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The best things to do in Toronto in winter

When we first moved to Canada, we started our trip in Toronto in the middle of winter (late January). We were pretty inexperienced when it comes to truly cold temperatures given we’re from the UK where it’s usually not too cold.

We quickly learned to adjust to the temperatures, invested in some good winter clothing and even ended up building our campervan in -20C in a Home Depot car park!

We got the chance to experience our first real Canadian winter and we discovered, first-hand, some of the best things to do in Toronto in winter!

While the cold Toronto winter weather may deter some travellers, Toronto has plenty to offer during the winter months.

From outdoor skating rinks and festive holiday markets to cosy cafes and indoor attractions, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

If you’re visiting Toronto this winter and wondering what to do in Toronto in winter, here are some of my top suggestions.

Read more: First time in Toronto? Here are the top places to visit!

How to get to Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, the largest city in Canada and also the capital of Ontario, is situated on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario on Canada’s eastern coast.

It’s just a few hours away from the USA-Canada border and has plenty of things to do in winter and summer alike.

For visitors to Toronto, here is some information on how to get to the city.

Flights to Toronto

The main airport in Toronto is the Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is the one you’re most likely to fly into if you’re travelling from the west coast or from abroad.

To get from Toronto Pearson to downtown Toronto, take the UP Express to Union Station which takes less than 30 minutes. You can also take the city bus and subway. This option is quite a bit cheaper but takes longer.

Skyscanner is what I use to find cheap flights.

Driving to Toronto

Toronto is a metropolis so you can drive here from pretty much anywhere. It is connected to the surrounding suburbs and cities through the 400 series highways.

Traffic in Toronto can be bad though so if you’re visiting for a short time I’d recommend just using Toronto’s public transport which is good and connects to most of Toronto’s top attractions.

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Getting around Toronto in winter

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL CANADA FOR ONE MONTH?

The public transit system in Toronto is known as “the TTC” (the Toronto Transit Commission). There are 4 subway lines and bus and tram (streetcar) routes.

The public transport in Toronto is pretty reliable, not too expensive and goes to most of the best places to visit in Toronto in winter.

You can get a Presto Card which you simply top up and tap at the gates to the stations or on the buses and streetcars. Or, just use tap/contactless on your usual payment card or phone.

Toronto also has Uber and Lyft and a Bikeshare system which still operates in winter.

How cold does Toronto get in winter?

Winter in Toronto can get very cold and snowy with temperatures below zero degrees Celcius for most of the winter. Average temperatures are around -3C, though you’ll get periods where it is much colder.

The first snow usually happens in around November and will last on and off until the end of March most years.

Read more: Best places to visit in Ontario in winter

Is a Toronto CityPass worth it?

The Toronto City PASS lets you visit up to 5 of Toronto’s most popular attractions and save 38% on admission prices.

The pass stays valid for 9 days after being activated, giving you plenty of time to explore. It’s a great option for those who are looking to do lots of sightseeing in the city.

Included in the Toronto CityPASS are the following Toronto attractions:

  1. CN Tower
  2. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
  3. Casa Loma
  4. Royal Ontario Museum
  5. Toronto Zoo or Ontario Science Centre

If you’re planning to visit several of these attractions, then the Toronto CityPASS is definitely worth getting!

What to pack for exploring Toronto in winter

As you probably suspected, for travelling to Toronto in the winter there are a few clothing items that you should bring.

Though it can be cold and snowy in Toronto in winter, with the right clothing, you can stay warm and dry even when it’s wet and chilly outside!

I’d prioritise keeping your feet warm and dry as cold wet feet suck when you’re trying to explore a new city.

