Looking for the best places to visit in Ontario in winter? You’re in the right place. Winter in Ontario means a lot of exciting things to do that are unique to the colder months, when there’s snow and chilly weather.
As someone who’s grown up in Ontario, I’m no stranger to the unpredictable weather, but also the many beautiful places to visit in Ontario in winter. Not everyone in Ontario likes the snow, but in my opinion – the snow is beautiful, and it also means exciting activities like snowshoeing, skiing or snowboarding, ice skating on a frozen outdoor rink, winter hikes and many more.
When looking for places to visit in Ontario in winter, you might want to consider places that have a variety of indoor and outdoor things to do – so that in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s still plenty to keep youbusy.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect Valentines Day getaway, or a family weekend vacation, we’re going to highlight the 21 best places to visit in Ontario in winter.
So, let’s jump in – places to visit in Ontario in winter!
What You Need to Know about Ontario in Winter
Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared for winter in Ontario
- As mentioned, the weather can be unpredictable in Ontario, at any time of the year. Prepare for days as cold as -20°C (-4°F), as well as days that go up to 10°C. Anything on this spectrum is possible in Ontario in winter.
- I wish I could tell you that Ontario was a winter wonderland throughout the whole winter, but that isn’t necessarily true. The snow tends to come and go throughout the winter, especially in Southern Ontario.
- The further north in Ontario you go, and the deeper into the winter (mid-January through February) the more likely you are to encounter snow.
Driving in the Snow
For those who aren’t used to snow, its important to know that driving in the snow requires you to drive slower and think ahead more.
Ensure that your car has proper winter tires. There are many days in the winter where locals avoid driving anywhere. Pay attention to the weather forecast and don’t drive anywhere during a snowstorm.
If you’re in the Toronto area don’t own a car, or don’t have one that you trust for long winter drives, then consider renting one from Discover Cars.
Places to Visit in Ontario in Winter
Now that you know about the weather and how to get around Ontario in winter, here are the places to put on your Ontario winter bucket list. Whether you live in Ontario or are visiting, these places will charm you and help you fall in love with winter
1. Blue Mountain Village
Blue Mountain Village is a quaint ski resort town right beside the ski slopes of Blue Mountain. You can visit the resort to do skiing, snowboarding or snow-tubing, or you can visit the village only – which is what we do, most of the time.
Every year, Blue Mountain Village turns into a festive lit up winter wonderland during the holiday season. They al excellent job with their light displays which are up from December through early January. There’s an outdoor stage in the village where a big celebration on New Year’s Eve is held (and broadcasted on TV) every year.
If you visit later in winter after the holiday lights are taken town, Blue Mountain Village is still a great place to visit in winter. I always enjoy walking around the village, which is lined with restaurants, cafés, and some designer places to shop such as Hatley, and Colombia.
Nearby in Blue Mountain, you can also go ice skating on the Woodview Mountaintop Skating trail, which is especially gorgeous when lit up at night.
While you’re in the area, consider visiting Scandinave Spa – the perfect place to rejuvenate Nordic-style with with outdoor hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.
Blue Mountain Village can be visited in a day, but I’ve stayed overnight here before, and it gives you more time to enjoy the full extent of the nearby activities.
Grab your spot at the Blue Mountain Village Resort here
Stratford is known for its famous Stratford Festival in the summertime where Shakespearian plays are performed in multiple theatres downtown. However, Stratford is a great to visit in the winter as well, either for a day trip or a whole weekend.
Stratford’s history dates back to 1832 and as a result there are plenty of gorgeous Victorian buildings downtown, such as the Stratford City Hall and the Perth County Courthouse. You can also find craft breweries and distilleries, lots of shopping, and great food.
Make your downtown extra fun by doing the Stratford Chocolate Trail which is a self-guided tour downtown of the historical sights, and allows you to find all the best chocolate!
