Fall is a time of country harvests, crunching leaves, and soothing drinks. It’s a time when families curl up close to stay warm and prepare for winter: the leaves are changing and the air is getting crisp. Don’t let the weather fool you, though; Fall shouldn’t mean hibernating alone at home. There are plenty of fun fall activities to get you outside, around the table, or jumping from the tree tops. To help you make your Fall bucket list, we’ve compiled a list of 50 Fun Fall Activities in South Western Ontario.
1. Festivals and Fairs
- Norfolk Country Fair and Horse Show – Buckle up your bootstraps and get ready to rumble at Ontario’s oldest agricultural fair! Formed in 1840, the Norfolk Country Fair and Horse Show runs from October 2 to 8 in 2018, and features a variety of local grain and produce, arts and crafts, demolition derbies and monster truck shows, and of course, the prize-winning horseshow. So whether you come for the food, the fair, or the fun there’s something for everyone.
- Festival of Hawks – Witness the migration spectacular at Holiday Beach Conservation Area, Amherstburg as tens of thousands of hawks and raptors fly overhead on their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south. Experts will be on-site conducting hawk banding and adoptions. Get up close and personal to a variety of raptors as experts measure, tag, and then release these birds back into the wild. Enjoy live raptor display and a wide range of free educational and family-oriented programs. September 22 & 23, 2018
- Stratford Lantern Parade – Bring your family, friends and neighbours for a magical stroll along the riverbank to Tom Patterson island, where you may choose to explore the mysterious lantern labyrinth and float a wish lantern down the river. Held on Saturday Oct. 13th, 2018.
- Ruthven Apple Festival – During the last weekend in September, Kingsville, Ontario hosts the Ruthven Apple Festival, voted one of The Top 100 Festivals in Ontario multiple years in a row. With a parade, non-stop music, children’s rides, and over 100 craft and vendor booths, it’s sure to be a great time for the whole family. And admission and parking are free!
- Western Fair – For 10 days of rides, concerts, entertainments, animals, and family fun, head into London’s downtown core and see the Western Fair. Beginning the weekend after Labour Day (September 7 -16, 2018) the fairgrounds will come alive with fall festivities.
- Windsor Craft Beer Festival – Raise a glass together for the region’s original festival dedicated to craft beer! Local and craft brewers from across the province will participate in a festival that will celebrate a much loved libation. October 12 to 13 @ Willistead Park
- Fall Harvest Festival – For more rugged fall festivities, visit Port Burwell Provincial Park during the first weekend in October and take part in the campsite post decorating contest and pumpkin carving. Look up and you might see the “Marvels of Migration” – the annual autumn hawk migration including hawks, vultures, and eagles. Identified as a birder’s paradise, Port Burwell features 2.5km of sandy beach, a family playground, hiking trails, and a gift store.
- Essex County Orchid Society Orchid Show – Join Essex County Orchid Society at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens for the two day Orchid Show! View amazing orchid displays, photography, artworks, enjoy lectures and repotting demonstrations, watch the judged orchid show and buy your own beautiful flower! November 3 & 4 @ Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, Kingsville.
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II. For the Adventurer
- Leaping Deer Adventure Park and Market – Located between Woodstock and Ingersoll in Oxford County, Leaping Deer Adventure Farm and Market is full of fun, family activities. Take time this fall to get lost in the Deer Corn Maze, pick up some local produce at The Country Store, and stop in for a bite to eat at the Green Room Café. You don’t even have to leave your furry-friend home this time, as Leaping Deer is dog friendly!
- Adventure Bay Family Waterpark – Missing the beach already? Don’t fret, just pack up the family and head down to the 35 000 square foot indoor waterpark featuring an activity pool, five water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, and splash zone. For land-loving parents, there is a discount for supervisors who remain on the sidelines.
- Boler Mountain – This year-round, not-for-profit adventure extravaganza is not for the faint of the heart! Early in September you can check out the Treetop Adventure Park which features zip lines, rope courses, swinging bridges, tarzan swings, and pirate nets, finishing with an 1100 foot zip line finish. If you miss this adventure, don’t worry – there are still plenty of mountain biking and fitness trails to feed your need for speed! Depending on weather conditions, you might also be able to take advantage of the skiing, snowboarding, and tubing trails.
- Adventures on Wonderland – For the budding adrenaline junky check out Adventures on Wonderland in downtown London. This is London’s largest indoor playground and family entertainment facility, and it’s all there for your adventurer aged 12 years or younger. For whole-family fun, take a turn in their Arcade Room or play round of Laser Tag.
