32 road trip ideas: Pumpkinferno, Fall Rhapsody, writers’ festivals, Fort Fright and fun runs!

This weekend, you can raise a glass to October, see movies about the Black experience, race through an obstacle course, meet an author or artist, see thousands of carved pumpkins, get scared at an historic site, learn about buttons or blacksmithing, hear world music, or hike along trails in a fall forest—all within a few hours of home. Happy travels!

See elaborate pumpkin displays in Morrisburg

Tiger made of artificial pumpkins at Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario.

Pumpkinferno photo courtesy of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

This event is one of the coolest things in Eastern Ontario, in my humble opinion. Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village (September 29 to October 29; check website for exact dates and times) is a nighttime…well, I’m not quite sure what to call it. Sound-and-light show? Halloween on steroids? Really, you’ve just got to see it to believe it. Almost 7,000 glowing, hand-carved, artificial pumpkins are arranged in theatrical displays throughout the living history village, with eerie music wafting about.

Enjoy food and fun in Rome

Did you know that Ottawa is only a 3.5-hour drive from Rome? Rome, New York, that is. And on Saturday, September 30, the upstate New York town is hosting A Taste of Rome, a family-friendly festival with food trucks, bouncy castles, kids’ activities, live music and more.

Celebrate Black movie-making in Montreal

The Montreal International Black Film Festival (September 27 to October 1) offers a chance to see documentaries, short films and features focusing on the Black experience around the world. Past festivals have drawn luminaries such as Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte, and featured movies about personalities as diverse as Winnie Mandela and Maya Angelou.

Browse for buttons in Ottawa

vintage buttons in a jar

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Staci Flick.

The Ottawa Valley Button Club is hosting the 2017 Canadian Button Show and Convention in Ottawa (September 29 to October 1). The theme is Buttons: Keeping It Together! Those little fasteners you take for granted actually have a fascinating history, and the show will include an exhibition, presentations, workshops and a button auction.

Take in a country fair in Metcalfe

The Metcalfe Fair (September 28 to October 1) is marking its 161st birthday this year with an array of fair fun, including a midway, a demolition derby, a classic car show, fiddling and step dancing, horse shows, concerts and more.

Scare yourself silly in Kingston

Girl dressed as zombie at Fort Fright at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario.

Fort Fright photo courtesy of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

Do you scare easily? Then steel yourself before entering Fort Fright, the annual haunted house installation at Fort Henry in Kingston (September 28 to October 29; check the fort’s website for specific dates and times). Just being in the 19th-century fort at night is scary enough for me, thank you, but the ghouls and goblins popping out from around every corner really are terrifying. Your kids, of course, will eat it up and yell for more.

Travel back to the ’70s in Pembroke

Just Heart and Rumours, a tribute show to Heart and Fleetwood Mac, will be at Pembroke’s Festival Hall Centre for the Arts on Saturday, September 30.

Run for good causes in Pembroke, Chalk River or Smiths Falls

sneakers running shoes

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Janine.

The sixth annual Kitchissippi Run on Sunday, October 1, includes 2K, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon runs through the scenic Petawawa Research Forest, as well as half-marathon and marathon bike routes. Funds raised will support the Deep River and District Hospital Foundation.

Also this weekend, there are two fundraising walks in Pembroke: the Dr. Kim Armstrong Turkey Trot in support of the Pembroke Regional Hospital on Saturday, September 30, and the Peace of Minds Walk for Schizophrenia on Sunday, October 1.

For an even more vigorous workout, there’s the Rise Above the Mud Obstacle Challenge in Smiths Falls on Saturday, September 30. This fundraiser for the Smiths Falls Community Hospital Foundation features brand-new 5K and 10K obstacle courses this year.

Hobnob with authors in Kingston and Montreal

Book lovers will be heading to the Limestone City this week for Kingston WritersFest (September 27 to October 1). Writing workshops, authors’ talks, book signings and lots of other literary fun is on the agenda. Participating authors include Carol Off, Michael Chabon, Rosanna Deerchild, Karen Connelly and Adam Gopnik.

This is also the last weekend to catch the Festival International de la Littérature in Montreal (until October 1). Events include everything from readings to films and concerts. Website is in French.

Enjoy world music in Prescott


Wow, I hadn’t heard of Ladom Ensemble until I looked up this video to write this post, but I love their fresh take on world music. The Canadian quartet plays a wide range of instruments, including accordion and cello, and the results are captivating. I’ll freely admit I’m no music reviewer, but an actual music reviewer (Errol Nazareth of the CBC) had this to say about their first album: “I can honestly say that this is the first time I have heard such a fascinating mix and it really works well. The music can be very elegant and contemplative and it can also be rocking and fiery and there is no denying of the passion of the four musicians investing in their playing.” The Fort Town Concert Association is presenting the group in concert at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Prescott on Friday, September 29.