In addition to the varied chocolate scene, Stratford has a foodie scene with over 20 restaurants to choose from in the downtown core. So whether you’re craving Asian fusion, Italian, or Mexican, you’ll be able to find something that suits your tastes. (Be sure to make reservations on a weekend.)
Stratford has some great outdoor activities too. You can go ice skating at the Stratford Museum, or try snowshoeing at River Valley.
3. Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is located along the Niagara Escarpment, which is known for its rocky cliffs that overlook Lake Superior.
One of the most stunning attractions in the Bruce Peninsula is the Grotto (one of the most scenic sights in Canada, and visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.) In the winter, you can visit the Grotto with much fewer crowds and without having to reserve a parking spot.
In winter, its popular to snowshoe to the Grotto from the main parking lot. Its about a 30-40 minute snowshoe hike from the parking lot to the main cave.
The closest town to the Grotto is Tobermory, which is a tourist hotspot in the summer. While most of the restaurants in Tobermory are closed during the winter, there are a few that remain open, such Pharos, the Pricness Hotel Restaurant, and the Tobermory Brewing Company.
Read my post on great (family-friendly) places to stay in Tobermory. A nearby touristy town is Owen Sound, about 1 hour away, with more accommodation options in the winter months.
The historic city of Kingston is culturally, pretty significant in Ontario. Its known for the following interesting facts:
- Its the “limestone city” as many of the downtown heritage buildings are made of limestone.
- being the old capital of Canada for a few years in 1841 before Ottawa took over
- The hometown of Canada’s first prime minister, and the Tragically Hip lead singer.
Needless to say, a winter visit to Kingston allows you to soak of some of Canada’s history and culture, and there are some fun outdoor winter activities as well.
In the historic downtown, check out the Spirit of John A. Canadian Pacific Railway, and take a St. George Cathedral, walk through Confederation Park, and Fort Frederick which is a historic military building.
One of the best things I did in Kingston was the Kingston haunted walk (offered year round), which allows you to explore the historic downtown, and learn about the history, including some spooky stories.
You can go skiing and snowshoeing on Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, a 973-acre nature reserve just 15 minutes from downtown Kingston. You can rent equipment for winter spots at the Outdoor Centre in the park.
Book your Kingston winter accommodation here
5. Barrie Winterfest
Barrie Winterfest is one of the top winter festivals in Ontario, and a longtime community tradition. There are amazing snow and ice sculptures in the downtown area on the waterfront, and winter entertainment such as lumberjack and ice skating shows, and a polar plunge.
The dates for Barrie Winterfest 2024 are TBA, but it is typically held during the first weekend in February.
Other winter activities in Barrie include catching a Barrie Colt’s game, hiking on nearby trails or skiing at one of the nearby ski resorts, such as Mount St. Louis, Horseshoe Valley or Snow Valley.
The average daily temperature in January in Barrie (middle of winter, and a ) is a high of -3°C and a low of -12°C, so be sure to dress warmly. It can be especially chilly near the waterfront.
Barrie is located just 90 minutes from Toronto, and less than 2 hours from Algonquin Provincial Park, which makes it a good in-between of southern and northern Ontario.
6. Mono Cliff’s Provincial Park
Mono Cliff’s Provincial Park is a nature preserve 90 minutes from Toronto with hiking trails, great toboggan hills and as a bonus: a fantastic place to eat nearby.
In winter, Mono Cliffs turns into a winter wonderland with snow-covered evergreens, and lots of lookouts into the snowy terrain. Plus, its less popular from November to April, so you can enjoy the park with fewer crowds if you visit in winter.
I hike the Mono Cliff’s trails often, throughout the year. It has become very popular in recent years, and as of 2022, a daily vehicle pass is required. You can grab your pass at the Ontario Parks website here.
Before or after your hike, be sure to eat at the Mono Cliffs Inn, which is an just outside of the park. My husband and I have come here for many anniversaries and celebrations, and the food is excellent!
Pro tip: Be sure to make an advance reservation if you plan to eat at Mono Cliff’s Inn on a weekend, as it gets very busy!
