Top Things to Do in Toronto This Winter!
Whether you’re a long-time local trying to break your routine, or new in town just making heads and tails of the place, one thing’s for sure: this bustling metropolis is jam packed with exciting programming, beautiful spaces and, of course, all the bars and restaurants your heart desires. Here are the top places to visit, festivities to join, and things to do in Toronto. You might not find these in the guidebooks so get out there and make the most of the snowy season!
Discover Crokicurl at Toronto’s shipping container market
What was once an empty lot in Downtown Toronto is now stackt, a unique urban experience full of retail stores, pop-up shops, restaurants, boutiques and other environmentally conscious small businesses. Connect to your community and get inspired in the unique urban environment built out of 120 shipping containers. Plus, this holiday season the Holiday Hills Festival is taking over the market with exciting, festive programming and even Toronto’s first ever Crokicurl rink (a mix of crokinole and curling), making this one destination not to miss while exploring Toronto this winter. website
Take the Beyond Kensington Market Toronto Food Tour
These bustling, diverse neighbourhoods are truly something to discover. Full of immigrant communities, family-owned restaurants and mom & pop shops, there’s life in every corner of these urban cultural hubs. The Beyond Kensington Market Toronto Food Tour will take you on a journey to discover these hidden delights. You’ll have the chance to try a wide variety unique, tasty treats such as dumplings, Dan Dan noodles, fish & chips, a Caribbean specialty and more. In total, you’ll be able to visit 7 different tasting locations as you learn about the area, its history, and its stories from your knowledgeable local guide. Discover what Toronto is really about on the Beyond Kensington Market Toronto Food Tour. Learn more about this Toronto Food Tour
Have dinner at an exciting new restaurant
Over the last decade, the dining scene in Toronto has exploded, making it a top foodie destination. Reinventing cuisine and experimenting with atmospheres, Toronto’s chefs are always cooking up something beautiful. It seems as if every day a new dining experience awaits!
For even more dining recommendations, try these New & Best Toronto Restaurants.
A brand new venture from infamous Toronto chef Anthony Rose, Grody Smiles is a Mexican spot now open on Ossington Ave in place of his former restaurant, Schmaltz Appetizing. Open until last call on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s the perfect place to grab some late night eats alongside some drinks. Devoid of pretence, the cuisine is inspired by the food Rose loves, the and the tequila comes at three prices: cheap, less cheap and not cheap. website
Maybe the hottest new thing on Ossington Avenue, which is known for its high concentration of incredible restaurants and bars, Favorites is a Thai restaurant with an incredible wine list. It’s an unexpected collaboration between Khao San Road, Paris Paris and Superpoint, which all bring a unique expertise to the table. The result is inviting, enticing, and filled with the comforting smell of smouldering Japanese white oak from the charcoal grill. Tip: the restaurant is hidden behind a Sam James coffee location. website
This Italian restaurant at the heart of Little Italy does away with some of the usual suspects. Instead of Chef Rob Rossi’s usual meaty dishes, Giulietta’s many vegetable and seafood-centred sharing plates feel fresh yet still familiar. With simple and recognizable ingredients Giulietta takes the complication out of elegance, and offers a straightforward dining experience that’s been met with many accolades. website
Live it up at a wintertime festival
Whatever kind of gathering you’re looking for, Torontonians love to celebrate and beat the winter weather together. While many of these festivals occur over the holiday season in December, keep reading for more exciting events throughout the winter.
If you love to eat, Winterlicious is a festival you can’t miss out on. While the restaurants mentioned above are not participating, you can pick among over 200 Toronto restaurants where you can enjoy a 3 course prix fixe meal at an amazing discount. With lunches ranging from $23 to $33 and dinners from $33 to $53, its the perfect opportunity to explore the city’s incredible fine dining options without breaking the bank. Take your palate on a trip to distant lands or savour local, seasonal flavours from January 31 to February 13, 2020. website
December in Toronto brings a whole new form of entertainment: a wide range of holiday markets offer countless opportunities for gift shopping, snacking on sweet treats, and soaking in the festive atmosphere. While the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District is undoubtedly the most well-known, you can discover a selection of markets and more by checking out these Things to Do in Toronto Over the Holidays.
