As Canada’s largest city, there are lots of things to do in Toronto in the winter months. From sledding down hills and shopping at Christmas markets to skating outdoors or visiting a world-class museum, there’s no reason to be bored during a Toronto winter.
There is reason to be cold, however. After all, this is Canada, and from December to March, temperatures are almost guaranteed to be below zero, with the lowest temperatures reaching -30. So, make sure you pack some warm clothes and dress appropriately so you can enjoy one of the many things to do in Toronto in the winter.
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1. See Toronto from the CN Tower
Since the CN Tower dominates the Toronto skyline and is one of the most iconic attractions in the country, your first visit to Toronto just isn’t complete without a trip to the top. Standing 553 metres in height, the CN Tower is still the second tallest free-standing structure in the world and offers spectacular views of the city and Lake Ontario from the main lookout point at 346 metres. However, you can also walk on the glass floor or pay extra for a trip to the SkyPod, which sits at 447 metres. If you’d rather sit down for a meal, you can enjoy revolving views from the 360 Restaurant.
Last but not least, those looking for extra thrills will want to consider the EdgeWalk, the highest external walk in the world. At 116 Storeys above Toronto, strapped into a cable system, you can walk hands-free around the CN Tower.
2. Go Skating
As with most Canadian cities, outdoor skating is one of the top things to do in the winter. Whether you go skating on a neighbourhood rink or on a frozen pond, it’s an iconic way to enjoy the winter in Canada. In Toronto, there are many places to enjoy a skate, and one of the most popular options is to go skating at the Bentway Trail, which is a 1.5 km figure-eight skating trail that runs under the Gardiner Expressway. It is very popular with skaters of all ages and experience levels and features an on-site village that offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for everyone to enjoy. For those without skates, you can rent them for free on Thursdays or on other days for $5-$10.
Another popular place to go skating in Toronto is Nathan Phillips Square. Located in the heart of Toronto, it is almost as iconic as the CN Tower. It has hosted many of the city’s events, concerts, special displays, and farmers’ markets throughout the years, and during the winter in Toronto, it also features an outdoor skating rink surrounded by skyscrapers.
Last but not least, if you want iconic views to go along with your outdoor skating experience, try the Harbourfront Centre’s skating rink, which features views of the CN Tower, and the lake, and is home to live music and stunning light displays on Saturdays. They also offer skate rentals.
3. Go Sledding
Another popular Canadian winter activity is sledding. All you do is get a sled, climb to the top of a hill, and slide down. It can be a lot of fun, but keep in mind that it is not without its risk and you really should start off with small hills void of obstacles.
One of the most popular places to go sledding in Toronto is Riverdale Park, which is near Danforth and Broadview Ave. With its steep slopes, convenient location, and stunning skyline views, this hill is popular with people of all ages. If you want fewer crowds, another option is Trinity Bellwoods Park.
4. Go for a Wintery Walk
Another wonderful thing to do during the winter months is to simply go for a stroll, preferably somewhere with snow-covered trees. That might seem hard in a place like Toronto, but it can be done. One of the most popular places to go for a winter walk is Glen Stewart Ravine. The trail is only 1.5 kilometres in length and consists of wooden boardwalks, dirt paths, and staircases, many of which are covered in snow during the winter months.
5. Visit the Toronto Christmas Market
When it comes to the Christmas season, people seem to love Christmas markets, and when it comes to Toronto, it’s hard to beat the Toronto Christmas Market located in the Distillery District of Toronto. Not only is this one of the most beautiful destinations within the city, but it’s also ranked as one of the top Christmas markets in the world. Admire the festive light canopies, decorations, and 50-foot Christmas tree from the cobblestone streets of this historic neighbourhood.
This area is also home to many restaurants and pubs, so it doubles as a great place to have lunch or dinner as well.
6. Nathan Phillips Square Holiday Fair
While Nathan Phillips Square is known for its outdoor ice skating (we mentioned it above), it’s also known for the Holiday Fair, which takes place in December. This fair features a 60-foot-high Christmas tree with more than 500,000 twinkling lights as well as many stalls featuring local craftspeople and artists selling a wide range of unique products, holiday-themed rides, games, and a photo booth with Santa. It’s right in the heart of downtown Toronto, making it easy for both visitors and locals to take part.
7. Experience Terra Lumina at the Toronto Zoo
Terra Lumina is an experience that takes place at night at the Toronto Zoo, featuring a 1.5 km walking path that travels into the future and back. Your journey begins when a portal carries you into the luminescent wonders of the year 2099, a time when humans and nature have learned to live in harmony.