7. A forest skating Trail
Skating trails have become very popular in Ontario in winter in recent years. Skating on a trail is generally more interesting than just doing circles around an arena, and forest skating trails in particular allow you to spend time in the wilderness as you’re doing it.
- Arrowhead Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, a 1.3 km long loop through the Muskoka forest. Its also open at night from 6-9pm and lit with fire lights
- The Midhurst Skating Trail, takes you through scenery of trees, as well as old locomotives and other structures representing Simcoe County’ history. Just10 minutes from the heart of Barrie.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a great place to learn about history and culture and Canada, and enjoy some awesome winter activities.
The Parliament buildings and historic downtown Ottawa are very pretty covered in snow, and there are a variety of winter sports, a winter festival, and 9 of the best museums in Canada if you want to escape the cold.
There are numerous places to do some outdoor iceskating in Ottawa. The most popular is the Rideau Canal, which is a 202 km canal that links the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence River. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. You can rent skates, or bring your own.
There is also a skating trail in Gatineau Parc (which is just over the river from Ottawa, technically in Quebec) called Forest Lac de Loops.
If you need to escape the chilly outdoors, there are some fascinating museums in Ottawa to check out in the winter – Canada Museum of History, Canadian Museum of Nature and the Ottawa Art Gallery.
If you’re heading to Ottawa in winter, consider coming during Winterlude, Ottawa’s 3-week winter festival during the first few weeks of February each year. There are ice sculptures, a snow-playground for kids, as well as other special events suitable for families and date nights. In 2024, Ottawa’s Winterlude will be held from February 2nd to 14th.
Average temperatures in Ottawa fall to an average low of -14°C in January, so be sure to bundle up.
9. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a hotspot in the summertime, but its a great place to visit in the winter too. One of my favourite sites in the wintertime is seeing the Niagara Falls glowing different colours at night. In the winter, you don’t have to stay up to late to see it, as the sun sets by 5pm in January.
Niagara Falls hosts Winter Festival of Lights from November through to February each year, where there are lit up decorations throughout the town.
In the winter months, the volume of the falls might be a bit thinner as some of the water that flows to the falls is diverted to be turned into hydroelectric energy. You can visit the Niagara Falls Power Station to learn about the history of the falls being used for energy – lots to learn for both kids and adults.
In addition, Niagara Falls has a lot of family-friendly indoor activities, making it suitable for toddlers, kids and teens alike. There’s Bird Kingdom, the largest aviary in North America, a butterfly conservatory, and lots of indoor waterparks.
Toronto is safe, and makes a great weekend winter getaway for couples as well as families. Toronto’s very unique in that its the most multicultural city in the world. You can visit Little Italy, Koreatown, or Little India at all times of the year and soak up world cultures. Consider celebrating Winter Solstice in the Kensington Market on the first day of winter.
Toronto is a good place to visit year round, and it has many special things to do in the winter, such as skating on the rink in front of Nathan Phillip’s Square, snowshoeing on the Toronto islands (where you can get a great view of the wintery Toronto skyline), some great toboggan hills and even a ski resort right in the city! Read my post about things to do in Toronto in winter.
In addition to lots of great outdoor winter activities, Toronto also has lots of fascinating museums to escape the cold, such as the Royal Ontario Museum (largest museum in Canada) and my personal favourite – the Bata Shoe Museum. Casa Loma, Toronto’s only castle, is also nice to visit in the winter when you can see the snow-topped castle towers.
Ride to the top of the CN Tower to see the snow-covered land from 1800 feet in the air. You can also dine at the 360 Restaurant, located at the top of the CN Tower.
In order to be centrally located and minimize time outside in the freezing cold, consider staying near Union Station which puts you within walking distance of the Nathan Phillip’s Square outdoor rink, and right near public transit to get anywhere in the city.
For central places to stay in Toronto’s downtown, read my post on the Best Hotels near Union Station.
11. Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Park is the largest park in Ontario, and one of the oldest in Canada. Its terrain covers 7,000 squared kms of forests, lakes and trails. Its a haven for wildlife, such as moose, bear and birds.
While Algonquin is busiest during the fall season as people want to admire the colours of autumn, the thick blanket of snow and frozen lakes makes Algonquin gorgeous during the winter months too.
Algonquin Park is open all winter, although hours for facilities may vary between November and March. There are 8 different trails open in Algonquin during the winter months.
My personal favourite trail in Algonquin year-round is the Track and Tower (7.5 km loop) which gives you a scenic lookout of the lake, with islands and snowy atmosphere ahead. For a more easygoing trail, try the Spruce Bog (1.5 km loop.)
In addition to hiking, you can also go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along any of the 8 maintained winter trails. Ski and snowshoe equipment can be rented from Algonquin Outfitters in Hunstville, just 30 minutes from the park.
Read my post on the best places to stay near Algonquin Park year-round.
12. Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay is the 2nd largest city in Northern Ontario, with a population of just over 100k according to the 2021 census. Located at the head of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is known for being one of the best “outdoor cities” in Canada.
In the winter, there are activities such as hiking on nearby trails, skiing and snowshoeing, ice skating and even winter camping.
While you’re in Thunder Bay, be sure to visit Kakabeka Falls, the 2nd tallest waterfall in Ontario, which are a 30 minute drive from downtown. The falls are open year round.
In addition, there are some great indoor activities too – check out the Thunder Bay Museum, which has very interactive museums to teach you about the way of life of indigenous people and early settlers, or the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, which is free on Wednesdays.
I lived in Thunder Bay for one year and it happened to be the worst winter they’d had in 30 years! My car battery died more than once, and sometimes kids weren’t allowed to be outside for more than 10 minutes at a time to prevent frost bite. Bring an extra car battery, and lots of warm winter clothing if you head to Thunder Bay in the winter.
Pro Tip: While you’re in Thunder Bay, don’t forget to try a Persian (a local pastry) which is a strawberry flavoured donut. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea, perfect way to warm up during a Thunder Bay winter!
13. Fire and Ice Festival in Bracebridge
The town of Bracebridge is famous for its annual Fire and Ice Festival, which is a unique winter carnival unlike any other in Ontario.
The main event of the festival is the large super snow slide on the main street, but there are also ice sculpting demonstrations, ice skating and snowshoeing, marshmallow roasting, frozen pond hockey and many other children’s activities, and to top it off – fireworks in the evening.
The dates for the 2024 Bracebridge Fire and Ice Festival are TBA, but the festival is usually held during the last weekend in January. Tickets for the 2024 Fire and Ice, when they go on sale, will be available for purchase on their website.
If you’re far from Bracebridge, then I’d recommend booking accommodation at the Wellington Inn, which offers free breakfast and is a short walk from the centre.
Good to Know: Parking downtown Bracebridge can fill up quickly during the festival, but there are shuttles offered throughout the day between 9am and 6:30pm to bring people to the heart of town where the festival is held. Shuttle information can be found on their website here.
14. Wärme Sauna in Tottenham
Wärme Sauna is the perfect few hour escape for couples in the GTA. Located on a private farm outside of a small town, Wärme Sauna has outdoor hot tub, massage table and sauna.
While you’re in Tottenham, eat a hearty breakfast at the Cedar Kitchen, or get a glimpse of the 1920s heritage steam train, South Simcoe Railway which has been used in movies and TV shows.
If you’re in town for dinner, I recommend eating at the Taste of Freedom Inn – just be sure to make a reservation during a weekend, as its very popular.
Wärme Sauna retreat can be a day, or overnight trip and can booked online.
15. Stay at a cabin in the snowy woods
Winter is the perfect time to stay in a cabin. I love the rustic house being warmed by the fire, and the snow falling outside.
Cabin on the 9, located just outside of Orangeville, has to be the most romantic winter destinations in Ontario. You can also enjoy hiking or snowshoeing on the grounds, there’s a pond where you can go iceskating, provided its cold enough.