The Aurora Winter Festival has taken over Ontario Place until January 5, 2020, making it the perfect place to go over your winter holidays. It’s a magical setting for a day out with the kids, or an exciting location for a whimsical date. The premises is packed full of exciting activities and attractions. Tubing, skating, rides, games and mystical worlds make for an action-packed adventure! website
The family fun doesn’t stop there. Canada’s Wonderland also offers its own WinterFest, opening the amusement park on select days for a whole new season of fun. Between snowy rides you’ll find exciting attractions such as themed areas, seasonal dining, interactive activities and even live performances. There’ll never be a dull moment! website
Soak in some art and culture at one of these festivals
There are so many incredible, talented artists working in the city, making it a rich cultural hub all year round. Warm your heart and enlighten your mind at one of these premier festivals that showcase the best of the best from Toronto and beyond.
Presented by Toronto Fringe, Next Stage showcases some incredible artists who’s performances range from comedy to tragedy, but usually sit at the intersection between the two. Offering an insightful take into the artist’s minds and lives, the shows are more personal and political than ever before. A lineup of unique playwrights, sketch artists and comedians are ready to share their stories of dealing with this strange, beautiful and often twisted world from January 8 to 19, 2020. website
DesignTO is here to bring colour and inspiration to the city from January 17 to 26, 2020, at it’s almost a complete takeover. The festival showcases over 100 exhibitions, events and installations in a wide variety of venues throughout the city. It even manages to include some film, too, with HotDocs’ brand new Art, Architecture, Design Film Festival. See what inspires you, and connect with the community through a shared visual language. website
Home to the Toronto International Film Festival, the city is no stranger to showcasing some of the world’s most amazing films. That means there are offshoot events and other festivals year round – and we couldn’t pick just one to share. The Toronto Black Film Festival showcases some of the most incredible productions from the Black community from February 12 to 17, 2020, while TIFF Next Wave opens up the silver screen to rising young talents the same week, from the 14th to 16th.
More than just a festival, Long Winter is a series of all-ages events that span the entire winer season combining art and music into an exciting and eclectic experience that’s unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Even if you’ve attended Long Winter in the past, the inter-arts festival is always shifting tune by showcasing different talents and projects and taking over new, unique venues. Featuring a wide range of local artists and collectives, you’ll find performances, installations, interactive features, and so much more! website
Get a taste of nature and discover the beauty of winter
If you want to get outside, the city is full of spectacular urban parks that offer a retreat from the city year-round. Check out these incredible urban oases for some active wintertime fun, or travel a bit beyond the city for even more snowy adventures!
Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean that the pedalling has to end. The Fat Bike Rides offered by Sweet Pete’s at the Evergreen Brickworks are ready to take you on an adventure through the Don Valley. They offer weekend cycling tours for novices and experienced participants, as well as Tuesday night tours for more *ahem* seasoned riders. Their fat bike rentals come with everything you need to stay safe and warm, but if you bring your own bike the tour is only $15! Each outing is custom tailored to your group, so you’ll be able to make the most of the Don Valley’s exquisite snowy trails. website
The city of Toronto is packed with outdoor rinks that make for some incredible snowy memories. The Barbara Ann Scott Skating Trail in College Park and Union Station Skating Rink are both brand-new experiences, while the Natrel Rink at the Harbourfront Centre is a tried and true lake-side favourite. The Bentway weaves a figure 8 underneath the Gardiner Expressway for a unique urban skating experience and the Colonel Samuel Smith Skating Trail brings you closer to nature with another snaking trail. With so many options, it’s easy to strap on some skates and hit the ice this winter!
Tobogganing is another favourite wintertime activity for thrill-seekers of all ages. One of the city’s favourite go-to tobogganing spots is located at Riverdale Park, with the Eastern side offering the most thrilling rides. Christie Pits and Bickford Park are also both favourite downhill destinations near downtown Toronto. While High Park has some slopes that are open in Howard Park and off Parkside Drive, be careful as tobogganing has been banned in most of the park, as well as several other potential destinations.
There are countless scenic trails and natural sites located just outside of Toronto that make for a perfect weekend getaway or adventurous day trip. One of the most sublime destinations is the Scenic Caves Nordic Centre which offers over 10 km of trails open for hiking and snowshoeing, with even more available for cross-country skiing. Cross their suspension bridge and look out at the picturesque scenery of the Niagara Escarpment. website
Indulge at a unique local bar
With so many bars to choose from in the city, its hard to know where to go. Try bar hopping along College Street in Little Italy, or check out our selections below.
