There are certain memories that we always go back to, the way you do your favourite park bench or ice cream shop. The first days of adventuring your way through a new city that is now your home. That date spot where you settled into the most comfortable romantic silence and thought, ‘I want to do this with you for the rest of my life.’ When you remember a landmark memory, you don’t just remember what happened – you remember where it happened, places you’ll go back to again and again. Here, five Ontarians share with you their fall firsts, bests and mosts – where they fell in love, created community and found home. Travel along with them, using the map by clicking on the icons to visit each landmark memory across Ontario.
Leanne Emond fell in love in the fall – both with her husband-to-be, and with Sudbury, where they now live with their young family.
In my final year as an undergraduate student at Laurentian University, I got a part-time job working at a local coffee shop. A few months in, my co-worker Jason asked me out. At first, we were hesitant to date – we worked together, after all – but we had both had crushes on each other since we’d first met. We decided to give it a shot.
Early on, a lot of our dates involved taking long walks along the trails near where we lived – we happened to live in the same apartment building in Sudbury. On our days off, we’d often visit the College Boreal Trail Lookout. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up to the peak, where there’s a little gazebo and a spectacular view over Sudbury. It’s a very beautiful spot that feels secluded in the woods.
For date nights, we’d head to a restaurant called Made In Canada or M.I.C. Everything’s very rustic inside, with lots of natural wood accents. And there’s an indoor fireplace, so it feels very cozy in the fall, especially as the weather is starting to cool. We also went to Porketta Bingo a few times at the Beef n' Bird with our friends. It’s a raucous card game where the winner gets to go home with a prize of porchetta, and definitely something that everyone who visits Sudbury should experience at least once.
Leanne’s husband Jason and their daughter Payton pose at the falls. Leanne Emond
Many of my favourite memories with Jason happened during the fall. In the autumn of 2016, we went to visit Onaping Falls, about 30 minutes west of Sudbury. We entered right at the High Falls and when we stepped out onto the bridge, the beauty of the falls just kind of hit you. I remember the colours were so brilliant – I had never seen the leaves look so vibrant. You could smell how crisp the air was, and then feeling the mist from the falls, it all made for a very surreal experience. Couples have carved their names into the rocks by the falls over the years and have put locks on the netting of the bridge with their initials written on it. It made it feel all the more romantic.
Striking views at Onaping Falls. Destination Ontario
That autumn, Jason proposed, and we got married almost exactly a year later. Our daughter, Payton, was born in September 2018 (another fall milestone!) and our son Rory was born in April 2021. We’re now making new fall memories with our growing family.
When Payton was just a few weeks old, we went on one of our very first family trips to the Wagonwheel Ranch, just outside Sudbury. They have horse carriage rides for the kids to go on and you can pick out your own pumpkin from the patch. They usually have a fire going with hot chocolate to warm up around and a little petting zoo for the kids. We’ve been back every year since.
The Sudbury scenery is picture perfect. Sudbury Tourism
It’s also become a family tradition of ours to revisit Onaping Falls every autumn. The first time we took Payton, I had her on my back in a carrier. I kept asking Jason, “Is she excited?” because I couldn’t see the expressions on her face. He said she was very wide-eyed, especially as we got closer to the loud rumbling of the falls. She stayed so quiet, taking it all in.
We always stop at Beard’s Coffee Bar and Bakery on the way out of Sudbury. They have really good coffee and lots of homemade vegan baked goods. They normally do seasonal donuts, like a pumpkin spiced donut for fall, which we’ll have as a snack on the road.
Seasonal pumpkin spice scones from Beard’s. Beard’s Bakery
Now that Payton is a bit older, she can tell us what she’s thinking when we go on hikes. During last year’s visit to Onaping Falls, she said “Oh, pretty colours. There’s so many leaves.” She collected her favourites and made a little bouquet of them to bring home. We’ll then make art with them, like leaf rubbings, where you place a piece of paper over top of a leaf and colour on top with a wax crayon or pencil crayon to reveal its ridges and markings. Once we’re done, we hang the pictures on our fridge and then use the leaves to decorate our dining table.
I feel a lot of pride in bringing my kids back to the same spots every year, creating traditions that we stick with, layering memories one on top of the other. It’s something that I always look forward to. For me, life in Sudbury is about appreciating the beauty of nature, and it’s important to me to introduce my kids to these special spots that I love.
In the fall of 2020, Natalie Jaikaran and her family put the world on pause for a day to spend some time together, getting a taste of the province’s small towns and exploring nearby nature trails. Here, she reflects on why this day out together as a family left a lasting impression.
I'm the biggest fall lover in our family: I cannot contain my excitement about things like the colourful changing leaves, the scent of ripe apples and visiting bustling farms at harvest time. I love the cooler temperatures, wearing cozy sweaters and just being outside and doing something fun together, especially as a family.
The boys bite into their burgers. Natalie Jaikaran
My boys, aged 13 and 9, are always super excited to have a day full of unexpected delights and discovery – and as a parent, conscious of how quickly the time passes, it’s so sweet to be able to spend this time with them, watching their worlds expand as they experience new things. I know one day they’ll be out there adventuring by themselves, so I treasure the time we get to spend doing that together now.
During the pandemic, we started exploring the province through day trips created by Guess Where Trips, an Ontario-based small business that plans surprise trips in different cities across Canada. You pick a theme and they give you a package of sealed envelopes filled with directions to different stops; you don’t know where you’ll end up until you open the envelope.
One adventure I’ll never forget is the one that took us to Port Hope last fall. Hitting the road around lunch time, we knew we wanted to start the day with full bellies, so our first stop was Olympus Burger in Port Hope, which is now my boys’ favourite burger place, period. (In fact, we just visited it again a couple weeks ago.)
Fall skies in Northumberland. Destination Ontario
On that first visit we discovered that it was once named the home of the No. 1 burger in Canada, which thrilled my boys. They kept saying, “We’re eating award-winning burgers!” All the burgers are named after Greek gods and figures, and they have a secret menu, which you can only find online. The Medusa, on the secret menu, is a beef burger topped with roasted red peppers, purple coleslaw and lettuce. The boys talked about this spot endlessly – how good the food was, how cool it was sitting on the patio. For my husband and I, it’s a sign that these moments will be stored in their memory banks to reflect on fondly.
Full from burgers and poutine, we began exploring the community. Just a couple blocks away we got to see the salmon run from a spot overlooking Corbett’s Dam fish ladder, watching them swim up Ganaraska River though the centre of town. It was our first time seeing this migration! From the foot bridge and a few vantage points along the river in downtown Port Hope, we spent almost 45 minutes watching, counting and cheering the salmon on as they worked vigorously to make it upstream.
Because my boys love looking at the leaves’ changing colours – and who doesn’t – we planned to set off for an outdoor afternoon adventure, but before heading out of town, we made a stop at this really quirky art gallery and shop called Primitive Designs. The sculptures are all made out of metal – a giant Transformer greets you and there are dinosaurs, moose and robots, all larger than life. The boys asked questions about how they brought the figures to life, getting right up close to each one.
The giant toonie is a top tourist stop. Visit Trent Hills
Then we made a quick pitstop for something sweet at Betty’s Pies and Tarts. It’s a little bake shop that specializes in butter tarts: Their plain butter tart placed first at the Royal Winter Fair in 2014, and pecan recipe placed first in 2015. (That’s right – more award winning food!) The air was filled with scents of vanilla and maple, like we’d stepped into someone’s home kitchen. They had tarts cooling on the counter, fresh out of the oven. We each got a butter tart, a couple plain, a couple with pecans, all delicious.
Then it was time to soak in some of the gorgeous fall sun and colours. The Northumberland County Forest is in Roseneath, Ont., a 30-minute drive from the centre of Port Hope. It’s home to Carstairs Tract, a gentle hike that took us about 45 minutes to complete. The trail is ideal for novice hikers like us and is the perfect setting for immersing yourself among trees and getting up close to the leaves turning all the different colours. Along the trail, there are signs identifying different kinds of trees that populate the path, so we got to learn about the different species, like pines, spruce and larch.
The Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge is the perfect photo opp. Kawartha Northumberland
We ended our day in Campbellford. In town there are some gourmet shops like Empire Cheese Co-operative and Dooher's Bakery as well as the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge, a 300-foot long bridge that offers phenomenal views of the changing leaves in the gorge. We chose to visit Canada’s giant $2 coin. We had no idea it existed. It’s like the Big Nickel in Sudbury: The toonie sits in Old Mill Park with the Trent River flowing in the background. We took a bunch of photos. It was a fun and unique way to end the day.
