Visiting Toronto in the Winter: A Guide

Canada Sign near CN Tower Toronto

Back in the beginning of the month I took a little road trip up to Canada with my boyfriend. We went to Toronto and also hit Niagara Falls on the way, but I’ll leave that out of this post.

When I lived in Washington, I was actually always about three-ish hours away from the Canadian border all the time and I never went. So 2019 was the year I was going to make it happen! And here we are now.

Dealing with Toronto’s Winter Weather

Knowing that we were traveling in the dead of winter, I took precautions and reached out to people who had been to Toronto. Everyone told me the city is extremely windy so I was ready for that with mittens, ear wrap, bulky scarves, thick socks, and thermal undershirts. With all that, I was never really cold. It was usually like my thighs and face. Kyle somehow survived with a wicking turtleneck, thermal and sweatshirt. Although he did always complain about being cold.

It snowed while we were there, but it never stuck. Because of this I was able to get by wearing whatever shoes I wanted and not have to worry about slipping and sliding everywhere.

However, it did rain multiple times. We forgot our umbrella so we sort of just had to suck it up. I used my scarf and my cardigan to cover my hair when it happened and it worked really well. It didn’t rain too hard so this worked in a pinch!

Must See Places in Toronto

Casa Loma

When searching around for must-sees in Toronto, Casa Loma kept popping up. I had no idea what it was besides a beautiful castle literally in Toronto, so the bar was set really low.

We ended up taking a Lyft there since it’s out of the city a bit and you’d still have to walk if you took public transportation. Once we started to pull up I was in awe. It was beautiful and reminded me of my travels in Europe last year.

Casa Loma Toronto

I paid $45USD for two tickets and we went inside. You get a free audio guide but we decided against them and roamed the place ourselves. There’s a basement, with a tunnel that leads to the stables and garage, but most of it was incomplete. There was a swimming pool that was never finished, that’s now a theater, but that room was used as the sewer in The Pacifier if anyone remembers that movie!!

Casa Loma decorated for christmas
Casa Loma decorated for christmas
Casa Loma decorated for christmas

Also I don’t think I mentioned, but the castle was still decorated for Christmas. They were taking down all the decorations while we were there, but it made it super festive.

Casa Loma decorated for christmas
library casa Loma

On the first floor I was super excited about the library because I found out that scenes from Crimson Peak were filmed there! And one of my huge celebrity crushed Tom Hiddleston was in that movie. On that floor was also the conservatory, which was definitely my favorite room in the castle.

conservatory entrance Casa Loma
conservatory Casa Loma
conservatory ceiling Casa Loma
Conservatory in casa loma

There were two more floors with various rooms and bedrooms, but then there was also access to the two towers! There was no one else going in them when we were, which may have been because of the very small, tight spiral staircases, or because it was winter. Or both. Either way the towers were bleak and not really worth going up unless the weather is good because otherwise when you go up you don’t see much out the windows.

view of Scottish tower in Casa Loma Toronto

Cora for Brunch

We only went out to brunch once and it was to Cora. And it was amazing. The place is so colorful and cute! Plus, the food is amazing and you can order smaller portion sizes for less money. I wish other places did that too.

Cora brunch spread

I got a cappuccino and triple chocolate pancakes with a side of potatoes. The potatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had and same with the pancakes. Dang, I wish I had some right now. You know how usually triple chocolate stuff is way too sweet? Well these weren’t because they were made with real cocoa so it wasn’t overloading my taste buds and I was all for it. Obviously.

CN Tower

looking outside from viewing deck CN Tower Toronto
looking outside from viewing deck CN Tower Toronto

I honestly thought this was going to be a let down. Really big attractions like this usually are, but y’all I was crying happy tear as soon as I saw out the elevator. But that might have been more because I always cry when I see bodies of water and the sun was shining over Lake Ontario while it was snowing. So of course the sight was breathtaking.

We only paid for the basic experience, so we had access to two viewing levels. The first stop was actually the highest floor you have access to. That’s the one with 360 view windows. There’s also a little snack bar and little places to charge your phone. I thought those things were so cool!

charging pad CN tower

The other floor is the one right below. You can go outside and get a 360 view through a grid wire. When we went out there it was insanely windy and snowy and you could barely see anything. But it was funny to run around in a circle screaming about how cold it was.

view from CN tower toronto

Visiting in the winter made sure there was absolutely zero line. We went straight into the elevator to go up. Plus, the guide said usually 15-18 people fit in an elevator and we only had five or six which meant we could actually look outside and enjoy the view.

