Ontario is a large province with many activities and attractions for all kinds of people. Whether you love spending your time in the confines of a city or being out and about in nature, you won’t go wrong with these places to visit in Ontario during winter.
The province turns into a winter wonderland packed with dozens of activities during the cold months. From skiing trails and outdoor rinks to Christmas markets and art galleries, deciding where to go in Ontario can be difficult.
If you find yourself in that predicament, don’t worry any further. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the best places to visit in Ontario in winter. With this guide, you’ll be fully informed about your preferred winter getaways in Ontario.
How Cold Does Ontario Get In Winter?
No matter how one looks at it, winter in Ontario can get cold. Frozen lakes, beautiful frozen waterfalls and vast blankets of snow type of cold. Being the second-largest province in Canada, Ontario has a variety of climates, ranging from extremely cold to relatively mild.
The secret to managing the coldness of Ontario during the winter is to dress in layers. Walking outside, you may find yourself in temperatures of -30°C or lower (when taking wind chill into account), but the cities generally stay around 0°C. Hence, we Torontonians start crying the minute mercury goes below 0°C.
Multiple layers on your body help you quickly adjust to the temperature changes while going in and out of buildings.
What to pack for winter in Ontario
It is important to dress appropriately for the coldest months of the year to make the most of winter. Layering is essential for staying warm, and materials like wool and thermal fabrics are great choices.
Adding a high-performance winter coat and snow pants to your wardrobe is also advised for outdoor activities. You also want to cover your extremities, as gloves, a toque, balaclava, scarf, and thick wool/thermal socks should all be included in your winter wardrobe.
Lastly, winter boots should reach up to the calf to allow you to traverse the snow easily.
The Best Winter Destinations in Ontario
If you’re set on spending winter in Ontario, here are some of the best sites to visit in this wonderland.
Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival-style mansion dating back to the turn of the 20th century, is one of Toronto’s most renowned tourist attractions.
It is a popular spot for TV filming, photoshoots, weddings, and special events, boasting the awe-inspiring architecture and stunning estate gardens. Every year, the estate is transformed into a winter wonderland with enchanting decorations and lights. For an even more magical experience, visitors can explore the castle and its century-old artifacts.
Toronto Christmas Market
The Toronto Christmas Market is one of the most highly-rated Christmas markets worldwide and is a must-see if you’re in Ontario during this period.
Every year, in November and December, the market is held in the Distillery Historic District. It offers many attractions, such as light canopies, cobblestone pathways, red-brick buildings, entertainers, and a 50-foot-high, fully adorned Christmas tree.
Whether you’re looking for unique gifts, souvenirs, stocking stuffers, clothes, handmade jewelry, or even a festive atmosphere, the Toronto Christmas Market has something for everyone. There are a variety of specialty shops selling an array of items, from postcards to pottery, and you can even indulge in some sweet treats from Eva’s Chimney Cakes or Brick Street Bakery.
To top it all off, nothing beats a cup of hot mulled wine or hot chocolate in the wintery weather! Trust us!
Niagara Falls, one of North America’s most famous landmarks, draws in millions of visitors annually. This natural wonder sits on the Canada-US border by the Niagara River and is a great visit all year round. However, the falls turn into a peaceful paradise without crowds in the winter — which is why I recommend visiting around this time.
Pathways boasting trees covered in snow, chunks of floating ice, and 50-meter cascades await here. If lady luck is on your side, you may see frozen parts of the falls.
You can also enjoy 360-degree views from the Skylon Tower or on a 12-minute scenic helicopter flight above the falls. The former even features a revolving restaurant that ensures you enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery with delicious cuisine.
Stay until evening to enjoy the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, where 8 km of the Niagara Parkway is lit up. This spectacle is especially mesmerizing in winter as the falls reflect the rainbow lighting.
Blue Mountain is easily one of Ontario’s best places to go in winter. This winter wonderland is a treasure trove for anyone who loves winter sports. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, tubing, and the like are all offered.
