Autumn in Ontario’s Highlands is a special time of year. The region transforms into a spectacular palette of oranges, golds, and reds. To celebrate this season, come and enjoy our fall festivals where you can eat, drink, and be merry in breathtaking surroundings. A fall festival highlight that takes place during the month of October in Stirling, is the Hastings County Beer Festival. This popular event attracts visitors far and wide looking to sample Ontario craft beers, wines and ciders, and culinary delights from the best local chefs, who use ingredients from cheese companies and farms in the area. Live music in the evening makes this a complete entertainment experience you won’t want to miss.
When the snow flies the fun begins. In Ontario’s Highlands, winter isn’t a time to hibernate indoors – it’s the perfect time to get out and take part in one of the many festivals offered throughout the region. From outdoor fun in the snow or on the ice, to indoor arts,, crafts, and entertainment events, you’ll find winter in Ontario’s Highlands to be full of life and energy. A winter festival highlight is the Frost Festival in Haliburton. This fun-filled family event features ice skating, a pancake breakfast, tobogganing, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. This event is a great way to celebrate winter – we bet you’ll have such a great time that you won’t even notice the cold.
Arts and Crafts Festivals
Ontario’s Highlands is a delight for arts and crafts lovers, and we have several festivals and events that highlight the creativity that thrives in our region. One of the things we’re known for is our fantastic studio tours. These tours allow you to explore local art, gifts, and other products from our artisans, in the shops and studios that they call home. Not only is it a great way for you experience our local arts scene, but in the autumn, driving to each location allows you to experience the beauty of our fall colours. Visit our Tours & Routes page for a list of Studio Tours.
A few highlights are:
- The Inroads Studio Tour in the Land O’Lakes and Lanark County offers a great opportunity for you to see the works of local artisans. With close to two dozen artisans listed on the tour, you can see handmade and intricate art pieces such as paintings, pottery, woodwork, printmaking, and fashion accessories.
- The Bancroft & Area Autumn Studio Tour is another driving tour with unique works produced by local artists. The stunning landscape and scenery you’ll encounter between the studio stops will give you a first-hand look at what has inspired some of the artists.
- On the Haliburton County Studio Tour, you can see the works of more than 28 artists and artisans. This tour also takes place in the fall, giving you amazing glimpses at the blazing treetops dressed in their autumn colours.
- Other regional studio tours to consider include the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour, the Perth Autumn Studio Tour, the Scarlet Maple Tour, and the Crown and Pumpkin Studio Tour.
The Rural Ramble in the Ottawa Valley is another unique driving tour for you to explore in the fall. It features attractions and activities that take place over four different themed weekends ranging from Adventure and Exploration, Agriculture and Food, History and Heritage, or Arts and Culture. The Rural The Rural Ramble tours are free and self-guided so you can enjoy the all of the activities at your own pace.
As fall passes and winter descends upon us, the holiday season brings its own festivals and events to help you find that unique gift. In November the Handmade Harvest Craft Show in Almonte takes is a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts from local talents. You can also find that perfect gift at the Heart of Hastings Studio Tour which features local food and baked goods, art and antiques, Christmas decorations and more. There are a variety of Christmas Craft Shows throughout Ontario’s Highlands – you’re sure to find one taking place every weekend in November and December, so be sure to check out our events calendar!
It may be cold outside, but there are plenty of activities and events happening throughout the region to keep you warm and entertained – that are truly Canadian experiences. Grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate and head outdoors to watch a professional snowmobile race or ice fishing derby, or take part in the winter fun of dogsledding, ice-hockey, or tobogganing!
Taking place annually at the end of November in Bancroft, is the Rally of the Tall Pines. This event is a favourite for competitors and fans alike. It’s an Earth-shredding rally race where small cars with four-wheel drive are driven treacherously down forest roads to the loud cheering of a roaring crowd. It’s the final event of the Canadian Rally Championship, and that means you’ll see tight year-end battles, which make for hard driving and great spectating.
Renfrew’s Winter Frew Festival that takes place in January is another outdoor festival that wouldn’t be possible without snow and ice. Get your share of ice fishing at the festival derby, see the snowy creations at the snow sculpture competition, and enjoy wagon rides too.
The Marmora Snofest is held the first weekend in February and brings together visitors and locals looking to find the winter spirit and enjoy fun outdoor activities. This event hosts one of the largest dogsledding races in Canada, which is the main attraction, but there are plenty of other things to do that will keep you busy all weekend long.
Every February the Bonnechere Cup in Eganville, draws professional snowmobilers throughout North America to compete in a Eastern Pro Tour snowmobile race. Watch the thrills and spills as competitors race at high speeds on a slick oval track for a chance to win the coveted Bonnechere Cup. See some of the action captured here:
Another fun festival that happens in February is Timberfest in Barry’s Bay. This weekend is jam-packed with family fun celebrating the logging heritage of the town and surrounding area. See live music performances and enjoy exciting outdoor winter activities such as horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog sled rides, hockey games, and more.
Bring the kids along for these family-friendly festivals and events that take place in the fall and winter. You’ll find outdoor and indoor entertainment and activities that everyone can enjoy. In early fall, you won’t want to miss the Drum Nation Festival in Madoc, which is all about creative expression and family interaction. Come celebrate the presence of the drum in different cultures and music and dance as an art form with a day of children’s workshops, painting, juggling, magic, belly dancing, drumming techniques, instruction on instruments from around the world, djembe drum lessons, and more!
In October, a great excursion is the annual Pioneer Day at Rockfield Farm in Boulter. Bring your family to see farming how it used to be done… and still is! There are farming demonstrations, horses, food and drinks to sample, and lots of things for everyone to do. Best of all, admission is free. If you’re looking for more harvest fun, stop by the Flinton Apple Festival (in Flinton) to celebrate all things apple! Your family won’t leave hungry with all the fresh apple pies and baking. There are also games, contests, and other activities to enjoy.
When the snow falls, it’s time to bundle up in your hats, mitts, and snowsuits, as you won’t want to miss all the action in Ontario’s Highlands. Do you have the next Wayne Gretzky in your family? The kids vs. adults hockey game at the Dorset Snowball Winter Carnival, held each February in Dorset, is a great way to enjoy some quality time with your little superstar. But there’s a lot more at the Snowball than just hockey! Have a pancake breakfast, go skating, delight in a horse-drawn wagon ride, enter the kids in the children’s broomball tournament, and… too many more things to list them all here!
What better day to spend time with your family than Family Day, which takes place throughout Ontario on the third Monday in February. Start a new tradition by going to the festivities at Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike in Haliburton. Spend the day on the slopes and then enjoy a BBQ on the deck with new and old friends.