Did you know: Autumn is called “Fall” from an Old English word feallan which means “to fall or die.” Before you feallan, you might want to experience some of the best Autumn experiences in Canada. Incidentally, nobody is quite sure where the word “Autumn” comes from.
1. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival celebrates the music, culture and beauty of the island for nine days each October. Artists, storytellers and musicians arrive from around the world, met by exploding foliage on the island, tens of thousands of visitors, fresh seafood, and that famed island hospitality. Unique to the festival: concerts and workshops take place throughout the island, in community halls, theatres and chapels. The Cabot Trail is already on The Great Canadian Bucket List. According to locals, there’s no better time to experience one of the world’s best drives than in the fall.
2. Peterborough, Ontario
Two and a half hours from Ottawa and 90 minutes from Toronto, Peterborough and the Kawarthas are ideal for a weekend fall escape. There is plenty of cabin and B&B getaways, while you can explore the largest wilderness preserve south of the Algonquin, and well over a hundred lakes. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the Warsaw Caves and Conservation area with a headlamp to explore this subterranean activity park. Since 1868, the Norwood Fall Fair has been a Thanksgiving tradition, just a short drive east of city of Peterborough.
3. The Laurentians, Quebec
When you look at tourism photos of this 22,000 square kilometre region north of Montreal, many of them show the bright reds and oranges of leaves in the fall. The mountain air is crisp, the maple groves glowing, and romance blossoms in villages, spas and resorts. Besides the attraction of the autumn foliage, it’s a great time to sample the gourmet food produced in the area – cheese, wine, ciders, sausages, honey and maple syrup products. Warm up the cooler nights at one of dozens of excellent spas, including Nordic spas in Mont Tremblant and Inn Spas in Sainte- Adèle.
4. Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
For those looking for foliage colour in the prairies, consider Riding Mountain National Park. It covers some 3,000 km2 of rolling hill and boreal forest, and is home to moose, elk, black bears, and wolves. There are a number of special fall experiences on offer within the park. You can join interpreters as they track herds of elk, enjoy the Gorge Creek Trail, one of the province’s most scenic hikes, making its way along the dramatic Manitoba Escarpment. You can even become a citizen scientist by joining the park’s research team in the field.
5. Elk Ridge Resort, Saskatchewan
If you’re in Saskatchewan, treat yourself to some autumn pampering at this four-season resort, located about an hour’s drive from Prince Albert. Whether you’re birdwatching, hiking along the 400km of groomed trails, or enjoying the 27-hole championship golf course, the fall foliage of the surrounding forest is pure eye candy. The foliage colours are not the only natural spectacle on display: stay up late and you just might see the night sky dazzle with the Northern Lights.
6. The Canadian
Operating year-round, why not spend this fall in motion on one of the world’s great train journeys (and a favourite on The Great Canadian Bucket List). VIA Rail’s “Canadian” takes four days to travel between Toronto and Vancouver, offering comfortable sleeping cars (including new deluxe cars with double beds) , excellent dining, and an peaceful, elegant ambiance. With the wide viewing windows, you can literally watch the landscape transform in front of you, along the lakes of Ontario, across the prairies and through the mighty Rockies. Guests can stop at key cities along the way, or just sit back in comfort and enjoy the motion blur of red, oranges and yellows.
7. PEI’s Fall Flavour Festival
It’s no accident that PEI’s lobsters and oysters are on The Great Canadian Bucket. The culinary scene on the island has to be tasted to be believed, and fall is the perfect time to do it. Taking place around the island, this month-long festival lets you dig your own clams or pick your own potatoes, or simply let some of the region’s best chefs strut their stuff – in the kitchen and out front. PEI’s fall weather is clear and bright, with maple, poplar, birch and beech leaves providing the canvas of colour.
8. The Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, BC
Over 165 events take place every October in BC’s Okanagan Valley, where you can enjoy the festivities during the heart of the wine harvest. Wine and dine yourself amongst the vines at some of the excellent vineyard restaurants, amongst thousands of visitors enjoying the region’s largest festival. It’s the only festival in North America that takes place during the grape harvest. Besides the events, educational workshops and gourmet dining, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Okanagan, and spa, golf, bike or hike the last warm days away.
9. Agawa Canyon Train Tour, Ontario
If you liked the idea of experiencing the fall foliage by train, but would prefer something a little shorter, consider this one-day adventure into the Ontario wilderness. The train travels 114 miles north from Sault Ste. Marie through forest and lake country, and along the striking granite cliffs of the Canadian Shield. Foliage lovers have long enjoyed departures throughout the fall season. A GPS commentary of the highlights and cultural history of the area adds to the experience, as does the 90 minutes you have on the ground to explore the Canyon Park. The train has large viewing windows, and “locomotive” views on flat screen TV’s in the carriage.
10. Lanaudiére and Mauricie, Quebec
The foliage explodes in this region located between Montreal and Quebec City, home to 10,000 lakes, and a landscape of seemingly endless forest and parks. There’s also small towns and villages that reflect an old world charm, complete with bistros and cozy shops to take shelter as the days get shorter. The area comprises some massive national parks. La Mauricie National Park is a 536 square km woodland with pristine lakes and hikes for all levels of fitness. There are various road trip itineraries that trace the heritage of New France, crossing back and forth over Canada’s first overland route, the Chemin du Roy.
Taking photos of the fall foliage? Here’s a link to gear reviews of lightweight spotting scope tripods.