However you measure entertainment, Toronto has to be one of the most exciting destinations out there. With a vibrant dining scene, world-class shopping and iconic sight-seeing, Toronto is the perfect place for a city break this winter. Rather than slowing down during the colder months, Toronto leaps into the festive spirit with a range of events and festivals to entice you in and warm you up to this incredible city.
When the mercury drops it can be tempting to wrap up in a blanket and hole up indoors. But even when its cold, the great Canadian outdoors still beckons with a host of fun activities to get involved in, so make sure you dont miss out. A trip to Torontos islands isnt just a beachside, warm-weather activity; in winter they offer breathtaking snowy landscapes without the crowds that summer pulls in. Try your hand at cross country skiing and snowshoeing to explore the deserted scenery.
If you stay in the city then youll soon realise that Toronto comes alive with the frosty weather and one of the favourite pastimes for locals and tourists alike is ice skating. There are literally dozens of ice rinks across the city with a choice of outdoor rinks in the fresh air or temperature controlled indoor rinks. The most iconic has to be the outdoor rink at Nathan Phillips Square. Nestled amongst the skyscrapers of downtown and situated right in front of city hall, the location cant be beaten. Due to its perennial popularity, it does tend to get very busy. For a refreshing contrast, head to Colonel Samuel Smith Park which is much less crowded and has a skating experience unique to the city. This skating trail at Kipling and Lakeshore follows a figure of eight shape which winds its way through trees.
Festivals and events
Toronto Chocolate Festival
From 17th October to 8th November those with a sweet tooth will be in confectionery heaven during the Toronto Chocolate Festival, when participating chocolatiers, patisseries and restaurants offer free samples. Step into the timeless elegance of the Omni King Edward Hotel for high tea with a chocolate twist, where jam scones are replaced with chocolate pastries in a decadent afternoon treat. One of the highlights of the festival, The Luxury Chocolate Show takes place in the Roy Thompson Hall on 2nd November and boasts demonstrations, classes, contests and more sweet entertainment.
Torontos Cavalcade of Lights
Theres no better way to kick off the holiday season than by heading along to Torontos Cavalcade of Lights. This festive tradition is almost 50 years old and marks the lighting of Torontos official Christmas tree. Spectators are treated to the magic of the illumination, a brilliant fireworks display and an after party with DJ and ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square. This years Cavalcade will take place on 28th November.
For a breathtaking experience unlike any other, visit in time for the annual Bloor-Yorkville Icefest. Step into a glittering wonderland of incredible ice sculptures as competitors take part in the ice carving competition, creating intricate and beautiful sculptures from enormous blocks of ice. Vote for your favourite carving on the day and witness carving demonstrations by talented experts.
Markets and malls
A winter holiday is the perfect excuse to do some shopping, whether its buying Christmas presents for friends and family or a new winter wardrobe for yourself. From high street stores to designer boutiques, independent craft shops to antiques markets, Torontos eclectic and varied shopping scene is definitely worth a trip across the pond. The Toronto Eaton Centre is a huge mall with row after shiny row of shops, while the St Lawrence Market is iconic for fresh, local produce. Established longer than 200 years, it has been named one of the worlds top 25 markets by Food & Wine Magazine.
One of a Kind Show
For something truly unique, check out the One of a Kind show in Torontos Exhibition Place from 26th November to 6th December. The finest of Canadian handmade and handcrafted produce will be showcased in what is the largest craft show in North America. From exquisite enamelled jewellery to chunky knitted scarves, hand-painted ceramics to hand-drawn greetings cards, absolutely everything on sale is handmade, unique and utterly charming.
A sumptuous hot chocolate, cheeky hot toddy or delicious hearty meal is the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day. From 29th January to 11th February, foodies will delight in the opportunity to sample Torontos finest fare at discounted rates during the Winterlicious food festival. With more than 200 top restaurants taking part, diners can sample three course menus from some of the most popular eateries in Toronto. The festival also offers a diverse range of experiences from cookery classes to demonstrations, pairings to chef dinners. Make sure to buy tickets to the culinary events and book reservations in advance.
La Poutine Week
For a more light hearted dining experience, why not get involved in the festival which celebrates one of Canadas most humble yet most popular local dishes poutine. The classic comfort food made from fries, cheese and gravy sauce gets its moment in the spotlight from 1st 7th February during La Poutine Week. Participating restaurants serve up their own variations on the classic for you to sample and judge at $10 a time.
Many of Torontos best-loved attractions take on an entirely different aspect when you visit in winter, with frosty and icy conditions only serving to enhance their beauty. Although you have to be prepared to wrap up warm, winter is a magical time to visit Niagara Falls. The spray coating the nearby trees, lampposts and buildings transforms them into glittering ice sculptures. On a sunny winters day, the snow surrounding the falls is dazzling. One of the best ways to see this incredible
Torontos own majestic castle, Casa Loma, comes into its element at Christmas time when the impressive building is festively decorated with lights and spectacular Christmas trees. The historic castle boasts decorated suites, secret passages and towers. Take a crisp turn about the stunning grounds to see the illuminated swans on the frozen pond and dont miss the 800ft underground tunnel to the horses stables.
Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.
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