Hike for your health near Mont-Laurier

Le festival Santé de la Montagne comes to the Parc régional Montagne du Diable on Saturday, September 30. Outdoor activities include guided hikes, canoe tours and family fun. The park is located between Ferme-Neuve and Mont-Laurier, Quebec, about 2.5 hours north of Ottawa. (The website is in French.)

Take an evening art stroll in Kingston

Art on walls of Martello Alley art gallery in Kingston.

Martello Alley is one of the galleries participating in Fall Art After Dark in Kingston.

During Fall Art After Dark (Friday, September 29), 21 art galleries in downtown Kingston will be open until 10pm for late-night browsing—and they’re running a draw for a $500 Kingston art shopping spree, too.

Paint a pair of wine glasses in Oxford Mills

Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills is hosting a painting night on Sunday, October 1. Participants will get two wine glasses to paint, instruction, five wine samples, one glass of wine and light appetizers. Advance registration is required.

Enjoy some harvest fun in Delta

National Historic Site, Delta, Old Stone Mill

Delta’s National Historic Site, the Old Stone Mill.

The village of Delta (between Smiths Falls and Gananoque) is hosting a Harvest Festival on Saturday, September 30. Fun for the whole family includes tours of the Old Stone Mill, a bread-baking contest, blacksmithing demonstrations, wagon rides, a car show and an evening dance. For lunch, you can choose from tacos, chili or hot dogs.

Get cultured across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec

People dancing on a Brockville street.

Photo courtesy of Brockville Culture Days.

Culture Days, a nationwide festival of arts and culture, is taking place this year from September 29 to October 1. The slate of activities in and around Ottawa is amazingly diverse, from a bhangra workout session in Centretown and an arts and culture tour in Lyndhurst to a visit with alpacas at a farm in Oxford Station, an art show in Burnstown and a sidewalk chalk party in Napanee. Use this search page to find activities happening near you in Ontario and Gatineau. For information on activities elsewhere in Quebec, head to this bilingual site.

Just FYI: Brockville’s Culture Days, with more than 40 participating organizations, includes a street closure and community street festival on Saturday, and a rural road trip on Sunday. Last year, it was the fifth largest Culture Days event in Canada for cities with a population of 50,000 or less.

Say cheers in Barrhaven, Ladysmith, Ogdensburg or Whiteface


Beer lovers, this is your season! You have five Oktoberfest celebrations to choose from this weekend. Oktoberfest Ottawa in Barrhaven is packed with music, including concerts by country stars Chad Brownlee, Meghan Patrick (see video above) and Charlie Major (September 28 to 30). Ladysmith Oktoberfest (September 29 to October 1) features fireworks, truck and tractor pulls, a horseshoe tournament, German food and more. Ogtoberfest in Ogdensburg (September 30) offers much more than beer—there will also be wine, cheesecake on a stick (!), lots of other food, live music and fireworks. And SKI Magazine has voted the family-friendly Whiteface Mountain Oktoberfest (September 30 and October 1) one of five “must-visit” Oktoberfests in North America.

Meet artists in the Outaouais, Prescott-Russell, Merrickville, Madawaska Valley, Bath or Haliburton

The packed fall slate of artist studio tours has six events to tempt you this weekend, whether you’d like to stick close to home or make a weekend of it. All of them are taking place on September 30 and October 1. You can check out the second weekends of the Chelsea Wakefield Studio Tour and the Merrickville Artists’ Guild Studio Tour and Sale, or explore the region between Eganville and Combermere on the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour. ARTour Prescott-Russell covers a large area east of Ottawa, including Rockland, Casselman and Vankleek Hill. The Loyalist Studio Tour is a small route in and around Bath. Further afield, there’s the first weekend of the Haliburton County Studio Tour.

Celebrate fall in Gatineau Park


Saturday kicks off the first of four weekends of Fall Rhapsody, a festival of autumn fun in Gatineau Park (September 30 to October 22). It’s a great time to explore the 90 kilometres of trails winding through the park and to enjoy fun family activities. And if you’ve ever wondered why leaves change colour in the fall, a park interpreter provides the answer in the video above.

Discover cutting-edge art in Toronto

Nuit Blanche returns to Toronto with another all-night cultural festival on Saturday, September 30. Artworks, installations and exhibitions run the gamut, from horses roaming the streets to projections of Indigenous images onto Old City Hall. Some streets will be open to pedestrians only for the event, and parts of the transit system will run all night. It’s the perfect festival for nighthawks and insomniacs.

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!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

, , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to 32 road trip ideas: Pumpkinferno, Fall Rhapsody, writers’ festivals, Fort Fright and fun runs!

  1. Laura Paquet September 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    Please note that Brockville’s Oktoberfest has been cancelled for this year.

Website designed and developed by Terabit.ca