Autumn in Ontario is a good time for a vacation.
Unlike the summer, when humidity blurs the view, autumn air in Ontario is crisp and the faded-blue sky perfectly sets off the vivid colors of crimson sumacs and maples ranging from gold, through blood-orange, to scarlet.
Warm days for apple-picking and hay rides take you back to Ontario’s farming roots.
While cool evenings make attending indoor sports and cultural events, or just shopping in the local mall, a popular option.
Ontario deserves to be better known for autumn getaways and Toronto, with its own busy night and theater life, is a good base for such things as ‘Fall Colors’ tours or Ontario’s two big theater festivals, celebrating Shakespeare and Shaw.
About an hour from Toronto, along the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) stands the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake with its downtown colonial buildings intact.
As with many old Ontario towns, mature maples line the parks, creating shade in summer and color in fall. Every summer and autumn, until mid-November, Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts a George Bernard Shaw festival where his plays are presented along with offerings from other authors, classic and contemporary.
Another huge theater event near Toronto is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Stratford is about an hour west of Toronto and it too is best seen in autumn when the Sugar Maples paint the town’s parks in glorious gold.
Like the Shaw Festival, Stratford is an international event with players and audiences coming from all over North America.
On the journey to and from Stratford, Mennonites and their horse-drawn buggies provide a quaint reminder of times gone by. Much of the land in this area is still farmed by Mennonites, a religious sect who keep to the old ways, wearing black Victorian-style clothes and forswearing (to varying degrees) modern conveniences.
Toronto is the world’s third largest theater center and its theaters have productions for all tastes, from Broadway and West End hits to local productions. Every year is different, of course, but recent headline shows include, We Will Rock You, a show based on songs by Queen and Sherlock Holmes, another look at the ever popular Victorian sleuth.
If your tastes are more serious, the Canadian Opera Company has a newly built home in the city, the Four Seasons Centre. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is based at Roy Thompson Hall, while the Canadian National Ballet performs at the Sony Centre. For daytime viewing, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario with their touring exhibitions and their own amazing collections will take your breath away. All are within walking distance of the downtown hotels.
Halloween is big in North America, as any movie-lover knows. Growing up in Britain we hollowed out Swede turnips for lanterns; this took forever and made your hands ache because the inside was like iron. North Americans have it easier; pumpkins come hollowed-out, ready for carving, except for some seeds and a gooey slime inside. The biggest drawback to preparing lanterns is the slime, which in Ontario feels freezing by October and numbs your fingers as you work.
The seeds, however, can be washed, salted and dried in the oven to become snacks. Carved pumpkins go on your doorstep, in company with cornstalk ‘people’, to frighten off ghouls but on October 31 you’re still likely to be visited by dozens of little Draculas, Frankensteins, or other members of the living dead -- such as Rock or Rap stars. Handing out treats to ‘trick or treaters’ is a stressful business. If you hand out too many too early, the later visitors go away empty-handed and your carefully carved pumpkins will suffer for the shortfall when the crowds go home. It’s best to go round with your kids (like all the other dads) and leave the problem to your spouse.
Another big autumn in Ontario festival, bigger even than Christmas in parts of the US, is Thanksgiving, North America’s variation on the Old World’s Harvest Supper. The early pioneers gave thanks for a good harvest because without it they wouldn’t survive the approaching winter.
Things have improved since then, and few people here work on the land anymore, but the celebration continues. I think it’s a great tradition because I get to eat turkey dinner with all the trimmings twice a year, only this time with pumpkin pie taking the place of the Christmas plum pudding.
Speaking of food, autumn in Ontario is also hunting season and, although I’m not a hunter, I do get to sample roast goose, duck, or venison stew, with maple syrup sweetened peppery winter squash, whenever friends have more than they can manage.
After a summer of salads and barbecues, it’s great to get back to real food.
Fall Colours’ cruises among the Thousand Islands, east of Toronto in the St. Lawrence River, are a popular annual event. The boats run throughout the summer from the ports of Kingston and Gananoque, ending in the middle of October. The Thirty Thousand Islands, in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, also feature fall colors’ cruises. These boats sail out of Parry Sound but, being further north, run only to the end of the first week in October.
Probably the most famous autumn in Ontario fall colors’ tour is much farther north. The rail route from Sault St. Marie into the Agawa canyon stops at scenic spots along the way for photographers to take pictures of trees and, sometimes, wildlife building up body fat for the long winter to come. The first week in October is the end of the colors in this part of Ontario but the train continues to run throughout the winter for equally stunning ‘snow’ tours.
I’ve always loved autumn, or fall, a season so good they named it twice. I particularly like autumn in Ontario where the colors blaze so brightly they must inevitably burn out, leaving only silver and white for winter.
And for a hotel in Ontario or anywhere else:
Tours To Explore
Dvd To Explore