While it always seems easier to hibernate in the winter and stick closer to home, there are quite a few destinations well worth exploring that won’t take you too far from the city. Whether you’re in the mood to kick back and relax in a cabin with a hot drink, hit the slopes, skate, sled, or hike, there’s a getaway close to Toronto to suit your winter interests. Here are 10 easy winter escapes from Toronto.
Blue Mountain & Scandinave Spa
Blue Mountain near Collingwood bills itself as a summer and a winter destination, and there is a lot to do here once the cold weather sets in. First and foremost, Blue Mountain is one of the most popular ski and snowboard destinations in Ontario. There are over 40 trails here, 30 of which are lit for night-skiing, and the range of runs offers options for beginning to advanced skiers and snowboarders. Blue Mountain also offers snow tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. You'll also find plenty of other things to keep you busy here, including restaurants, bars, shops, and spas. In particular, don’t miss out on some relaxing time at Scandinave Spa. Set in a forest, the year-round Scandinavian baths and hydrotherapy circuit are a unique way to experience nature and unwind in the winter.
Travel time from Toronto: Around 2 hours
Known as Ontario’s most beautiful village, the pretty town of Elora offers much in the way of winter activities, plus the chance to browse quaint shops, galleries, and artist studios. Cross-country ski, go for a winter hike in Belwood Lake Conservation Area, go snowshoeing, take a snowmobile ride, or go ice skating.
Travel time from Toronto: Around 1 hour and 40 minutes
Niagara Falls is always a fun getaway from Toronto, even in the winter. And some might argue, especially in the winter. As the cold weather and snow roll in, the plummeting temperatures create surreal ice sculptures out of the spray from the falls, turning nearby trees and lampposts into natural, ice-covered art. This is particularly eye-catching in the evening when the falls are illuminated with multi-colored lights. Even in winter, you can still take part in the Journey Behind the Falls attraction, which gives you the unique perspective of seeing the Falls from below and behind. You can also still ride the Niagara Falls SkyWheel in winter. Enclosed gondolas on Canada’s largest observation wheel are heated for a cozy ride with views over the falls.
Travel time from Toronto: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a well-preserved 19th-century village that looks postcard-perfect in the winter. Only a few minutes from Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to a wine-focused event worth having on your travel radar. The annual Icewine Festival takes place weekends in January from the 10 to the 26, 2020. There are close to 40 wineries participating in various wine- and food-themed events. A Discovery Pass is a good way to experience as much as possible. Pass holders enjoy carefully curated wine pairings at participating wineries every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival.
Travel time from Toronto: 1 hour and 30 minutes
You might think of Muskoka as a summer-only destination, but there’s plenty to do in cottage country in the winter. For starters, the Muskoka region is home to four ice skating trails. Arrowhead Provincial Park Ice Skating Trail is a 1.3-kilometer trail that takes skaters through the thick snow-covered Muskoka forest. Popular Fire & Ice nights see the trail illuminated by hundreds of tiki torches. Along with lots of chances to lace up your skates, a winter escape to Muskoka also offers over 1,200 kilometers of groomed trails for sledding, hundreds of kilometers of cross-country ski trails, and downhill skiing and snowboarding at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area. When you’re not skating, skiing, or sledding, beer fans can check out some the area’s breweries, including Lake of Bays Brewing Co.,Muskoka Brewery and Sawdust City Brewing Co.
Travel time from Toronto: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Ontario Provincial Parks
Pitching a tent in the winter months isn’t for everyone, but you can still experience the feeling of escape that comes with a camping trip without actually having to sleep under the stars. How? By renting a yurt. Yurts offer warm, affordable, yet simple accommodation in several parks that are a reasonable drive from Toronto. If you go you’ll just have to bring your own bedding, cookware, and dishes. Other options for roofed accommodations in Ontario Provincial Parks include rustic cabins, camp cabins, and cottages, depending on the level of comfort you’re looking for. Not to mention, winter in a provincial park offers spectacular scenery thanks to snow-covered trees and hiking trails to enjoy.
Travel time from Toronto: Varies
Theater season in Stratford might be over, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put this picturesque town on your winter travel list. Known as a great destination for scouting antiques, Stratford is also home to many unique shops and boutiques, as well as art galleries to explore. Gallery Stratford, one of Ontario's longest operating public art galleries, is home to over 1,000 works mainly by Canadian artists. If you love chocolate, you might want to consider doing the self-guided Savour Stratford Chocolate Trail, or if bacon and beer are more your style, the Savour Stratford Bacon & Ale Trail.
Travel time from Toronto: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Prince Edward County
Cozy up in Prince Edward County for an easy winter getaway from Toronto. You can also take advantage of the 11 kilometers of trails in Sandbanks Provincial Park and do some cross-country skiing, or try snowshoeing on the frozen sand dunes. Prince Edward County is also known for its thriving local art scene, so there are plenty of galleries to visit, or you can try the Arts Trail, a chance to explore 26 professional galleries and studios and meet the artists. If you go, book a room at chic and cozy Drake Devonshire where you’ll also find great food and regular events, such as live music, artist talks, and more.
Travel time from Toronto: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Hockley Valley Resort
If you don’t feel like going quite as far as Blue Mountain, but skiing and snowboarding are still on the agenda, Hockley Valley Resort is a good option for some winter fun close to Toronto. Located less than an hour north of the city, Hockley Valley has 14 trails for downhill skiing and snowboarding for all levels, from beginner to advanced. They also offer ski and snowboard lessons for all ages. If you choose to stay, there’s accommodation on property as well as a spa and three restaurants so everything you need for an ideal winter getaway is close at hand.
Travel time from Toronto: 45 minutes to an hour
Hamilton is a destination that has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in art and live music, history and culture, shopping, or outdoor adventure. And you can still experience much of what the city has to offer in the winter months. If you time your visit right, you can add Hamilton Winterfest to your itinerary. The event runs in February and involves art exhibits, recreational programming, and neighborhood celebrations. Another reason to visit Hamilton in the winter: frozen waterfalls. Known as the city of waterfalls, Hamilton is home to over 100 waterfalls, and they look pretty spectacular when they’re frozen into surreal-looking landscapes.
Travel time from Toronto: About an hour