You’ll be transported into an inspiring story featuring vibrant lighting, multimedia effects, breathtaking video projections and an original score to an enchanted world filled with possibility. This is a year-round activity.
8. Eat your way through St. Lawrence Market
Known as one of the best food markets in the world, St. Lawrence Market is a great place to chow down. Created in 1803, it’s one of the oldest markets in Canada and features more than 120 local vendors who sell everything from fresh produce, meats, seafood, baked goods, spices, cheese, and lots of other unique products.
9. Go Shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Eaton Centre is one of the top attractions in Toronto, as well as the busiest mall in North America, spanning two blocks and featuring more than 250 retail stores.
The Eaton Centre was modelled after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy, boasting vaulted glass ceilings, multi-level walkways, and a beautiful sculpture of a flock of geese created by the Canadian artist Michael Snow hanging from the ceiling. During the Christmas season, the mall is also decorated with twinkling reindeer sculptures and a stunning 108-foot-tall Christmas tree, which also happens to be the highest in Canada.
Lastly, the mall is a great place to get a bite to eat, featuring a wide array of food, such as steakhouses, fast food restaurants, Japanese, Thai, and more.
10. Casa Loma in the Winter
If you love castles, Casa Loma should be high on your list. This Gothic Revival-Styled mansion is located in mid-town Toronto and is a very popular attraction year-round. It was built as a private home at the turn of the 20th century by Sir Henry Pellatt but has since been transformed into a museum that you can tour around.
Explore all the beautiful rooms, secret passageways, sweeping staircases, and lookout towers, while admiring the architecture that has been featured in many photo shoots, TV shows, and of course, fancy weddings. However, during the Christmas season, Casa Loma turns its gardens into a winter wonderland with dazzling decorations and light displays.
11. Kensington Market
One of the coolest neighbourhoods in Toronto is Kensington Market, which is home to loads of little cafes, decades-old vintage stores, bars, charming boutique shops, record shops, and authentic ethnic restaurants. Kensington has long been the artists’ hub of Toronto, so it’s quite an eclectic and lively place to be.
Perhaps the main reason to visit Kensington Market, besides people-watching, is for the food. If you want to truly get a taste of it, you might want to join a guided food tour, but if you’d rather be on your own and enjoy full-size meals, some popular options include Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos (Mexican), Pow Wow Cafe (Native American), and the Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles, just to name a few. There’s also FIKA Cafe if you’re looking for coffee, Kensington Brewing Company for beer, and Moo Frites if you’re looking for the best French fries that money can buy.
12. Explore the street arts at Graffiti Alley
Graffiti has come a long way these days and is now often a tourist attraction in and of itself. If you like street art as much as we do, you’ll want to head to Graffiti Alley, a kilometre-long alley located between Spadina Ave and Portland Street, which is known for its beautiful and iconic street art. Full of colour and creativity, this alley normally attracts crowds. In the winter, however, you’ll see far fewer people, making it a great winter activity. If you’d rather learn more about the area and the art, you can also join a tour with the Tour Guys.
13. Toronto Island in the Winter
If you make it up to the top of the CN Tower, you’ll notice a big island in Lake Ontario. This is Toronto Island and it’s accessible by ferry, even during the winter in Toronto. In the summer months, it’s a popular place to go boating, hiking, biking, kayaking, and even swimming. In the winter, however, it’s a wonderful place for scenic winter walks and cross-country skiing, offering beautiful trails with views of the city. It’s also a great place to snap winter photos, with beautiful frozen lagoons and amazing skyline views, especially during sunset.
If you’re looking to go during the winter, you’ll want to take the 15-minute ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal as this is the only route running during the cold months. If you need to rent skis, you’ll want to do so before you get to the Toronto Islands. One good place to rent skis is Mountain Equipment Company.
14. Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
If you’re a hockey fan, you definitely don’t want to miss a visit to the stunning Hockey Hall of Fame, which features exhibits about players, teams, National Hockey League (NHL) records, memorabilia and NHL trophies, including being the permanent home of the Stanley Cup. Housed inside the beautiful historic Bank of Montreal building, visitors can admire memorabilia from their favourite players, get a photo with the Stanley Cup, or enjoy many interactive activities, such as facing off against famous hockey players in a shoot-out simulation.
15. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
As much as we love outdoor winter activities, sometimes you just want to be somewhere warm. If you’re looking for somewhere warm and interesting, visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest museum in Canada. Explore both the natural world and humankind’s cultural past through world-renowned collections and innovative programs and galleries.
