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Best Places to Visit in Toronto in Winter

Toronto might have the reputation for being cold in the winter months, but it is also a very vibrant time in the city! With winter sports, holiday markets and tons of dining options, Toronto takes on a festive spirit during this time of year, offering unique experiences to all its visitors. From the Distillery District to the Hockey Hall of Fame, some of the most fun places to visit in Toronto in winter are distinctly Canadian.

People ice skating in front of the Toronto Sign on a clear day in winter

The travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations love exploring this country all year round. And we can assure you that winter is a great time to visit. In this blog, we will give you a complete guide to the best places to visit in Toronto in winter.

What Do You Need To Enjoy In Toronto During Winter?

Toronto in winter will be very chilly. January is the coldest month, but December is also frosty. There can be snow all the way into March. If you’re planning a trip between November and March, make sure you have plenty of warm clothing with you. Dressing in layers is highly recommended. For more information on what you’ll need to enjoy Toronto during winter, refer to our section below on 'Important things to pack for a Toronto winter'.

13 Places to Visit In Toronto During Winter

1. The Bentway Skate Trail

The Bentway Skate Trail is downtown Toronto’s biggest ice skating surface. In winter, this 220-meter trail turns into an amazing spot for ice skating, making it one of the best places to visit in Toronto in winter.

On weekdays, the hours of operation are 5.00 PM - 9.00 PM, while on holidays and weekends, the trail stays open from 12.00 PM - 9.00 PM. Pre-registration is required to use the trail and you can hire skates for a minimal charge at the entrance.

While food and drink aren't allowed on the main skating trail itself, you can enjoy a wide range of eating options near Bentway, along with markets, public art shows, theatres, etc. We recommend a hot chocolate to warm up after your skate.

People ice skating under a bridge in Toronto during the day

2. Go Ice skating

As Toronto's favourite winter activity, there are plenty of ice skating rinks across the city. Most of them are free of charge as long as you have your skates. You can also rent a pair.

Apart from Bentway Skate Trail, Nathan Philips Square Ice Skating Rink is another famous ice skating spot in Toronto. The square is one of the liveliest places to visit and is especially fun at night under the lights.

Union Winter at Union Station is another fun pop-up ice-skating rink. Located in front of Union Station, close to the CN Tower, it is one of the most accessible rinks in Toronto.

Dufferin Grove skating rink is comparatively new but fast becoming a favourite spot for residents and tourists. Located in Bloorcourt, the rink is right beside the picturesque Dufferin Groove Park.

People skating in an outdoor public square next to a large Toronto sign

3. Toronto Holiday Market

The Toronto Holiday Market is a much-loved event during winter, hosted in the Dundas West neighbourhood at the Garrison. Visitors can enjoy delicious food and warm drinks, all the while listening to great live music. If you love shopping, then don’t miss the stalls set up by small businesses and local artisans. It is located at 1197 Dundas St West and admission is free.

4. Toronto Christmas Market

The Toronto Christmas Market is a special feature of the Distillery District during the holiday season. Known as The Distillery Winter Village, the market has something for everyone: great local food, interesting knick-knacks sold by local artisans, amusement rides, and plenty of live performances. You’ll also love the Toronto Christmas Market for its gigantic Christmas tree, glistening with thousands of lights and decorations. There is free entry during the day, but some nighttime performances require tickets for purchase.

Strings of lights above Christmas market stalls at night

5. Explore the Distillery Historic District

Distillery District is more than a Christmas market destination. With its many shops, cafes, and best restaurants to explore throughout the year, Distillery District is a great place to visit anytime. However, the beautiful lights and decorations that cover the entire place from November to March make it one of the best places to visit in Toronto in winter.

While you stroll around the Distillery District with your warm cup of cocoa, soaking in the magic of the place, don’t miss the ‘Winter Village’ and ‘Toronto Lights Festival’. The Distillery Winter Village is very popular, and sees about 700,000 visitors on average! Because of its popularity, it can also get pretty crowded — try to take a local bus to avoid parking issues.

Two women in winter coats looking up at strings of lights at the Toronto Light Festival

6. Go skiing or snowshoeing

You cannot make a trip to Toronto in winter without at least trying one fun outdoor activity. Toronto has many spots for cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. Popular ones include Toronto Island Park and High Park.

If you want to add a little historic charm to your snowshoeing adventure, you should visit Crawford Lake with its reconstructed 15th-century Iroquoian village.

7. Explore the ice sculptures in Yorkville

The Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood ice fest is a unique feature of Toronto in winter. It offers a walking route that takes you on a tour of some stunning ice sculpture installations by professional artists. The fest has a unique theme each year. The theme for 2023 is “Dreams & Fantasies”. Entry to the event is free of charge.

Three ice sculptures of a man, a popcorn box and a cinema

8. Attend The Winterlicious Food Festival

What better way to experience the magic of Toronto in winter than with all the amazing and unique cuisines the city has to offer? The Winterlicious Food Festival sees over 200 of Toronto’s restaurants come together offering the food on their menu at very affordable prices. The festival goes on for two weeks, and while you don't need to have a reservation, it is strongly recommended. Many restaurants offer three-course menus for a prix-fixe.