Here are my winter weather recommendations for what to pack for Toronto in winter:

  • Warm Winter Coat: For those frigid winter days, you’ll really wanna invest in a warm jacket. I wear a down sweater hoody from Patagonia underneath my waterproof jacket.
  • Waterproof/windproof coat: I suggest wearing a waterproof and windproof jacket over your puffy jacket as this helps keep the chill of the wind off you.
  • Fleece sweater: Wearing a fleece layer helps lock in that heat and keeps you warm while exploring Toronto in winter.
  • Base Layers: Staying warm in winter is all about layers. Wearing some thermal base layers is a great idea and you can get them in all sorts of colours and styles.
  • Fleece-lined leggings: Fleece leggings are great for wearing just on their own or under other trousers.
  • Lip balm: Cold and dry air can make your lips super dry and cracked which gets painful after a few days. I like to use this overnight lip mask and carry around some Sunbum during the day.
  • Beanie: You’ll always find me wearing a bobble hat in the winter!
  • Warm Gloves: Keep your hands toasty and make sure you pack some warm gloves for a Toronto trip in winter!
  • Waterproof Snow Boots: Keep your feet warm and dry with waterproof boots. I’ll typically wear my hiking boots as they’re waterproof and pretty warm with some good socks.
  • Warm socks: Choose wool socks that wicker moisture and keep your feet dry all day long. Merino wool socks are super warm and soft.
  • Hand warmers: Pack some hand warmers which can be thrown in your pack and shoved inside your gloves or mittens when needed. We use these disposable ones. I find Little Hotties are much better than Hot Hands.
  • Microspikes: If you’re doing any hiking or walking on the trails, you might want microspikes to keep your balance and avoid slipping on the ice.

1. Ice skating in Toronto

toronto sign canada

I feel like you’ve not had the real Canadian winter experience until you’ve been ice skating. Fortunately, you’re not short of places to go skating in Toronto in winter as there are numerous rinks around the city.

Ice Skating at Nathan Phillips Square and the Nathan Philips Holiday Fair

One of the most popular rinks in Toronto is at Nathan Phillips Square. If you’re visiting Toronto, or don’t own skates, you can rent skates here and it’s super easy to get to by public transport.

In winter, the water fountain here freezes into the outdoor skating rink and the city hall becomes your backdrop.

The skating rink is awesome but it’s not the only thing you can do at Nathan Phillips Square. Every year. the square is transformed into a beautiful winter landscape.

You’ll see a huge Christmas tree, thousands of lights and a Christmas Market with products from local artists. There are food stalls, performances and live music pretty often over the festive period too.

There are also holiday rides and a photobooth with Santa!

Skating at Toronto Harbourfront Rink

Another Toronto ice rink with rentals is at Harbourfront which overlooks Lake Ontario. Here, you’ll be able to skate with views of the CN Tower and the waterfront all around you.

On Saturday Nights there’s a DJ Skate night with awesome light displays which is a super fun thing to do in winter in Toronto.

Skating The Bentway Trail

The Bentway Trail, a 1.75 km figure-8 skating path under the Gardiner Expressway and is the new most fun place to skate in Toronto.

There is also an on-site village with warming stations and places where you can get both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to keep you warm while skating.

It’s such a fun thing to do with friends or visitors to Toronto in winter.

2. Visit Toronto’s Distillery District in winter

things to do in toronto in winter

Toronto’s Distillery District is a cobblestoned collection of Victorian industrial buildings including a historic distillery and plenty of brick facades. It’s one of the most pretty areas of the city.

It’s been transformed into a pedestrianised area with galleries, boutique shops and restaurants.

In Toronto in winter, the Distillery District hosts two major events which are some of the top Toronto attractions at this time of year.

Distillery Winter Village – the Toronto Christmas Market

Kicking off with the Tree Lighting Ceremony in mid-November and running through to New Year’s Eve, the Toronto Christmas Market is now known as the Distillery Winter Village.

This is the best-known Christmas market in Toronto and includes a white Christmas tree, festive lights, and some food stalls.

At the food stalls, you’ll find poutine, pretzels, beer, schnitzel, raclette, chicken and waffles and fruit pies. You can also get a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate as you walk around.

There are also stalls selling great local gifts that you can get for your friends and family, or take as a souvenir for yourself. Items include ornaments, stocking stuffers, clothes, postcards, candles, pottery, spices, handmade jewellery, baked goods, and more.