I recommend going to the wondrous Blue Village to make the most of your visit. There are 42 tracks and 16 chairlifts, and lessons and gear rentals to help you take on the slopes. Once here, be sure to skate at the Woodview Mountaintop to enjoy panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment.
Don’t fret if you aren’t a fan of adrenaline-filled winter activities — there are plenty of relaxing things to do in the town. Take in waterfront views and misty air while strolling through Sunset View Park. As an alternative, I recommend visiting a spa and enjoying serenity as the most capable hands pamper you.
Since I consider the resort one of the top places to visit near Toronto in winter, I recommend you visit as part of a day trip from Toronto.
Rideau Canal Skateway
Rideau Canal Skateway is considered one of the quintessential winter places to visit in Ontario. Every winter season, this UNESCO World Heritage Site hosts thousands of visitors ready to put their feet to use.
Once the canal has frozen over, it takes shape as the world’s largest skating rink, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The 7,8-kilometer-long rink offers you 165,621 m² of ice to skate on.
Tie your skates and glide around downtown Ottawa for the best stretch of the rink. Skaters here zoom past many of the iconic landmarks uniquely entrenched in Canadian history. Perhaps my favourite part of the downtown section of the canal is the opportunity to enjoy some delicacies from one of the kiosks here.
No winter trip is complete without a visit to the nation’s capital. During winter, the trees, buildings, streets, and everything in between get covered in fluffy white snow that makes for landscapes just begging to be photographed.
Not only does Ottawa look good during winter, but it also offers many Ontario winter activities. That is, of course, in addition to the marvellous Rideau Canal Skateway.
Top of the list is the Ottawa Winterlude*, a festival with something for everyone. For two weeks, attendants participate in ski racing, ice sculpting competitions, dancing parties and more.
Another activity you can’t miss is the Gatineau Loppet, a cross-country ski event with several races. Annually, over 2,000 skiers participate — and you can join in on the fun as anyone can register for it. Set up on the sides and watch the racers zoom down the slopes if you aren’t ready to compete in the competition.
*The Ottawa Winterlude has been cancelled for 2022, but keep an eye on their website for any changes.
Another city destination to consider as one of the places to visit in winter in Ontario is Kingston. It’s a student city on the Lake Ontario shore renowned for its beautiful scenery and limestone buildings.
Start your Kingston exploration with a stroll around Lake Ontario Park, which boasts scenic lake views. For more adventurous outdoor fun, opt for Frontenac Provincial Park, a haven of trails winding through a lush forest.
Afterwards, visit old Kingston to fill up some of the best coffee and food the city offers. Stroll the snow-covered streets admiring the landscape with a coffee in hand.
During the Christmas season, you’ll find dozens of Christmas markets selling everything from baked delicacies and light displays to gifts. For the other months, I recommend skating at Springer Market Square.
Kingston is also the gateway to the “Thousand Islands,” an archipelago with myriad outdoor activities.
With good reason, Toronto is arguably Canada’s most popular tourist destination. It has a plethora of Ontario winter attractions in addition to the splendour on offer in the summer.
Many people come to Toronto for the Christmas markets, with the Distillery District being the most famous. During the festive period, raid these markets for spectacular gifts, ride a Ferris wheel, and get serenaded by local performers.
If you’re visiting after the Christmas decorations have been taken down, don’t worry, you won’t be left out to dry. The first stop should be Nathan Phillips Square, where you can skate in a rink with live DJs often around. Glide across the ice underneath brightly lit archways with the iconic Toronto sign in the background.
There are also some landmarks to stop at, the first being Casa Loma. The gothic mansion looks straight out of a fairytale and is even more majestic when the light displays are brought to life.
Secondly, visit the iconic CN Tower and stop at the observation deck or the restaurant. Once here, you’re spoiled with 360-degree views of the city’s skyline. If you’re brave enough, people-watch those on the ground through the tower’s glass floor.
