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10 Exciting Ways to Make the Most of Your Thanksgiving Weekend in Ontario

These local events will help you celebrate beyond the dinner table

Beautiful Canadian landscape in the fall with many red and orange leaves in the trees

If you don’t plan to spend your Thanksgiving weekend basting a turkey, there are plenty of ways to get out and make the most of it, from checking out fall foliage to celebrating the harvest. Here are 10 ways to enjoy local destinations this Thanksgiving weekend.

1. Follow the Pumpkin Trail in Stratford and St. Marys

Autumn heralds the return of the pumpkin spice latte and all things pumpkin. If you can’t get enough of this taste sensation, take the self-guided Savour Stratford Pumpkin Trail in Stratford and St. Marys, where a $25 pass gets you six vouchers that can be exchanged for pumpkin treats at six stops, from traditional pumpkin pie to pumpkin-spiced tea. The Pumpkin Trail only runs until October 31, when those pumpkins get turned into jack-o’-lanterns.

Bottle of pumpkin spice liquer 

Still craving pumpkin? Check out our top picks for Ontario day trips that will fuel your passion for pumpkin.

2. Soak up the fall colours in Algonquin Provincial Park

There’s no shortage of fall colours in Ontario, but a jaunt to Algonquin Provincial Park is well worth the few hours’ drive from Toronto or Ottawa. The park’s forest canopy—sugar and red maples, yellow and white birch, trembling aspen, red oak and tamarack—is transformed by brilliant hues of red, orange and yellow. Spend the night, so there’s more time to explore nature’s display of colour on foot, by bike or by canoe.

3. Make merry at Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener-Waterloo isn’t just serving up turkey over the Thanksgiving weekend. Beer, schnitzel and sauerkraut are on the menu during its annual Oktoberfest, which celebrates German heritage, food and music. Take your pick of 12 festhallen (halls or tents set up for the event) to experience the gemütlichkeit (friendly atmosphere) of Canada’s largest Bavarian festival. Also on tap are 49 cultural events and the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Two men wearing traditional German outfits as they open up a wooden barrel with a hammer as more folks in traditional German clothing surround them 

4. Discover Ontario’s brewery routes

Explore Ontario’s Greenbelt—and all its culinary delights—on one of nine self-guided Brewery Discovery Routes. Each curated itinerary highlights craft breweries along with craft cideries and distilleries, hops farms, artisanal cheese makers, farmers’ markets and Feast On restaurants serving up the best in food and drink sourced from the province. The routes are also a way to discover some of the province’s most scenic spots, from south Georgian Bay to Hamilton’s waterfalls.

5. Celebrate the autumn harvest in Midland

The annual Thanksgiving Harvest Festival returns to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Midland on October 7 and 8, celebrating the season with a farmers’ market, sampling of historic foods and the traditional planting of the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash). Also returning as part of the festival is the popular Arts & Crafts Show and Sale, featuring local artisans and crafters showing their wares, from original acrylic artwork to birchbark greeting cards and wooden birdhouses.

6. Pick some apples near Georgian Bay

Head to southern Georgian Bay for the annual Blue Mountains Apple Harvest Fest (October 7 to 9) to celebrate Thanksgiving in Ontario’s apple-growing region, with apples (of course), street performers and gallery tours. Don’t feel like picking your own? Take in the Apple Pie Trail, a self-guided culinary adventure where you can also explore the surrounding countryside and harbour towns.

Man and woman dressed as scarecrows 

7. Walk, cycle and sip wine in Niagara

Bring your hiking boots or bikes along for a trip to Beamsville Bench in Niagara, where you can visit several wineries within walking distance along quiet country roads (or cycling distance, if you’re not sipping). If weather permits, stop for charcuterie at a vineyard patio; if you want to sample wine, consider booking a night at a cozy inn or B&B. You can also walk a section of the Bruce Trail, or head over to Ball’s Falls to take in the views and the annual Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival.

8. Take a hike in Halton Region

Savour the cooler weather and fall colours on one of the province’s many hikes, such as the 7.2-kilometre trail from Rattlesnake Point to Nassagaweya Canyon in Halton Region. This trail winds through forest cover—at its colourful best in autumn—and connects to the Crawford Lake Conservation Area, which has a boardwalk around a meromictic lake (whose layers of water do not mix), a recreation of an Iroquoian longhouse and a “hide-and-seek trail” that little ones will love.

A large pond with a conservation house behind it surrounded by trees 

9. Get out on the water at Little Cataraqui Creek

Enjoy the fall foliage from the water (before it freezes). The annual Fall Colours Weekend at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area is a great spot to view the leaves on foot or by paddling the reservoir. (Rent a canoe or kayak at the Outdoor Centre or bring your own.) Or, experience the fall colours of the Thousand Islands on a cruise—there’s even a traditional turkey and ham Thanksgiving menu aboard the Island Star over the long weekend.

10. Head to a farmers’ market on Lake Rosseau

Muskoka isn’t just a summer destination; it comes alive in autumn, with scenic drives, hikes and paddles. Back this year is the Rosseau Thanksgiving Saturday Market at Lake Rosseau’s waterfront park, along with the annual Pumpkin Fest, during which the streets are filled with culinary treats and live music. Muskoka also offers several fall weekend getaway packages.

Stalls and tents are set up at a farmer's market 

Curious about what else Ontario has to offer for the fall?

Here are seven of the province’s top roadside attractions and six unique places you need to “camp” in Ontario.

Image credit: visual hunt