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Snowflakes falling gently, cold breeze piercing through your many layers, and hot drinks keeping your fingers warm — winter has arrived! And Canadian winters need no introduction. Your first instinct would be to stay locked up inside wrapped in bundles of warm clothes. But winter activities in Ontario are worth braving the cold!
From frozen lakes and frozen waterfalls to Christmas markets and northern lights, Canada’s second-largest and most populous province has no shortage of fun and exciting activities to offer! So, put on your warmest jackets and get your boots on as we take you through a curated list of 10 fun best things to do in Ontario in Winter.
11 Fun Winter Activities In Ontario
#1. An Enchanted Ice Skating Experience At The Rideau Canal
You cannot visit Ontario in Winter and not see the world’s largest ice-skating destination — the historic Rideau Canal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site stretching for 200 km, this waterway starts in the capital city of Ottawa, moving on to Lake Ontario and Kingston’s Saint Lawrence River.
In winters, the Canal transforms into a 7.8 km long ice skating rink that offers stunning views of historic landmarks such as the Parliament Buildings, Dow’s Lake, and Carleton University. You’ll feel as if you’re skating through an enchanted city lined with the beautiful French-gothic architecture of Chateau Laurier.
The best part? Skating on the waterway is completely free! If you don’t have a pair of skates, you can find plenty of rentals along the skateway. You can then warm up with a cup of coffee and the world-famous BeaverTails to get the true Canadian experience!
#2. Dog Sledding and Snowshoeing Tour
Not much of a skater? How about sledding with some furry friends? Get out of the busy city and enjoy the wildlife with a guided dog sledding and snowshoeing tour. This 12-hour tour takes you from Toronto to North Ontario, where a comfortable and peaceful farm awaits you.
Expect beautiful views of Canada’s majestic natural trails as a pack of dogs lead you toward your destination, of course right after taking selfies with the Huskies, and enjoy quality time around a campfire with some roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate! Dogsledding is one bucket list adventure in Canada you don’t want to miss.
#3. Witness the Frozen Waterfalls
The frozen waterfalls of Ontario are a sight to behold. You can tour Ontario’s majestic waterfalls while day-driving and capture amazing views of the Hilton Falls, winter-hiking at the Inglis Falls, and marvel at the beauty of the underrated Elora Gorge Falls or the Devil’s Punchbowl.
But, of course, a frozen waterfalls tour would not be complete without visiting Canada’s famous Niagara Falls and its surrounding wine vineyards. Make it a small day trip to Niagara Falls, or enjoy the view from a helicopter or the Skylon Tower Observation Deck — take your pick!
#4. Go Festival-Hopping
The winter festivals in Ontario seem to never end, with delicious holiday treats keeping you entertained throughout your stay.
A Canadian festival mainstay is Winterlude in Ottawa/Gatineau, celebrated from February 4 to February 21, showcasing the country’s cultural and culinary talents. Food and drinks are everywhere, dance parties, performances by Canadian artists, ice carving competitions, and a large snow playground, Snowflake Kingdom, for kids to explore!
Another festival is Kingston’s Feb Fest, held in February in downtown Kingston. The festival is filled with skating shows, ice parks, hockey tournaments, and free concerts for all ages to enjoy. Or you can witness the dazzling lights at the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, a majestic display of over 3 million lights illuminating the night sky across Niagara Falls!
A quick drive away, a wide range of light exhibits and interactive displays await at a bedazzled Queen Victoria Park, Table Rock Centre, Dufferin Islands, the Floral Showhouse, and the Niagara Parks Power Station.
Toronto is also home to many winter festivals, which you can find out about in this guide.
#5. Snowmobiling, Skiing, Snowboarding
Seeking a winter adrenaline rush? The snow-filled trails dotted throughout Northern Ontario are calling out to you! The locals all over Cochrane, Timmins, Sudbury, and North Bay incorporate snowmobiling into their life, so best believe, the locals will guide you if you’re a newbie.
Not only are the facilities state-of-the-art, you also have access to beginner courses for those who want to learn these activities. For adrenaline junkies, it doesn’t get better than snowmobiling at the famed Mountain View Lodge — the snowmobiling paradise of the north with its vast Canadian terrain. Or you can opt for the more child and family-friendly snowmobiling at Deerhurst Resort.
You can go skiing or snowboarding at Blue Mountain Resort, one of the largest, most diverse ski resorts in Canada that has a diverse range of trails and routes to choose from.
Another world-class snow paradise is Mount St. Louis Moonstone, with over 180 acres of parks to explore. And if you want to focus on learning the skill, the Horseshoe Resort is the perfect destination with over 100 instructors to make you feel comfortable on a ski or board.