Ice Skating on the Harbourfront

One thing you can only do in winter: ice skate outside!! I was so excited to go down to the harbourfront for more than just beautiful Lake Ontario views, because ice skating is so fun! I’m not the best at it, but I think it’s so fun and warms you up. Meaning, if it’s freezing, you definitely won’t be so cold anymore. Which I can totally attest to.

CN tower from ice skating on harbourfront centre

We rented two pairs of skates for like $26CAN and a locker for $1CAN. Then we skated! The best part is you can see the CN Tower from the rink and the water. Downside? No walls to grab onto around the rink.

When we skated the ice wasn’t all that great either because they were about to smooth it. Plus, it was super windy so rocks and debris kept blowing onto the ice and making it difficult not to fall. Meaning, I totally fell and bruised up my knees. But it was actually hilarious and I didn’t mind at all.

Toronto Islands

The Islands are usually only a tourist destination in the warmer months, since they have beaches and a theme park, but don’t rule it out in the winter! The Islands are the best place to get photos of the Toronto skyline. Plus, beaches are still beautiful in the winter no matter how cold it is.

toronto skyline from ward's island
toronto skyline from ward's island
toronto skyline from ward's island
toronto skyline from ward's island
ward's beach toronto islands
ward's beach toronto islands

Just be warned, it’s about 10 to 15 degrees colder out on the islands, and everything is closed in the winter. However, the public restrooms were open so we totally went in and used the hand dryer to warm up and escape the wind.

Also, the ferry ride is even colder if you can’t get a seat inside. We had a seat inside on the way there, but on the way back ad bunch of kids were leaving school and had priority to go inside. Needless to say, it was not the most pleasant ride back.

Skip These Attractions

University of Toronto

Not sure where I read that the university was a great photo op, but it’s not. It was interesting to walk through sure, but not worth going out of your way. I loved that they had really modern glass buildings next to older brick buildings, though. That was super cool.

Royal Ontario Museum

I’m a big museum advocate, but this one was a let down. The exhibits were all over the place and I feel like a lot had nothing to do with Ontario? Like there was a whole exhibit with different styles of English decorations? What does that have to do with Canada at all? Plus it was very pricey.

In my opinion this is a skip. Maybe hit up the Art Gallery of Toronto instead?

Other Noteworthy Places

Raptors Game

The Raptors had a home game while we were in town so we bought tickets a few hours prior on SeatGeek. Our seats were actually super nice and the stadium was packed. It was such a good energy and a really great time. I totally recommend going to a game while you’re in town! Just be sure to dress in layers because it got really hot really fast and I was so glad I could strip down to just jeans and at-shirt.

St. Lawrence Market

We actually went here right before it closed and with full stomachs which was not a smart choice at all since it’s known for its food. Lots of the stalls were selling amazing looking food and I wish we had gone for lunch or a late dinner. It wasn’t mind blowing, but it is indoors and a easy way to get out of the cold and enjoy some food and drink.

posing at the calii love angel wings toronto
calii love angel wings toronto

Calii Wings

I think everyone loves those giant wing murals. The only other ones I’ve seen in person are the ones in Shoreditch in London, so I knew I had to see these ones, too.

They’re on the side of a smoothie bowl place called Calii Love so we stopped there the morning we left and I got my photo and a great, although pricey, smoothie bowl.

Things We Missed

We only had about two and a half days total in the city because we got there late at night and left early morning. Meaning, we definitely didn’t get to do everything we wanted to accomplish.

We never made it out to a bar and I’m actually super upset about it. I wanted to try some local cider or beer and soak up the culture. However, we were too tired most nights or just didn’t feel like going out again. I bookmarked a bunch of really cool bars so if you’re looking for ideas check out Spin, Amsterdam Brewhouse, or the Loose Moose.

I totally forgot about the arch bridge Toronto had until we left. Well, that’s a lie, I saw it on the drive in and then forgot about it and so we never made it over there. I’m not sure if it would be worth it during the winter, but I have a thing for bridges sooo. It’s called the Humber Bay Arch bridge if you’re interested.

And I also never saw Shawn. Lolol. I actually did so much research looking at old Instagram stories he had posted from his condo and street photos people had posted of him to figure out where we could see him. But he did have the flu while we were there so I doubt he really went out much.

However, I do know for certain he crossed the same street I did like 24 hours before me. It was Adelaide and Portland for anyone interested and possibly wanting to stake out the corner. Which I almost did.

While yes it might be freezing in Canada during the winter, it’s the prime time to visit attractions with not wait. Plus, who doesn’t love to see snow?

Have you ever been to Toronto?

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Toronto travel guide in the winter
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