Civil Liberties skips the cocktail menu in exchange for something truly refreshing: the freedom to choose. Work with the expert bartenders to create a drink that perfectly fits your desires. The walls are lined with various liqueurs and jars filled with more obscure ingredients. In December, however, the space transforms completely and becomes Miracle on Ossington, a kitschy, festive Christmas themed bar that knows how to pour on the joy. website
What appears to be an unassuming storefront, lit up with neon lights, is actually the front of a swanky hideaway full of delightful libations. You’ll feel like you’re unlocking a world of mystery as you step through the keyhole-shaped doorway into the real destination, a spacious yet intimate bar with decor inspired by the film « In the Mood For Love. » At Mahjong, however, it is cocktails that are of the essence. website
Across the city, in the East End, you’ll find all-American Poor Romeo at the heart of Leslieville. Although its a fairly new endeavour, the bar already has an air of worn-in comfort. Perhaps, the ease of the place is thanks to the owners’ expertise from running Pinkerton’s Snack Bar just across the street. With rock n’ roll influences and classic North American comfort food, it’ll be easy to feel at home right away. facebook
Get a workout and your fill of adrenaline
Feeling out of shape from staying cozy indoors all winter? Put your body to the test with some more extreme activities. Check out Basecamp Climbing for a full body workout, a lot of fun, and the biggest sense of success when you reach the top of the rock wall. Or, compete with your friends more directly at Sgt Splatter’s Paintball as you go undercover in their epic 2 story facility, complete with abandoned cars and vehicles. Test your bravery with indoor skydiving at iFly Toronto, but just make sure you reserve a spot in advance!
Let it glow at an illuminating festival
One of the best things about embracing the winter’s long nights is taking part in a festival of lights, which can take on many different forms. Don’t let the fading sun fool you, that’s when the spectacles truly begin.
The Distillery District has one more more trick up its sleeve in store for you this winter season. Light-filled artworks by local and international artists will shine bright from January 17 to March 1, 2020. The festival hopes to provide a space where people can gather, wonder and warm their spirits. Inviting you to walk through the district’s pedestrian streets even on the coldest nights, the Toronto Light Festival offers a space for locals and visitors alike. Embrace the city’s creative spirit and take a breath of fresh air. website
At the Toronto Zoo, Terra Lumina envisions a future where people and nature can live in harmony. Using lighting, projection and other eye-catching multimedia effects the space practically comes to life. The immersive experience tells a story as you traverse a 1.5km long path through the zoo’s unique landscape, taking you on a journey through time. Book tickets now until April 13, 2020. website
For one night only on December 21st, the Solstice Festival takes over the streets of Kensington Market to celebrate the longest night of the year and the return of the light. Fire breathing, giant puppets and a spectacular Fire Finale make this surreal night one you’re sure to remember. Purchase a lantern made by local volunteers, and take part in this unique artist-driven, handmade and commercial-free parade. Driven by a collective creative spark, it’s a beautiful thing. website
Cozy up at a cool cafe
Toronto is absolutely full of beautiful cafes. Whether you want to curl up with a book, get some work done, hang out with friends or just grab a cup of joe to go. Dineen, Balzac’s and Jimmy’s Coffee are all staples of Toronto’s cafe culture while Boxcar Social and Odin will serve you more than just coffee. They have food and drinks, too. Wherever you are in the city, though, there’s surely a cool spot just around the corner waiting to be discovered.
Head over to a museum to see the latest exhibition
The exhibits featured at these museums are unbeatable for any lover of culture who finds themselves looking for things to do in Toronto.
This majestic gallery space can keep you wandering around in awe for hours. You’ll surely be struck by both the local and international talent featured on its walls, and sometimes coming off them. As of May 25, 2019 the gallery is also now the permanent home of Yayoi Kusama’s INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM – LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER, an immersive journey into the boundless possibilities of art. website
A visit to the ROM is a trip around the globe and all the way back to the age of the dinosaurs. Encapsulating life on this planet, it covers both natural history and human culture throughout time. You’ll find diverse exhibitions that capture intriguing, enchanting and sometimes disturbing facets of our culture. Until March 22, 2020, Bloodsuckers: Legends to Leeches parses fact from fiction when it comes to both mythical and all-too-real creatures with a thirst for blood. website
The Museum of Contemporary Art is Toronto’s newest large-scale arts complex. The museum showcases the most innovative, insightful and often surprising projects coming out of today’s arts milieu. As you wander around the 55,000 square foot industrial complex you’ll be faced with thought-provoking works from all sectors of the contemporary arts scene. The museum celebrates the city’s diversity and provides a space to foster creativity and community. website
Taste the flavours of Toronto at a brewery
Brewpubs have been taking over the city as more and more people are keen to try new and exciting brews. Nothing screams ‘local’ like beer brewed right where you’re drinking it. Plus, you can be sure Toronto’s brewers love to experiment!