Heating the cabin with a wood fire gives the cabin a cozy feel when its cold outside.My husband and I spent a wintery Valentines Day weekend here and it was a magical weekend.
The owners of Cabin on the 9 are very committed to sustainability and eco-tourism, and you can also stay overnight or book a tour of Ketchum House, which is a fully sustainable house nearby.
While stying at Cabin on the 9, head into the town of Orangeville, which is known for its art scene and great food options. Locals will tell you its one of the best places to live and visit in Ontario, anytime of year. You can also enjoy winter hiking on Island Lake Conservation Area, nearby.
16. Nottawasaga Resort in Alliston
Nottawasaga Resort provides a snowy atmosphere in the winter. The restaurant, and indoor pool have large windows that look out onto the golf course which is often covered in a blanket of snow in the winter.
Aside from the large indoor pool, “the Nott” as its referred to by locals, has a hot tub, an archade, and an indoor jungle themed mini putt which is enjoyable for kids and adults. There are also spa treatments available on site.
We have stayed at the Nottawasaga Resort, and eaten many meals here. The food and service is great, and there are a number of winter activities to do nearby, including:
- Ski resorts in the Barrie area (Snow Valley, Horseshoe Valley, Mount St. Louis Moonstone)
- Hiking trails in the Alliston Area – The Beattie Pinery and the Gibson Hills (privately owned by generously open to the public)
- Toboggan hills – there’s a large one in the Treetops subdivision which is only 5 minutes away from the Nottawasaga Inn
- Ice skating at the Alliston recreation centre indoor arena, or at the outdoor Tottenham arena 20 minutes away (be sure to look up hours for public skating.)
The Nottawasaga Inn is a popular place in the winter months, as its often used by hockey teams. As you can tell, its very family-oriented. If you’re looking for a quieter, more secluded place to stay, then consider the Stevenson Farms Bed and Breakfast, which offers spa treatments and great service year-round for adults just outside of Alliston.
The community of New Tecumseth has several small-town Christmas events held every November and December
Kitchener and Waterloo (two different cities side by side) are located just 90 minutes west of Toronto. Being a ‘student town’ with two universities and one college in the area, there are a lot of fun things to do year round, and winter is no different.
A special winter festival, called Winterloo is held in late January. There are food markets, ice sculptures, and snow activities, and even sled dogs.
Bring your ice skates or rent them regardless of when you visit in winter, because there are 30+ skating rinks in Kitchener-Waterloo that are open from November to March, depending on weather.
For an adrenaline rush, you can go snow-tubing, skiing or snowboarding at Chicopee park, which is just 15 minutes outside of Kitchener. It has a 200 ft vertical drop, and plenty of beginner as well as more advanced hills.
I lived in Waterloo as a student, and one of my favourite thing to do in Waterloo year-round was to go see a movie at the Princess Cinemas,which are located in historic buildings downtown and play independent, international and Canadian films. Check what’s playing here.
Looking for another way to escape the cold indoors? Check out the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, which has mostly contemporary works – both Canadian and international.
18. Niagara on the Lake
Niagara on the Lake is a popular place to visit year-round, but in the wintertime they have their special Icewine Festival, which takes place over two weekends in January.
Held outdoors in the heritage downtown, the Ice Wine Festival features ice wines made from local wineries, as well as delicious gourmet finger foods from upscale local restaurants.
Ice wine is a special kind of dessert wine which is only produced in a few countries worldwide (Canada being one of them.) It has a fruity taste and is great to compliment a meal, or as a tasty dessert.
Of course, if you miss the Ice wine Festival, Niagara on the Lake is worth a visit anytime of the year. I have been in all seasons, and its a beautiful town to visit year round. Give yourself time to shop in the quaint downtown; there are many touristy and quaint shops, bakeries, restaurants and cafés.
You can also visit wineries in the area and do wine tastings and tours. To experience Niagara region in colder weather, head to the Ball’s Falls Conservation area for a winter hike and to see the majestic Ball’s Falls.