This is for sure one of the top things to do in Toronto in winter.

Do you need a ticket for the Distillery Winter Village?

  • The Tree Lighting Ceremony is free.
  • Weekday entry is generally free. Tickets are required for weekends after 4 p.m.
  • From Dec 27 to Dec 31, tickets are required after 4 p.m.

The Toronto Light Festival at the Distillery

If you miss the Distillery Christmas Market in November and December you can still enjoy the Toronto Light Festival which lights up the Distillery District in January.

At the Light Festival, you can witness thousands of lights, illuminated sculptures and glowing installations spread out over the 13 acres and 44 buildings in the Distillery District.

3. Go x-country skiing on the Toronto Islands

toronto in winter toronto islands

The Toronto Islands are a favourite with locals in the summer, but they’re also worth visiting in winter.

While the journey over on the ferry can be cold if you’re outside, on a nice day you’ll get beautiful views of a snowy Toronto as you head towards the island.

The Toronto Islands in winter have a very different feel with frozen lakes and snowy trails.

One of the best things to do on the Toronto Islands in winter is cross-country skiing. You can rent a pair of skis from MEC in Toronto and bring them over with you on the ferry.

4. Drink plenty of hot chocolates

While I’m partial to a hot chocolate at any time of year, winter is when this drink really comes into its own.

Some of the best hot chocolates in Toronto are those with interesting and unique flavour combinations. These include the cayenne, ginger and orange hot chocolate at Soma Chocolate and the peanut butter and caramel hot chocolate at Sweet Jesus.

5. The Light Show (Terra Lumina) at the Toronto Zoo

Another fun light show like those that take place in Vancouver in winter, is the Terra Lumina show at the Toronto Zoo.

This outdoor experience takes you along a glowing pathway where the forests glitter and shine.

The event takes place on weekends from the end of October to the end of the year.

6. Go sledding at Riverdale Park

If you’re visiting Toronto in winter with kids (or you’re just a big kid yourself), make sure you go sledding at Riverdale Park in Toronto.

It’s one of the best places in the city for sledding thanks to its steep slopes and amazing views.

Another great option is to go sledding at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

7. See the winter light show at Ontario Place

things to do in toronto in winter

The Snow Magic Trail at Ontario Place is one of the best unique things to do in Toronto in the winter.

On this light show, you drive by in your car as you experience 17 light installations from well-known Canadian artists.

The route runs from November to mid-January and you must purchase your tickets in advance.

8. Explore the Art Gallery of Ontario

The Art Gallery of Ontario (the AGO) is one of the top Toronto tourist attractions and they have some great paintings and artworks of Canadian landscapes, including winter scenes.

If the weather is really awful, then exploring the Art Gallery of Ontario is a great way to stay warm but still explore some of the best things to do in Toronto.

If you’re visiting Toronto on a budget, check out the free Wednesday Nights admissions.

9. Enjoy a snowy walk in Toronto

things to do in toronto in winter

There are lots of places to go for snowy walks in Toronto including High Park but one of the best is in Toronto East: the Glen Stewart Ravine.

When the snow starts falling, the ravine turns into a magical snowy wonderland.

You’ll walk over wooden boardwalks, dirt paths and staircases – take care not to slip!

It’s easy to forget your in Canada’s largest city when you walk through here.

10. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum

Another great museum is the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The ROM (as it’s known) is home to one of the largest collections of dinosaur skulls in the world and they’re amazing to see – especially if you’re visiting Toronto with kids.

Besides dinosaurs, you’ll find minerals, fossils, Roman artefacts and more. It’s the largest museum in Canada and there’s so much to learn about!

11. Warm up at a Toronto Spa

Sometimes the best way to enjoy winter in Toronto is to go somewhere where it doesn’t feel like winter. This would be great if you’re visiting Toronto as part of a romantic weekend getaway!

