8 Unforgettable Places to Visit near Toronto in Winter

Jan 26 , 2022 · 10 min read

Sometimes it’s nice to escape the city of Toronto to explore some of the nearby areas. In your backyard, there are many fabulous places to visit without having to catch a long flight or take a week off work. So for a mini getaway to keep you going between more extended vacations, here are some destinations to note. We hope this list of eight unique winter getaways near Toronto inspires you to take a break.

1. Mississauga

Winter in Toronto

Not far from Toronto, Mississauga is a vibrant city on Lake Ontario. The lakefront is one of the most scenic parts of the city, with a red and white lighthouse as the prettiest landmark. There are also shops and restaurants along a boardwalk so you can explore at a leisurely pace, even sitting on benches outside if it’s warm enough. 

The only indoor ski and snowboard training centers are in Mississauga. Beginners can learn and get a sample of the sports before committing to buying a lot of gear or hitting the real slopes. It’s also great for medium-level or advanced skiers and snowboarders who want to ride the snow but don’t have time to get to the ski fields. 

A waterfront trail is a nice place for a stroll, and it’s usually quite apart from the resident ducks, geese, and seagulls hanging around. 

Mississauga Celebration Square has an ice skating rink in winter. You can skate around in the urban setting then head indoors for some retail therapy or hot food and drink. Being the 6th biggest city in Canada, Mississauga has plenty of shopping and dining, from bargains to luxury to cheap eats to fine dining. There are also plenty of art galleries, museums and tourist attractions to discover. When it comes to winter getaways near Toronto, Mississauga is a winner.

2. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls in winter

The city of Niagara Falls is a favourite place for visitors who have seen Toronto and want to explore the greater area. The falls, linked with America by the Rainbow Bridge, is the main attraction for many visitors. Seeing the massive waterfalls is an awe-inspiring sight, and there are many viewing points to see the stunning wonder of nature. 

Riding the glass tower to the Skylon Tower that looks over the falls is one of the best places to see the waterfalls. You can also ride the gondola, book a helicopter tour to see the falls from the air, or go zip lining over the water if you are a thrill-seeker. 

Beyond the falls you can find casinos, historic sites, spas, theme parks, shopping, dining, golf courses, nightlife, wineries, theatre and many more entertaining places to visit. Or you might like to relax in your luxury hotel with room service and movies. Whatever you desire, it can be found in this modern city, well set up for hospitality and tourism. If you are on a budget, there are many free things to do in Niagara Falls, including hiking Niagara Glen and visiting the Niagara Falls Botanical Gardens. This is one of our top picks for winter getaways near Toronto.

3. Barrie

Barrie near toronto

Let’s go to Barrie, a lovely city on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay with beautiful winter landscapes. It’s a winter wonderland all season long with plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family. Snowboarding, ice skating, skiing and winter hiking can be enjoyed in the most scenic surroundings and when it’s time to get warm, there is lots of dining, shopping, entertainment and tourist attractions to see. 

Buy a winter fun pass for great deals, promotions and discounts on winter experiences in Barrie. It is free and easy to use on your phone. Sneak some spa time, relax in a cafe or roam some art galleries to keep warm between outdoor excursions. Don’t miss the 420-foot suspension bridge at the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures Nordic Centre. With amazing views of Georgian Bay and beyond, the long bridge hangs 82 feet above the ground, so it looks like it is floating on the forest top. It’s a bit challenging if you are scared of heights, but worth it for the epic views.

Take in the lights with a night ice skate session at the rink at City Hall in downtown Barrie. After some fun laps on the ice, you can go shopping and enjoy a meal. If you are there on a Saturday morning, you can catch the Barrie Farmer’s Market to try some of the local’s freshest produce. 

Many events are happening in winter, with the highlight being the Hello Winter Festival in February and March. The city lights up and buzzes with entertainment with a winter theme, drawing crowds from near and far. 

4. Hamilton

Hamilton near toronto

The port city of Hamilton is an interesting winter getaway, including some interesting attractions for history buffs. 

Learn about Canada’s military history when you visit the HMCS Haida, a naval warship on Hamilton’s lakefront and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which has an impressive collection of old planes and paraphernalia. The Dundurn National Historic Site in a regal castle overlooking the bay and the Art Gallery of Hamilton compliment the history trail that can fill a few days. 

For a more modern look at the city the street art that adorns the walls of building around the city are eye-catching and thought-provoking. Grab your camera and take a walking tour to see the vibrant murals. Keep walking into nature and see frozen waterfalls or rent some gear to go snowshoeing at Christie Lake or Dundas Valley. 

The city has several ice skating rinks as well as attractive walking trails to explore. There is a zip lining adventure park open during winter and the experience is dramatically different from swinging through the treetops in summer. 