Creemore is a small village nestled in hilly farmland area less than 2 hours north of Toronto. It has a quaint historic downtown with shopping, and is home to the smallest jail in North America, as well as the brewery for the popular Creemore Springs beer.
Being only 20 minutes to Blue Mountain, and 10 mins to Devil’s Glen (the tallest ski slope in Ontario) Creemore makes a quiet place to enjoy small town culture in winter, as well as lots of winter sports and activities nearby.
In addition to the Creemore Springs Brewery and the smallest jail, there are also a number of hiking trails just outside Creemore. The Bruce Trail is nearby. My personal favourite winter hike near Creemore though is the Creemore Nature Preserve (pictured above.) It has a variety of loops, ranging from easy to difficult.
The Creemore Springs Brewery in downtown Creemore offers the following tour options throughout the year:
- Small batch package – $10 – includes the tour and 1 5oz sample
- Fire Brewed package – $15 includes the tour and 4 5oz samples
- Copper package – $20 include the tour, 4 5oz samples and a 16oz collectors glass.
Tours at the Creemore Brewery typically take 20-30 minutes, and advance registrations are needed.
With the great winter hikes, ski slopes nearby, as well as the quaint downtown with the smallest jail and brewery, Creemore makes a fantastic weekend winter getaway in Ontario.
Stay in this bed and bed breakfast on farmland just outside Creemore
20. Vettä Nordic Spa
Nordic spas have become very popular in Canada throughout recent years, and Ontario is no exception. Visiting one of these nordic spas is a great thing to do in winter, because you can experience sitting in a hot tub while its cold outside, and warming up in the steam rooms and saunas.
Vettä Nordic Spa is a peaceful serene location in Horseshoe Valley where you can enjoy saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs in a snowy winter setting.
I have been to Vettä a few times, and one of my favourite things about it is that there is food and restaurant services on site. From their Finnish style restaurant, there are large dining room windows that give you a picturesque view of the surrounding snow-covered land.
Having the restaurants on site makes it easier to spend the day.
Vetta Nordic Spa is open from 9am to 9pm daily. If you want to book a massage during your visit, you should do this as soon in advance as possible.
Visits to Vettä can be done in advance; they can accommodate drop-ins if space allows.
22. Mount St. Louis Moonstone
Ontario has hundreds of ski resorts. While Blue Mountain, mentioned above, is the largest ski resort in Ontario, Mount St. Louis is known for having the largest beginner hill in Ontario. Its a fantastic place to learn to ski, but there are also plenty of intermediate and advanced runs for those looking for more of a challenge.
Mount St. Louis Moonstone is located just outside of Barrie, which makes it central and accessible to those in Toronto, as well as from further north of Ontario. Mount St. Louis 11 chair lifts, and 38 slopes, varying in ability levels
There are lessons offered at Mount St. Louis for any ability level, from beginner to advance. There are also two different chalets, on site as well as a rental equipment shop.
Sudbury, located over 4 hours north of Toronto, is known for its cold winter temperatures, but also for being a picturesque winter Wonderland that draws nature lovers and photographers.
Sudbury is worth a visit in winter because its one of the best places in Ontario to go cross-country skiing. There are a hand full of different parks where you can go, and rentals are available on site at most of them too.
With 330 lakes in the Greater Sudbury Area, there are lots of places to go skating if its cold enough, but a few different rinks and trails through the forest too- try Ramsay Lake Skate Path, Kivi Park, or Nina’s Way Skate Path.
Families with children will enjoy a visit to Wagonwheel Ranch for Maple Taffy wagon rides and bonfires during the winter.
There are lots of great things to do in Orillia year-round, and winter is no exception. Known as the Sunshine City, Orillia has plenty of great things to do outdoors in winter – skiing at nearby slops, trails for snowshoeing and ice skating.
