While Torontonians are known to escape to cottages for the summer season, they tend to fall into hibernation mode when winter rolls around. But, considering the fact that the season tends to last a full six months in Ontario, why not embrace the natural beauty of Canada all year round? From conquering an ice wall in Elora to sipping a merlot by the fire in Prince Edward County, there has never been a better time to pack the car and hit the road for a weekend escape.
From the 40+ wineries to the flourishing food scene, this tiny island three hours from Toronto makes for a great winter getaway. Drop your bags at the Drake Devonshire, the 11-room sister hotel to the beloved Toronto hotspot, then take in the property’s rotating art collection with a glass of bourbon in hand. Venture out to Trail Estates, a self-dubbed small-batch artisanal winery, serving up Pét Nat Sparkling and Orange wines. For an olfactory experience, step inside Flame + Smith, where a smell reminiscent of a campfire wafts from wood-fired dishes – such as Icelandic cod and ember roasted heirloom squash.
This tiny waterfront town is perfect for long weekends, and remains largely untouched by tourism. Located on the shores of Lac Mégantic, visitors can skate across the frozen waters, then put on snowshoes to trek through the winding trail networks of Sentiers de Piopolis park. In the evening, stop by the Saint-Zénon-de-Piopolis festival to get in the holiday spirit with classical music. For a unique eco-friendly stay, cozy up in a yurt at Cinq Sens – where you’ll be welcomed by warm hospitality and a wood-burning sauna.
Collingwood attracts those looking to live the après ski life each season, but this popular winter town, 2.5 hours from Toronto, offers much more beyond the slopes. Dangle high above the Niagara Escarpment on Southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge – 420 feet to be exact – at Scenic Caves Nordic Adventure. From there, travel to the Georgian Hills Vineyards for a self-guided snowshoe tour, before settling in next to the roaring fire with locally sourced cheese and enjoy a wine sampling. For a taste of luxury in the mountains, settle into The Westin Trillium House, where guests will find it hard to leave the tranquil lofts.
Known as the small town with big attractions, Elora is home to the raging Grand River and incredible hiking trails, two hours from Toronto. But perhaps the largest attraction during winter is the ability to ice climb a frozen waterfall. With One Axe Pursuits, you can harness up and get climbing along the icy frontier. After all that physical exercise, check-into Elora Mill Hotel & Spa for a quick nap, then head to Scozia for authentic Italian cuisine inside a historic inn.
Muskoka was made for outdoor adventures, even during the snowiest months. Lace-up your skates and glide along Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail – a winding ice rink that loops around the Muskoka forest. At North Ridge Ranch, try your hand at dogsledding, as you mush your way through the wilderness on a guided tour. For an evening tipple, grab a pint of amber ale at Clear Lake Brewing Co or try one of the many craft brewery trails on offer. Muskoka is only two hours and 50 minutes away from Toronto’s city centre.
Canada’s capital region seems to thrive during the colder months, so much so that from February 1-18, Ottawa welcomes guests from across the country for Winterlude—an annual celebration of winter. From massive snow slides to spectacular ice sculptures and ice dragon boat races, there is really nothing more Canadian than this famed festival. Hop on the Rideau Canal Skateway to carve ice on the largest natural skating rink in the world, then switch to two wheels for fat biking along the Ottawa River. To relax tired muscles, snuggle up at the swanky Le Germain Hotel and order room service. Ottawa is five hours away from Toronto’s centre.
Grab your neon poncho and journey behind the falls during the winter months for a new perspective of the iconic landmark. See the unique ice formations moulded by frozen temperatures up close and personal, then warm up with a drink at the Niagara Falls Icewine Festival, held throughout the month of January. At the Sterling Inn & Spa, unwind with a wine and honey body-wrap treatment infused with polyphenols, resveratrol and natural vitamins. After getting pampered at the spa, grab your mittens and scarves for the Winter Festival of Lights. Running from November to February, spot illuminated artwork along the waterway and if you’re lucky, you might catch the weekly firework show lighting up the falls. Niagara Falls is only two hours away from Toronto.