Days Out Ontario’s Ottawa fall faves (within an hour of downtown!)

What makes a better back drop to day tripping adventures than fresh, crisp air and the russet, orange, and yellow hills of autumn? With fall officially here, there is no better time to head out on the open road to explore restaurants, museums, and trails in Ottawa and area.

Here are a few nearby gems you’ll want to check out.

IMG_3623Auntie Loo’s, Ottawa

The recipe for success at Auntie Loo’s Treats is mixing equal parts ethical ingredients and colourful vintage pin-up girl style, with sweets made from ingredients you won’t believe aren’t butter (or milk, eggs, or other animal products).

To entice you, here are just a few of their offerings: triple berry beet cupcake (beet- and cocoa-based cake with triple berry icing), nanaimo bars (with a vanilla pudding centre), and raw chocolate banana tarts. The treat I’d recommend is the s’mores cookie – constructed from two chewy, graham cracker cookies flanking a layer of vegan marshmallow and a layer of melted chocolate.

Birdwatching on the River, Ottawa

Did you know that the Ottawa River is one of the best places in the province to see fall shorebird migration and winter waterfowl? Head to Britannia Bay Conservation Area’s Mud Lake to see the large numbers of ducks that congregate here prior to migration, as well as great blue heron and black-crowned night heron. Dick Bell Park is not far away, and it is the place to find late fall/winter water birds, among them scaup, scoters, goldeye (sometimes Barrow’s), and possibly a purple sandpiper. And perhaps the favourite hot spot of them all, Ottawa Beach, where in addition to large numbers of Canada geese in October and November, there can be Richardson’s, snow and great white-fronted goose,  as well as grebes and loons. Plovers can include semipalmated, piping and buff-breasted, and there can be willet and red knot in good numbers.

IMG_3792

Diefenbunker and Alice’s Café, Carp

The Diefenbunker is a must-visit museum just a short drive west of downtown in the village of Carp. This underground retreat was prepared for hundreds of Canadian political (including namesake Prime Minister Diefenbaker) and military leaders in the event of nuclear war.

The facility has been left just as it appeared decades ago. As you wander its cold, utilitarian halls, you will get an eerie sense of what a post-nuclear Canada might look like.

Head down the street from the Diefenbunker to Alice’s Café, a great rural find. On the menu, which changes daily, you can find gourmet pierogies, burgers, and poutine as well as healthy options, such as a gluten-free parfait made from oatmeal, blueberry, peach, and coconut chai custard. There are lots of warm drinks that offer dessert-like decadence along with hydration: gingerbread hot chocolate, dark hot chocolate, their own espresso blend, and as many coffee and latte options as you could desire. Delicious pastries abound, such as homemade honey crullers, bread and butter pudding muffins, and the famous Big Nasty cinnamon bun.

IMG_3707

Biplane Trip over Gatineau Hills, Ottawa

Combine the romance of a historic biplane flight with a spectacular view of fall foliage. Climb aboard the Waco UPF-7 1939 biplane at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in the east end of Ottawa and end up with a whole new perspective. You can take a take a 25-minute trip over the Gatineau Hills, Chelsea River dams, and Parliament Hill.

While you’re at the museum, learn about the role Canadians played in the development of flying technology. For example, did you know that Alexander Graham Bell’s wife played a part in airplane history? What did Canadian Wallace Rupert Turnbull invent in the 1920s that is still regarded as one of the most significant contributions to scientific aviation ever? Find out the answers to these questions as you make your way through the museum, dwarfed by over five dozen real airplanes on permanent display.

Fulton’s Maple Products, Pakenham

Lanark County considers itself the maple syrup capital of Ontario, boasting some of the largest and most visitor-friendly maple producers around. Whether you’re looking for a hardy country breakfast or want to show the kids (or an out-of-country visitor) how a Canadian staple is made, Fulton’s Maple Products is the place to go. This 400-acre farm has been in the Fulton family since 1840. The season starts in early February and lasts through mid-April. There are a variety of special events for the public, including maple syrup- and sugar-making demonstrations for families, baking with maple classes, and daily March Break activities such as horse-drawn tours of the sugar bush, face painting, and snow taffy.

The best part of a visit to Fulton’s is a breakfast in their charming Pancake House (FYI: it’s cash only). Load up on sausage, pancakes, and baked goods. There’s also an on-site shop with all things maple and sweet, including bottles of their own syrup, gift baskets, and their own line of Maple Luscious skin and bath products.

Caitlin Carpenter runs Days Out Ontario (www.daysoutontario.com), a trip planning website and travel blog. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.