The saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” is basically a summary of the mentality I have for dealing with winter in Canada. I am a warm weather girl by nature so finding things to do in Ontario in winter used to be a drag for me to think about
However during COVID, I started to see the magic in the changing seasons and embraced things in my local backyard- winter included.
I found so many things to do in the winter in Ontario and now I actually am excited for when the seasons start to change. My daughter also loves the snow so it’s nice to have some activities lined up for when we get a good dump of snow on us!
I put together a list of all of my favourite activities for you to explore this winter and I hope you end up liking winter a tad bit more after doing some of them!
Here are the best things to do in Ontario in Winter
#1. Hit up a Outdoor Skating Trail
Image Via DiscoverMuskoka.com
Is there anything more Canadian than skating or playing hockey outdoors during the winter? Add on a Tim Horton’s coffee and you have the most perfect and stereotypical Canadian winter day….and I am here for it!
Skating outside on a natural rink is one of my favourite things to do in the winter in Ontario! There is nothing quite like it and finding a magical skating trail through some of the best parks? It’s a dream!!
The best outdoor skating trail in Ontario is hands down Arrowhead Provincial Park! This 1.3 skating trail has guided lights along it’s path making it perfect from day to night. Doing it at night is such a romantic thing to do in the winter ( it was actually one
Here are some other Outdoor Skating Trails or Rinks if you are looking for some more things to do in Ontario this winter:
- Rideau Canal Skate way in Ottawa. Not only is this one of the largest skating rinks in the world but it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site (!!)
- Cranberry Marsh Skating Trail in Muskoka
- Nathan Philips Square in Toronto ( ok this isn’t a trail but I needed to add this iconic skating rink to the list!)
- The Bentway Skating Trail ( city version of a skating trail) is great if you live in Toronto or want to do some skating after visiting the Toronto Christmas Market)
#2. Visit the town of St. Jacob’s
St. Jacobs, Ontario is literally the cutest winter town in all of the land! The minute you arrive you feel like you have landed in a middle of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
This is one of the most under rated things to do in Ontario in winter – I really haven’t seen it on too many lists!
Though it’s very cute and fun to visit during Christmas time, visiting anytime during the winter months feels special. The St Jacob’s Market is bustling, there are yummy homemade baked items ( that are extra fulfilling when it’s cold) and the little town itself has cute restaurants and shops to visit.
For the festive season they have special Christmas events ( like Sparkle Night) and an on going Train Ride to the North Pole throughout November and December!
Read my full Travel guide to St. Jacobs, Ontario
#3. Experience a Frozen Waterfall
Having a 2 and 4 year old means I have watched the movie “Frozen” about 238 times. To say the movie has low key got into my system is an understatement. I know every word to all the songs and overall love a good ice storm now!
With that being said, my daughter wanted to see a frozen waterfall last year and we went on a little mini waterfall tour of some of the best ones in Ontario! I highly recommend it as a thing to do in Ontario in the winter!
As a Hamilton, Ontario native, I feel all the best waterfalls in Hamilton are truly one of the best in Ontario- I know I am biased but it’s truly one of the biggest waterfall capitas in Canada!
TIP: If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can always try ice climbing on some of the frozen waterfalls (if of course you have the gear and you are experienced!)
#4. Book tickets to the Niagara Ice Wine Festival
Niagara is amazing for wine tours during the summer months but being a true wine region, it keeps going all year round!
In mid January, Niagara is transformed into a winter wonderland of wine goodness…ice wine that is! The main street in Niagara on the Lake is blocked off for a cute little set up of fire pits, vendors and samplings to celebrate this festival.
Ontario icewine can be found everywhere and a lot of wineries take part in this festival so you can visit a few places with your ticket!
If you want to fancy it up, there is also a Icewine Gala that is held at the Niagara Falls Tunnel ( which is seriously one of the coolest venues around) where you can experience ice wine samplings with delicious food pairings from some of Niagara’s hottest restaurants. For three weekends in January the Niagara region is transformed into a wintry wonderland, in celebration of one of Canada’s most cherished products, Ontario Icewine.
#5. Visit and Outdoor Spa- Things To Do In Ontario In Winter for Couples
I love a good spa in any season but there is something about experiencing a spa in the Winter. The steam rooms, cozy robes and hot tubs make you feel all warm and fuzzy on a cold winter day.
I love to cold plunge as well which is aggressive in the summer…let alone the winter but the relief you get after you dip yourself in a sauna or hot tub afterwards feels amazing!
Here are some Ontario Spas you should visit in the Winter
- Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario
- The High Acre in Dundas, Ontario
- Elora Mill Spa in Elora, Ontario
Make sure to read my post on the Most Unique Romantic Getaways for Couples in Ontario!
#6. Book a Dog Sledding Experience- One of the most unique things to do in Ontario in winter!
Dog Sledding has been on my buckle list for SO long and has given me a whole new appreciation for winter sports. Not to mention I have fallen in love with some of the breeds of dogs that are traditionally used to dog sled! Cutest.