Some of the best spas in Toronto are:

  • Body Blitz Spa with a sauna, treatments and more
  • Miraj Hammam
  • Spa My Blend by Clarins

12. Visit Bloor-Yorkville Icefest

Yorkville is a great place to visit in Toronto. In February and March, the two-day Bloor-Yorkville Icefest takes place and it shouldn’t be missed!

The neighbourhood welcomes ice sculptures and ice-carving demonstrations which are super cool to watch.

While the ice carving demonstrations only take place over these two days, you can often see them for longer.

13 Winterlicious

For two weeks towards the end of January and early February, Winterlicious comes to Toronto. During this period, you can eat at some of the best restaurants in Toronto for a lower price.

Many of the city’s restaurants offer special fixed-price menus and it’s such a great way to find a new favourite place to eat in Toronto.

Make sure you book early, as places get booked up quickly!

14. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

things to do in toronto in winter

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada at the base of the CN Tower is among Toronto’s top attractions.

There is an underwater exhibit housing over 20,000 aquatic specimens from over 450 species, making it the largest indoor aquarium in Canada.

The Toronto Aquarium is included in the Toronto CityPASS so if you bought that you don’t need to buy another full-price ticket.

15. Watch a Maple Leafs hockey game

One of the best things to do in winter in Toronto is to watch a hockey game!

The Toronto Maple Leafs play at the Scotiabank Arena at 40 Bay Street and watching a game is super fun.

You can often find tickets on Stubhub, or you can watch the game on a big screen outdoors at Maple Leaf Square – make sure you wrap up warm though!

Alternatively, you can get cheaper tickets, and often get closer to the action, but watching an AHL game with the Toronto Marlies.

16. Experience the Toronto Museum of Illusions

The Toronto Museum of Illusions is a super fun place to explore during a cold winter’s day in Toronto.

There are over 100 rooms and exhibits which include everything from holograms and optical illusions to infinity tunnels and upside-down rooms.

17. See the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame

ice hockey hall of fame toronto

New to hockey when we moved to Canada, we decided to check out the Hockey Hall of Fame and learned a lot about the game, the Stanley Cup and the most well-known players.

It’s a super fun thing to do in Toronto in winter (and year-round)!

There’s a short film about the Stanley Cup as well as a huge collection of hockey jerseys and a shoot-out simulation.

18. Go to the top of the CN Tower

things to do in toronto in winter

Toronto’s main landmark is the CN Tower and going to the top of the CN Tower is a must for all visitors to Toronto.

You’ll whip up the 553 m high CN Tower, the ninth tallest building in the world and see the beautiful snowy landscapes from far and wide.

At the top, you can ride up a glass-fronted elevator, stand on a glass floor (not for those afraid of heights!) or look out panoramic glass windows.

At the CN Tower there are a couple of additional attractions that are worth doing during your trip to Toronto.

CN Tower’s 360 Restaurant

Dine in style at the 360 restaurants in the CN Tower. This revolving restaurant in Toronto serves Canadian classics including Lobster, and Arctic Char and their menu changes seasonally.

CN Tower Edge Walk

If you’re brave enough, you can tackle the CN Tower’s Edge Walk, a hands-free walk on the ledge that encircles the tower at a mere 116 stories up.

19. Explore St Lawrence Market

things to do in toronto st lawrence market

St. Lawrence Market was one of our favourite places to visit during our stay in Toronto in winter.

The market started in 1803 as a weekly market, but soon grew and is definitely one of the best things to do in Toronto in winter.

There are over 120 local vendors selling meats, fresh produce, seafood, baked goods, cheese and more.

Be sure to try the famous peameal bacon sandwich and check out the lobster rolls or baked goods for lunch!

20. Take a winter day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls in winter

things to do in toronto in winter

Niagara Falls isn’t far from Toronto and it’s the perfect day trip.

Niagara Falls should be on everyone’s Canada bucket list and, while most people visit Niagara Falls in the summer, I’d argue it’s even better in the winter.

Sure, it’s freezing, but the partially frozen falls are something not many people see and that’s what makes it so special.

