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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!