Road tripping as a family allows us to connect in a different way – away from the distractions and hectic pace of our everyday life. Most evenings and weekends we're spread out in different directions, each doing our own thing, but travelling gives us the opportunity to have a singular focus together.
We love doing something that is a little bit out of the ordinary, and thanks to this trip we now have favourite spots in different parts of the province that we can revisit in years to come.
Mike Traynor is the founder of Traynor’s Family Vineyard. Here, one of Prince Edward County’s youngest winemakers recalls the romance of fall in the county he loves.
There’s a Prince Edward County afternoon I’ll never forget. It was so simple – just me, my wife, some burgers and our favourite secret beach – but it was so sweet. We sat on a rock by Lake Ontario and talked about our dreams for the future. In that moment, it felt like the world was just ours.
Sunset glows golden over the water. Sandbanks Provincial Park
When it started to rain, we didn’t run for cover. We just sat there, watching the raindrops hit the waves, and enjoying that time together just the two of us. The burgers, I have to say, were also pretty unforgettable. We’d grabbed them from Bermuda in Bloomfield, a little restaurant in a basement under a shop that was once a speakeasy, and therefore carries a very cool vibe.
That afternoon was particularly meaningful because fall is such a busy time for us here in PEC. I'd say from September 15 on, on any given day, there's going to be some sort of fruit processing happening around The County. In really hot years, at our place, Traynor Family Vineyard, we'll start picking grapes for sparkling wines at the beginning of September. Varieties like Pinot Gris are also a little bit earlier to harvest, so they will start to come off around the same time. But other varieties, like Chardonnay, are harvested a little bit later. So, we often have grapes on the vine up until early November.
All that hard work, however, means it’s also a time of celebration for us as we reap the fruits of our labour. We have a tradition of hosting harvest parties, and the one that stands out in my memory is from 2014, which was our very first one after we started the vineyard. Our closest friends came up for the weekend, and everyone bunked together at a nearby inn. We shared every meal together, bellies full of delicious food made from local ingredients (like Walt’s Sugar Shack, which sells meat and maple syrup seasonally), spirits lifted by the best local wine.
A cozy patio on a cool fall day. Drake Devonshire
During the day, we picked grapes together, scrambling to fill our buckets before the weather turned. I’ll never forget watching the sky turn from sunny to dark, and then stormy, complete with snow and hail. After that hard day's work, we all sat together at a table, exhausted in the best way, laughing and reminiscing about the wild day we’d had. It was such a sweet moment of friendship, and a reminder of all those things that really matter in life.
As time has gone on, we’ve expanded those harvest celebrations to include the public, an open invitation for folks to join us for grape stomping and bus rides to other nearby wineries to taste. (Trail Estate Winery, Grange of Prince Edward Estate Winery and Rosehall Run Vineyards are all nearby.) We’ve served simple dinners like charcuterie platters and aperitivo-style snacks – we source the charcuterie from La Cultura Salumi in Belleville, and Cressy Mustard Co. makes great mustard and seasonings. We’ll often get vegetables from Lakeshore Farms and non-alcoholic beverages from The County Bounty. We had to pause our parties during the pandemic, but we’ll likely bring them back this year.
Mike and his family out for a stroll. Mike Traynor
When we do dine out, we try to frequent everyone in the area; we pick and choose based on our mood. And thankfully, in this area there’s a diversity of food styles now so we can try a lot of different things. Maybe 10 years ago, it was all Canadiana, which is absolutely great, but it’s nice to have a little bit of a selection as well. We live on Lake Consecon and there’s a wine bar in Consecon, Ont. called Adega that we like to go to. It’s a romantic little spot with a great wine list and a charcuterie-style menu.
We also love going and sitting on the patio at the Drake Devonshire Hotel. It’s really nice in the fall; if it’s not a windy evening, they’ll have the campfire going on the beach and that’s quite lovely. We go to La Condesa in Wellington, Ont. often for Mexican food, and Stillus, which is a new distillery that just opened up in Bloomfield. We’ve been a couple times and really enjoyed it. It’s a Ukrainian distillery that’s just opened up in Bloomfield, with a great pierogi menu.
Harvesting grapes off the vine at Traynor Vineyard. Traynor Vineyard
That's part of the cool part of coming into the county in the fall – you never know what it's going to be like, so your agenda can change at the drop of a hat. It might be a beautiful, sunny day, and you just find some patios you want to hang out on. Or it could be a little bit cooler and you want to find somewhere nice and warm to sit by a fireplace. Whatever the weather, there’s always something delicious to do.
