8 Amazing Reasons to Travel Across Ontario This Winter

No beach vacation? No problem! Ontario is a winter wonderland for families

8 Amazing Reasons to Travel Across Ontario This Winter

8 Amazing Reasons to Travel Across Ontario This Winter

When you think of taking a winter vacation do you think of sun, sand, and ocean waves? If you said yes, you’re not alone because most of us do. But have you thought of staying closer to home? Maybe it’s time to try something different for your Family Day or March Break getaway, it is Canada’s 150th birthday after all!

With the goal of travelling to every province and territory and having road tripped more than 100,000 km as a family, I definitely know a thing or two about being prepared for Ontario winter travel. Before we head out, I always make sure these three things have been taken care of:

  • Make sure family vaccinations are up-to-date. While most people think they only have to worry about vaccinations when travelling to foreign countries, routine vaccinations and even your annual flu shot are equally important when travelling closer to home. Even while travelling in Ontario, you can come into contact with many new people, including those who are at higher risk of contracting illnesses like babies, older adults and those with compromised immune systems. Vaccinations not only prevent illness and outbreaks (yes, even in Ontario), they also protect your own children and the children in the communities you're visiting.
  • Equip our vehicle with snow tires, roadside assistance, and an emergency kit. These are good things for you to be equipped with all winter, but especially during winter road tripping.
  • Research our trip. While I’m all for hitting the road and seeing where it takes us, in the winter, being a bit more prepared can help in case of emergency. Plan your route, check the weather and do your research to ensure your pit stops are open during the winter months.

Now, let's get to the fun stuff! If planning an Ontario winter adventure has always seemed too cold, too boring, too close to home, or something else, I promise at least one of these things will help change your mind.

1. You Do Not Have To Give Up Your Favourite Summer Activities

If your family loves the outdoors, camping, and festivals in the green seasons, winter does not mean you have to pause these activities. While you may feel the urge to cuddle up on the couch and hibernate, your favourite summer-time activities can become your favourite winter ones too!

  • If you love camping, don’t be afraid to give winter camping a try – yes, even with young children! Winter camping does not have to mean specialized equipment or sleeping in a tent in the snow. Check out yurt rentals at Ontario Parks or your favourite campground.
  • If your summer includes checking out your favourite festivals, winter carnivals are a must! Family Day Weekend is the perfect time to check out Winterlude in Ottawa or the Voyageur Winter Carnival at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay.
  • Think you can only swim outdoors in the summer? Think again! While I don’t recommend giving the great lakes a try at this time of year (unless you’re up for a polar bear dip), many Ontario hotels and resorts have heated outdoor pools or hot tubs. You may find that swimming while the snow is falling becomes one of your family’s favourite getaway memories.
  • Love to fish? There are many family-friendly ice fishing derbies throughout Ontario. Some with special prizes just for the kids!

2. Not All Animals Hibernate

While many of us love the idea of sleeping away the winter like the bears or flying south for the winter like the geese, winter is actually a great time to see and learn about Ontario wildlife. Moose, wolves, birds, and even polar bears typically do not hibernate over the winter months, so seeing them in their natural winter habitats is easier than you may think.

Hitting the trails at your favourite Ontario Park or even your local hiking trail right after a snowfall is a great time to see animal tracks that wouldn’t be so easy to see during the summer months. For an extra special treat, make a trip to the Wolf Centre at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve or the Polar Bear Habitat in Cochrane.

3. You Don’t Have To Own All The Equipment

Want to give snowshoeing, skating, or skiing a try but don’t want to invest in the equipment? Don’t let that stop you from giving one of these favourite winter activities a try because rentals are easily available at many Ontario Parks, hotels, resorts, and attractions.

4. Winter Is Bucket List Season

If your bucket list has a little or a lot of Canadiana, winter is the perfect time to start crossing those items off! Dog sledding, ice fishing, skating on a frozen lake, snowmobiling, snow tubing or yes, even winter camping, are all truly Canadian experiences worth staying in Ontario for.

5. You Don’t Have To Ski To Enjoy A Ski Vacation

If you think Ontario’s ski resorts are only for skiing, you’re definitely missing out. Even if you prefer not to hit the slopes, there’s often tubing, snowshoeing, skating, hiking, shopping in the village and other non-skiing family-friendly activities available. You might be surprised at how much there is to do on your ski vacation that takes place off-the slopes.

6. March Means Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is one of Canada’s oldest and time-honoured traditions. Visiting a sugar shack or the sugar bush has long been a favourite end of winter excursion for my family. Ontario is full of maple syrup celebrations, from festivals, experiential learning opportunities and sugar shacks open to the public. When you visit a sugar shack or bush, get ready for sleigh rides and pancakes drizzled with Canada’s tasty liquid gold. Up north, you can visit Ontario’s largest maple syrup producer Gilbertson’s Maple Products on St. Joseph’s Island and down south you can visit the world’s largest single day maple syrup festival in Elmira. Of course, there are lots of maple syrup options in between too!

7. You Don't Have To Spend All Your Time Outside

Ontario is full of amazing indoor activities, attractions, museums, and must-see sites that are equally amazing in the winter. The CN Tower, Ripley's Aquarium, Parliament of Canada, Science North, and the many other museums, art galleries, and theatres, are all great places to explore while still staying warm. 

8. There Are Websites to Help You Plan Your Trip

To help make planning your own Ontario winter adventure even easier, here are a few helpful websites:

I hope you enjoy discovering Ontario in the winter as much as we do!

This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions of the author are their own.