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10 Outdoor Winter Activities In Toronto

Skating at Harbourfront | © Michael Tutton/Flickr (increased exposure)
Skating at Harbourfront | © Michael Tutton/Flickr (increased exposure)
It may be snowing, it may be windy, it may be -20 degrees outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great urban outdoors. Toronto is already a bustling city, but in the winter, it can be an absolute wonderland. Whether it’s skating under the stars, snowshoeing across the winter terrain, or hiking across snowy hilltops, there’s much to explore. Take advantage of the following 10 activities this winter.

Midnight Skating at Harbourfront

You can go skating in almost every neighbourhood in Toronto, but Saturday night at Harbourfront is the place to be. Dubbed ‘Toronto’s best winter blockparty,’ Harbourfront brings in local and international DJs to set the mood at its Natrel Rink. Torontonians can take part in this skating extravaganza every Saturday from 8-11pm until Feb 20. Don’t own skates? No problem! Rent them for only $8 a pair.

Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 973 4000

Snowshoe Across the Winter Terrain

Toronto is lucky to be inundated with trails and green space. It can be a bit tough to navigate the grounds in the winter with all that snow, so why not slap some showshoes on? You can rent snowshoes at a variety of sports stores, either for the day, weekend, or a full week, with prices ranging from $20-$50. Some great trails include King’s Mill Park Trail, west of the Humber River, or Bronte Coronation. For a more relaxed, scenic, and laid-back route, try the Edwards’ Garden trail.

Snowshoeing © Alex Indigo / Flickr

Take In Some Ice Sculptures

Do you know how hard it is to make a sculpture out of ice? It is surprisingly challenging, which is why you should check out the annual Bloor-Yorkville Iciest if you’re there during that time. Visitors will be able to watch as artists compete for their vote, creating crystal-like sculptures that adhere to a theme each year.

Ice Sculptures in Yorkville © Danielle Scott / Flickr

Take a Ride With a Fat-Tyre Bike

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you have to hide your bicycle in the garage. Just get a larger tyre! These type of tyres are perfect for snow-filled trails and rough terrain, which means that you can explore the scenic routes throughout Toronto without worrying about your bike breaking down. For those who don’t want to invest in a new bike, you can always rent one from Sweet Pete’s at Evergreen Brickworks. There are also group rides most Saturdays; check the schedule and don’t miss out.

Evergreen Brickworks, 500 Bayview Ave #300, Toronto, ON, Canada + 1 416 533 4481

Visit a Winter Farmers' Market

Farmers' Market, Market, Canadian
Depending on your definition, visiting a farmers’ market can be considered an activity. There is a lot of walking, interactions with people, and generally a lot to see and do. Evergreen Brickworks has a lovely market on Saturdays with plenty of vendors and outdoor fireplaces. It’s a great place to bring kids or to hang out with a group of friends.
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Hike Along a Snowy Trail

If you don’t have skates or snowshoes, try going for a hike along one of the many winter trails around Toronto. High Park Trails, right next to Bloor West Village, spans 161 hectares and provides a lovely escape from the stress of urban life. The Sun Valley Trail is 1.3 km in the heart of Crothers Woods, located in the Don River Valley. The Beltline, near Forest Hill, is a seven-kilometer trail that passes through the Beltline Railway, a commuter rail line built in the 1800s. The best part? Each of these trails is accessible via public transit.

Winter in Toronto's parks © City of Toronto / Flickr

Take a Toboggan Ride

Have fantasies of spiraling downhill at wicked speeds, the wind in your hair, snow building up under your boots? Tobogganing is not just for the young, and in Toronto there are loads of hills to choose from. Christie Pits, Riverdale Park, and Trinity Bellwoods Park have a number of hills, while the slopes at High Park have options for beginners and for those who have a need for speed.

Luge/Tobogganing © Marc Lagneau/Flickr

Try a New Winter Sport

Instead of the traditional winter activities — skating, building a snowman, taking the family tobogganing — why not try something new? Curling may seem like an easy sport to master, but it’s full of challenges. You need an understanding of geometry, teamwork, and strength (the trifecta of a good curler). Sweeping can be a lot of fun. Access to a rink might be difficult without buying into membership at a club, but there are a few places you can visit to play; just check your community clubs and rinks. Leaside Curling Club, for example, rents ice to small groups and organizations.

Curling © Benson Kua / Flickr

Do some major ice climbing

Looking for a challenge? Is rock climbing getting a bit passé? Ice climbing requires a bit of a drive out to Guelph, Ontario, or Tiffany Falls, Ancaster. For $160 you can try your hand at this adventurous sport. Throughout the day you will learn how to rope, belay, and use proper ice climbing techniques so you can do it yourself. No experience is needed, but a medium fitness level is required. The first climb is set for Jan 30.

Have a snowball fight

You don’t need a designated area or any specialized equipment for this one. Pick a park, put on a pair of thick gloves, and get going. Just be careful not to hit any non-participants in the face.