- Leamington Raceway – If you’re more of a Sideline-Sue, be sure to check out the Leamington Raceway. This non-for-profit organization looks to “inspire and promote positive change and growth to the harness horse industry in Ontario”. Every Sunday from August to October this 1/2mile harness racing track features live harness racing and entertainment. Better yet, there’s free parking and admission!
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III. From Farm to Table
- Puck’s Plenty Foraging Tours – In today’s world it seems everyone is trying to make healthier, more informed decisions that benefit their local community. Well, it can’t get more local than your own back yard! Meet with acclaimed novelist and naturalist Peter Bush, learn, explore, and forage the forests around south western Ontario. Bring along your children and your dog to learn new recipes, eat local and wild, and of course get outdoors.
- Kusterman’s Berry Farm – Is there anything more fall-like than a pumpkin patch? Head down to Kusterman’s Berry Farm to pick your Halloween pumpkin, feed the animals, take pony rides, and ride the berry train – there’s even a kid-friendly zip-line! And don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out.
- Covent Garden Market – Opened in 1845, this indoor/outdoor market presents fresh produce, local artisanal merchants, and regular family programming. Head down during the last weekend in September for their Fall Food Fest, featuring fall-themed children’s activities, cooking classes, live music, and a community cook-off.
- Riberdy Farms – This 3rd generation family farm has been growing cucumbers, raspberries, peaches, plums, zucchini, gladiolas, and fall mums since 1943. Open until Thanksgiving, this is the perfect stop to bring home the fall harvest for your Thanksgiving feast.
- Meadowlilly Farm – In the middle of the Meadowlilly Woods Nature Preserve, in the heart of London is, Meadowlilly Farm. This bee-rescue and beekeeping farm is your one stop shop for beeswax, syrup, and locally harvested, raw, all natural, clover and wild flower, non-pasteurized honey. In the fall you’ll also find locally harvest black walnuts and free range duck eggs.
- Fall Cooking Class – Fall is the perfect to time to buckle down and learn a new skill. Now that the kids are back in school, it’s time to focus on you! So embrace the harvest season and take a fall-themed cooking class where you will learn to use seasonal foods to warm your cozy hearth.
- Clovermead Adventure Farm – Enjoy a wagon ride, bee train ride, visit farm animals, get lost in the corn maze, and enjoy the fall decorations and family photo spots. Take a spin on the pedal carts or bounce on the giant jumping pillow/pad. Don’t miss the Pumpkin Slide Show or the Cannon Artillery Show. There’s bushels of fresh family fun on the Adventure Farm.
- Apple Land Station – Famous for their apple pies and made from scratch pumpkin and praline pies, fall is the perfect time to visit this family farm. Pick your own apples or or that perfect pumpkin. check out the farm animals, the singing chicken station and take a tour on the train.
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IV. Get Lost!
- Thamesville Maize – Sometimes, it’s fun to get lost! Load up the family for a day of fun and education at the Thamesville Maize. With a corn maize, farmyard, pumpkin patch, and a Corn Awareness Centre, you’re sure to get in the fall spirit. If you’re feeling brave, head down on Halloween for a ghouly haunted maze adventure!
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V. Take a Tour
- Phantoms of the Canard Tour – Every Friday and Saturday night in October you can take the Phantoms of the Canard Ghost Tour to learn about hangings, burial sites, historical routes, and river witches of the River Canard, all under the cover of darkness. These guided historical tours also feature French settlements that were significant in the War of 1812. If you’re a little more lily-livered you can rent a watercraft or take a daylight guided tour through Canada’s southern-most county. Details
- Gardens of Stratford – Shakespeare’s home away from home (not verified!). Download the audio podcast and tour the Gardens of Stratford, including the Shakespearean Gardens, Arthur Meighen Gardens, Millennium Park, and Confederation Park. With leaves changing and fall-flowers in bloom, this is sure to be a calming mix of contemplative history and urban Zen escape.
- Stories of the Stores Walking Tour – St. Mary’s, Ontario is a bit of an undiscovered historical gem. Take it upon yourself to learn the deeper history behind the 19th and 20th century buildings through their self-guided walking tour. With the crisp fall air, you’ll certainly want to stop at Barista’s for a smooth hot chocolate or fair trade, fire roasted coffee to keep you warm on your journey.
- Halloween Tour – Just like Shakespeare’s tragedies, Stratford is full of haunting spirits and macabre menaces. During select evenings at the end of October take this candlelit, guided tour through Stratford’s haunted past. With highlights like a visit to the Avondale Cemetery and a macabre shadow play, there’s nothing better to get you in the Halloween spirit.
