30 road trip ideas: Car rally, silent auctions, mushroom hunting and cabaret!

If you like music, food, movies and bargains (and who doesn’t, right?), you’re in luck—this week’s roundup features culinary events in Blackburn Hamlet and Perth, music festivals in Gananoque and Merrickville, film fests in Toronto and Montreal, plus more silent auctions than you could possibly bid at. There’s also a Bollywood-themed fundraiser in Carleton Place, a racing weekend in Brockville, fun for horse lovers in Lansdowne and a quirky theatre festival here in Ottawa. So don’t let the weather forecast (rain) keep you at home!

Enjoy music in unexpected spots in Gananoque

Photo courtesy of Jammin’ in the Thousand Islands.

Gananoque will be alive with the sound of music this weekend during the Jammin’ in the Thousand Islands festival (October 13 to 15). More than two dozen acts, most of them local, will be playing in venues as diverse as the Royal Theatre, Stonewater Irish Pub, Christ Church, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons. There’s a little bit of everything on the musical menu, from rock and folk to swing and jazz.

Enjoy good food in Blackburn Hamlet

Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet is hosting free Good Food Celebrations on Saturday, October 14, from 11:30am to 3pm, as part of the Agri 150 initiative to increase rural tourism in Ottawa during Canada’s big anniversary year. So what’s on the menu? Food samples from Red Apron, samples of Beau’s beer, wagon rides, a farm tour, live music, an art show, and the chance to visit a solar project and a community barn. The event is free but they’d like you to register on the website so they can figure out how much food to provide (but food is first come, first served).

Scare yourself silly in Pembroke

How brave are you? Hugli’s Blueberry Farm on the outskirts of Pembroke will spook visitors with a Haunted House of Terror, a magic show and a six-acre Creepy Corn Maze on Friday and Saturday nights from October 13 until October 29. Note that kids 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Buy a pie and kick up your heels in Chesterville

Flickr/Creative Commons photo by David Leggett.

Here’s a chance to enjoy some tasty home baking and some tunes! The Chesterville and District Agricultural Society is hosting a harvest barn dance and pie auction at the Chesterville Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 14, with music by DJ Kent Merkley.

Tap your toes at the Spencerville Mill

Country, roots, bluegrass and other traditional tunes for guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle will be on the set list when the Pie Plates perform at the Spencerville Mill on Thursday, October 12, as part of the Music at the Mill series.

See a funny mystery in Smiths Falls

This is the first of two weekends to catch Who Dunit? a “comedic mystery” by C.B. Gilford, at the Station Theatre in Smiths Falls (October 13 to 22). It tells the tale of a murdered mystery author who goes to Heaven and is sent back to Earth to find his killer.

Play among the pumpkins in Cumberland and Prince Edward County

Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

Photo copyright Laura Byrne Paquet.

It’s all about giant gourds in Wellington this Saturday during Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest (October 14). Highlights include games, a parade, a petting zoo, tractor racing and a pumpkin weigh-in. Closer to home, Proulx Farm in Cumberland is holding a Pumpkinfest on Saturdays and Sundays until October 31, featuring face painting, a bouncy castle, wagon rides, a petting farm and more.

Sample craft beers in Renfrew, Perth or Utica

Get ready to eat, drink and be merry this weekend!

Perth is hosting OktoberFEAST, a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society, at the Crystal Palace on Friday, October 13. The event features brewers, distillers and food vendors, and raises money for a program that helps provide transportation to medical appointments for cancer patients.

Renfrew’s annual Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival takes place at Low Square on Saturday, October 14, from 11am to 7pm. The seven food trucks include Rico Peru, Mr. Churritos and Redneck Bistro, and you can slake your thirst with brews from 12 breweries, such as Calabogie, Whitewater and Cartwright Springs.

Further afield, the New York State Cask Ale Festival (Saturday, October 14) at Woodland Farm Brewery in Utica, New York, looks like fun, with 10 participating breweries from across the state. Utica is about a four-hour drive from Ottawa.

Hang out with horse lovers in Lansdowne

The Lansdowne Horse Festival in Lansdowne, Ontario (not Lansdowne Park!) is a free Canada 150 event for horse lovers, featuring demonstrations, wagon rides, a parade of breeds and much more. It takes place at the Lansdowne Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 14, from 10am to 4pm.

Have a laugh in Orleans

Steve Patterson: Barack O’Bama from Steve Patterson on Vimeo.

If you’re a fan of CBC Radio One’s show The Debaters, you’ll be familiar with comedian Steve Patterson, who hosts the weekly comedy show. On Thursday, October 12, he has the stage to himself at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans for a standup show marking his 20th year in show business.

Hunt for mushrooms in Kemptville

The Friends of the Ferguson Forest Centre are hosting a free nature walk with mushroom expert Cheryl Rush at the centre from 10am to noon on Saturday, October 14. Learn how to tell tasty fungi from poisonous ones!

