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Winter in Toronto is a magical time, when the snow starts and the temperatures drop, the city turns into a winter wonderland. Wrap up warm (layers are best) and get outside to enjoy some of what winter has to offer.
Step back in time at Toronto’s Distillery District
Once home to the largest distillery in the world, the Distillery District with its historic Victorian-era buildings, boutique shops, restaurants and galleries is a must visit at any time of the year. Come winter it’s transformed into a winter wonderland. If you’re visiting before the holidays, you’ll want to check out the Toronto Christmas Market. Modeled on a European Christmas Market with a Toronto twist, the market is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit. Browse the local food and crafts while sipping on a hot cider or a mulled wine. Marvel at the beautiful lights, the huge tree and take a ride on the carousel. Chocoholics will want to head to Soma chocolatemaker for a truly decadent hot chocolate! The market can get busy on the weekends so if you can, avoid the crowds and visit during the week instead.
Visiting after Christmas? Don’t worry the Distillery District still has you covered. This time with the Toronto Light Fest which takes place from January to March. Thousands of lights celebrate long winter lights and transform the area into a magical outdoor art gallery.
Get your skates on
Toronto has no shortage of ice rinks. All of which are completely free. For the ultimate Toronto experience head to Nathan Phillips Square and skate in front of the 3D Toronto Sign. Nothing beats gliding along in the heart of downtown framed by skyscrapers and old and new City Hall.
Another favourite is the rink at the Harbourfront Centre. With views of Lake Ontario on one side and the city on the other, it’s the perfect spot. Skate under the stars at the outdoor winter party every Saturday night as the rink plays host to a number of different DJs. You’ll be surprised how quickly you warm up when you’re skating the night away. Rentals, heated change room, lockers and washrooms are all available on site.
For something a bit different, try the Bentway Skate Trail. Debuting in 2018, the trail follows the newly revitalized area underneath the Gardiner Expressway. Featuring special events, rentals and a chance to brush up on your skating skills with free lessons.
Skating through a forest at Arrowhead Provincial Park and MacGregor Provincial Park
If you’re looking to up your skating game even further, head out of the city to Arrowhead Provincial Park. Here you’ll find the quintessential Canadian skating experience – a fairy tail 1.3 km trail winding through the woods, lit at night by tiki torches. Skate rental, warming huts and washrooms are all available on site. When you’ve finished skating be sure to explore some of the parks snowshoeing or cross-country ski trails. Arrowhead Provincial Park is easily accessible from downtown Toronto thanks to Parkbus.
Arrowhead does get busy, so if you’re looking for a skating trail that’s a bit less popular try the one at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. Nestled on the shores of Lake Huron the park also features a large ice pad where you can try out your hockey skills.
Foodies will love visiting in January during the annual Winterlicious festival when over 200 restaurants offer discounted prix fixe menus. The festival runs for two delicious weeks (January 25 to February 7, 2019) and is the perfect opportunity to indulge in the wide variety of culinary delights Toronto has to offer. Including one of a kind cooking and dining experiences hosted by some of the city’s top venues and chefs. Visit the City of Toronto website for a full list of participating restaurants (to be announced soon). Reservations are strongly recommended.
Go to the beach
Yes, you read that right! Toronto has some fabulous beaches and the annual Winter Stations exhibition encourages you to visit them in the winter too. Every year the lifeguard towers on Woodbine Beach are transformed into interactive art installations by artists from across the globe. Take a walk along the boardwalk while admiring the creations. Once you’re done, head north onto Queen Street East where you’ll find plenty of delicious places to grab a coffee or a bite to eat.
Explore the great outdoors
Toronto is often called the city within a park, meaning you don’t need to go far to find some green space, or in this case white, to explore. High Park is the one of the largest, spanning over 160 hectares and provides ample opportunities for wandering along a snowy trail looking out for wildlife. Rent some snowshoes from MEC and head off the beaten track for the true Canadian winter experience.
The Toronto Islands are another great place to explore the winter scenery, with beautiful ice formations on the lake shore and plenty of walking or snowshoeing opportunities. Hop on the ferry, it only takes 10 minutes, and admire the wintery views of the Toronto skyline. The Islands are a whole lot quieter during the winter so you’ll feel like you’re in on a secret as you enjoy the serenity and a break of the hustle and bustle of the city. Most amenities on the Islands are closed in the winter so be sure to pack a drink and some snacks.
Toronto is well prepared for inclement weather with its very own underground city, known as the PATH. With 30 km of pathways, 1,200 shops, services and restaurants the PATH is the perfect place to visit to escape the elements and engage in a bit of retail therapy or simply get from one destination to another. Key highlights that can be accessed from the PATH include the Royal York Hotel – where the Queen stays when she’s in town, Brookfield Place – with its beautiful architecture, and some of Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions including the Hockey Hall of Fame, Scotiabank Arena, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium.
It can be a little disorientating finding your way when underground so we’d recommend using the PATH map to help you navigate. Better yet, book a free Downtown Toronto walking tour with Tour Guys and have a local show you the way. It’s good to know though that while the PATH remains open, the majority of the stores close on weekends.
Visit Toronto this winter !
Cover photo credit: Brown Bear Travels