Sure, building snowmen is a winter tradition, but there are many more things you can do with the kids when the weather turns nippy—or when there isn’t a snowflake to be found in the city!
These cold-weather activities make excellent day trips or weekend getaways from Toronto, and may have you begging old man winter to stick around just a little longer.
Ice Skating Trips
Push, push, glide…. Learning to skate is a Canadian right. Whether your family is into hockey, figure skating, shinny, or ringette, lacing up those skates and hitting the ice is always a hit. And living in a northern country, there are plenty of options, from city-run artificial rinks to watering down your own backyard.
If you’re up for an eventful weekend trip, head to Ottawa during Winterlude to experience skating on the Rideau Canal; at 7.8 kilometres, it’s the largest natural rink in the world.
Ice-Skating Day Trip
A little closer to home, visit Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville and glide along the 1.3 km-long man-made skating rink within the trees.
Ice Fishing Trips
You’re not going to let a little thing like ice get between you and your passion for fishing, are you? We didn’t think so.
Ice Fishing Day Trip
Bundle up and head to Lake Simcoe, about one hour north of Toronto. Here you’ll find your fill of yellow perch, northern pike, trout and whitefish, while nestled in a fully outfitted hut. Many outfitters provide transportation and gear, along with roomy huts featuring propane stoves for heating and cooking, padded benches, outhouses and pre-drilled ice holes.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding Trips
Let’s be frank: Ontario has not been blessed with mountains to rival the skiing and snowboarding experience in Quebec or out West. Still, for a family ski day or ski weekend, there are plenty of hills in and near Toronto.
Skiing/Snowboarding Day Trips
For those just getting up on skis and who may not last longer than the drive to an out-of-town location, city-run Earl Bales Park (North York) and Centennial Park (Etobicoke) will do the trick. Both have full facilities, equipment rental, and lessons.
Another option, about an hour northeast of downtown Toronto, is Dagmar Ski Resort, which has 18 runs and specializes in children’s instruction.
For more of a challenge and that ski-resort feel, Blue Mountain and Mount St. Louis Moonstone, each about a two-hour drive north of the city, are your best bets. The former offers a 720-foot vertical drop, 36 daytime and 25 nighttime trails, and 15 lifts as well as a terrain park. The latter, at 550 feet, has 36 runs and multiple terrain parks for skiers, boarders and the not-so-faint-of-heart.
Snow Tubing Trips
Snow tubing runs have become just as common as snowboard parks at ski hills these days, and no wonder. Riders get to experience the thrill of zooming and spinning down the hill at great speeds—a fantastic way to enjoy the slopes for those who can’t board or ski (and for those who can).
Snow Tubing Day Trip
Snow Valley Ski Resort in Barrie, named Best Ontario Hill for Kids by Ski Canada Magazine, offers some pretty steep (read fast) and wide tubing runs, with a rope tow to the top. For the little ones (under 42 inches), Snow Valley has the Tube Park Kidz Zone, with flatter slopes and smaller tubes.
Cross-Country Skiing and Skate Skiing Trips
For those prefer their skiing on the horizontal, rather than the vertical, Ontario offers a variety of destinations for all levels.
Cross-Country Skiing Day Trips
Cross-Country Skiing Getaway
Sandbanks Provincial Park may be known for its breathtaking sandy beaches and dunes, but come winter, the park grooms some 10 km of cross-country trails and sets up a chalet so skiers can warm up after a great day outdoors.
If walking is your thing, many of the best cross-country parks also offer snowshoeing trails.
Snowshoeing Day Trips
One such location is Wasaga Beach, with beginner and expert groomed trails over flat land and dunes. Best of all, if you can trek quietly, the amazing wildlife in the area may just come out for a sighting or two.
For stellar snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, head to Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, near Collingwood, a nature oasis with a 420-foot suspension bridge with expansive views. You can even rent a baby glider/pulk sled for the tiniest of family members.
If you’re hardcore and are in the mood for a weekend trip, Mashkinonje Provincial Park, about 4.5 hours from Toronto, has been called a best-kept secret, with 30 km of looping trails.
Dog Sledding Trips
There is something so very Canadian about racing through the wilderness, along wooded trails and past lake systems, while on a sled pulled by Siberian huskies. It almost feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, except for the fact that there are a great many places that offer the adventure within a few hours of Toronto.
Dog Sledding Getaway
Once such destination is Winterdance Dogsled Tours, in Haliburton County close to Algonquin Park, which has 50 km of private trails over various terrains and breathtaking views.