If you’re looking for a fantastic fall getaway, it’s no secret that Canada becomes majestically alive in autumn. In fact, professional photographers will tell you that fall is hands down the best time to take pictures in this vast land that is full of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. It’s not just the colors that pop from the changing of the leaves, they say, but it’s also the way the light moves this time of year. So shift your focus to Canada for a hypnotic fall vacation you won’t soon forget.
We’re zooming in on five Canadian cities — including one breathtaking bonus destination — that are a full-on feast for the eyes during the fall season!
If there’s one picture-perfect city in the fall to boost your Instagram feed, Calgary is the place to be. The Western city in the heart of Canada’s prairies has a beautiful skyline that is offset by brilliant-hues of foliage that take flight in the fall.
Set your “sites” on Prince’s Island Park for a taste of fall glory because this urban oasis has a healthy dose of Mother Nature. Festive fall colors burst onto the scene as the trees turn gold and red, allowing for some pretty fantastic photo opportunities.
Be even more illuminated at Harvest Lights at Calgary Farmyard where nature is nurtured all around. In mid-to-late-October, Granary Road rolls out Pumpkin Fest where you can take a pumpkin patch tractor ride, carve a jack-o-lantern, make a caramel apple, and get the perfect fall photo with an alpaca. If you want a moment to step out of the chill in the air, head on over to the Calgary International Beerfest where you can feel toasty warm while toasting a beer.
If you happen to be really ambitious when it comes to autumn sightings, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are certainly a step up in that direction. Less than two hours outside the city, the drive from Jasper to Banff is actually considered one of the best views in the world. You’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by the abundance of autumn colors from every angle, from late September right through to the end of October. Banff National Park has mountains all around, but be prepared to set your sights on a plethora of breathtaking gold aspen and spruce leaves in particular. The sight of reds and yellows from the subalpine larch trees will make your heart lurch as well.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Regional Municipality — or CBRM, as it’s usually called — is Atlantic Canada’s third largest metropolitan area. A superhero of stunning colors in the fall, you won’t want to let Cape Breton fly under the radar when it comes to your choices for a fall escape.
For the fall-minded, October is always the best time to visit. For one thing, Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival celebrates the music, culture and beauty of the island for nine days each October. It’s also an art lover’s paradise, as artists, storytellers, and musicians arrive from all around the world to become inspired by the bursting foliage on the island. Locals say that there’s no better time than autumn to appreciate Cabot Trail because it’s both a hiker and driver’s delight. Cabot Trail boasts some of the most beautiful trees in North America, and fall takes the scene to a higher level. Fiery reds, oranges, crimsons, and golds blanket the highlands and tend to reach their peak by mid-October.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Canada wouldn’t be Canadian without the iconic Niagara Falls. Coming to the city in the fall is a feast for the senses, where the landscape beckons you with its vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. The maple trees that have made Canada famous for its maple syrup are the same trees that stand out in the city because of their delicious and breathtaking colors. While you may not want to stop admiring the view, there are also fairs and festivals to partake in the fall — not to mention wine festivals and even haunted house attractions.
Ten minutes outside the city is River Road — also known as the historic Niagara Parkway — which follows the curves of the Niagara River. Winston Churchill once called the road, “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” In fact, many have compared driving down River Road in the fall like going into a gallery of Impressionist paintings. This work of art of a town is at its most colorfully animated in early-to-mid-October, where foliage takes on a golden hue.
Ah, Montreal in the fall. This major French-Canadian city is full of foliage for the ages: envision oak trees that boast bronze-red hues and sumacs that stun with a fiery orange.
The Montreal Botanical Garden is illuminated this time of year where the Gardens of Light Festival comes onto the scene in time for the city’s fall colors. The lanterns of the festival are best viewed at sundown, so consider dropping by the garden’s arboretum in the late afternoon for a leisurely stroll before making your way to the main attraction in the Chinese Garden.
POP Montreal also pops up in the fall. The music festival, visual art exhibit, film event, and open-air flea market is an autumn extravaganza all wrapped in one huge event. While some of the fall foliage in Montreal does peak in early October, the season runs from mid-September all the way through to the end of October so there’s still plenty of time to stand still and take in the beauty, as well as take still shots of the spectacular array of colors.
Peterborough — located only an hour and a half from Toronto — is known for having the largest wilderness preserve south of the Algonquin, including well over a hundred lakes, including the famous Kawarthas.
For those on-the-ready for a real autumn adventure, the Warsaw Caves can be a most fun-filled exploration of this subterranean activity park, where you’ll feel like you’re in the depths of a fall wilderness. There’s also the Norwood Fair: since 1868, the fair has been an annual Canadian Thanksgiving tradition. Late September all the way through to the end of October is ample time to take in the autumn vistas where colors are openly omnipresent for weeks.
Bonus: Algonquin Park in Whitney, Ontario
Although it’s not a city per se, we had to throw this bonus location into your autumn itinerary — to say that Algonquin Park is overwhelming in the fall is an understatement. The 7,725 square kilometer park located about three hours outside of Toronto is a vast blanket of fall foliage offset by golden aspen trees, red oaks, and tamaracks. The park is also sweet on a host of sugar maple trees that often peak in late September to early October.
But you can still be part of all the fall glory from mid-to-late-October when the rest of the trees are tailored up for the turning of leaves. Fall is also still a fresh time for hiking, camping, kayaking, and canoeing at this oldest provincial park in all of Canada.