Last Updated on 10th October 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
This post has been written in partnership with Expedia.ca. However, all opinions remain those of the solosophie.com team!
If you’re looking for heaps of snow, an epic nightlife, and enough festive decorations to snap photos of for weeks on end, then the Canadian city of Toronto in the winter has all this and more should you opt to visit. While many people wouldn’t think to make a trip to Toronto during the colder months of the year thanks to its harsh winter weather, this would be your first mistake.
After all, as long as you wrap up warm, there’s still plenty of things to do in Toronto (festive and non-festive)! And if you truly don’t want to brave the chill, then there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the form of indoor activities. From finding quirky cafes in which to enjoy hot chocolate, to ice skating for kilometres at a time, and even searching for Mean Girls filming locations, here’s your ultimate guide to winter in Toronto (as told by a Canadian).
I first visited Toronto as a teenager and soon fell in love with the vibrant settlement. I have family who live there and am always eager to hear about their stories about living like a local in the city. Home to top tourist attractions such as the CN tower (complete with a revolving restaurant), the Royal Ontario Museum, and the pedestrian-only distillery district, it’s always a good idea to visit this Northern American gem of a city…
When determining where to stay, you can find great hotel options throughout Toronto at Expedia.
There are plenty of places to go ice skating
If you’re looking for ice activities in the city, then Toronto has no shortage of ice rinks. The best place to go is probably the Bentway skate trail, though the Bentway project itself offers other amenities such as public gardens and markets all year ‘round.
During the winter, the trail is just over a mile in length and opens on the 21st of December. Located under Gardiner Expressway, the skateway stretches between the Fort York Boulevard and Bastion Street. Elsewhere in the city, there are free skating rinks to be found at the Nathan Phillips Square and at High Park. And, if you really want to get a taste for snowsports, then Toronto makes for a great base for heading out to the wider countryside for skiing and snowshoeing.
It’s also in the Nathan Phillips square where you’ll find that Toronto sign! Lit up by night, important to note is that the Medicine Wheel to the front of the Toronto letters represents the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Close to the Toronto sign, you’ll also find the Bay store’s festive window displays.
There’s the opportunity to watch ice hockey
If you would prefer to enjoy skating as a spectator, then it’s perfectly possible to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs in action. Even if your favourite team aren’t playing while you’re visiting Toronto in the winter, make sure to head to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This museum is an absolute must-see while in the city and is 100% dedicated to the history of hockey. Even if you’ve not got the time to see the museum or watch a game, then head to one of the city’s many sports bars to watch a game on the big screen while drinking a locally brewed beer.
You can stroll along the beach
For the best view of the city, you’ll need to wrap up warm! Temperatures can plummet pretty quickly and you’ll want to be prepared. With this being said, Woodbine Beach is one of the more beautiful of the city’s many sandy shores. Even in the winter months, you’ll often see people walking their dogs or simply enjoying the quiet away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
Located on the water’s edge of Lake Ontario, on a clear day, it’s even possible to see all the way across the bay and to the CN Tower. Stroll along the boardwalk, soak up the ambience of all the pretty houses and pop into Tim Hortons (best-known for its doughnuts and coffee, this is Canada’s largest fast-food restaurant. And trust me, the doughnuts are delicious!) for a warm-up coffee or hot chocolate afterwards!
The Toronto Christmas Market is a real winter warmer
Held from Mid November towards the end of December on an annual basis, the Toronto Christmas Market can be found in the distillery district of the city. Imagine wandering through market stalls as the sun begins to fade from the sky and as the first snowflakes begin to fall from the sky…
For foodies, the Christmas market is a can’t miss during a visit to Toronto. As well as being incredibly fun to wander around, traditional Canadian foodstuffs like Poutine (chips, cheese curds, and gravy- it tastes much better than it sounds!) and beer. If you want something a little more European, then schnitzel and raclette are also for sale!
Even after the Christmas Market has closed up shop for the year, there’s no shortages of foodie experiences to be had in Toronto during the winter. From the end of January to the beginning of February, the Winterlicious food festival promises prix fixe discount dinners at various restaurants all over the city!
The Distillery District is always a must-see
The pedestrian-only Distillery District itself is well worthy of a wander around while in town. This now designated National Historic Site features boutique shopping, dining, and cultural experiences all set against the backdrop of 19th-century whiskey distillery buildings. All in all, the Distillery District is a true feast for all the senses!
While in the Distillery District, you’ll even find the Gooderham Building. Locally known as the ‘Flatiron’, this piece of architecture looks surprisingly similar to that of New York. For the real New York buffs out there, it’s worth noting that a mini Times Square lookalike can be found in the form of Yonge–Dundas Square, one of the busiest intersections of downtown Toronto.
There are also countless winter indoor activities in Toronto!
Even if you’re ‘not a winter person,’ (and considering the sheer volume of snow and wind that Toronto gets in the wintertime, I don’t blame you!) there are countless indoor activities to enjoy. Highlights include playing a game of indoor beach volleyball and wandering around the ever-warm greenhouses of the Allan Gardens Conservatory. Other indoor activities in the city include indoor swimming pools, spas, and indoor shopping malls.