The Niagara Escarpment, museums and art galleries, a skiing center and hiking trails — that’s what Burlington has to offer. This city is one of the nicest places to visit in Ontario in winter, with a good selection of indoor and outdoor fun.
In the outdoors, shred the slopes while snowboarding or skiing at the Glen Eden Ski and Snowboard Center or take to the snow on a toboggan. Try snowshoeing through a part of the Bruce Trail for something less serious. During the hike, you’ll see plenty of greenery and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
Afterwards, replenish your energy at one of the bars, restaurants, and cafés driving the booming culinary scene.
Plenty of engaging activities await indoors if you aren’t down for some frosty outdoor fun. The first stops should be the ECHO Leahy Center or Ireland House Museum for any history buff interested in the city’s history. Check out over 1,000 ceramics from national artists at the Art Gallery of Burlington for the art enthusiast.
When it comes to natural beauty in winter, there may not be a city in Ontario that compares to Hamilton. This small town is home to over 100 waterfalls, all of which are worth chasing. They make for fantastic photo ops and are also a marvel.
Besides Niagara Falls, Hamilton is the best place to visit in Ontario for frozen cascades. Often, the waterfalls here freeze solid and create a mesmerizing palette of snow whites and pale blues with stone backgrounds.
If you’d like to enjoy this fantasy-like phenomenon, it’s best to visit around January. Some of the more popular cascades here are Tiffany Falls, Webster Falls, and Felker’s Falls.
Unlike the more popular cities of Ottawa and Toronto, Hamilton’s downtown area isn’t too lively. However, it boasts incredible light display decorations during the festive season, with a large Christmas tree as the show’s star.
Kitchener isn’t high on most people’s destination bucket lists for Ontario, which is what makes it a great getaway in my eyes. Despite its small-town vibe, there are a lot of fun things to do in Kitchener during the cold months.
At the top of the list is skating, skating, and skating. Okay, I may exaggerate a little, but the town has over 30 outdoor skating rinks, including those in neighbouring Waterloo. The one at Waterloo Public Square is arguably the most popular among these rinks.
If skating isn’t your thing, take to the slopes for more winter sports. The Chicopee Ski Club is most people’s go-to, with skiing, snowboarding, and tubing all waiting for you. You can opt for Chicopee Tube Park for some kid-friendly tubing for families. McLennan Park is a great alternative spot if you find Chicopee too crowded.
Once you’ve had your fair share of fun, take in scenic snow-covered natural greenery and landscapes at the Huron Natural Area.
Indoors, you can enjoy a few interactive exhibitions at TheMuseum — they rotate every few months, so I can’t recommend any specific one. If museums don’t pique your interest, marvel at contemporary artwork by local and international artists at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (closed on Mondays).
West of Kitchener, you’ll find the quaint city of Stratford, which is most famous for being Justin Bieber’s hometown. Pop sensation aside, the city is another good place to visit in Ontario during winter.
Firstly, make your way to River Valley Winter Tube Slide and tube slide down one of eight lanes. Alternatively, you can move over snow on foot while snowshoeing, hiking, or trekking on various trails in Stratford. This can be done at the beautiful Wildwood Conservation Area and the Avon River Trail.
For a trail of a different kind, take a walk on the Chocolate Trail, that’s famous among those with a sweet tooth. This stretch of road is sprinkled with various chocolate stores selling some of Stratford’s best chocolates. Grab a bite at the Stratford Slow Food Market for more filling food between 10:00 and 13:00.
The Stratford Winterfest is probably the city’s most famous event. This fantastic festival is a real winter wonderland, with ice carving competitions, fat biking, sledding, and igloo building on offer. It’s incredible fun for the entire family and shouldn’t be missed.
Algonquin Provincial Park
A national park should always be part of any travel itinerary for nature lovers. Ontario doesn’t disappoint in that regard, with Algonquin Provincial Park a quintessential visit for enjoying the province’s natural beauty.