Cheer on race car drivers in Brockville

I’ll admit it—I don’t know a thing about car racing. If you do, then I’m betting that the 1000 Islands RV DIRTcar Northeast Fall Nationals at the Brockville Speedway (October 13 and 14) will be right up your racetrack.

Swing along to jazz in Merrickville


Merrickville’s Jazz Fest is set to light up the village from October 12 to 15 with music ranging from bop to Latin jazz. Churches, restaurants and the Legion Hall will host performances by 15 acts, including 45north, the Steve Holt Trio (see video above), the Prime Rib Big Band and the Rachelle Behrens Quartet. Tickets to individual events and a variety of single- and multi-day passes are available. Children under 15 are admitted free to all shows.

Bid on a bargain in Brockville

The Friends of the Brockville Museum are holding their annual Kitsch and Collectables silent auction on October 13 and 14. Antiques, collectibles and retro items have been donated by the community. The auction runs from 1pm to 4pm on Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturday at the museum.

Cycle through the hills in Bancroft

If you haven’t already started training, it’s way too late, but if you’re feeling fit and you’re looking for a challenge, the Hastings Highlands Hilly Hundred on Saturday, October 14. The 100K and 100-mile cycling routes depart from Bancroft, and money raised supports local charities. I just drove through that reigon last weekend and I can confirm that it is indeed hilly!

Check out a film festival in Toronto or Montreal


This is the last week to catch the Festival du nouveau cinéma (until October 15). The Montreal festival features both indie and big-budget movies in French, English and other languages. One of the highlighted films is Loving Vincent, an animated movie about Vincent Van Gogh that I’ve wanted to see for ages (see trailer above). If you like your movies on the intense side, there’s the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (October 12 to 20), which screens sci-fi, horror, action and cult movies.

Eat spaghetti for a good cause in Lyn

The Project Reach Out Ghana Fundraising Committee is holding a spaghetti supper and silent auction (for gift baskets, art and more) at Centennial Road Church in Lyn on Friday, October 13. Admission is by donation. You can also buy Ghanaian jewellery, carvings, aprons and quilted bags. Money raised will go toward humanitarian projects in Ghana.

See a print exhibition in Chelsea

La Fab Arts Centre in Chelsea and the Ottawa School of Art are presenting PRESSED, an exhibition of works by six winners of the Leonard Gerbrandt Printmaking Scholarship. The show runs at La Fab from October 12 to 29, 2017, with a vernissage on Thursday, October 12, from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Catch a cutting-edge show in Ottawa or Montreal

Fresh Meat (October 12 to 21) is a theatre festival of new, often experimental, 20-minute shows by local playwrights and other creators. Themes include disability, dining alone and LGBT history in Ottawa. Each night features five shows, all staged at Arts Court in downtown Ottawa.

M. Lamar

Photo of M. Lamar by Eric McNatt courtesy of Phénomena.

It’s hard to know quite how to classify Phénomena (October 8 to 20), an eclectic arts festival in Montreal. In this, its 16th year, it is serving up a dozen cabaret-style shows (American composer and sculptor M. Lamar, in the photo above, is part of a performance on Saturday, October 14, inspired by 1920s Weimar Germany).

Drive back roads near Toledo

Here’s a good excuse for a country drive: The Elizabethtown-Kitley Rambling Heritage Car Rally (Sunday, October 15) will have drivers navigating the rural roads around Toledo, Ontario, in pursuit of prizes. Participants get a chili supper at the end of the event.

Enjoy South Asian fashion, food and music in Carleton Place

Bollywood on the Mississippi, a fundraiser for Child Haven International, brings a taste of South Asia to the Carleton Place Canoe Club on Saturday, October 14. Take in a sari fashion show, learn some Bollywood dance steps, nibble on Indian and Bangladeshi appetizers, and bid on handcrafted goods from Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and India in a silent auction.

Explore Bon Echo Provincial Park

This is your last chance to visit Bon Echo Provincial Park near Cloyne before it closes for the season on October 15. Hike the Cliff Top Trail, rent a canoe or kayak, or hop aboard a tour boat to see the park’s famous Aboriginal pictographs.

Get some exercise in Kanata

Lace up those shoes and walk off some of that Thanksgiving turkey! On Sunday, October 15, Strides for Change features a 2K walk, and 5K and 10K runs, to raise money and awareness for MADD Ottawa.

Tour studios in Stouffville or Vermont

OK, so both of these are a bit of a hike, but if you’re looking for a longer, artsy road trip, you could check out the Whitchurch–Stouffville Studio Tour and Sale, east of Toronto, or the Vermont Open Studio Weekend, with participating artists across the state. Both events take place on October 14 and 15.

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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