Couple enjoying three dinner dishes and a glass of wine at a restaurant

9. Watch an ice hockey game

Ice hockey is synonymous with Canada and, in Toronto, it's almost an obsession. The city's team, the Toronto Maple Leaf, are hugely popular. If you're lucky enough, try to catch a Leafs' game. Ice hockey season is between October and April in Toronto. Tickets often have to be purchased well in advance. Even if you can't make a game at the arena, find a sports bar and take in the action.

People in an arena watching an ice hockey game in Toronto

10. Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame

Whether you watch a game of ice hockey or not, do visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The museum is home to several important hockey memorabilia, including trophies, art, pictures, and much more. It is the official home of the Stanley Cup, the NHL's big prize. The museum is located at 30 Yonge Street. Admission starts at $25.

Hockey trophy cups in glass display cases in a museum

11. Go cafe hopping

Kensington Market is a great place for quaint cafes, which includes FIKA, one of Toronto’s most iconic cafes. Rustle & Still Café is a Vietnamese place offering Asian-themed warm beverages amidst a lot of vibrant green indoor plants. Looking for some intrigue and mystery? Head over to Voodoo Child Espresso & Cocktail Bar. Sam James Coffee Bar has perhaps the most local coffee possible — they use their own beans, roasted in Toronto!

People sitting in a brick-walled coffee shop

12. Catch a concert

Toronto has a reputation for being a hub for entertainment and culture. No wonder it’s also a centre for performances, arts, and theatres. Visitors should not miss out on attending at least one of the many concerts and live performances that the city has to offer throughout the year. Whether it’s an opera at the Danforth Music Hall or a ballet at the iconic Four Seasons Centre, do make sure you catch a concert during your trip.

The Four Seasons Centre is especially renowned for the Nutcracker Ballet, the perfect seasonal performance. With its winter theme, gorgeous backdrops, and beautiful costumes, this is an experience we highly recommend.

Exterior view of the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts at night

13. Steam up at a spa

While experiencing the best that Toronto in winter has to offer, head over to a spa to unwind. The warm, fragrant and inviting spas make you forget those snowy roads and chilly winds and pamper you with various luxurious treatments. Toronto has numerous winter spas you can drop into, but the best options are a short drive away from the city. All these places offer accommodation options as well.

The Vettä Nordic Spa is located in the scenic Horseshoe valley, It is popular for its Finnish hydrotherapy cycle.

Grail Springs is another Nordic spa, set amidst scenic natural features.
Ste. Anne’s Spa is situated within a castle. They offer more than 35 spa treatments, a eucalyptus steam room and saunas.

couple smiling and enjoying a hot drink in spa robes at a day spa

Weather in Toronto During the Winter Months

The weather starts to cool off around October in Toronto, when fall begins. This continues till November, with the weather progressing from mild to very chilly during that time. By the end of November, winter sets in. When you think winter in Toronto, think of frost and snowfall. It can also get quite wet during this time. The average temperature during the winter is -5.4 °C (22 °F), but it can get colder. The average snow cover is 7 cm deep.

Winter in Toronto peaks in January, the coldest month. This continues till March, after which spring begins. Despite its cold winters, Toronto is relatively less cold than other parts of Canada during winter. 

Important Things to Pack for A Toronto Winter

Needless to say, you need to pack as much warm clothing as possible. This includes jackets, coats, overcoats, thermals, ear muffs, scarves and gloves. As we mentioned earlier, some spots can be slippery due to ice. So, don’t forget to carry waterproof footwear that offers great grip and is resistant to slipping on ice.

Another important item to pack is sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare from all the snow and ice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Toronto worth visiting in winter?

Yes, there is a lot of great things to do in Toronto during the winter, from festive markets and shows to outdoor activities like skating. Toronto does get cold during winter. One must always be prepared for snow or rain. But compared to other places in Canada, it is a marginally warmer place during winter months. The average temperature in January is -5.5 °C (22 °F).

Is Toronto a good place to visit in December?

Toronto has many winter festivals, activities, and other attractions, making it a great place to visit in December. Besides, it turns into a Christmas wonderland in December!

What should I not miss in Toronto?

The Toronto Christmas Market, the Yorkville sculptures, and the Nutcracker Ballet are attractions you should definitely not miss in Toronto during the winter. Toronto’s ice skating rinks, numerous cafes and spas are also worth visiting.

Where is the cheapest place to spend the winter?

There are many free attractions in Toronto in winter, such as the markets and the winter festivals. The Winterlicious Food Festival is a great option for fine-dining food at cheaper prices. The ice sculptures at Yorkville are completely free to visit.

Where can I walk in Toronto in winter?

There are plenty of places for relaxing walks all across Toronto in winter. Some of these options include the Distillery District, Toronto Waterfront, and Bentway Trail.

Which part of Canada has the worst winter?

Some of the coldest spots in Canada are the Atlantic Coast, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Quebec. Manitoba is known to be particularly cold as well.

Is Toronto too cold in December?

Toronto temperatures can drop pretty low in December, although it's comparatively less cold than in many other regions. However, December does face snowfall, frost and ice.

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