- Unique Boat Tour – This family run business has been providing tours of the Avon River since the mid-1800s. Join in on the history by taking a tour boat, or renting a canoe, paddle boat, or kayak to travel down the historical Avon River.
- Pubs, Pilsners, and Spirits Tour – Fall brings with it a crispness to the air, and an urge to put on a sweater and cozy up. This tour features a costumed guide and is perfect to warm you from the inside out! Tour historic taverns and hostelries while learning about the riotous history of Perth County. Ticket price includes a half-pint of the landlord’s finest at each of 3 landmarked pubs.
- Hike or Bike Heritage Aylmer – See Aylmer like you’ve never seen it before on this self-guided tour, exploring over 25 sites along the way. Get outside and learn something new about the old Aylmer – fall is the perfect season for an urban hike!
- Scenic Train Tour – Experience a Halloween themed or Pumpkin Patch train ride through the scenic Kettle Creek Valley on Port Stanley Terminal Rail.
- The Great Eldon House Ghost Hunt – Visit London’s oldest house rumoured to have ghosts and learn about the real ghost stories of Eldon House during this one-hour guided tour. Fridays and Saturdays in October.
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VI. For the Cultured Fall
- Lighthouse Conservation Area – Visit this single hectare park at the mouth of the Thames River in Lake St. Clair to see a 200+ year old lighthouse – one of the three oldest on the Great Lakes! In addition to seeing a little piece of history, take advantage of the cooler weather to walk through the conservation area for a light hike and a picnic, but don’t forget your thermos!
- Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery – Located in the heart of Sarnia, this art gallery is the perfect place to get away from the fall chill and spend some time contemplating history, arts, and culture. Visit on a Sunday for family drop-in, featuring artist-facilitated activities based on the gallery’s exhibit and seasonal theme.
- Annandale National Historic Site – We can’t all live in mansions nationally recognized for their extravagance, but we can dream. Take time this fall to see this exquisite example of the Aesthetic Art Movement popularized by Oscar Wilde. Built in the 1880s by E.D. Tilson, this historic site includes restored period rooms, galleries, and a museum. With fall events like the classic car show and a tour of the graves of WWI veterans at Tillsonburg Cemetery, this site is sure to pique even the most amateur historian’s interest.
- Petrolia Community Theatre – Started in 1994 with actors and participants from all over Lambton County, this theatre offers local entertainment for the whole family. Watch plays and other performances in a beautifully restored theatre, and know that you’re supporting the local community.
- Oil Museum of Canada – Believe it or not, the first commercial oil well was dug right here in South Western Ontario, in 1858. Visit this 2-floor museum to learn about the Canadian oil pioneers that started the modern petroleum industry. And don’t miss the interpretive video to get insights into the local area history.
- There’s No Place Like Home Antiques & Country Flea Market – Open weekends from 10:00am – 5:00pm, this flea market is located in a renovated barn and holds more than 2500 square feet of antiques and collectables. With new items every week, this the perfect weekend activity for treasure-hunters and bargain-busters alike.
- Artist Alley and Maiden Lane – Free 4 Walls – This public art project aims to “be a positive gesture to the community [that brings] long lasting character, energy, and beauty to the city”. Take some time this fall to explore Windsor and find this hidden gem in the alley between Ouellete and Pelissier Streets.
- Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum
– Located on 155 acres of Longwoods Road Conservation Area in London, this museum features artifacts from local excavations of the pre-contact period between 800-1200 AD. There is a recreated Haudenosaunee village featuring 18 outdoor exhibits, as well as longhouses and a palisade maze. In October, take part in the self-guided tour or harvest celebrations with family friendly food, activities, and entertainment.
- Ruthven Park National Historic Site – This 1500-acre country estate was the former home of five generations of the Thompson family. Take a tour of the mansion Wednesday – Sunday this fall, walk around the grounds, and finish your day with a picnic by the river.
- Fall Pottery Class – In line with the themes of harvest and homestead, fall is the perfect time to get your hands muddy and make something new while you’re at it. Whether you’re an experienced, albeit out-of-touch potter, or just looking for a new experience, London Clay Art Centre’s fall pottery class is sure to spin your wheel.
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VII. For the Animal Lover
- Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary – What better way to celebrate the harvest than spending a day at the farm to help with the animals? Schedule a work visit at the Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary and help out with pigs, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese that have been rescued from abuse, neglect, and slaughter. Finish off this fulfilling day with a vegan potluck with your new friends.
