The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival runs from Sept. 22 to 26 in High River, Alberta, south of Calgary.

The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival runs from Sept. 22 to 26 in High River, Alberta, south of Calgary.

7 ways to fall into autumn in Alberta

Find fun for the whole family – pumpkins, a garlic festival, a steam train, hot air balloons + more!

As the weather starts to cool and the days grow shorter, thoughts turn to falling leaves, harvest festivals and all things pumpkin.

Central Alberta has a whole host of community events and festivals coming up this fall and winter, many focusing on the abundance of locally produced goodies, local history and local culture! No matter what you like to do, whether spotting the local flora and fauna, taking in the local culture, or finding the perfect Halloween scare, you’ll find it here. And if you take your adventures a little farther north … and south, you’ll find even more ways to celebrate the season.

**Please note that all activities depend on local health and safety regulations. Check the venue before visiting.

Pumpkin Spice

Stettler’s Alberta Prairie Railway. (Tim Proven photo)

Stettler’s Alberta Prairie Railway. (Tim Proven photo)

The Alberta Prairie Railway in Stettler Alberta has a one-day seasonal event Oct. 16: Pumpkin Fest to Alberta Prairie’s Patch. One for the whole family, enjoy a ride on an old-fashioned train, select a pumpkin, savour good eats, and family-friendly activities. Check out the events page at the absteamtrain.com for this and other fun fall activities.

READ MORE: Living history and outdoor adventures await in Stettler (+great eats and shopping too!)

Just north of Edmonton, in Bon Accord, the Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm has corn and sunflower mazes, train rides, gem mining, fairy and pirate crafts, nature trails, u-pick tours, farm animals and heritage chickens! Here, you can have some fun and learn about farming and farm animals, and even enjoy a tasty treat or a hearty meal. Specializing in heirloom and specialty vegetables and heirloom chickens, this working, sustainable family-run farm aims to connect visitors to a simpler time, to the land, and each other. Learn more at prairiegardens.org.

Smoky Lake hosts the Great White North Pumpkin Fair, held the first Saturday in October. Due to the pandemic, no weigh-off is scheduled for this year, but there’s lots of other activities, including the car show, live music, kids activities and farmers’ market. Check out the Facebook page for up-to-date information about the fair.

Pumpkins, whether for pies or jack-o-lanterns, are at the heart of many fall festivals. Jen Blyth photo.

Pumpkins, whether for pies or jack-o-lanterns, are at the heart of many fall festivals. Jen Blyth photo.

Everything nice

Brooks Taste of Nations is a unique event for anyone who loves food! The event is held at the JBS Canada Centre every year, and features food from around the globe. Visitors can take their taste buds to Mexico, Somalia, Jamaica, El Salvador, China and many more destinations.

Taste of Nations carried on last year, but through local restaurants, which participated by providing international dishes to sample from Eritrea, Canada, Cambodia, Jamaica, Ethiopia and more. This year, the one-day event and the restaurant event are combined! Visit the JBS Canada Centre on Saturday, Sept. 25 to browse the booths, or visit one of the many restaurant participants from Sept. 18 to 24.

The Andrew Garlic Festival on Oct. 9 starts with a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. and includes a farmers’ market, a bench show (fruits and veggies, canning and so much more!), a perogy dinner and a parade. There are children’s activities, live entertainment, a silent auction, a dance, and (what garlic festival would be complete without it?) a guest speaker on garlic!

Check out their website for more information on this fun family event.

Getting back to nature

Right in the city limits of Red Deer, is a little piece of the wild. Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is Alberta’s oldest federal migratory bird sanctuary and many native plants and animals call it home. You can explore by yourself, or with one of the onsite naturalists. Borrow binoculars, snowshoes or an activity kit to add even more to this wild city adventure.

Up, up and away!

The first hot-air balloon took flight on Nov. 21, 1783, and to this day, there’s something magical about these colourful beauties. If you’re lucky enough to see one, chances are, it’s in the distance. The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival will change all that. Running Sept. 22 to 26, you can find out how they get up, how they come back down and even take a flight. Don’t miss the Balloon Glow on Friday, Sept. 24 where you can get up close to the real thing!

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