Getting through our long Canadian winters is a whole lot easier when you make plans to enjoy some fun activities—whether you prefer outdoors or indoors, a short getaway or even a mini staycation, these ideas will give the whole family something to look forward to!
Below, I round up not just our favorite outdoor activities, but also some indoor outings we love to do when it’s cold outside. I’ve included a wide range of activities, so there’s something to suit every family’s budget.
1. Visit Holiday and Christmas Markets
Around the holidays, there are always festive markets popping up in Toronto and the surrounding area. There’s the ever-popular Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District, which features magical lighting and décor, Christmas carolers and choirs, and historic walking tours. Glow Gardens in Toronto offers an indoor wonderland with interactive light displays, festive food and drinks, and live entertainment. If you’re looking to get outside of the city, take a drive to Niagara Falls for the Winter Festival of Lights to enjoy a spectacular display of lights and take in the magic of the falls during winter.
2. A Night at Great Wolf Lodge
This is something that’s at the top of our bucket list right now—the Lodge is so magical around Christmas time with all the decorations and festive activities! Year-round, Great Wolf Lodge offers a massive indoor water park, attractions, and activities for the kids, as well as a spa and shopping for the adults. To get the best price, keep an eye out for a deal on Groupon, book well in advance, or stay during the week!
3. A Nutcracker Christmas at the Castle
Every year, Casa Loma turns their grounds into a holiday wonderland featuring performances by illusionists and ice skaters, festive arts and crafts in Santa’s workshop, and decorated Christmas trees galore. The event runs until January 5th, and entrance is included in general admission.
4. Feast at Medieval Times
Enjoy an amazing meal and cheer for your knight during the tournament at Medieval Times in Toronto. Our family tradition is to go on Boxing Day, and we have a photo hanging on our wall for every year that we’ve been. The kids absolutely love it!
5. Experience Dog Sledding
For a true North experience, take the family out for a day of dog sledding. You’ll get to learn all the basics and give commands to drive the sled! Some tour operators even offer hot chocolate and snacks, a chance to meet the dogs, and other winter activities like snowshoeing. Check out this link to search for dog sledding adventures in different areas of Ontario.
6. Savour Maple Festival
In early March, maple farms all around Ontario start tapping their trees and inviting guests to come experience the sweet magic of maple syrup. You can enjoy a full pancake breakfast, learn more about the process of making maple syrup, and shop for sweet treats to take home. Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville puts on a family-friendly maple festival each year, as does Mountsberg Conservation Area just north of Burlington.
7. Winter Carnival
There are lots of great winter carnivals to enjoy around Ontario. Blue Mountain is always magical around this time of year, whether you choose to hit the slopes or just enjoy the village. Aurora Winter Festival at Ontario Place in Toronto is another great choice, with a skating rink, light displays, amusement rides, and more.
8. Winterfest at Canada’s Wonderland
Brand new this year, Canada’s Wonderland is transforming into a winter wonderland! Enjoy live holiday shows, skating on Snow Flake Lake, holiday light displays, strolling performers, and family amusement rides.
9. Go Tobogganing or Snow Tubing
Sledding is a must-do with the kids this winter. Oakville has a few small hills at Old Abbey Lane Park and Appleby College. If you want to kick things up a notch, you can also try snow tubing at Mount Chinguacousy Ski Area in Brampton, or Chicopee Tube Park in Kitchener.
10. Movie Night Out
When it’s too cold to be outside, take the family to watch a movie at the Winston Churchill Cineplex, head next door to Dave and Buster’s for some arcade games and friendly competition, and then end the night at Buffalo Wild Wings, 3 Brewers, or Scaddabush. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even carve out some time for indoor skydiving at iFly!
11. Get Active
Break a sweat as a family and spend a day at Life Time Athletic in Mississauga. This club offers an indoor pool, spa, gym, and kids club, so there’s sure to be something for everyone to enjoy while staying active during the cold winter months.
12. Catch a Raptors Game
Bring the family to help cheer on the home team.Seeing a live game is always such a fun experience—watching on TV just can’t compare! Be sure to check Groupon, where you can find tickets as low as $35 each.
13. Touch the Sky at a Trampoline Park
Another great way to burn off some energy is to go jumping at a trampoline park. Aerosports Trampoline Park in Oakville has a climb and slide kids’ zone, ninja warrior course, and even a live DJ on Friday nights! Great for kids (and adults!) of all ages, this activity is sure to get the adrenaline pumping.
14. Check Out Local Events
Weekly events are always happening somewhere nearby. A good place to start searching is your city’s tourism website, like Visit Oakville, or even the local library website. You can search specifically for family-friendly events, and best of all, many are free!
15. Watch a Live Theatre Performance
Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a live theatre performance with the family. In Toronto, upcoming family-friendly shows include Lil’ Red Robin Hood, The Nutcracker, and Anastasia. At the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, you can catch A Christmas Spectacular, The Little Mermaid, and Jungle Book this season.
16. Try a New Cuisine
To fight off the mid-winter blues, some cities host culinary events where various restaurants offer a special fixed-price menu. This is a great time to try out a new spot or type of food! Taste of Oakville and Winterlicious in Toronto both run from late January into early February, so keep an eye out for which restaurants will be participating and any menu items that catch your eye.
17. Outdoor Ice Skating
There are plenty of places you can skate in and around Oakville, including several outdoor rinks at Nautical Park, Windrush Park, Falgarwood Park, and more. You can check the Town of Oakville website to see when each rink is open for the season. Of course, there’s always Nathan Philips Square in Toronto—this is a great choice if you want to make a day of it and enjoy some hot chocolate and shopping nearby.
18. Skiing and Snowboarding in Milton
A classic Canadian activity, skiing and snowboarding is a great way to get active and enjoy the great outdoors. Glen Eden is a great option for young kids and beginners, since they offer lessons at the Snow School as well as a Beginner’s Center with smaller slopes for new skiers and snowboarders.
19. Go Roller-Skating
Lace up your skates at Scooter’s Roller Palace in Mississauga for a blast from the past! Check out their website to see their schedule, including all ages skate sessions and Tiny Tot lessons for kids under 12 years of age.
20. Find Your Way Out of an Escape Room
Escape rooms are popping up all over the GTA, and for good reason—they’re a great way to bond as a family and test your problem-solving skills, all while having a great time. There are even some spots designed specifically for kids and families with age-appropriate themes and difficulty levels.
I hope this list will give you some fun ideas to keep the family entertained throughout the winter months. My family has made some amazing memories participating in these activities together, and we hope to cross even more off our list this year!