#6. Cross-country Skiing
Ideal for more experienced skiers, Ontario offers cross-country skiing for those who want to explore the backcountry of Ontario while enjoying the views and terrain. Of course, beginners are welcome, too, but are encouraged to be more familiar with skiing. Spend some time enjoying long runs at Thunder Bay’s stunning collection of cross-country skiing parks.
The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, with over 68 km of trails of varying difficulty, the more family-friendly Nordic Ski Club, and the picturesque Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park are a few parks that should be on your list!
Experience ungroomed trails of the winter wonderland over at the Arrowhead Provincial Park, or treat yourself to the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures or the Stokely Creek Lodge located in the backlands of the Algoma Highlands.
#7. Winter Camping and Stargazing
A relaxing and more intimate way of experiencing the wonders of Ontario is to go winter camping. Pack your tents and sleeping bags and grab some marshmallows to go camping in the Canadian wilderness.
Away from the chaos of the city lies the Algonquin Provincial Park at Mew Lake, the oldest park in Ontario. Famous for its picturesque views of the Great Lakes and cozy campsites across the park’s seven winter yurts, it’s the perfect place to go winter hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing, and even ice fishing.
Along the Georgian Bay coast is the Killarney Provincial Park known for its camping and cross-country skiing trails. It’s here at Killarney that we recommend going stargazing. It has its very own star observatory, a great way to introduce the kids to astrology and the cosmos. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the northern lights! The pristine terrains of Canada await you with beautiful foliage and many memories to make around a campfire.
#8. Go Winter Hiking
Off-the-grid nature lovers can’t miss out on the many hiking trails in Ontario adorned with native fauna blanketed over soft snow. While the landscapes may not be as dramatic as the Canadian Rockies, they are just as beautiful. Here are some trails to consider for your next Ontario winter adventure.
Looking for a challenge? The Ruby Lake Lookout trail is known for its inclines and tricky pine-lined terrain. The silence and naturally relaxing atmosphere that encompasses the area is profound. Awaiting you at its peak is an absolutely pristine frozen Ruby Lake to make the trek more rewarding.
Another gorgeous place to visit in Ontario in winter is Bruce Peninsula National Park, a popular summer destination given its proximity to the historic Georgian Bay. But Anybody who’s been to the grotto in the winter is familiar with the mesmerizing beauty you witness after reaching the grotto in Tobermory. Make sure you bring a camera along to capture the vast range of cliffs, fauna, and even different types of stones that you’ll fall in love with!
#9. Outdoor Heated Spas in Collingwood
After a long day of winter fun, it’s time to scale the adrenaline down and let your body soak in the endorphins. And what better way to relax and unwind than a trip to the spa? Enter the zen mode of your trip at the Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain that features a top-of-the-line facility offering award-winning spa experiences.
From eucalyptus steam rooms, thermal waterfalls, massages, to a forest bathing trail, you can choose from a variety of spa services specializing in Scandinavian-styled saunas and baths that are sure to put you in a zen state. There’s nothing more magical than seeing the snow fall down from above as you relax in the heated, outdoor tubs.
They also have a bistro nearby where you can indulge in delicious, healthy snacks while enjoying your spa break before winding down for the day.
#10. Marvel At The Northern Lights
Have a front-row seat for the best light show the world has to offer. Feast your eyes on the vibrant, otherworldly northern lights, featuring a colorful display of nature’s light show.
To view these breathtaking auroras, head on to Ontario’s Dark Sky Preserves where the night skies are clear. Some of the best spots include Lake Superior Provincial Park, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve, and Gordon’s Park Eco Reserve. If you’re lucky, you can use this time to observe the galaxy and gaze upon the spectacular night sky!
11. Rent A Cozy Cabin In The Woods
One of my favorite Ontario winter activities is to plan a weekend getaway with a cozy cabin in the woods. While Muskoka is famous for its picturesque cabins in the summer seasons, the winter is just as magical a time to visit and the prices are much cheaper.
Grab a few friends and rent a cabin, then you can spend the weekend enjoying your favorite Ontario winter activities – whether that’s skiing, stargazing, hiking, or simply staying warm by the fire inside.
Make the best of the season with these wonderful things to do on in Ontario in winter. Hopefully, this article gives you the inspiration to visit the beautiful and pristine sights Ontario has to offer in the wintertime. Bundle up with the right Canadian winter clothes and stay safe.
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Disclaimer: Effective January 5, 2022 the Province of Ontario is in Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen (until at least January 26). Please follow the latest public health advice and recommendations before booking any travel.