30 road trip ideas: Alight at Night, Lumina Borealis, fireworks, movies, trains and gems!

This week sees the return of several beloved Christmas traditions: Upper Canada Village will be illuminated with a million lights during Alight at Night, and several communities will celebrate the season with fireworks. There are also craft markets, parades and village festivals, as well as family-friendly theatre ranging from A Christmas Story to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Want to take a breather from the holiday rush? How about catching an off-the-wall indie movie at the Mirror Mountain Film Festival at Arts Court, a gem show at the EY Centre or a beer festival in Syracuse? Wherever your road trips take you this week, have fun!

Be dazzled by a million lights in Morrisburg

Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by In the Bag Solutions.

Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by In the Bag Solutions.

The popular Alight at Night Festival lights up Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg again this year. This is the 17th annual edition of the event, which sees the historical village’s homes, shops, church, fences and trees adorned with roughly one million lights. While you’re there, you can enjoy a meal or a carriage ride (book the latter well in advance), take the little ones to the new Twinkle Town play area, enjoy old-fashioned carolling, snack on cinnamon rolls, browse for gifts made by village artisans or visit a Victorian Santa, among other diversions. The fun begins on Friday, December 1, and the event is open select evenings until Saturday, January 6.

Channel your inner Victorian in Smiths Falls

Celebrate Christmas in traditional style during the Victorian Family Christmas Party at the Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls on Sunday, December 3. Sip hot cider, nibble on home-baked goodies, enjoy live music by Giocoso, and shop for gifts in the museum gift shop or at the Art Show and Artisan Market.

Sample craft beers in Syracuse

You can check out 130 craft beers from more than 60 brewers across New York state at this weekend’s Craft New York Brewers Festival in Syracuse (Saturday, December 2). The event takes place in the Landmark Theatre, a jaw-dropping confection of gilded plaster that’s almost worth the trip all on its own. The ticket price include food samples from a range of Syracuse restaurants.

Thrill to fireworks and a parade in Almonte, Perth or Osgoode

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Mills Festival Consortium.

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Mills Festival Consortium.

Who says fireworks are just a summertime thing?

Certainly not the folks in Almonte, who celebrate the holidays each year with a huge fireworks display called Light Up the Night (Friday, December 1). Live entertainment includes everyone from the Christmas Puppets  and Wayne Rostad to country music artist Kelli Trottier, and Valley favourites Neville Wells and Johnny Spinks. If you can’t make it that night, there’s more fun in store on Sunday, December 3, when the Almonte Christmas Night Parade will wind through town.

Not to be outdone, nearby Perth is also hosting fireworks on Friday, December 1, as part of the Festival of Lights at the Crystal Palace. The evening starts with a campfire at 6pm, followed by fireworks at 6:30pm. Then everyone can warm up inside the Crystal Palace while admiring 42 Christmas trees decorated by local businesses, and enjoying snacks and live music.

In Osgoode, Christmas in the Village (December 1 and 2) features a Santa Claus parade and fireworks on Friday night, followed by breakfast with Santa, face painting and crafts on Saturday.

P.S.: If you like seeing Kris Kringle on the move, don’t forget to check my roundup of dozens of nearby Santa Claus parades.

See Scrooge in Pembroke

This is the last weekend to catch A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley at Festival Hall in Pembroke, presented by Streetlight Theatre (December 1 and 2). The story of miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge and his conversion to all things festive never seems to wane in popularity. Bring on the ghosts!

Lumina Borealis returns to Kingston

Photo courtesy of Lumina Borealis.

The extremely popular Lumina Borealis multimedia installation returns to Kingston’s Fort Henry for a second year with a few new twists (December 1 to February 19). This year features a new storyline, improved kids’ activities and more warming huts.

Enjoy a village-style Christmas in Aylmer, Carleton Place, Manotick, Casselman, Oxford Mills, Merrickville or Skaneateles

A number of nearby towns are hosting community Christmas events this weekend. Highlights of Manotick’s Olde-Fashioned Christmas (December 2 and 3) include a Santa Claus parade and a Victorian tea on Saturday, a festive breakfast and sunset carolling on Sunday, and a crafters’ market at Watson’s Mill on both days.

The 5th annual Chocolate Party in Carleton Place (Saturday, December 2) features free public skating, a craft workshop for kids, a visit from Santa and, of course, lots of chocolate.

On December 1 and 2 in Oxford Mills, the Spirit of Christmas celebrations include a Christmas tree lighting with carols on Friday night, and a pancake breakfast with Santa and a craft sale on Saturday.

The Casselman Christmas Festival (November 30 to December 3) features concerts, a Santa Walk and Run, and a Santa Claus parade.

Christmas in Merrickville (Saturday, December 2) is packed with activities, including a parade, a chili tent, glass-blowing demonstrations, a petting zoo and a broomball match.

Starting this weekend, Christmas in Old Aylmer (December 1 to 10) includes a Christmas market that runs every day and a Santa Claus parade on Saturday, December 2.