There are 150 shops and 30 restaurants in the downtown core of Orillia, making it a great place for a stroll any time of the year. Visit the Orillia Arts District downtown to admire street art, and visit art galleries.
If you’re an art fan, you should also consider driving about an hour north of Orillia near a town called Magnetawan. There you’ll find Screaming Heads, which is free of charge and open in the winter. (Great for snowshoeing and appreciating rare, wacky art.)
If you’re looking to escape the cold in Orillia, step into history by taking a tour of the Leacock House, which was owned by a Canadian author, or visiting the Ontario Provincial Police Museum.
Although the Budweiser Stage in Toronto is closed during the winer, Orillia’s Casino Rama is open all year. It has a 5,000 seat concert venue, 9 restaurants, a spa and a hotel. Its basically your hotspot for (mainly adult) fun in Orillia anytime of the year.
Check out Glen Oro Farms to look into winter horseback riding, or luxury camping experiences in Orillia.
Elora is a small historic town northeast of Guelph (about 90 minutes from Toronto) known for its 1800s limestone architecture.
In the winter, Elora features a 20-metre man-made ice wall where you can do ice climbing. Offered by Axe Pursuits, its one of the few places in Southern Ontario where ice climbing is allowed.
If you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, Elora Mills Hotel & Spa which overlooks the Grand River and the Elora Gorge. There are snow globes outdoors in the winter are cozy and stunning.
26. Owen Sound
Owen Sound is one of the most underrated places to visit in Ontario in winter. Owen Sound is in Grey County and there are a ton of waterfalls in the area. One of my favourites is Ingliss Falls. Jones Falls and Hogg’s Falls are also breathtaking anytime of year.
If you’re in Owen Sound during December, check out the Festival of Northern Lights, which runs from November 18th until January 7th.
Owen Sound has a diverse foodie and art scene, and there are lots of great places to eat on the main street. One of my favourites was Sabitri’s, which serves Indian and Nepalese food. Check out the Tom Thompson Art Gallery downtown, to see this Group of Seven Member’s greatest works.
Just a 40 minute drive from Owen Sound is the Beaver Valley Nordic Ski Club which offers 8 kms of cross country ski and snowshoe trails.
27. Hamilton Winterfest
Last but not least, check out the city of Hamilton – just over an hour’s drive southwest of Toronto – in the winter. Due to its location on the lake and being south of Toronto, it often has milder weather in the winter compared to other Ontarian cities. The average high in January is -1°C and the low is -9°.
Hamilton hosts Winterfest every February. There are live performances, snow sculptures, games and family-friendly activities, as well as dozens of The 2024 dates will be from February 2nd-9th.
Things to Do in Winter in Ontario
Regardless of where you go in Ontario in winter, these kinds of activities are available close to most major cities and towns. Here are the things you can do in Ontario in winter, and where you can go to do them.
1. Go tobogganing
Tobogganing has a long history in Canada, and although mostly thought to be a kid’s activity – adults can certainly do it too. Tobogganing has cultural roots in Ontario, and in Canada – the word “toboggan” is derived from the French word, tabaganne, which is believed to have derived from the Algonquian word, tepagan.
You can do tobogganning anywhere in Ontario. There may be hills in the forest, in a subdivision, or park. Usually the best people to ask for the place to toboggan locally are people who live in the area – they’ll know where the best toboggan hills are.
2. Go snow-tubing
Snow-tubing offers a substitute to downhill skiing and snowboarding, as well as tobogganing. Similar to tobogganing, you’re sliding down a slope. However, snow-tubing is usually offered at ski-resorts as a separate activity to snowboarding and skiing.
Snow-tubing is great fun for kids and adults, and it gives you the thrill of flying down the hill on the snow without needed to perfect for skiing or snowboard skills first.
You can buy a snow-tube and go down any regular toboggan hill, or for added fun, visit resorts like Blue Mountain or Horseshoe Valley which have great snow tubing slopes.
3. Go ice skating
You can go ice skating on a public skating rink, an ice skating trail, or in some cases, a frozen pond. There are both indoor and outdoor rinks throughout towns Ontario.
