Bala Cranberry Festival
experience a Discover Muskoka autumn adventure
Muskoka Lakes region is one of the most beautiful areas of Ontario. The area’s landscapes are picture postcard perfection and an iconic image of pure Canadiana. The beautiful pristine lakes, lush woods, serenity, and wildlife of the area make Muskoka a top-rated vacation destination, as well as a cottage retreat for the rich and famous, with celebrities like Cindy Crawford having lakefront homes in the area.
Muskoka is a lovely place to visit any time of the year, but in our opinion, there is nothing quite as beautiful as an autumn road trip through the Muskokas. The change of seasons sets the already gorgeous scenery ablaze with fall colours. Everything just seems a little bit more authentically Canadian in Muskoka in autumn. The drive around the lakes region will take your breath away as you marvel at her beauty, the stunning vistas and landscapes, and the charming towns that are dotted around them.
Welcome to Bala: The Cranberry Capital of Ontario
Bala Cranberry Festival
One of the towns that sit on the shores of the Muskoka lakes area is Bala. Every autumn, the town of Bala is painted red (figuratively) as they celebrate the harvest of cranberries, the fruit for which the area has become known. The town of Bala has invited visitors to the region to share their passion for cranberries and experience The Bala Cranberry Festival since 1984. This festival gives everyone an excuse to experience the beauty of Muskoka in autumn and revel in all things cranberry.
The Bala Cranberry Festival is a 3-day event occurring in Mid-October, the weekend right after (Canadian) Thanksgiving. The 2022 date is Oct 14-16.
The cranberry festival takes place in the heart of the town of Bala, located on the west side of the Muskoka Lakes region. Bala is at the intersection of routes 169 & 38 and is approximately a 2.5-hour drive north from Toronto, just east of the 400 highway. How to get here.
What To Expect:
What would a Cranberry festival be without cranberries? Well, not much. There are many places where you can enjoy all things cranberry. There will be several places on site where you can purchase large bags of freshly harvested cranberries to take home. You can enjoy cranberry flavour in a variety of ways, like baked goods, beverages, candies, preserves, and some delicious meals prepared on-site. The Bala Cranberry Festival takes its theme seriously. You will find everything cranberry throughout the festival – imagery, scents, and tastes.
Bala is a gorgeous little town on the water with so much natural beauty that it needs to be seen to be believed. In addition to the spectacular autumnal views around you, there is plenty of photo ops for you to enjoy. You can pose for photos with Cranberry fest mascots, head-in-the-hole, and Muskoka-themed backdrops & settings. Don’t forget to put on the hip-waders, jump into a simulated cranberry bog, and pretend to be a cranberry harvester.
Like any good festival, there are dozens of great food options at the Bala Cranberry Festival. Local restaurants will serve delicious meals from their regular and special cranberry festival menus, food trucks from all around, and vendors selling different snacks like popcorn, cotton candy, candy apples, candied cranberries on a stick, etc. You will find all the great & fun food you have come to expect from a fair and some items you didn’t expect.
Don’s bakery of Bala will be open on festival day. Don’s is the local bakery in town and has been a fixture in Bala since 1947. It is a legend in the area. They will offer all the delicious baked goods that have made them a popular destination in the Muskokas. Tasty items like bread, rolls, loaves, pies, cakes, cinnamon buns, squares, and butter tarts. The line–up at Don’s will be long on the festival days, but it is worth it – so take a number and get ready to enjoy the delicious treats.
Every good festival needs a midway, and Bala Cranberry Festival does not disappoint. They have fun amusements and rides for kids of all ages to enjoy.
You can sit back and enjoy a snack while you listen to musical acts performed on stage. Buskers, performers, and various entertainers will perform throughout the Bala Cranberry Festival.
If you have never visited Bala before, there are many cute shops in town for you to discover. All of the stores will be open for your shopping pleasure. You will find great housewares, clothing, décor items, jewellery, and more.
In the heart of Bala, you will find the local farmer’s market, where you can pick up fresh & local fruits and vegetables, crafts, homemade goods, art, and other great finds.
Arts & Crafts
Local artisans, craftspeople, and makers will sell their handiwork along the route.
A trip to Bala for the cranberry festival would not be complete if you did not venture to Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery. You can watch and learn about cranberry growing, harvest, and production here. Walk or take a wagon ride around the marsh. Watch as the cranberries are harvested in the bogs and then sent to be run through the sorter for processing. You will even encounter a giant bog monster – resembling a Demogorgon from Stranger Things.
They have a lovely set-up where you can, once again, don hip-waders and jump into a cranberry bog for a delightful photo/video opportunity. The Cranberry Plunge is a very popular activity when you are here during harvest season.
At the Winery and market, you can purchase several cranberry-flavoured items, including preserves, large bags of fresh & frozen cranberries, cheeses, chocolates, wines, ciders, and more. They have everything you need for a lovely fall charcuterie platter and much more. Sit by a fire on a cozy Muskoka chair with a hot cider in hand as you take in the beauty of autumn in living colour.
You will love your visit to Muskoka any time of the year. Still, there is nothing quite as magical as a visit during the autumn. There is a crispness in the air. The colours are at their full peak. The sound of the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet. The tastes of autumn flavours abound, and the cranberries are freshly harvested. So… put on your buffalo plaid flannel jacket, and head out on a road trip to Muskoka for the Bala Cranberry Festival.
Check out our tips on Planning the Perfect Autumn Road Trip