Pakistan-born, Ottawa-based Atif Rashid recalls the magical fall visit his family made to the city that would soon become their forever home.
When my wife and I planned a weekend trip to Ottawa in the fall, we had an inkling that it might be our new home. We were yearning for the kind of quieter, closer-knit lifestyle we were hopeful a smaller city like our nation’s capital could offer us and our two young kids, three year-old Azlan and Zohan, who was just six months old then.
The drive to Ottawa took about six hours from Burlington. We brought colouring books for the kids and sang nursery rhymes and kids’ songs in the car. We arrived late at night and put the kids straight to bed so they’d be ready to start adventuring bright and early.
The Rashid family dressed cozy for their weekend getaway. Atif Rashid
In the morning, our first stop was the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. I love that Ottawa has so many museums so close together, and I had read that the Aviation museum in particular had a lot of interactive exhibits for kids. Ours loved it. There were small wooden propeller airplanes that Zohan could sit in for photos and replicas of a fighter jet that Azlan loved climbing into. I volunteered to participate in a parachute demonstration of how a pilot would be ejected from their seat during an emergency. I got to put on a pilot’s uniform, with the helmet, while my kids watched, cheering me on.
Afterwards, we thought it would be nice to unwind in some of the city’s green space. I researched nearby parks and we decided to go to Rockcliffe Park. It was such a beautiful drive to and through the park, with lots of winding curves in the road. The views were majestic: You could see the Ottawa River winding its way through the Gatineau area, all while we were surrounded by trees with their gorgeous changing colours.
The city shows its true colours in the fall. Ottawa Tourism
We parked our car and brought the kids out into an enormous field that was completely covered in crunchy red, orange and gold fallen leaves. We hadn’t seen anything like it before. Azlan ran around, throwing the leaves in the air. I was impressed that such a peaceful place could be so close to the city. We took lots of pictures and everyone had a smile on their face.
Flying machines of all kinds at the Aviation museum. Ottawa Tourism
As it started to get dark, we got back in the car and drove downtown for dinner. We stopped at a restaurant called BFF – Burgers n’ Fries Forever – for dinner. We ordered Smokin Bird Sandos, fried chicken sandwiches with Swiss cheese and garlic aioli. They were juicy, fresh and filling. After dinner, we popped into Byward Market for some gelato at Piccolo Grande – the kids dug into chocolate peanut butter, while we parents enjoyed scoops of pistachio – and then we headed back to the hotel for the evening.
It’s always lively at the market Byward Market
On Sunday, we began our drive back to Burlington. We were about 30 minutes outside of Ottawa, just past Nepean on a quiet side road when we saw a sign for the Valleyview Little Animal Farm. We decided to pull over and stop for a visit. There were goats, chickens and roosters, pigs and lambs. The kids got to pet them and feed them, encountering these farm animals for the very first time. I loved the goats the most, having had a pet goat as a kid growing up in Pakistan. I told Azlan about it and he was so impressed to hear that story. The farm offered us a tractor ride, and the kids really enjoyed that too. We rode by fields of hay, corn and soya beans, with all the fall colours in the background.
We so enjoyed our time in Ottawa that we did everything we could to make it our home. We moved in 2018, and we’ve been here ever since. Now we get to enjoy Ottawa’s fall colours every year. We still visit the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and Rockcliffe Park regularly. And every time we do, I think back to that magical first trip we took to Ottawa and all the memories we made – memories that changed our life.
Since childhood, Lynda Campbell has spent time on Soyers Lake in the Haliburton Highlands, and even bought a cottage next door to the lodge where she spent her teenage summers. Here, she shares the traditions that make Thanksgiving on the lake so special.
Thanksgiving weekend on Soyers Lake in the Haliburton Highlands begins like every other morning: sitting on the dock before the rest of the lake wakes up. This year will be my 42nd Thanksgiving here with my husband, Lorne, who I met on the lake all those decades ago. Draped in cozy robes, we descend the hill to the water, hands wrapped around mugs of French-pressed coffee to listen to the baby loons and plot our day as the mist lifts from the water’s surface, and we enjoy the daily show of blazing auburn, orange and yellow foliage that reflects off the calm lake.