- Kain’s Woods – This environmentally significant area offers a challenging 5.8km long hike through an urban forest. The area remained rural unto the 1990s and was historically a logging and farming area for European settlers. Perfect for fall wild-life viewing, these woods are an important corridor for birds and animals, offering the chance to see Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagles, Wild Turkey, White-Tailed Deer, Eastern Cottontail, Grey Tree Frogs, and even Yellow-Spotted Salamander.
- Fingal Wildlife Management Area – This historic World War 2 Air Force Training Base has been reclaimed into 724 acres of crown land, featuring cutting edge conservation alongside historic relics from Canada’s past. The site has 395 acres of active farmland, 40kms of trails, and is home to over 200 species of wildlife. Walk beneath the leaf-canopied trail and keep track of all the wildlife you can see in this not-so-little retreat. Be sure to visit the website and take note of hunting days, as small game hunting is permitted.
- Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary – This Fall, attend an animal-assisted workshop for personal growth at this non-profit animal sanctuary. According the owners, “Our equine and animal experiential learning programs and workshops help with spiritual, physical, and mental well-being.” Take the time this Fall to get re-centered and re-acquainted on the farm. Take part in various events including their Thanksgiving lunch.
- Port Franks Wetlands and Forested Dunes – This 5km hike offers the chance to see an array of plants and animals found nowhere else in Canada. The Rare Oak Savanna ecosystem is designated as an important bird sight because of its large concentration of rare and threatened species. Go for a hike this fall and you’ll also have the chance to various amphibians like the spotted turtle and the Eastern Hognose Snake.
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VIII. Fit in Fall
- Thames Valley Parkway – Sure, the emphasis is always on getting fit for a summer body, but we all know fitness is important year round. The Thames Valley Parkway offers an excellent urban route with 40km of multi-use pathways, linking all corners of London.
- Pinery Fall Classic – In Mid-October (October 14, 2018), Pinery Provincial Park hosts the Pinery Fall Classic – a 10km, 5km, and 2km road race, as well as a 4.8km trail race, all to raise money to “support education, preservation, research, and enhancement projects in the park”. Pinery Provincial Park offers 10km of sandy beach on the shores of Lake Huron and 21 square km of rare and fragile ecosystems with over 800 plants and 300 bird species. Add to that, National Geographic ranked sunsets here among the “Top 10 Best in the World”, so you might as well make a weekend of it!
- Fanshawe Lake Trail – There’s no time quite like fall for an epic outdoor adventure. The Fanshawe Lake Trail offers 20km of biking and hiking trails around beautiful Fanshawe Lake. While you’re at it, rent a canoe or kayak and explore the conservation area by area. For the more experienced, test your hands at fishing the lake, and maybe you’ll bring home your own fall harvest.
- Downtown Bike Loop – Fall brings to mind a warm hearth, good food, and time spent with the family – but you’ll have to get there! Leave the car at home and make the most of this mild season with downtown London’s 3km bike path. With access to local restaurants, entertainment, and connections to the larger Thames Valley Parkway, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try this before.
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IX. Fall in the Great Outdoors
- Rock Glen – See one of Ontario’s hidden treasures this fall. Featuring a magnificent cascading waterfall, tree-canopied pathways, and waterfront access, this will fully immerse you in the colors of Fall. Pack a warm lunch and have a picnic on the well-kept grounds – there’s even a playground for the kids!
- Joany’s Woods – After all the summer visitors have returned home, Fall is the perfect time to escape your day-to-day and venture off the beaten path. Joany’s Woods offers 367 acres of conservation area covered in hikes of varying difficulties. See wildlife and explore new landscapes on this path less travelled.
- Wheatley Provincial Park – Camping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Fall, but it really is the perfect season. The rains of spring have passed, summer’s heat has subsided (along with the bugs!), and there’s nothing like waking up to crisp autumn air and multi-colored leaves. Visit Wheatley Provincial Park for radio-free camping offered to small tents and camper vans. With biking, birding, canoeing, fishing, and hiking there’s something for everyone. There’s even a Fall chili-cookout and Halloween celebration in the park!
- Point Pelee National Park – As the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland you can evade winter’s chill for just a little bit longer. Join for Family Migration Hike on weekends between Early September and October. Enjoy a stroll along the many trails in search of birds of prey and Monarch butterflies.
- Long Point Provincial Park – One of the oldest provincial parks in Ontario, Long Point Provincial park offers 1.5km of sandy beach along Lake Erie, and is located within a designated world biosphere reserve. On top of that, it is one of the largest bird and waterfowl migration areas in North America. With over 300 migrating birds flying overhead, this will be a picnic to remember!