The park has a network of trails varying in difficulty and length, so bring your snowshoes and get ready for a scenic hike amongst snow-covered trees. There are also some ski trails if you’d rather slide your way around the park, with the Fen Lake Ski Trail among the popular choices.
For the adrenaline junkies, you can explore the vegetation atop a snowmobile on the Bon Echo Loop. With 200 km of pathways and diners scattered around the area, you can make this a frosty full-day escape.
Matthews Maple Syrup
Canada is renowned for its sweet Maple Syrup. You will always find a bottle of that golden elixir in our place.
During the winter months, frozen maple taffy is a must-have and Matthews Maple Syrup is the place to experience it. At Matthews Maple Syrup’s sugar shack, guests have the opportunity to learn about maple syrup production and observe maple syrup being poured onto the snow to create frozen taffy.
As spring approaches and the weather warms up, visitors can gain further insight into maple syrup production and watch how sap is collected from maple trees and transformed into maple syrup.
Huntsville and Muskoka
Muskoka and the town of Huntsville are some of the most incredible places to see in Ontario during winter. It spoils visitors with many winter activities while surrounded by beautiful trees draped in snow.
In Hunstville, you can go back to when dogs were the chosen method for sledding. The trusted husky team will take you on a winter journey through the winter wonderland in Muskoka.
If you’d rather rely on your own two feet, go ahead and cover some of the skiing trails in Muskoka. For anyone who wants to go beyond the surface, grab your snowshoes and venture deeper into the backcountry.
Some outdoor skating rinks are begging to be shredded, offering excellent skating through a snow-covered forest.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Visiting the Bruce Peninsula National Park in winter is a great way to relax and enjoy the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. The park is surrounded by Lake Huron, offering a peaceful environment to explore on foot or cross-country skis. You can admire the majestic icicles, snow-covered trees, and cozy cabins for rent for longer stays. For those who enjoy winter activities, there are plenty of trails to explore. Pack some books and warm clothes, and you will have a memorable winter experience!
If you’re a Canadian or have been in the country for a while, you know how popular the sport of ice fishing is. Every year, millions of people carve holes and wait with bated breath (no pun intended) to catch a big one.
For this activity, Lake Nipissing is easily one of the top places to visit in Ontario. Create a hole on top of the frozen lake, get out your rod and wait. While the cold may be an obstacle, it will be worth the amount of joy of catching a fish.
Once you’ve caught one, get back into your cabin and start working on your meal. You can sink your teeth into it or enjoy a stroll outside while admiring the lake’s landscape.
Tip: Since you may be outside for a long time, layer up for the best warmth.
Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is the place to go if you’re looking to experience nature and its unique winter landscapes.
This park is the perfect winter getaway with its scenic hiking trails, lookouts, and stunning rock formations. For a truly unforgettable experience, take the 1.3 km Spillway Trail and weave through vertical rock walls, frozen canyons, and caves while admiring the snow-covered trees and valley from the lookout point.
To avoid crowds, it’s best to plan your trip during the off-season and reserve a permit in advance if visiting in peak season, as parking is limited. Despite being close to Toronto, you won’t be the only one there, but it will still be a peaceful and memorable visit.
Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve
The Torrance Barrens Conservation Area is ideal for sky-gazing, with its notably clear night sky, unobstructed horizon, and a limited number of trees. On a clear night, visitors to the Dark Sky Preserve can observe the Milky Way, satellites, and perhaps even shooting stars!
Final Thoughts: Places to Visit in Ontario in Winter
Ontario is a massive province with many big and small towns and cities, parks, and natural attractions. Each place has a unique profile that offers myriad winter activities in Ontario for anyone willing to brave the cold. From tubing with family and zooming down the slopes to marvelling at local art and skating outdoors, there’s no shortage of fun here.
Pack your warmest items and prepare for an incredible winter wonderland. Whether you go to Ottawa, Hamilton, the Blue Mountains, or any other destinations here, you’re in for a fulfilling, frosty time.