If you don’t know what dog sledding is, it is an activity in the winter where team of two dogs run side by side along side a rope and pull you on a sleigh! Siberian and Alaskan Huskies are typically used as dogs who are part of this winter activity!
Here are some great places to go Dog Sledding in Ontario:
- Winterdance Dog Sledding in Haliburton, Ontario
- Snow Forest Adventures
- North Ridge Ranch in Huntsville, Ontario
Shop My Favourite Amazon Winter Products
#7. Make your way to Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara
Considered one of the best free things to do in the GTA in Ontario, The Winter Festival of Lights is the largest outdoor light festival.
Niagara Falls is pretty bright and colourful anytim eof the year but every January this area is amplified when this festival takes place. You can expect million of larger than life light displays that are sprinkled down every main artery in town.
From Clifton Hill to Lundy’s Lane to the Falls itself, every section has it’s own theme and display.
Every night during the Festival there are fireworks ( which was what initially drew me in!) and the falls itself it lit up by an illumination each night. It’s a sight to see for both adults and kids alike!
#8. Rent Snow Shoes, Go Fat Biking, Cross Country Skiing or Hike!
Hitting some provincial parks when they are dusted in snow is a fun winter activity that should not be missed! This list of winter activities are for those who love to be active!
It is so easy to rent snow shoes or skis and venture through some great parks! I love snow shoeing for being able to go completely off grid into some areas that are less carved out and paved.
There are some parks ( like Killarney Provincial Park, Superior Provincial Park, Albion Hills Conservation Area for example) that offer rentals right on site! Check the Ontario Park site for a complete list!
#9. Visit Toronto’s Christmas Market
I have been going to the Toronto Christmas Market since the day it opened and I have been an OG fan since!
Each year keeps getting better and better and I always feel like I am transported to Europe…or even the North Pole!
It has all the fixings for the perfect festive or winter activity in Ontario: Lots of yummy food options, outdoor beer gardens, holiday cocktails, open fire pits, carolers, little huts for you to shop at, a massive Christmas tree and there are new Instagrammable backdrops each ear!
It’s now called “Toronto’s Winter Village” and this year it takes place from November 16th-December 23rd 2023. Definitely buy tickets in advance for this one, folks! I also would recommend getting VIP ones where you skip the line. Well worth the price…especially if it’s cold!
Here are some other Ontario Christmas Markets to check out during the Winter:
- Grimsby Christmas Market
- Friday Harbour Christmas Market
- Uxbridge Christmas Market
- Perth, Ontario Christmas Market
#10. Go Skiing or Snowboarding at Blue Mountain
Put on some gear and hit the slopes! Blue Mountain in Collingwood is one of the best all around places to ski or snowboard in Ontario! It has a variety of different hills and levels to try out and if snow sports isn’t your thing, they also have tubing and tobogganing and a ton of restaurants to enjoy!
Their little village is the cutest and filled with so many amazing restaurants so even if you don’t want to ski or snowboard, you can post up in one of the many places within there and have a great time!
Although Blue Mountain is a favourite place in Ontario to snowboard or ski, there are a few more places worth checking out depending on your location!
Here are some other great places to visit in the winter in Ontario:
- Chicopee Tube Park ( you can pair this place with a visit to St. Jacobs!)
- Glen Eden in Milton, Ontario is perfect for beginners!
- Horseshoe Resort!
Book a room at this new Collingwood, Ontario hotel called The Dorchester!
#11. Head to Ottawa for Winterlude
Image Via Carnifest.com
Winterlude in Ottawa is the winter events of all winter events in Ontario! What started in 1979 has become one of the biggest attractions in our nation’s capital that draws thousands of people each year.
You can expect ice skating, live music, ice sculptures, food vendors and more….all showcased along the Rideau Canal Skateway. It truly feels like are you in another world!
#12. Book a cozy cabin stay
While a lot of Canadians love to cottage in the summer, booking a cabin in the winter months is one of the most underrated things to do!
Not only can you get certain cottages and cabins at a fraction of the cost but there is something so beauitful and relaxing about being snowed in up north with a fireplace and a good book.
If you like doing things that are more off the grid, I would check out some of the Winter Camping or Winter Glamping options that are also around!
Here are some unique Ontario winter cabins to rent:
#13. Witness the Northern Lights
Image via Global Tv
Skip the trip to Iceland and witness the Northern Lights in Ontario! Your best bet to do this is so visit the most Northern part of Ontario: think Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Nissiping or Manitoulin island!
The best chance of witnessing these lights is to be in areas like this, find a clear night (the weather app is your best friend in this mission) and be on the lookout from 11PM-3AM.
This magical sky show or the “aurora borealis” as the scientists call it can appears when there is little pollution and when the solar particles collide with the earth’s atmosphere. This needs to happen at a peak time in the earth’s rotation so basically a lot needs to happen to see it but when it does….WOAH!