This brewery is a sort of ode to the market. Its delicious beers are inspired by the sights, smells and flavours of the area’s bustling streets. Stop by the Bottle Shop and pick up some brews to enjoy later, or take it slow at the bar. You can even bring in your own food and play some board games! They’ve always got their signatures such as the Market Pils and Fisheye IPA, but come back often to see what else they’re cooking up. website
Truly unique in a city where there’s always something brewing; Godspeed makes beers with a Japanese flair. Recently opened by brewmaster Luc « Bim » Lafontaine of Montreal’s Dieu du Ciel! we know Godspeed is in good hands. Not only are the creative beers sure to excite your tastebuds on their own, they also pair perfectly with the brewery’s incredible Japanese izakaya-style dishes. website
Another popular gem paying tribute to its neighbourhood, but Bellwoods’ influence stretches far beyond. In fact, their original Ossington Ave. location was too busy so they expanded the brand to two sistinct storefronts where they sell bottles, pour glasses and innovate new flavours. Light fresh and hoppy, dark and rich, barrel aged or perhaps you’re looking for something more on the wild side? They’ve got it all when the season is right. website
Engage with Toronto’s performing arts scene
There’s something about the winter that pulls people to the performing arts. From seasonal traditions such as the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker to independent theatre, the stories told on stage are sure to touch your heart. Toronto’s biggest theatre company, Soulpepper, puts on performances year round at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Get ready to be inspired, laugh, cry, and be transported to another world for a couple hours. For even more theatrical listings around the city, check out this Toronto Theatre Guide.
Sample refined indulgence at a wine bar
Now, these are spots where you’ll really prefect your palate and even getting drunk can be a stylish endeavour, one of our favourite things to do in Toronto.
Wine bar Paris Paris takes inspiration from the French. Fuelled by their love of wine, they’ve really made it the star of the show. The sweet and stylish wine bar is the perfect place to go for a casual drink any time of day. Make sure you also try the food! From oysters and charcuterie, to more substantial options like chicken and mushroom, the rich and abundant flavours are perfectly cut by a nice glass of wine, or two.
A cool venture that’s pretty pure – Chez Nous serves only Ontario wine and not much else. They want you to feel at home as you appreciate the flavours of this beautiful province. The attentive wait staff will help you select the perfect glass, bottle or half bottle to match your preferences, or even to pair with the outside food you can kindly bring in. website
You’ll find yourself pulled unrelentingly to travel West once you hear about Après. Not only will you find dynamic and exciting wines at the forefront in this minimalist space, the food is delectable to match. Drawing from an ethos of natural and low-intervention wines, the food is simple, but prepared with a degree of precision and expertise that you can taste. website
Have a brand new dining experience at a food hall
The latest in Toronto dining trends, food halls have started popping up around the city. Even more are set to open in the following year. They’re kind of like a food court, offering a wide selection of food in a single space, but with more refinement and taste, it adds up to a single spectacular culinary vision.
Bringing together 17 of the city’s top chefs, Assembly is unparalleled in selection and quality. In a gorgeous, art-filled and bustling space, each counter brings its own approach to good food prepared quickly. Try a unique selection of ramen bowls from Ramen Isshin, organic vegan dishes at Hibiscus or contemporary comforts from Resto Boemo that might even feature a dash of truffle. Come in the afternoon on weekdays to skip the lunchtime rush. website
Campo presents a fun twist on the food hall. Fusing Spain’s food and culture, it’s a one stop shop for a myriad of Spanish delights. Simultaneously, the space is a grab-and-go counter, specialty grocer, bakery, juice shop, retail store, full-service bar, and exquisite restaurant, Labora, where meals are carefully crafted with ingredients imported from Spain. website
Check out Toronto’s iconic attractions
And of course, while you’re downtown, its worth taking a peek at the destinations that Toronto’s known for. Try the iconic peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery as you shop around for local meat an cheese in the St. Lawrence Market. Just nearby is the Distillery District. Head over to discover a pedestrian village full of art, culture and history – you can read our guide here. Or, dive into the Ripley’s Aquarium and walk through the Dangerous Lagoon where sharks and rays swim over your head. You might even want to… visit the CN Tower! Test your fear factor on its newest adventure: the EdgeWalk. Here’s our complete list of the best attractions, they’re not just for tourists, we promise!
If you’re looking for more things to do in Toronto, check out these top downtown restaurants. Or, get a little bit of guidance from a walking tour. Take a look at our list of guides for even more inspiration!