As Canada’s largest city, Toronto offers visitors an endless amount of fun things to do all year (and that’s including the snowy winter months!) From dazzling light shows to winter hiking spots, there are so many fun things to do in Toronto in winter. I spent four years living in the city and am sharing my favourite Toronto winter activities with you. And if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, I’ve included some tips on the best places to visit near Toronto in winter.
This year the best things to do in Toronto this winter are outdoors, given that the status around indoor gatherings may fluctuate. Just more reason to head outside for a staycation and enjoy the gorgeous snowy landscapes!
Top winter activities in Toronto
Go outdoor skating
One of the best things to do in Toronto in the winter is grab a pair of skates and head to one of the city’s public outdoor rinks. While indoor rinks are closed right now, many outdoor skating rinks are open with a maximum capacity of 25 people per hour. Due to the limit, the city is encouraging people to reserve a spot online before coming, which you can do up to 7 days before. You can read more about winter skating in Toronto here.
There are dozens of skating rinks throughout the city, but my favourites are Nathan Phillips Square by City Hall and the Bentway Trail, which runs one kilometre under the Gardiner Expressway overpass. Both locations offer skate rentals if you don’t have your own!
Casa Loma holiday light tour
Did you know that Toronto has a castle? It’s one of Toronto’s top attractions, with over 650,000 visitors a year! While the inside of Casa Loma is currently closed, they are hosting a special outdoor holiday light show from Dec 22nd until January 31st, 2021, at 4 p.m. daily.
Come and wander through a magical light display in the outdoor gardens. This experience has been designed as a self-guided walk with safety protocols in place. You’ll get to stroll through the property’s grounds while enjoying the spectacular decorations and outdoor lighting displays.
Take a hike in Rouge National Urban Park
Rouge National Urban Park in Scarborough is Canada’s first and only national urban park, making it the perfect place to connect with nature right in the Greater Toronto Area! Grab your winter hiking shoes or snowshoes and explore one of the parks many hiking trails that take you through various landscapes, including meadows, forests, wetlands, and farmland. This underrated national park is the perfect place to stay active this winter in Toronto.
Have your mind blown at the Illusionarium magic show
If you’re looking for a unique thing to do in Toronto this winter, then you’ll definitely want to check out Jamie Allan’s llusionarium magic show. The UK’s ‘High-Tech Houdini’ brings the magic to Canada, with an incredible show that includes life-like holograms, 3D projections, and live magicians.
This experiential exhibit blends Jamie’s knowledge of the history of magic with state-of-the-art-technology to bring illusions of the past into the 21st century. This is the first time audiences can see these illusions up close – all in a socially-distanced setting. This exhibit is set to open on January 5th – you can follow COVID updates on their website.
Explore the street art of Toronto
If you’re looking for free things to do in Toronto this winter, head out to explore the city’s amazing street art. One of the best places is Graffiti Alley, a kilometre-long stretch home to some of the city’s most iconic street art pieces! It’s always changing, reflecting political and social activism, like when a group of 40 artists painted the city black in support of Black Lives Matter.
Graffiti Alley is in downtown Toronto near Kensington market – start at the corner of Rush Lane and Portland Street and head east. While this is often thought of as one of the best things to do in Toronto in summer, winter is a great time to visit as it’s far less busy, allowing you to get that perfect Instagram shot and some much-needed inspiration along the way.
Check out the art installations at Winter Station
Give yourself an art break (and some serious inspiration!) at Winter Station, Toronto’s popular outdoor art space. During the winter months, the lifeguard station’s of the city’s east end beaches are transformed into interactive art installations for everyone to enjoy.
This year’s theme is ‘refuge’, and the competition has seen entries from over 90 countries! The winners of the designed competition are announced in January; then you can see the winning installation on display at the eastern beaches from Family Day weekend until March 31st, 2021.
Eat your way through St. Lawrence Market
As one of the oldest markets in Canada, St. Lawrence Market is a must-visit while in Toronto. It has roots that date back to 1803, and was even marked as the world’s best food market by National Geographic!
As soon as you enter the doors, you will be transported by the sounds, sights and smells of some 120 vendors here. Come and pick up all the ingredients you need to cook an amazing meal at home, or grab a freshly-made hot meal from one of the many vendors. And with so many specialty foods available, you can easily pick up some delicious eats and create your perfect charcuterie board. While the Sunday antique market is currently closed, the South (Main) Market building remains open to the public as an essential service. get food for your charcuterie board.
Marvel at the holiday lights
Many Toronto neighbourhoods are putting on spectacular displays of light to enjoy through the winter season. The Bloor-Yorkville BIA has built a gorgeous light tunnel that you can come and walkthrough. Plus, Bloor Street between Church and Avenue will light up 139 trees along with an installation of 60 campfire-shaped benches that light up when you sit on them.
There’s no better and affordable winter staycation than a day of tobogganing. A classically Canadian winter activity, this is the perfect thing to do in Toronto with kids or if you feel like embracing your inner child. Grab a sled and head to a local hill near you for a safe (and snow-filled) mini-adventure this winter in Toronto.
There are several spots to go tobogganing in Toronto no matter what neighbourhood you’re staying in. Some of my favourite places to go are Trinity Bellwoods, Christie Pitts Park, and L’Amoreaux Park in Scarborough.
Watch a movie at the Ontario Place drive-in theatre
For romantic things to do in Toronto this winter, why not try a classic drive-in movie? Throughout December, Ontario Place is hosting a drive-in theatre with a variety of holiday-themed movies. Stay safe this winter and enjoy some of your favourite movies! Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled for December 25th, making this a great pick for things to do in Toronto on Christmas Day. Complete the date night by ordering takeout at one of your favourite local restaurants in Toronto and enjoying a dinner and a movie.
Places to visit near Toronto in winter
If you’re looking to escape the city for a day or weekend, here are the best places to visit near Toronto that will get you outdoors and away from the crowds.
Marvel at the natural wonder of Niagara Falls
There’s no better Toronto Getaway than a weekend trip to Niagara Falls. Winter is a great time to visit this natural wonder, as there will be far fewer tourists and great deals on Niagara Falls hotels. Plus, during the winter, the falls completely transform as they become frozen. Along with the nightly illumination show, visiting here is sure to be a magical experience.
Go skiing at Blue Mountain
If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway from Toronto, head up to Blue Mountain for a ski trip. Just a 90-minute drive from the city in Grey County, this alpine ski resort is one of the top places to visit in Ontario for downhill skiing and snowboarding. There are 36 trails to explore throughout the resort and excellent options for dining, shopping, and spas. The ski trails are currently open but lift tickets must be pre-purchased in advance.
Rent a cozy cottage in the woods
Plan a safe and socially-distanced weekend getaway this winter in Toronto in cottage country! While the Muskoka area is often thought of as one of the best summer vacation spots in Canada, it’s just as good during the month months.
Muskoka becomes a winter wonderland from December to March. Ice skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and dog sledding are just some of the incredible winter activities you can try here! Book a cozy cottage and spend the weekend out exploring some of the best lakes in Canada, then cozy up by the fire at night.
Even in the winter months, there are still many fun things to do in Toronto. We hope this post could inspire you but before booking any trips, make sure to check the local government guidelines for the latest health and safety news and updates.
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