Top Winter Activities in Ontario – Get Out and Play!
By Gregory George
Suffering from a little post-holiday cabin fever? You may want to get out and enjoy what we ordinary winter-loving folks in Ontario love to do (other than shoveling the white stuff): get out and play in the white stuff!
To help you keep busy, we’ve tracked down some unique and unusual Ontario winter activities available across the province when the snow flies. So, pack some winter woolies, check your snow tires, and head further afield to one of these cold-weather outings and discover how Ontarians embrace their inner chilly winter selves with fun one-of-a-kind winter activities.
Skate The Bentway
Just like the fabled forested skating paths of Ontario’s north, including Muskoka‘s Ice Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park and Skating on the Trent Canal, Toronto now has its own urban skating oasis. (When warmer June weather arrives, it will become an outdoor concert venue with rotating public art exhibitions and public promenades, all under the once dinosaur that is the Gardiner Expressway.)
The Bentway, much like New York‘s Highline, claims derelict, unused land and transforms it into an urban, multiuse space for locals and visitors alike. Eventually spanning some 1.75 kilometers from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street and connecting the historic Fort York Visitors Center to the city, you can, for the time being anyway, grab some steaming cocoa and strap on your skates (or rent as well) for a day or evening romp on Toronto’s newest outdoor ice rink.
Niagara Icewine Festival
If you are a fan of the frozen vine as I am, then January is a great time to visit Niagara’s wine country. From fabulous gala evenings, glittering cool ice bars, winery tours and the chance to sample wonderful winter icewines and inspired cooking, the Niagara Icewine Festival offers almost everything for all winter-loving tastes.
Nibble and sip your way through some 30+ local wineries with your Discovery Pass Winery Experience. And if you are looking for a luxurious night out, be sure not to miss Canada’s most lavish evening, the Niagara Icewine Festival Gala at Fallsview Casino Resort. The “Authentically Canadian” theme will sate your national pride with fabulous food from each of Canada’s provinces and territories, in addition to over 100 VQA icewines and table wines to sip and sample.
Ontario Winter Activities at Twenty Valley’s Winter WineFest
The crackling fire pits and toasty warming stations that dot the streets of lovely Jordan Village will welcome you to their annual January Winter WineFest, bringing together Niagara’s top winemakers and wineries to share great food, premium sparkling ice wines and other wines served outdoors during their annual winter festival. Join in the opening night concert on the main stage or go ‘underground’ with Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers Speak Easy After Party in the Cave Spring Cellar with Soul Jam.
Saturday lunch will be enjoyed over the Chef’s One Pot Challenge with host Celebrity Chef Susur Lee, sponsored by the Inn on the Twenty. And you can join Chef Lee as well for a ‘Sparkling’ dinner on Saturday night or hop over to Jordan’s main stage to enjoy Canadian Royal Wood.
Ottawa’s Wonderful Winterlude
Connect with the cool winter locals in February and hit the ice (perhaps literally!) as our notoriously chilly National Capital Region warms up with skating along the world’s largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway. Enjoy this month-long celebration known as Winterlude with its weird and wonderful snow and ice sculptures in the Crystal Garden at Confederation Park, outdoor concerts, and frolicking in the world’s biggest snow playground, the Snowflake Kingdom, where it’s all about enjoying the many pleasures of winter.
Winterlude also invites you to the north end of Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau where super slides, magnificent snow sculptures, digital art projection, shows and plenty more activities await you. Of course, while in Ottawa, you must enjoy the region’s most famous pastry, the beavertail, from Byward Market. Then head indoors and get your art on at the National Gallery with tons of kids and family activities guaranteed to warm your visit.
Enjoy Muskoka’s Winter Season
In just six years, the fantastic Ice Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park has become one of cottage country’s most popular winter attractions, as thousands of winter-loving Ontarians flock north to glide along this breathtaking skate through the forest. Named one of 19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World by Travel + Leisure, the ice path is lit nightly with torches as skaters slide through the dark winter woods to an icy, fiery glow.
The trail’s season opening is always subject to weather but it’s typically open from the beginning of January until roughly the second week in March. The best ice conditions tend to be during the week, so if you can arrive in Muskoka midweek, you will be rewarded with no crazy line-ups as you visit one of the province’s most popular winter ‘bucket list’ items. The ice skating trail is always weather dependent, so be sure to check Arrowhead Provincial Park’s daily update before heading out.
Ontario Winter Night Sky Viewing
February’s Family Day celebrations in Ontario means you can use the long weekend to take the kids to Muskoka and look up at the night sky to experience the vastness of space, view the universe, and marvel at the icy air viewing at the Torrance Barren’s Dark-Sky Preserve. During the day, enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on one of the many Muskoka Lakes Recreational Trails.
BonSoo Winter Carnival
The popular and much-loved BonSoo Winter Festival in Sault Ste Marie has been providing 10 fun days of entertainment, rides, and the infamous Bad Joke Tuesday with Mr BonSoo, since 1964. Newer, nighttime events have been added to Ontario’s oldest winter fest. Enjoy the Valentine’s Day Food and Wine event and the popular Black History Month Dinner, an evening of food, art and performance, celebrating Black History in the local community. The fun takes place early February.
Six More Weeks of Ontario Winter?
The kids will also enjoy Wiarton Willie’s Official Prediction Day, where a groundhog’s shadowy predictions are the hijinks and celebrations of the Wiarton Willie Festival (the event celebrates its 62nd anniversary this year). Live entertainment, The Ground Hog Jog, a giant snowball fight, the Wake Up Willie PJ Party and fireworks intended to be loud enough to “wake up Willie”, make this weekend a must for the kids. Find out if we will enjoy an early spring or six more weeks of winter by joining the locals this February at the Prediction Morning Celebrations.
Contributor Gregory George is a world traveler, writer and co-founder / Editor-in-Chief of the www.followsummer.com travel site. You can follow Gregory’s travel inspirations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.