Winter in Canada: 5 activities that bring out the beauty from the beast!


Written by Jim Bamboulis

Netflix, comfort food and hot chocolate – three key parts of a stellar winter routine. Yup, hibernating during the cold months is appealing… until it’s not appealing anymore. Personally, extended inactivity really starts to wear me down, so getting outside – even on cold days – is not only part of healthy living but it invigorates me.

Making the most of winter and really enjoying it took some time for me. I’m more a summer person so I’d always use the cold as an excuse to stay inside. But more recently, I’ve found new ways to enjoy the colder months and really take advantage of the beauty this time of year offers.

Here are 5 of my favourite winter activities, experiences that made me actually enjoy the winter.

Winter Waterfall-hopping

Whenever I tell people that the Waterfall Capital of the World is Hamilton, Ontario, people look at me like I’m a lunatic. It’s true, y’all. Hamilton – located less than an hour west of Toronto – is home to over 100 waterfalls. Beautiful during the summer, they’re really stunning in the winter.

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© Jim Bamboulis – Travel Mammal Media 2018
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© Jim Bamboulis – Travel Mammal Media 2018

Besides seeing them totally iced over, some waterfall locations have access that give you the chance to hike right up to them and get unreal close-up views.

Heading to Niagara Falls

Hamilton may be the waterfall capital but the big daddy of them all is still Niagara Falls. Drive the hour and a half around Lake Ontario because seeing both the Horseshoe and Bridal Veil during the winter should be a bucket-list-must for everyone. The water is still dropping fast and hard but, depending on how cold it is, you get the added bonus of seeing parts of the falls totally iced over and ice crystals forming and rising.

With the nightly light show lighting up the falls with different colours, the water and ice offer an amazing experience. Just bundle up because if Niagara Falls can ice over, so can you!

Walk The Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park

During the summer, The Grotto – located inside Bruce Peninsula National Park – is a magnet for those looking for an exceptional swimming experience. With serene, turquoise water like this, it’s hard to stay away.

But in the winter, this summer haven transforms into a winter wonderland. If you’re willing to take a winter road trip, head north. Drive 4 hours north of Toronto and experience The Grotto in a whole new, epic way. Sure, the drive up may have its seasonal challenges but the rewards make up for them big time!

Hit up an outdoor spa

What do you do when it’s -40 Celcius? Hit the outdoor spa, of course! Nothing like changing from clothes that don’t keep warm anyway to virtually no clothes at all. Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Quebec (just north of Ottawa) offers an amazing spa experience.

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Picture putting on your swimsuit, feeling the frigid cold on your skin as mist from the pools form icicles all over your body then stepping into a 100 degree, steaming hot pool of bliss or a rejuvenating sauna treatment. There’s so much you enjoy that you can easily spend a few hours here – or even a few days.

Do ANY physical activity (but especially ice skating and snowshoeing)

As a kid, going tobogganing was life itself! Fearless and invincible, I’d hop on and slide (more like tumble) down the snowy, icy hill. I’d laugh, feel the bruises already forming, climb back up the hill and do it again.

These days, I’ve seen more and more signs banning toboggans and tobogganing altogether. Several years ago, towns and cities in Ontario started posting signs like this. It outraged people – who subsequently ignored the signs – got on their toboggan and slid down any hill they could get some decent speed on.

I like a good toboggan ride but for me, snowshoeing and ice skating are the preferred winter activities. In fact, snowshoeing has become one of my ultimate must-do’s every winter. You get to enjoy all the beauty of the forest, breathe in some of the fresh, winter air and get the heart pumping a bit.

If the weather is cold enough to keep the ice around, there are several well-known, outdoor skating rinks in Toronto – including the one at Nathan Phillips Square and along the Harbourfront – that I like to hit. But The Bentway – a 220 metre ice rink that debuted in Toronto in 2017 – is a unique skating experience under the Gardiner Expressway.

If you’re willing to take a road trip out of the city, one of the most popular outdoor rinks is located at Arrowhead Provincial Park. Their ice trail runs 1.3 km and runs through the forest and under the stars. To avoid big crowds, plan a weekday trip and if you can swing  it, plan to arrive in the evening to enjoy a torchlit skate and Fire + Ice Nights. For more info about where, what and how much, hit this link.

Those are my faves. What do you LOVE doing during the winter? Hit up the comment section below and give us more ideas on how to enjoy the colder months, even more!


About me

IMG-20161106-WA0017.jpgHey y’all. I’m Jim. That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to working with brands to promote travel, food, and cultural experiences.

Travel Mammal isn’t about the selfie or checking things off a list. It’s about both the journey and the destination. So enjoy it and happy travels,  y’all!

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