It’s almost a shame that fall is the time when most families find their rhythm with a return to a regular routine of work and school, instead of lazing away on vacation. There are so many activities to keep us busy and different places to explore, we’re hard pressed to choose our favourites on any given weekend between September and December. Throw in changing colours that make all our favourites even more beautiful and it’s a wonder Ontarians don’t collectively call in sick during the season.
To make it easier to pick and choose how you’re going to spend your days off, or the days you suddenly develop a cough — my lips are sealed — follow along so you don’t miss these favourite Ontario fall activities.
Local fall fairs are an incredible way to enjoy our own communities, or those close to home. There’s something wonderful about stepping into an experience that’s remained almost unchanged for decades – right down to the sketchy, can’t-miss rides. The mix of roosters competing for a spot at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, farmers showcasing their homegrown vegetables, kids proving their mettle by jumping ponies alongside smashup derbies, and greasy fair food makes for a weekend you don’t want to miss. It’s part of our history and anytime I worry we’re losing touch with our roots and traditions, I visit our local fair and wander along the crowded stalls just to see that people still care.
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
The Royal is the goal of all the participants at fall fairs leading right up to the big show in Toronto. This year, the Royal runs November 4-13, 2016 and it’s a chance for people to get to know how great our farming community is, where our food comes from, watch some of the best show jumping in the world (as well as a host of other horse exhibitions from a rodeo to big horse hitches), as well as great shopping and eating. There are even cooking competitions!
A short drive from downtown Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo hosts Canada’s greatest Bavarian festival. Between October 7-15, 2016 visitors can enjoy entertainment, the best local food trucks, beer, and general revelry. I’m in. And if that doesn’t float your boat (maybe have that checked out) then come out for the largest Canadian Thanksgiving Day Parade. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Buy your tickets now.
Bala Cranberry Festival
As if anyone needed an excuse to head to Muskoka in the fall. The changing foliage, great hikes, and world famous butter tarts are enough of a draw, but Bala has hosted the annual Cranberry Festival for more than 30 years with the purpose of extending the tourist season and helping organizations and individuals in need, and that makes it doubly appealing. This year the festival runs from October 14-16, 2016 and the three days are packed with live music (check out musicians who’ve played The Kee to Bala), ghost tours, pancake breakfasts, and cranberry marsh tours.
If the name alone doesn’t get you, Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village puts on a stunning display of close to 7,000 hand carved pumpkins, running from September 30 – October 30, 2016. Upper Canada Village brings local history to life in Eastern Ontario; it’s one of the largest living history sites in Canada and brings visitors back to the 1860s. But back to the main show – Pumpkinferno stars pumpkins and lots of them. These aren’t your neighbour Bob’s pumpkin heads though – sea creatures and forest animals and mythical creatures and cultural icons are all carved from everyone’s favourite squash and displayed in creative and eclectic exhibits. It’s a fan favourite!
Once a year, Fort Henry, one of Ontario’s most imposing forts that sits at the entrance of the Rideau Canal and the town of Kingston, is taken over by zombies and ghouls and ghosts. By day it’s a civilized, former military garrison dating back to 1870, and by night (or from September 29 – October 30) it becomes Fort Fright, a spooky, scary-as-hell setting for animatronics, special effects, and live actors that creepy-loving fan will love. There’s even a Total Scare entrance package for the fearless (crazy) to brag about. Check it out if you dare!
Owen Sound Salmon Tour
Years ago, I stumbled on salmon jumping up waterfalls in Owen Sound, a picturesque town set along Lake Huron’s Georgian Bar just two hours north of Toronto. It turns out that Owen Sound is one of the few places in Ontario we can see the Chinook salmon spawning, and the Owen Sound Salmon Tour is a great way to explore the area. The self-guided exploration is free (BONUS!) and anyone interested can hike, paddle, bike, or drive to follow the salmon anytime between September 16 – October 10, 2016. Run there quickly because it’s one of the coolest things you’ll see in your own backyard.
Ontario doesn’t have a monopoly on fall fun, even if some of us are biased, apparently the season happens outside our provincial limits too. If you have time to explore and the wanderlust that goes with it, check out this amazing guide for the ultimate fall trip from our friends over at Taking the Kids.