The city often hosts events, and Winterfest is the biggest annual one to catch with shows, music, performances, and installations. 

The food scene is alive and well in Hamilton, with cozy cafes, restaurants and bars with heated patios to welcome patrons in from the cold. To sample artisan cider head to West Avenue Cider at Somerset Orchards. 

The countryside setting is a charming place to have lunch and their food is as outstanding as their beverages. Dine outside in front of your private fire pit or stay cozy indoors, then stock up on cheese, baked goods and other treats at the bakery on your way out. For winter getaways near Toronto, Hamilton is calling.

5. London

View of Parliament Buildings

In London, Ontario, you might run into out-of-town visitors from Toronto or other parts of Canada, overseas tourists or locals enjoying their backyard. There are heaps to see and do in the winter months, so for a unique winter getaway, you can’t go wrong. 

There is a charming ice skating venue called Storybook Gardens. The 250-meter skate trail circles a play village with lots of appearances from storybook characters along the way. Victoria Park and Convent Garden Market are also wonderful for ice skating, with coffee and hot chocolate for sale on the sidelines. If you are more into skiing, tubing or snowboarding, Boler Mountain is the place to be.

If you want to play inside, there are exciting options like rock climbing, axe throwing and escape rooms. Of course, as you would expect from a city setting, there are shopping entertainment and dining options to suit every budget. If you are vegan, London has a lively foodie scene catering for vegans and all kinds of healthy eats. Plant Matter Kitchen and Plant Matter Cafe serve up delicious offerings and The Tea Lounge is hot with tea lovers.

6. Whitby

Whitby near toronto

Welcome to Whitby, a town with warm hospitality and charming character. You should know there are two downtown areas so be careful not to miss one. Downtown Whitby and Downtown Brooklin are both vibrant areas for dining, shopping and soaking in the arty atmosphere. Downtown Whitby has historical buildings and boutique stores, while Downtown Brooklin has spas and the Whitby Courthouse Theatre.

The prettiest ice skating rinks are outdoors at Peel Park and Brooklin Memorial Park. Breathing in the fresh, crisp air while twirling on the ice is such an iconic wintertime activity, along with winter walks and hikes.

The accommodation in Whitby is appealing, with many top-notch hotels, suites and lodges to call home for a short or long stay. Nothing beats a hotel with a hot tub or jacuzzi in winter and if you are looking for luxury, we recommend booking a few nights at the Residence Inn by Marriott Whitby. 

From there, it’s not far to the Thermea Spa Village, where you can soak in therapeutic hot water and blissfully unwind and relax. With an underground floatation pool, rituals and treatments, and healthy food and drink options, you could easily pamper your soul for a whole day there. It’s one of the many reasons people visit Whitby several times a year. 

7. Kawartha Lakes

Kawartha Lakes near toronto

The City of Kawartha Lakes is a place for nature lovers and adventurers. The great outdoors includes hiking trails, rivers and, of course, the lakes. You can get there in less than 2 hours from Toronto, so why not plan a trip there soon? Snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and winter walks are some of the wintery activities that await you at Kawartha Lakes. 

Maple syrup is a major industry in the area, so there are plenty of farm tours and other sweet activities to sample and you will see it for sale all over the place. For sure, it will be on your pancakes served at the quaint bed and breakfast you stay at or the charming country cottage you book right on the lake. 

There are plenty of options with 250 lakes in the area if waking up with lake views sounds exciting. You can even stay on a houseboat which is a unique experience and rocking good time. 

8. Brampton

Brampton near toronto

We call it beautiful Brampton and in winter, it’s a wonderland. Walk around Gage Park, then visit the nearby Historic Bovaird House before going ice skating at indoor or outdoor rinks, including Gage Park and Gore Meadows. Brampton has many scenic places for winter hiking like Clairville and Heart Lake conservation areas and the Etobicoke Creek Trail. 

Go Canadian goose spotting during a walk around Professors Lake or sledding down Major Oaks Park hills for more fun outdoors.

When it’s time to warm up indoors, you have the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives to explore and they are inside a gorgeous mix of 19th-century and modern buildings. Downtown you might catch a show at the Rose Theatre, a popular performing arts venue that always has something exciting going on, including big-screen movies and live events. When it’s time for dinner, you are spoiled for choice with so many excellent restaurants all over the city.

The Winter Lights Festival, usually in November, is always a great event if you are in town. Book your accommodation early for this one because it draws crowds from near and far. If you miss that, the whole downtown is decorated with lights for most of the winter. It’s free and makes a lovely evening walk. 

In Canada, every season is quite dramatically different from the next. So anywhere you visit in winter will offer a different experience in the summer. That means if you have fun somewhere, you can start planning your next trip to see and do other things but maybe return to some of your favourite shops and restaurants. 

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