A bit further afield, Skaneateles (pronounced “Skinny Atlas,” oddly) is a super-cute town near Syracuse, New York. And every weekend until December 24, it will be hosting a Dickens Christmas. Costumed actors portraying the Victorian novelist and some of his famous fictional characters will be strolling around town. You can also enjoy live brass band music, horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides, and more.

Celebrate Christmas with the Ennis Sisters in Pembroke or Perth

The Juno Award-winning Ennis Sisters, a trio from Newfoundland, are bringing their family-friendly concert of original and classic Christmas tunes, interspersed with stories, step-dancing and recitations, to Festival Hall in Pembroke on Thursday, November 30, and to the Mason Theatre at the Perth and District Collegiate Institute in Perth on Friday, December 1.

Make gingerbread cookies in Delta

On Saturday, December 2, at the Old Town Hall in Delta, kids accompanied by their parents can decorate gingerbread cookies for free, while their parents sip a free hot beverage and browse in the nearby holiday gift shop. The event runs from 3pm to 5pm.

Catch an indie movie or a European flick in Ottawa

Getting a bit overwhelmed by all things Christmas? The Mirror Mountain Film Festival (December 1 to 3) at Arts Court in Ottawa might be just the antidote. This event screens movies you’re unlikely to see at your local multiplex. The focus is on independent, underground and alternative cinema, in genres ranging from documentary to science fiction. A party and live music are part of the mix, too. Feeling especially adventurous? There’s a late-night program of “exceptionally weird, unusual and unique short films” on Saturday night.

This is also the last weekend to catch the European Union Film Festival at the National Gallery of Canada (running until Tuesday, December 5). Flicks in the next few days include movies from Portugal, the Netherlands, Croatia and Cyprus.

Indulge your train-loving kids in Smiths Falls

Train ride tickets are sold out, but you can still buy general admission tickets for the North Pole Express event at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls (December 2 and 3). There will be lots of train-themed fun, including a whistle-making workshop, a super-sized train table and the chance to send a telegram to Santa. Note that you must buy tickets in advance; no admissions will be sold at the door.

Rock on in Ottawa

Fans of gems, rocks and crystals take note: Silver Cove’s Rock and Gem Show is coming to the EY Centre in Ottawa for four days this week (November 30 to December 3).

Enjoy classic Christmas tunes in Morrisburg

Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind Band are presenting a new Christmas concert at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg this year (December 1 to 17). Like their shows of seasons past, the family-friendly concert is packed with classic holiday songs, along with fiddling, sing-a-longs and step-dancing reindeer.

Get a musical Rush in Orleans


Do you love Rush? Particularly their watershed album, 2112? Then head to the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans on Saturday, December 2, for the latest performance by Classic Albums Live. The name of the group means just what it says: they recreate famous concept albums in a live concert. This show highlights the Toronto-based rockers whose tunes wafted out of many a teenager’s car radio in the 1970s and 1980s. Check out the video to get a sense of the show.

Enjoy lights by the waterfall in Fort Coulonge

The Festival of Lights opens this Saturday, December 2, at Chutes Coulonge in the Pontiac and runs every Saturday in December, as well as daily from December 26 to 30. Enjoy live music and fries, wander along a lighted trail, and thrill to the thunder of the water.

Visit pretty homes in Perth and Carleton Place

If you’re looking for some decorating inspiration, this is the weekend of both the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour and the Carleton Place Hospital Foundation Christmas House Tour (both running December 2 and 3). The two communities aren’t that far apart; if you were really energetic (or stayed overnight), you might even be able to do both tours!

Shop, shop, shop across the region

Christmas present wrapped in white paper with pinecone and greenery.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash.

Still working on your Christmas shopping—or just starting? Either way, a holiday bazaar might be just the thing. My giant roundup of Christmas craft sales includes 36 events this weekend, from Carp and Gatineau to Merrickville and Cornwall (including quite a few events right here in Ottawa). There’s also Shop After Dark in downtown Kingston on Friday, December 1, when lots of downtown stores will be open late for your browsing pleasure, and you can enjoy discounts, a shopping shuttle, gift wrapping and more.

Laugh at a family comedy in Kingston

The Domino Theatre in Kingston presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, an ironically titled comedy about a Christmas play that goes horribly awry when a family of mischief-making kids gets involved (November 30 to December 16).

Cheer for Ralphie in Perth

Do you watch the movie A Christmas Story every year? You’re not alone; the story of Ralphie and his BB gun is a holiday fave. This year, you can see a live stage production of the classic tale at the Studio Theatre in Perth (November 30 to December 10).

Make merry in Montreal

An extended Christmas celebration in Montreal will be launched on Friday, December 1. Noël dans le parc actually takes place across three city parks until December 25, and features amusements ranging from concerts and Santa Claus to fire-juggling circus performances. (Website is in French.)

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 30 road trip ideas: Alight at Night, Lumina Borealis, fireworks, movies, trains and gems!

  1. Linda S Seccaspina November 30, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts at the Christmas in Carleton Place House Tour. I will share your link tomorrow on my many journeys.. 🙂

    • Laura Byrne Paquet November 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

      You’re most welcome! Good luck with the tour. I love your blog, BTW. 🙂

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