This season, we’re all about chilly winter getaways complete with shimmering snowflakes and cozy layered outfits. Toronto is easily one of the most stunning cities to explore in the wintertime. Think: heated outdoor markets with local vendors serving up spiced cider and poutine, stunning illumination displays reflecting off of fresh snow, and frozen cascading waterfalls that make you feel like you’re living in a snow globe. So, let’s give it a little shake and take a look at some of the most dreamy, picturesque, and exciting things to do in Toronto in winter.
There’s no better way to embrace Canadian culture than by gliding across the smooth ice of Nathan Phillips Square Skating Rink. It’s one of the most popular ice skating spots in the city. Located in the heart of Old Toronto, Nathan Phillips Square is a scenic, open-air attraction surrounded by landmarks, historic architecture and modern design. Lace up and ski the afternoon away, taking in the magic of the season.
Poutine is a must if you want to beat the cold. The ultimate Canadian comfort food, not only is poutine incredibly filling, savory, and warm, but it’s a Canadian national delicacy and hard to come by anywhere else in the world. Smoke’s Poutinerie is a guaranteed delight for hungry travelers seeking some good old fries, gravy, and cheese (and whatever else they so desire). Smoke’s is considered one of the top poutine joints in Toronto, a city that values good food. It’s so tasty that even Quebecers make sure to sample it while in town.
This annual festival features a gorgeous array of visual light displays in the heart of the Historic Distillery District. The purpose of The Toronto Lights Festival is to light up long, dark winter nights with a positive and magical experience of twinkling illuminations, allowing locals and tourists alike to enjoy something beautiful together at night. Featuring a delightful mix of both international and local light artists’ work, this sparkling display is one of the largest of its kind in North America. The event offers free entry to all, so make sure to stop by and experience one of Toronto’s most significant neighborhoods beneath a patchwork of kaleidoscopic colors.
The Bentway turns the 1.75km of space beneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway into a gathering spot for year-round activities and events. The Bentway features gardens, recreational amenities, public markets, public art, festivals, theatre, and of course, their famous Skate Trail in the winter months. Open from mid-December, pre-reserve your spot to explore the unique winter wonderland of this 220-meter trail, adorned with stunning public art and glistening with a sense of true community spirit and innovation of urban spaces.
Scrumptious food stalls, local vendors, spiced wine, and hot cocoa all surrounded by outdoor heating, nothing says holiday spirit like a holiday market. The annual Distillery District winter festival starts on November 18th. Enjoy live entertainment, festivities, and flavor beneath an array of twinkly lights in one of Toronto’s most historic neighborhoods.
Not just hot chocolate, but “drinking chocolate,” SOMA takes the craft of creamy, chocolatey, winter goodness to another level. Take refuge from the snow in their incredibly Insta-worthy cafe setting lined with artisanal chocolate and other homemade treats. We definitely recommend their melted drinking chocolate to warm yourself up from the inside on a day of exploring the artsy downtown neighborhoods of the city.
No Toronto guide is complete without this iconic tower, and nothing is quite like the gorgeous view of the city after a fresh snowfall from this legendary lookout point. A defining aspect of the Toronto skyline, and highly celebrated Canadian destination, we promise The CN Tower is popular for a reason. Enjoy breathtaking views overlooking the sprawling metropolis of Toronto, feast on gourmet cuisine in a rotating restaurant (yes you read that properly), and, if you are feeling brave, walk over a floor entirely made of glass.
Casa Loma is a spooky, gothic castle that is known for beautiful gardens, a terrifying haunted house, intricate historical architecture, and a transformative winter experience. Head to this fairytale destination for magical lighting displays, an interactive Santa’s workshop, and Christmas-themed decor, including a collection of trees decorated by a selection of Canadian designers. An idyllic holiday experience that has something for the entire family, we highly recommend this incredible Christmas castle to anyone hoping for a winter experience right out of a storybook.
Originally named The Kensington Market Festival of Lights in 1988, this annual tradition has continued into the modern day as an artistic celebration of art, street performance, and finding warmth in the chilly temperatures. Every year on December 21st, an artistic parade encompassing warmth and light takes place in Toronto’s most eclectic neighborhood: Kensington Market. The parade honors the cultural significance of the winter solstice as an ancient cardinal point. Complete with handmade lanterns, giant puppets, fire breathers, stilts, theatrical performances, and more, this fantastic night of celebration is one of the most fascinating, time-honored Toronto events happening in the wintertime. While in the area, check out Cold Tea, one of our favorite snack bars in Toronto.
One of the best performances of The Nutcracker in the world, this famous National Ballet Of Canada production belongs on everyone’s winter in Toronto itinerary. The Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre, with incredible sets, intricate costumes, and a top-notch orchestra and choreography, make sure to reserve your spot quickly. Watch true talent sparkle against the backdrop of a tale as old as time, The Nutcracker is true magic, entertaining audiences for decades. A quintessential holiday experience, The Nutcracker suspends our reality for a moment to indulge in the special, sparkling world of ballet.
The highly anticipated Fairmont Royal Hotel Holiday Tea experience begins yearly on November 20th at the Clockwork lounge, complete with sparkling decorations, holiday-themed food and drinks, and bubbling champagne (of course). Dine beneath the rosy lights, sample festive holiday teas, and take outfit pictures by the glittering Christmas trees. With such decadent flavors and festive teas, including Vienna Eggnog and Santa’s Milk and Cookies, it’s no wonder this spot books up quickly, so make sure to reserve yours fast. If you’re looking for cozy wintertime date ideas in Toronto, this spot should be first on your list!
Watch as one of the most gorgeous Toronto excursions transforms from a gently cascading waterfall into a frozen wonderland. Located just an hour’s drive from Toronto in Hamilton, this famous wintery waterfall is a moment entirely frozen in time. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try ice climbing at the frozen falls or just enjoy the enchanting view from the wooden platform area. Embracing the Canadian winter means exploring all the natural wonder that this gorgeous country has to offer. Make sure you dress appropriately and wear proper footwear as the icy ground can get slippery.
Take a trip just an hour away from Toronto for a fantastical look at one of North America’s most legendary landmarks. Snuggle up with mittens and scarves and enjoy the magical light illumination that shimmers against the cascading Niagara Falls, almost as though the aurora borealis is pouring from the night sky. This stunning display is one you will never forget. With a color palette inspired by the beauty of nature, watch as a combination of crisp winter air, natural beauty, and illumination combine to produce one of the most awe-inspiring art installations in the world. A true bucket-list-worthy destination.
Places To Stay In Toronto
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
Expect the ultimate holiday experience at the famed Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Situated in downtown Toronto, this towering hotel has solidified itself as one of the most elegant spaces to call a “temporary home.” An excellent choice for newcomers as it is minutes away from plenty of tourist attractions like Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.
The Broadview Hotel
Tucked away in the lively Riverside district and featuring spacious rooms designed with intricacy, The Broadview Hotel is a true home away from home. Located in a beautiful historic building turned boutique hotel, The Broadview is home to countless amenities, including one of the best rooftop bars in Toronto. Perfect for families and couples looking for a truly relaxing spot to unwind after their winter city explorations.
Hotel X Toronto
As a chic high-rise that is one of the trendiest spots in the city, Hotel X has set itself apart from the usual hotel scene. Experience Toronto in luxury with top-notch amenities (including a full-size tennis court) and innovative modern design. An excellent choice for solo, business, and couples planning out a ritzy excursion in Toronto.