands, including We Are Monroe (see video). Hard rock, alternative music and tribute acts are all on the roster, and you can fuel up with craft beer and food truck fare. Camping is free for anyone with a weekend pass.

Enjoy rural romantic comedies in Gananoque, Eganville and beyond

Stick Out Your Tongue and Say MOO is Stone Fence Theatre’s latest production, currently making the rounds of venues throughout the Ottawa Valley. It’s a musical rom-com about a young male vet from the city who comes to the Valley and encounters skeptical farmers, resentful colleagues and lovelorn women. It will be at the Eganville Community Centre on Saturday, September 23, as well as September 30 and October 14. After that, it heads to the Knights of Columbus Hall in Pembroke (October 20 and 21), and the St. Andrew’s Parish Hall in Killaloe (Sunday, October 29).

Meanwhile, in Gananoque, the Thousand Islands Playhouse is presenting The Birds and the Bees, billed as “a romantic comedy with a bit of buzz” (September 22 to October 15). A recently divorced turkey farmer moves in with her beekeeper mother. There’s a ladies’ man farmer across the road. Then a keen grad student arrives to study declining bee populations. Soon, they’re all talking about love, science, family and artificial turkey insemination.

Take a guided hike or paddle in the Adirondacks

The Paul Smith’s College VIC in the oddly named Adirondacks village of Paul Smiths is hosting guided hikes and canoe trips on weekends until Columbus Day (aka Canadian Thanksgiving). Each trip is led by a naturalist and advance registration is required (trips may sell out quickly). One-hour hikes cost US$10 per adult and US$8 per child, while two-hour paddles are US$25 per adult and US$15 per child.

Watch pumpkins fly in Cumberland

Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

Sometimes, you just want to throw something—am I right? Get that urge out of your system at the Smashing Pumpkins event (September 23 and 24) at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, where you can see the big orange gourds being launched with a trebuchet (a type of catapult). This 2015 Citizen story includes a video that gives you a taste of the fun.

Get your maple fix in Mirabel

The Mirabel Fête l’Erable du Québec (September 23 and 24) celebrates all things maple flavoured, with tastings, a vendors’ market and demonstrations.

Enjoy a pioneer-style harvest festival in Petawawa

At the Fall Harvest Day at the Petawawa Heritage Village on Saturday, September 23, the fun includes a bake sale, face painting, horseback riding and pioneer activities. The event runs from 10am to 4pm and admission is by donation.

Nosh on chili in Kingston

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by cyclonebill.

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by cyclonebill.

Mmmm…..chili! Kingston’s chili festival (formerly Chilifest) is now called Hospicefest and it has moved to a new location, City Park. But the concept remains the same: Restaurants and community groups serve up their take on the Tex-Mex treat, and funds raised support Hospice Kingston. This year, it’s happening on Saturday, September 23.

Frolic at a fair in Carp or McDonald’s Corners

The Carp Fair (September 21 to 24) bills itself as the “Best Little Fair in Canada.” And it does seem to have a lot going on, including a midway, agricultural shows, dog shows, sheep shearing, a family fun tent, and concerts by Brent Kissel, Gail Gavan, Silver Creek and many others.

The McDonald’s Corners Fall Fair on Saturday, September 23, features a dunk tank, a teddy bear contest, a turkey supper, and lots of livestock shows and competitions.

Browse for dolls and toys in Nepean

The Ottawa Dolls, Toys, Teddies and Miniatures Show and Sale comes to the Nepean Sportsplex on Sunday, September 24. More than 40 vendors will be on hand with modern and vintage toys, dollhouse miniatures, fashion dolls, and more. Admission is a freewill cash donation to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Sample local food and wine in Picton

Photo by R. Lissia copyright the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, 2004.

Photo by R. Lissia copyright the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation.

Taste Community Grown (Saturday, September 23) is a one-day food and wine festival celebrating the products of Prince Edward County—everything from cheese to cider. The event is in a new location this year: the Loch Sloy Hangar in Picton.

Discover U.S. craft beers in Lake Placid

The Lake Placid Brewfest is happening on Saturday, September 23, at the historic 1932 Rink of the Lake Placid Olympic Center. Sample craft beers created by breweries from across the United States. General admission includes four hours of sampling, a souvenir glass and live entertainment.

Get animated in Ottawa

Have you ever watched the animated film clips during the Academy Awards ceremony and thought, “Wow, that looks cool! But where can I see stuff like this?” If so, I have good news for you: at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (September 20 to 24), you’ll be able to see Oscar-calibre animation of all descriptions, from family-friendly fare to avant-garde flicks that are definitely not for kids. Screenings, workshops, parties and panel discussions are taking place at the ByTowne Cinema, the National Gallery of Canada, Arts Court, the Chateau Laurier and several other downtown venues.

Let your light shine in Carleton Place

Lanterns rising into the sky.

Lanterns rising into the sky at a Lights Fest event in Dallas. Photo courtesy of the Lights Fest.

At the Lights Fest in Carleton Place (Saturday, September 23), the fun includes bouncy castles and live music before the main event: the release of hundreds of specially designed lanterns into the sky. (Even though the website proclaims it is happening in Ottawa, it really is happening in Carleton Place!)

Run for a good cause in Nepean

The RBC Race for the Kids (Sunday, September 24) is a series of 2K, 5K and 10K walk/run races at Wesley Clover Parks in Nepean to raise money for youth mental health programs at CHEO.

Groove to jazz in Clayton, New York

The fourth annual Clayton Jazz Festival: Jazz on the River (September 22 to 24) is set to light up this town on the New York side of the St. Lawrence River. Performers include Kimberley Hawkey, who performs big band and American songbook standards, and Kingston’s Lisa Vee.

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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