Northern Exposure: Wintertime Activities in Toronto
It’s hard to top Toronto when it comes to wintertime activities. As the temperature cools down, this city of 2.5 million-plus really heats up. Not only are there a myriad of great attractions and over 7,000 places to dine throughout the city (Belgian fries or schnitzel anyone?), but according to Guinness World Records, Toronto is also home to the largest underground shopping complex, PATH, with 29 km (18 miles) of shopping arcades featuring 1,200 shops and services that will keep you busy and toasty warm as you traverse the largest, and what many view as the most metropolitan, city in all of Canada. There are also many spaces and places, many of them along the waterfront during Winterfest, offering all sorts of fun stuff to do. The following is just a few to help you get started on your winter tour of Toronto.
For thirty years and counting, when the temperatures drop, this chilly yet thrilling Harbourfront neighborhood hangout fills with locals and tourists alike. And why not? Overlooking Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands, this gorgeous skating rink features outdoor fire pits, food and all sorts of cool events, including DJ Skate Nights every Saturday night from 8-11 p.m. And better yet, the nights (and as well as the days) are free!
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Through April 14, 2014. Free admission.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Want to take a shot at a pro? Then skate on over to the Hockey Hall of Fame. One of Toronto’s premiere tourist stops, this interactive museum features two state-of-the-art games that allow you to go one-on-one with puck legends like Wayne Gretzky. There are not one, but two, theaters featuring hockey’s first ever 3-D film experience and all sorts of hockey memorabilia to ooh and ahh over, including the Stanley Cup.
Brookfield Place, 30 Yonge Street. $13-$17.50 (children 3 and under free).
Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market
Where Old World Europe meets the New World, Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market is all about shopping and so much more. Located in the Distillery Historic District, this charming marketplace, chock-full of locally sourced and handcrafted gifts, is fun for the entire family, with plenty of children’s activities and events designed just for the wee ones. Heck, that sweet guy in the big red suit even stops by. His home is only a few miles north, after all. And for adults, there are beer gardens and mulled wine aplenty.
Distillery Historic District. Through Dec. 15. Free.
Miss Lou’s Room
If you’d rather, make a gift with your own two hands at Miss Lou’s Room, located at Harbourfront Centre during Winterfest on Toronto’s own waterfront. Here children and adults alike can concoct all sorts of crafty items and engage in hands-on activities.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Saturday-Sunday December 14-15 and 21-22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free.
If it’s 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve at the Toronto Zoo, you know what that means, don’t you? It’s time for the Kids’ Countdown. That’s right. From 5-8 p.m., the kids take over the zoo, with great entertainment including The Decades and Majinx Magic Show and more. You'll encounter some very special animal visitor, too! And don’t forget to check out the nearby, brand new giant panda exhibit.
2000 Meadowvale Road, Scarborough, Ontario. Tuesday, Dec. 31. 5-8 pm. Your Toronto CityPASS booklet gives you general admission to five indoor pavilions and outdoor trails that highlight over 5,000 animal residents of the zoo.
Presented by PawsWay, these free Dog Sledding Demos allow families to get up close and personal with the hardest working pooches in the world. During the half-hour presentation, visitors will get a chance to ‘pat and chat’ with authentic sled dogs and find out more about the items used in this unique cold-weather sport.
Ann Tindal Park, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Saturday-Sunday December 14-15 and 21-22, Noon-2 p.m. Free.
Free Concert Series
Grab a bag lunch and head to the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre where, from now until June 2014 during the noon hour, you can check out a free concert featuring artists from all over the world and from varying genres including jazz, opera, classical and dance.
Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 145 Queen St. West. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, and some Wednesdays at noon or 5:30 p.m. Free.
360 Restaurant at CN Tower
With your Toronto CityPASS booklet, you’ll definitely want to take in the jaw-dropping views located atop the CN Tower. After that incredible experience, you might find your mouth wide open once again at the CN Tower’s 360 Restaurant. Reservations are recommended for this high-flying and highly-touted eating establishment. The tasty and timely three-course 360 Holiday Lunch is available from Dec. 1-24.
301 Front Street West. For reservations click here or call 416 362 5411.