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How to Make the Most of Winter on Toronto’s Waterfront

Dec 1, 2015

The water's edge promenade in winter.

Draped in snow, the water’s edge promenade provides nearly uninterrupted access to parks and public spaces along Toronto’s waterfront. 

By Meghan Hogan

The trees have shed the last of their leaves and the crisp winter season is upon us. As the temperature drops, we’re here to remind you of all the wonderful and enchanting activities that the colder months offer along the water’s edge. Whether you’re searching for some family-friendly entertainment or would rather unwind outdoors, the waterfront has something for everyone.

Outdoor Skating

Skating at the Sherbourne Common rink.

The splash pad at Sherbourne Common transforms into an ice rink during the winter months, complete with amazing views of the city skyline. (Image from Corktown Residents & Business Association)

Many of the city’s outdoor ice rinks are now open for the season including several of our waterfront favourites. Lace up and hit the ice at the Paul Quarrington Ice Pad located at the south end of Sherbourne Common where you’ll find people of all ages enjoying quality time together on the 920-square-metre rink. Feel free to take a leisurely skate, practice your salchow, or simply sit along the edge of the rink to watch the skaters go by.

Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre offers a variety of fun winter activities, including ice skating at the Natrel Rink (Image from toronto4kids)

If you happen to be near Queens Quay West in the central waterfront, you’ll find the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre – a popular winter destination for more than 30 years. Don’t miss DJ Skate Nights starting in December, when the rink is transformed into a colourful dance floor every Saturday night. You'll also find lots of places to grab a quick bite to eat and warm up nearby, including the Amsterdam Brewhouse and recent addition Boxcar Social

Spectacle of Lights

The Toronto Music Garden is one of three light displays along the waterfront in this year's Spectacle of Lights.

The Toronto Music Garden is one of three light displays along the waterfront in this year's Spectacle of Lights.  (Image from Waterfront BIA)

Further west, the annual Spectacle of Lights returns to the waterfront with three stunning illuminated installations from November to April. Witness the Toronto Music Garden come alive with a fully-animated lighting experience where music notes, harps and canopy will be shining bright with over 39,000 LED lights. You will also find two exciting installations at The Westin Hotel and the Fire Hall that are sure to brighten your holiday season. 

Toronto Christmas Market

Christmas tree at Historic Distillery District's Toronto Christmas Market

Crowds of people gather beneath a ceiling of lights at the Toronto Christmas Market (Image from Toronto Christmas Market)

Returning to the Historic Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas Market is the ultimate holiday destination that thousands of Torontonians flock to each year. Ranked one of the best Christmas Market’s in the world, this street festival features food and merchandise from around the world, family-friendly music and entertainment, heated outdoor beer and mulled wine gardens, all set around a spectacular 50-foot Christmas tree that sparkles with more than 18,000 lights.

With free weekday admission and $6 admission on weekends, you won’t want to miss this classic winter event set in the heart of one of the waterfront’s most historic districts.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Corktown Common in the winterCanada's Sugar Beach in the winter

Left: Corktown Common is the perfect place to take a sleigh ride or build a snowman. Right: Enjoy the beautiful sights at Canada’s Sugar Beach after a fresh snowfall.

Take advantage of all the fresh snowfall this winter and head to any number of waterfront parks where you’ll find sprawling lawns and meandering trails to explore. Bundle up and take a long, brisk walk through Tommy Thompson Park or grab your sleigh and head to Corktown Common to slide down its sloping hills. Our waterfront parks are also great for cross-country skiing.

Embark on a stroll along the uninterrupted pedestrian promenade or cycle across the Martin Goodman Trail on the revitalized Queens Quay. Along the way, feel free to stop by Canada’s Sugar Beach for a beautiful view of the lake with hot pink umbrellas peaking beneath the white snowcaps.

For more ideas on how to make the most of the waterfront, check out Your Fall Guide to Toronto’s Waterfront. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter – and join the conversation using the #TOtheWaterfront hashtag.

post contributor

  • Meghan Hogan

    Meghan Hogan is a communications and public engagement specialist at Waterfront Toronto. When not mastering her craft, Meghan enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and attending as many Toronto events and festivals as possible.