Most of us equate festival season with summer, but in many parts of Canada this fun time of year continues on into the fall. While the weather may be cooler and the leaves have started changing colours, there’s still lots to celebrate and experience before the winter months set in.
From food and drink to music and art, there’s tons going on during the autumn months. So if you’re looking for some travel or road-trip inspiration, here are some noteworthy ideas for festivals and events to explore this fall in Québec and Ontario.
Note: These are all annual festivals; however, the dates do change from year to year. Be sure to bookmark the ones of interest and check back later to confirm.
Quebéc Fall Festivals and Events
Festival de Montgolfières de Gatineau
The Festival de Montgolfières de Gatineau - or the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in English - takes place in Gatineau, Québec, which is just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario. It’s a 5-day festival that includes a range of events including fireworks, light shows, musical performances, carnival-type rides, events for children, and the main highlight: hot air balloons! 2023 marks the 36th edition of this Québec festival, and it takes place the last couple of days of August into the first week of September. Insider tip: Access to the festival does require a festival pass, but you can watch the early morning hot air balloons (starting around 6am) for free at the festival site.
Music lovers might be interested in adding Montréal’s POP festival to their fall itinerary. This annual event is a not-for-profit music festival featuring musicians and artists from around the world. The festival lasts for 5 days and features over 400 artists, with events that include concerts, visual exhibitions, fashion shows, discussions, film screenings, and all-night parties. The 2023 dates are from September 27th to October 2nd.
La Grande Gourmandise Mont-Tremblant
Calling all foodies! If you love good food then the Gourmandise Festival in Mont-Tremblant needs to be on your radar. The month-long event takes place in September and aims to showcase Québec’s gastronomic culture. From demonstrations and tastings to gourmet vendors operating at individual kiosks - not to mention the wide range of restaurants and bars - this is a foodie event not to be missed!
Ontario Fall Festivals and Events
Ontario Culture Days
This annual festival celebrates art, culture and heritage, and takes place every year in various places across the province. The festival usually lasts a few weeks and is free to attend. Events are diverse and for all ages, and include things like art studio tours, in-person discussions with artists and creatives, dance lessons and performances, campfires, story time sessions, musical performances, exhibitions, and more. You can take a look at the Ontario Culture Days website to find out what events are happening in your area.
Did you know that cranberries are native only to North America and are harvested like no other crop in the world? In the Muskoka region, you can experience it all for yourself in the two weeks leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving. The Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery puts on an annual cranberry harvest event that includes wagon tours, wine tasting, hiking trails, harvest activities and a cranberry plunge! It’s a great day out with family or friends, plus a good spot to pick up some local cranberries for your Thanksgiving dinner.
The original Oktoberfest is world-famous and takes place in Bavaria, Germany. However, there are a number of cities in Ontario that also put on Oktoberfest festivals in late September and early October. Toronto has one of the biggest Oktoberfest events, filled with German food and beer. The event takes place in a Bavarian-inspired hall and includes polka music, huge tables, games, pretzels, sausages, and more. If you really want to go out, you can even wear lederhosen or a dirndl.
And don’t forget...
On top of these bigger events, don’t forget that fall is also fair season! Many smaller towns and communities across Quebec and Ontario will have their local fall fairs during September and October which are always fun to check out, especially if you are a family with children.
Another annual fall event to keep in mind is when the leaves change colour. Many places will have fall colour festivals around this time with a few extra events to enjoy along with leaf-peeping. Whichever event you choose, get out there and have fun this fall!
Hannah Logan is a Canadian travel writer who dreams of being just like Indiana Jones. You can follow her travels on her personal travel blog Eat Sleep Breathe Travel where she shares her travel tales and (mis)adventures around the world.
Hannah Logan is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.