Lynda and Lorne making the most of the fall colours. Lynda Campbell
We’re sticklers for tradition, especially because our yearly menu supports local friends and businesses around town. We also always try to honour much-missed family members, like my mother, Betty, whose stuffing recipe leaves an irresistible waft of sage that my daughter looks forward to every year.
We order our free-range turkey two weeks in advance and take a scenic drive along Highway 118, passing towering rock cuts and stunning leaves against mighty green pines to pick it up from the West Guilford Shopping Centre (really, a great general store with an excellent meat counter).
Turkey in tow, we make a worthy detour to Abbey Gardens — which has gorgeous grounds with hiking, a scenic platform and a five-acre pony paddock!— for weekend eats at the Food Hub. They offer organic, locally-grown produce, and the sustainably-caught rainbow trout that Lorne will grill perfectly on our fire pit and maybe a few take-home beers from Haliburton Highlands Brewing Co to enjoy around the embers of said fire.
Things get festive come autumn at Abbey Gardens. Abbey Gardens
When it comes to the rest of our menu, we get a little help from my friend Diane Dawson, who co-owns Wintergreen Maple Products in Gelert. We pick up our maple-infused pumpkin pies and have a hug and a chat. It’s cash or cheque only and the storefront is well-stocked with every type of syrup, homemade jams, relishes, salsas and hot sauces. If there’s time during our to-ing and fro-ing, we might pop into one or two of the various locations on The Studio Tour, a multi-artist, multi-medium open-studio weekend event where you can peruse and shop from local makers. I’m known to pick up ceramic serving bowls from local potters. It’s a go-to gift and way for me to share the community in a palpable way. Haliburton is teeming with artists; it’s another reason we love it so much here.
Then it’s back to the lake to greet our friends, lodge visitors who have morphed into family and share the weekend with us. They tend to rent nearby cottages, but there are plenty of fabulous resorts and inns that dot the county. Like Heather Lodge, built the same year I was born – 1942 – on Twelve Mile Lake; Bonnie View Inn on Kashagawigamog Lake, which connects to Soyers; and Sir Sam’s Inn & Spa on Eagle Lake. It neighbours Ontario’s second-oldest family-owned ski hill of the same name, which has incredible views of the fall splendor and Eagle and Moose Lake when you walk back down the four kilometres of trails. You might even see a turkey!
The panoramic view from up top. Dorset Lookout Tower
Our lodge friends have a long-standing tradition to get turkey and all the fixings from The Mill Pond Restaurant. I’ve only skipped cooking a big dinner by myself once.That year, we gathered at one of my favourite local spots, Rhubarb. I’m not kidding you when I say that the food is out of this world. The menu changes with the seasons, but I’m still talking about the crispy battered pickerel I had when we spent Thanksgiving there. (My husband Lorne recommends the schnitzel with mushroom sauce.)
Ahead of the hustle, we try to take the 45-minute drive from our lake to the Dorset Lookout Tower for panoramic views of the region’s signature colours.
The forest is a sea of colours here on the lake. Ontario Travel
From eager welcome hugs to lingering goodbye embraces, Thanksgiving weekend is about the memories we make with the people we hold most dear. The delicious food and gorgeous autumnal backdrop certainly don’t hurt. And when the last car has driven away, I’ll leave the fussing and cleaning for later and retreat back to my floating dock to enjoy the quiet lake. Peaceful and fleeting.
The dishes can wait, but these leaves won’t stay forever.
There are certain memories that we always go back to, the way you might revisit your favourite park bench or ice cream shop. The first days of adventuring your way through a new city that is now your home. That date spot where you settled into the most comfortable romantic silence and thought, ‘I want to do this with you for the rest of my life.’ When you remember a landmark memory, you don’t just remember what happened – you remember where it happened, places you’ll go back to again and again. Here, five Ontarians share with you their fall firsts, bests and mosts – where they fell in love, created community and found home. Travel along with them, using the map by clicking on the icons to visit each landmark memory across Ontario.
Katelyn Truong is a Vietnamese-Canadian illustrator, born in Toronto, and graduated from OCAD University. Katelyn works dominantly in digital media, but also works in analogue, mixed media and traditional painting in oil and acrylic. Her work is conveyed through use of clean shapes and lines, balancing symmetries, and harmonious colour palettes of pinks, greens, and oranges. Her illustrations are often reflective of subjects within her daily life, lifestyle, film, fashion, travel and the local community growing up within Toronto.
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This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Destination Ontario. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.