Depending on the municipality you’re in or visiting, look up their town recreation centre and you’ll be able to find information on the public rink, if there is one.
One of my favourite places to skate outdoors in winter is Toronto – Nathan Phillip’s Square and the Harbourfront Centre outdoor rink.
4. Cross country skiing
Cross country skiing is a low-impact activity, but still great exercise and often allows you to ‘get out in nature’ in the winter in Ontario. It can be done at many clubs and provincial parks around Ontario, or on private property.
One of the best places in Ontario to do cross country skiing are the Mono Nordic Ski Club outside Orangeville. It’s open 7 days a week, and you can either get an annual membership or just do a day pass. At only $10/day for kids 8+ and free for 7 and under, its certainly much more affordable than downhill skiing!
Depending on where you go in Ontario, it might be easier to snowshoe than to do a winter hike. If a trail is well maintained/patted down, then you can simply hike in your boots. But if the snow is deep, then you might want to consider snow-shoeing instead of hiking.
Look up the trail conditions of the place you’re visiting to see what the conditions are like, to determine whether you should bring winter hiking boots or snowshoes. Snowshoes can be rented from many places, one of them being Nordic
Good to Know: These resorts near Toronto all offer equipment rentals for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Always check the weather conditions before you visit.
6. Downhill skiing or snowboarding
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are very popular winter sports in Ontario. I won’t lie, you can find bigger and more impressive hills if you go to Western Canada, to places like Banff or Vancouver. But Ontario has a lot of great ski resorts too.
Devil’s Glen is the tallest ski hill in Ontario, while Blue Mountain is the largest resort. One of my favourites, mentioned above, is Mount Saint Louis.
Either way, regardless of your level, you have your pick. If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, check the website of the ski resort to see what lessons options they offer to beginners.
7. Visit a Nordic Spa
There’s something about visiting a nordic spa in winter. Sitting in a hot tub, warmed by the steamy water, outside while its cold is a relaxing sensation and worth experiencing.
There are a few nordic spas in Ontario which are very popular – my two personal favourites outdoor spas which I’ve been to many times are Vettä Nordic Spa in Orillia, and Scandinave Spa in Blue Mountain.
There is also a fantastic indoor nordic-style spa in Toronto called Othership
Places to Visit in Ontario in Winter: FAQs
Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Ontario in the winter, and the best places to visit during the winter months
How can I enjoy winter in Ontario?
You can enjoy winter in Ontario by getting out into nature and taking in the beauty. The scenery can be beautiful when its covered in snow. part in some snow sports – there are some easier ones like snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and if you’re up for more of a physical challenge – downhill skiing, snowboarding and ice skating.
Which province is best to visit in winter?
The best province to visit in winter depends on your personal preferences. If you enjoy winter sports, then British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec are home to the largest and tallest ski resorts. If however, you want to explore historical and cultural cities then you might want to consider Quebec or Ontario.
Which Canadian cities worth visiting in winter?
Many cities in Canada are worth visiting in the wintertime. If the cold doesn’t bother you too much, head to Quebec City, Montreal, or Banff (not a city, but a very picturesque destination.) If you want as mild weather as possible, then consider Vancouver or Victoria – some of the warmest cities in Canada.
Places to Visit in Ontario in Winter: Conclusion
By now you know the best places to visit in Ontario in winter, and have an idea of some exciting things that happen around Ontario in winter. If you enjoy the snow and don’t mind the cold, then there are many places in Ontario that you can enjoy in the winter months.
Be prepared for snow anytime between the months of December and March, but to not get your hopes up too much if you’re in Southern Ontario (anywhere south of Orillia) because there are some scattered days throughout the winter where there’s no snow at all; only slush or chilly weather.
Whether its a city, town, resort, national park or a spa, there are so many creative ways to enjoy winter in Ontario and make the best of the chilly season, and often, participate in activities that have deep cultural roots in Ontario and Canada too.