With more than six million items and 40 galleries, the museum’s diverse collections of world culture and natural history amuse and educate more than one million visitors each year. The museum contains a collection of dinosaurs, minerals and meteorites, including the world’s largest collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale with more than 150,000 specimens. It also houses an extensive art collection, including Canadian, African, Near Eastern, East Asian, and European, and also features a collection of design and fine art, including clothing, interior, and product design, especially Art Deco.
We would recommend spending a half day here at minimum.
16. Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
For those into art, escape the cold and enter the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see more than 95,000 works from artists all around the world. This massive 45,000-square-foot complex features beautiful paintings, contemporary artworks, interactive exhibits, and intricate sculptures. If you happen to be there on a Wednesday, admission is free in the evening.
17. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
If you’re into aquatic life, you’ll probably want to check out Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which is super close to the CN Tower. While we’re always hesitant to promote aquariums, we didn’t want to leave out one of Toronto’s top attractions, which features more than 20,000 aquatic specimens from over 450 species, making it the largest indoor aquarium in Canada.
Want more facts? Check out our guide to the best Toronto Facts!
18. Visit the Museum of Illusions
This unique attraction is a place where nothing is as it seems and where the unbelievable is indeed reality. It might sound surreal but the Museum of Illusions fuses fun and entertainment with education and learning, featuring over 80 illusions, holograms, installations and exhibits.
Test your sense of balance while navigating their Vortex tunnel, unleash your inner Einstein while solving games, and experience the laws of gravity and size ratio through their Tilted and even upside-down rooms. Whether you’re looking to broaden your knowledge and perspective, or simply looking for a fun indoor adventure, this museum has something for everyone.
19. Ontario Science Centre
For those looking for even more fascination, check out the Ontario Science Centre, a science museum that houses more than 500 interactive exhibits, featuring geology, astronomical science, anatomy, music, and technology. The Science Centre is a space where visitors of all ages can learn through play and discover ways to think like a scientist every day.
Guided by the belief that science, technology and innovation will help us shape a better future, the Ontario Science Centre and its team of scientists, educators and exhibition creators conceive, develop, design and build world-class exhibitions, award-winning educational programs and innovative science learning experiences.
In addition to the incredible exhibits, the Ontario Science Centre also houses Toronto’s only public planetarium and Ontario’s only IMAX® Dome theatre (film tickets sold separately).
20. Warm Up in a Cafe
Where there are lots of people, you’ll find lots of coffee shops. After all, everyone loves their java jolt, especially on winter days when few things compare to holding a warm mug. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of amazing Toronto coffee shops and cafes. Whether you’re looking for a latte, a hot chocolate, or just a great cup of coffee, there’s something for everyone.
Where you go will depend on where you are but some options to consider include The Library Specialty Coffee (highly ranked and flavourful), Balzac’s Coffee (inspired by authentic cafes in Paris), and FIKA Cafe (cozy, cute, and lots of art).
21. Watch the Toronto Maple Leafs
For a truly iconic Toronto winter experience, watch the historic Toronto Maple Leafs play hockey at the Scotiabank Arena. As one of the original size NHL teams, there’s lots of history with this team, even though they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
However, watching a game in Toronto is certainly not cheap. If you use a marketplace app like GameTime, you can usually score tickets in the highest part of the arena for under $100.
22. Enjoy a Concert or Show
Like most major cities, another great thing to do in the winter is to go inside and watch a concert or a show. As the entertainment capital of Canada, Toronto has many venues and loads of live performances throughout the year. Whether you’re looking to see a concert, a theatre production, a ballet or a musical act, there’s something for everyone in Toronto. Some of the big venues include the Scotiabank Arena, Four Seasons Centre, Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place, and Danforth Music Hall.
23. Take a Day Trip to Niagara Falls
Although Niagara Falls is not in Toronto, it’s only 130 kilometres away. In less than two hours, you can drive (or take a bus) to one of the most iconic natural attractions in the entire country. Home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Niagara Falls is an incredible site to see in the winter months and has MUCH fewer crowds. There are many different ways to get the best views of Niagara Falls, but even if you want to spend more time, there are lots of things to do in Niagara Falls, including the Bird Kingdom, the Butterfly Conservatory, and so much more.
Don’t have a car? No problem! Join one of the many guided day trips to Niagara Falls!
Save Money with the Toronto City PASS!
If any of these attractions are on your bucket list, you might want to consider purchasing the Toronto City PASS, which lets you visit up to five of Toronto’s most popular attractions and save 40% on admission prices. The pass stays valid for nine days after being activated, giving you plenty of time to explore, and includes the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Toronto Zoo or Ontario Science Centre.
Want More Canadian Travel Guides?
While Toronto has enough to keep you busy for weeks, there’s much more to the second-largest country on Earth. For more things to do in Canada, check out these travel guides below: