Come fall, the leaves become crunchy and there is a distinct nip in the air. Autumn is the most visually appealing season in North America and admittedly your last chance to be in the great outdoors before gearing up for an intense winter. Apart from the customary apple picking and pumpkin carving, here are a few amazing experiences you can indulge in this fall, no matter where you are in Canada.
Witness the Northern Lights
Of course, they have potatoes. They also have Northern Lights! September is a great time to witness the breathtaking majesty of aurora borealis – you can choose to camp or glamp under the stars or even travel out into the wilderness to minimize light pollution for the most authentic experience.
Paddle down the Yukon
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can paddle 600 km down the Yukon River to Dawson city. Book 12-day guided tours for the experience of a lifetime – it’s an amazing opportunity to spot wildlife such as moose and bear, stop every night at campsites, learn about the region and its history, and enjoy some delicious open fire cooking.
Ride the Ghost Train
Opening just in time for Halloween, you can ride the ghost train at Stanley Park for some spooks and scares – the theme for 2021 is Alice in Nightmareland. This is kid-friendly, with other activities such as crafts, movies and pumpkin patches available – you can make a weekend out of it.
Take in the Vancouver International Film Festival
Perfect for the culture buff – the world-renowned Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) starts late September. It is one of the largest showcases of Canadian and international films (from over 70 countries). They also have talks by renowned filmmakers, workshops, and multi-stage performances surrounding the theme of storytelling – it promises to be quite the immersive experience.
North Western Territories
The city is spectacular and has a rich and vibrant community – You can choose to spend the day respectfully learning about the local culture and exploring the capital or head over to the Somba K’e Civic Plaza for a Labour Day weekend BBQ – it is a free event, and they also offer games for the whole family.
Learn about Indigenous Culture
Visit Big River Land on the Deh Travel Cho Connection. You will be on Dene land, the people will only be so happy to help you understand and try traditional foods, teach you the uses of many plants in healing and medicine, and show you a 1,000-year-old Dene trail.
Go Dog Sledding in the Snow
You can go dog sledding – the qimmiit dogs have been revered parts of Thule life for over 4,000 years. The dogs have helped the people hunt and offered protection and companionship. They are majestic to behold, very unlike domestic pets, and the sledding tours are exhilarating to say the least.
Hike on Tundra Land
If you love hiking, then head to Iqaluit on Baffin Island to hike on the Tundra – the lack of elevation gain makes it suitable for all levels of hikers. You can discover mosses, lichens, and all types of Tundra flora and fauna on this ancient region of the Canadian shield, which is home to some of the oldest rocks in the world. It’ll be a fascinating experience for the curious.
Go on a Gondola Ride
Ride the gondola over Banff and witness the most gorgeous autumn colours from high above ground. Once you get to the top, there is a ridgetop boardwalk for you to stroll on and enjoy the view. There are also restaurants if you’d like a bite to eat and a rooftop observation desk to take in the sweeping panorama of Banff from every direction. You can even choose to hike up and then take the gondola down if you’re up for a challenge.
Be Part of a Balloon Festival
The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival starts late September – you can choose to take a ride in a hot air balloon over High River or even just watch if you’re content with both feet on the ground. When it’s dark out, you can take part in the Night Glow – get up close with the balloons and their pilots, try different cuisines at the food trucks and generally enjoy the music and entertainment.
Float in the Dead Sea of Canada
Little Manitou Lake is known as the Dead Sea of Canada – the water is highly saline, meaning if you get in the lake, you will float unaided. You can set the pace of this experience – book yourself a day of pampering at spas or restaurants, play golf in the glacier-scooped valley, spend the whole time at the beach or even enjoy performances at the dance hall.
Plan a Day Out at the Berry Barn
Be sure to grab a slice of Saskatoon berry pie from the Berry Barn – it’s not too late in the year for fresh hydroponic berries. Make a day out of it in the fall – they have pumpkin patches, a petting zoo, pony rides, a straw bale maze, and pedal Go-Karts. When you get hungry you can just head over to the eatery or the ice cream shack for a treat.
Eat Your Fill at Food Truck Warz
If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat this fall – Food Truck Warz is back in Brandon for the 4th year, with 24 food trucks from all over Manitoba. Featuring a wide variety of cuisines from BBQ chicken wings to Mexican, Japanese fusion to pizza, Ukrainian to El Salvadorean fares, this food fest promises to have something for everyone. Of course, there is also live music and a beer garden to nicely round out the experience.
Take Part in the Nuit Blanche Festival
Fall is a great time to visit Manitoba – the White Night Festival is a celebration of contemporary art that starts late September every year. It also serves as the flag off for Culture Days, which were instituted to support and promote Canadian communities’ art and culture in the province. This free festival features events with works from scores of artists, galleries, organizations and curators. Soak in the culture.
Oktoberfest in Ontario
You don’t have to go all the way to Germany to enjoy Oktoberfest – Kitchener-Waterloo holds Canada’s largest version of the festival with beautiful beers to try, exceptional cuisine, the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Parade, and many fun events to keep you entertained and slightly blissed out.
Ride the Train through Agawa Canyon
Take the train to Sault Ste. Marie, 183 km of riding in a coach through beautiful lakes and lush trees and down the Agawa canyon. You can choose to listen to commentary about the landmarks and the region’s rich history as you pass. Once you disembark from the train, you have 90 minutes before you head back – you can enjoy scenic walks or make your way to a lookout point that is over 76 m above the canyon floor, or even just have a picnic by the river.
Aquarium du Quebec is a must-visit – it is an extravaganza of indoor and outdoor activities that you won’t get enough of. There are both enclosed and exterior attractions where you can witness marine life like starfish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plankton. There are also seals, walruses, and polar bears that you can observe through an underwater glass view. There are restaurants and bistros, a BBQ area, and ice cream shacks for when you get hungry.
Treat Yourself to a Gourmet Weekend
If weekends out in the country are up your alley, you can enjoy a Gourmet Weekend at Rougemont. You can plan for either a family activity or a quiet outing for a couple or some friends – there are orchards, mini-farms, product tasting events, guided tours – you can’t really go wrong when you’re surrounded by mountains and village charm.
The fall is a great time to go glamping on one of the many glamp camps in NB – you can bring your own equipment or book a yurt or a treehouse for an excellent camping experience without giving up your comfort. You can even choose to live in a dome for a weekend – not only do you get an unobstructed view of the stars at night, but these domes are fully equipped with all that you’ll need for your stay – mini-hotels, really – with the option to have a hot tub to yourself as well. Talk about relaxing in style.
Be Mesmerized at the Pumpkin Festival
Visit NB just in time for La Grande Grouille – thousands of pumpkins are lit up at night, beginning early fall. This is at the Botanical Garden, which is also impressive in itself – 12 gardens that are themed spread across 20 acres (8 hectares) of land, an insect exhibit, live music, resident artists, workshops to sign up for and even a cafe with a patio that overlooks the waterfalls.
Indulge in a Seafood Trail
Fall is the perfect time to go on a seafood trail in Nova Scotia, indulge in lobster, chowder and all kinds of seafood in between. People tend to get creative with their seafood – think lobster tacos, lobster poutine – all fresh from the sea. Pick one bistro or spend an evening resto-hopping – your stomach AND heart will be full by the end of the night.
Lose Yourself in Sunflower Fields
Have an Instagram-worthy day – visit expansive fields of sunflowers and get lost through the maze. The happy sunflowers are planted in phases so that no matter when you go during the fall, there is always a bunch of them in full bloom. You can also play in the sand pile or fly a kite and indulge in some goodies from the local artisanal vendors.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Watch Humpback Whales in their Natural Habitat
Have your breath taken away in the best possible way – go whale watching on the coast. You can book a 90-minute tour out into the ocean where humpback whales gather every year and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see other exotic aquatic wildlife and even the odd iceberg.
Watch the Sun Rise from the Tip of North America
Go to the most easterly place in North America – Avalon point – and be the first on the entire continent to watch the sun rise (you also have the option to go on boat tours and hikes in the area). Then head to one of the oldest cities in NA – St. John’s – to spend the day as you please, there is something for everyone – museums, handmade craft shops, farmer’s markets, and National historic sites amidst restaurants, live music, and boutiques.
Prince Edward Island
Dine on the Water
Of course, you’re looking to treat yourself to some great seafood when you’re in the Maritimes but how about a unique dining experience on the water? Treat yourself to dinner at a floating restaurant. The Cork & Cast has a great menu of tried and tested favourites (with vegan and gluten-free options). Enjoy the food with a beautiful view of the ocean and the sounds of gentle waves lapping beneath your feet. An experience to definitely write home about.
Visit a Lighthouse
Enjoy a breathtaking sunset from the top of a lighthouse – PEI is home to many, the tallest one standing at about 20 m high. You can also take guided tours to the top to learn about the architecture and shipwrecks in the area (brr… how exciting!). It could be an evening of exploration ideal for both couples and families. Or even by yourself if that’s your jam.
All events have been modified from their previous iterations to account for public safety during this pandemic period. Any event is subject to cancellation or closure due to inclement weather or at the organizers’ discretion – make sure you contact them directly for the most current information before making plans or booking tickets.