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Destination Guide: Winter in Ontario

Man and woman snowshoeing in Ontario, Canada
Image: Destination Ontario

Destination Guide: The Best Places to Experience Winter in Ontario

From skating the Rideau Canal in Ottawa to sipping ice wine in Niagara, we’re showing you where to go, and what to do for the ultimate winter in Ontario!

Read on to discover quintessential winter experiences, hidden gems, culture, and endless fun. Don’t let the temperatures scare you! Pack your warmest layers, expect the unexpected, and head to Ontario, Canada for a winter you won’t forget.

Skaters on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario in winter
Image: Destination Ontario

Skate the Rideau Canal in Ottawa 

Few cities in Canada scream winter quite like our nation’s capital. Ottawa, Ontario may be the most picturesque winter destination on this list. There’s plenty of things to do for adventure lovers and city dwellers alike! The mecca of winter action takes place on the Rideau Canal Skateway, a 7.8km skating trail that winds its way through the heart of the city. Grab a Beaver Tail and a hot chocolate, and skate with views of Parliament and the Château Laurier. 

Post-skate, enjoy a wander around ByWard Market to shop local foods and goods, and grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. Pop past Parliament Hill to take some wintery photos, or step inside for a tour. If the weather is chilly, warm up with a visit to one of Ottawa’s seven national museums. Check out the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian War Museum, or the Canadian Museum of History. 

If you’re in town in February, be sure to visit Winterlude, Ottawa’s winter festival. Free to enter, the festival celebrates all things winter in Ontario. It includes ice sculptures, skating on the Canal, and a gigantic snow playground. In addition, the festival features artistic and cultural events, celebrating Indigenous culture, and the Ottawa arts scene. Get out and celebrate the winter! 

Hit the Slopes in the Blue Mountains 

If you’re craving the rush of a fresh powder day, head to the Blue Mountains and Collingwood area, 160 km north of Toronto, Ontario. Visit Blue Mountain Resort for a day of skiing or snowboarding, then stay for the multitude of activities to enjoy in this region. Visiting with family? Head out snow tubing! There’s also outdoor skating at Woodview Mountaintop Skating, and cross country skiing at Scenic Caves. Trust us, you’ll want to plan to stay a few days in the area!

Man and woman nordic skiing in Ontario in winter
Image: Destination Ontario

Experience World-Class Nordic Skiing near Thunder Bay

If you’re a cross country skiing enthusiast, you may be surprised to hear that Thunder Bay, Ontario should be next on your bucket list. Within city limits and around the surrounding area, you can find over 120 kilometres of groomed trails in scenic, peaceful wilderness. Ski to a hut for a midday fire and packed lunch, or head out on a backcountry adventure. 

While you’re there, check out a plethora of outdoor activities; from fat biking to ice climbing to ice racing, make the most of the winter season by living it to the fullest.

Skate the trails in Muskoka 

Muskoka in summer may be peak cottage country, but in the winter, it’s an outdoor playground. Muskoka is home to four of Ontario’s best ice skating trails so you can explore the lakes and forests on skates. Lace up and hit the trails, or head to an outdoor rink for a good old-fashioned game of shinny. 

Be sure to get the full Muskoka experience – even in winter. Rent a winterized cottage for a cozy getaway, and explore the region’s craft breweries, restaurants, and wineries. Head out on snowshoes to explore the great outdoors, and wind down with some mulled wine by a roaring cabin fireplace – what could be better?

Niagara Falls, Ontario in winter
Image: Destination Ontario

Sample the Ice Wine in Niagara

The Niagara region is worth a visit in the winter to try a unique Canadian flavour. That’s because this is the time of year to go on an ice wine tasting. A Canadian delicacy, ice wine is a dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen (in -8 degrees or colder) while still on the vine. As the Niagara region is no stranger to consistent winter freezing temperatures, it’s become known as an ice wine capital. Head out on a guided tour of Niagara’s wines, or add in craft beer, cider, and whiskey too

Don’t miss the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, Canada’s largest (free) outdoor light festival. It includes 40 nights of family entertainment, fireworks, and events. This year, it runs from November 12th, 2022 to February 20th, 2023.

Get a Maple Sugar High in Lanark County 

A classic Canadian late winter experience, visit a sugar shack deep in the Ontario forest. Lanark County, near Perth Ontario, is known as the maple capital of Ontario. Visit one (or more) of the many sugar shacks in the region. There, you’ll see the centuries-old method of tapping maple trees for sap. It’s then boiled into Canada’s most iconic export, maple syrup. Try maple taffy made from maple syrup on snow, or other maple-inspired dishes. Yum!

After you’ve upped your energy, enjoy the snowy winter atmosphere and head out on a snowshoe, or snowmobile ride in the Ontario backcountry.

Ice fishing during winter in Ontario
Image: Destination Ontario

Go Ice Fishing at Lake of the Woods, Ontario

Lake of the Woods is a summer fishing mecca, but if you don’t mind putting on your warmest layers, your efforts will be equally fruitful in the winter. It’s one of the top destinations for ice fishing in North America, for good reason. Fish for Walleye, Sauger, and Northern Pike. January is peak ice-fishing season, so bundle up and head out! We’d recommend fishing in a heated shack to enjoy good times fishing without numb fingers and toes. 

Cozy up after your fishing experience in a winterized cottage, or a stroll through Kenora. When you’re in the area, don’t miss a visit to Lake of the Woods Brewing Company!

Shop Local at the Christmas Market in Toronto 

If you’re looking to get in the spirit of the holiday season, a visit to Toronto might be just up your alley. Head to the Distillery Winter Village to shop, snack, and take in the magic. Cap your market visit off with a skate at Nathan Phillips Square, and feel like the main character in a holiday movie. 

If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors, we’d recommend a guided cross country ski experience, to discover new trails in and around the city. A bit further afield, head to Flesherton for a unique snowshoe, waterfall, and wine tour!

Heading to Ontario this winter? Share your adventures with us by tagging @myyervana or #yervana! 


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Mackenzie is passionate about connecting with our Yervana community of Locals and Explorers, and sharing their stories. Originally from the Canadian prairies, she spent three years living in Aotearoa New Zealand before settling in Kimberley, BC. She loves practicing and teaching yoga, perfecting her homemade pasta and sourdough, attempting to ski and surf, hiking, and travelling.
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