In the winter the Maid of the Mist boats don’t run, but you can still get great views of the falls from the main viewing platforms. The Hornblower boat trip still runs too getting you closer to the falls.

This small group tour from Toronto includes your transport and the Hornblower Boat Cruise.

21. Go skiing at Toronto’s Blue Mountain

The nearest main ski hill to Toronto is t Blue Mountain and if you’re looking to ski, you should definitely head here. It’s one of the best places to visit near Toronto in winter.

About a two-hour drive away, you can go skiing, skating and snowshoeing at Blue Mountain.

If you’d rather skip the outdoor Toronto winter activities then check-in to the Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain instead which is absolutely gorgeous!

22. Explore the Toronto Path

When we first visited Toronto we were confused as to why it was so quiet everywhere given it’s Canada’s biggest city.

Turns out, they were avoiding the cold temperatures above ground by going underground to the Path network.

The Path is a pedestrian walkway that goes underneath downtown and the Financial District. In all, there are about 30 km of underground passageways, shops and restaurants. It connects office buildings, hotels subway stations and Maple Leaf Square.

There are 125 access and exit points and it’s a great way to stay out of the cold in Toronto in winter.

23. Uncover the history of Casa Loma

things to do in toronto in winter
Views from Casa Loma

We never expected Toronto to have a Gothic castle at all, let alone so close to the city centre!

Casa Loma was originally built as a private home but is now one of Toronto’s top attractions.

You can tour the castle and check out exhibits that have been preserved from way back then. You also get some cool views from the windows of the castle.

Over the Christmas period, the castle and its gardens turn into a winter wonderland. There are many decorations and light displays and there’s also the Casa Loma holiday light tour.

24. Explore Kensington Market

Kensington Market is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Toronto.

There are lots of cafes, bars, vintage stores and record shops. It’s considered the artists’ hub of Toronto and is known for being the hipster area of the city.

This top-rated Kensington Market food tour is the best way to explore the best things on offer in the neighbourhood while learning more about its history.

25. Go shopping at Toronto’s Eaton Centre

The Eaton Centre is a huge shopping centre with more than 250 retail stores. If you need to do some shopping during your visit to Toronto in the winter, then this is the place to go!

Over Christmas, the mall is decorated with Christmassy sculptures and a huge Christmas Tree!

There’s also a huge food hall where you can find some pretty cheap and tasty eats to keep you fuelled while you shop.

Where to stay in Toronto

There are many great hotels in Toronto, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Some top-rated hotels in the city include:

  1. The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto: Located in the financial district, this hotel boasts a rooftop pool and lounge with panoramic views of the city.
  2. The Ace Hotel Toronto: This super stylish hotel has a restaurant, bar and fitness centre and is super close to Toronto’s top attractions.
  3. The Drake Hotel: Located in the trendy West Queen West neighbourhood, this hotel offers budget-friendly rooms and a popular bar and restaurant.
  4. The Gladstone Hotel: Located in the West Queen West neighbourhood, this hotel is known for its unique, artist-designed rooms and popular events space.
  5. The Anndore House: Located in the trendy neighbourhood of Midtown, this boutique hotel offers stylish rooms and a rooftop bar with views of the city.

FAQs about places to go in Toronto in winter

what to do in Toronto winter season?

In winter, Toronto offers a range of activities including ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square, exploring the Distillery District Christmas Market, and visiting the Royal Ontario Museum or Art Gallery of Ontario

How cold is winter in Toronto?

Winter in Toronto can be quite cold, with average temperatures ranging from -6°C to -1°C (21°F to 30°F), and occasionally dipping even lower.

Final thoughts on things to do in Toronto winter

If you were looking for things to do in Toronto during winter I hope you’re now full of ideas.

From museums to embracing the refreshing outdoor air temperatures, there is no shortage of Toronto winter activities when it comes to what to do in Toronto in winter.

My favourite places to visit in winter in Toronto are the aquarium and the parks — just be sure to wrap up warm!

Last Updated on June 9, 2023 by Hannah

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