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Best winter destinations in Ontario for a cozy weekend

January 4, 2020
Despite the blistering cold, the layers of clothes and lack of sun, there are so many great reasons to enjoy winter in Ontario, Canada! These nine towns across Ontario have embraced the season. So, bundle up and get ready to explore the best winter destinations in Ontario for a weekend getaway. #WinterDestinations #Ontario #Canada #Travel

Ah, winter in Ontario. The longest season. The shortest days. It’s where you have to don several layers before setting foot outside and where you almost forget what t-shirt weather feels like. Don’t fret! There are actually so many great reasons to enjoy this season. Across the province, many towns are embracing winter. So bundle up and get ready to explore the best winter destinations in Ontario.



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Despite the blistering cold, the layers of clothes and lack of sun, there are so many great reasons to enjoy winter in Ontario, Canada! These nine towns across Ontario have embraced the season. So, bundle up and get ready to explore the best winter destinations in Ontario for a weekend getaway. #WinterDestinations #Ontario #Canada #Travel

Even if the winter season isn’t your thing, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about bundling up and enjoying a lovely winter activity while the snow is coming down around you. Plus, who doesn’t love getting cozy by a warm fire with a hot toddy or mulled wine?

This round-up of best winter weekend getaways in Ontario gives you nine destinations for winter inspiration with recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, where to get a drink and where to Fika. Fika can be a verb, right?

winter in Ontario, person standing in front of seven foot snow bank

What is Fika? Well, Fika is partly a coffee break and partly a state of mind. Fika is the Swedish concept of slowing down, appreciating the things you have and enjoying time with friends and family. So I tried to find the best places for you to Fika in each wintery destination.

Winter in Ontario can be fun; there are lots of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, sledding and much more! That’s why each of these places to visit in Ontario in winter has an example of an outdoor activity that you absolutely must do!

Winter weekend getaway to Kingston

Enjoy a winter weekend in Kingston, Ontario, Canada | Winter is the perfect time to go on a weekend getaway to a nearby city. So pack your bags and head to Kingston to take in its history, food and events like Lumina Borealis all winter long.| My Wandering Voyage

Kingston is located in Eastern Ontario along the northern shores of the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. It was the country’s first capital city before Canada even became Canada. And because of that, it’s filled with gorgeous historical buildings. It’s also a university town, meaning there are some trendy spots to enjoy a bite to eat. Kingston knows that winters are long, so they throw an exciting festival every year, FebFest, making it the perfect winter destination in Ontario for a cozy weekend getaway.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Kingston

The best way to enjoy the outdoors in Kingston is by experiencing it in Frontenac Provincial Park. In the summer, this 5,355-hectare park is great for backcountry camping, canoeing and hiking. In the winter, the park becomes a cold-weather haven. You can try winter camping if you’re adventurous enough. Or strap on some snowshoes and hit the trails. There’s also cross-country skiing on 11 km of track-set trails.

Where to Fika in Kingston

Fika is all about enjoying a hot drink and cake and spending time with friends. Get that cozy feel-good feeling at Sipps Coffee and Dessert Bar. This café is just steps from City Hall and has a homey vibe. Plus, they have a weekly tradition called Cinnamon Bun Fridays! Who doesn’t love that! Perfect for Fika!

Where to eat in Kingston

Finding the best place to eat is hard in Kingston; there is a plethora of tasty spots for some delicious warm food for your winter travels. But Atomica Kitchen is where it’s at. Their swanky vibe and their out-of-this-world delicious menu will win you over. While they are known for their cocktails, their shareable plates and pizzas are So. Much. Yum! I had their butternut squash ravioli and thought I died and went to heaven. Perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night.

Where to warm up your spirits in Kingston

If there’s any bar that screams winter cabin, then it’s Red House. This stone-and-beam rustic bar and kitchen has a lengthy drinks menu. They even have their own ale and a whole page dedicated to whiskey. A must-visit for any winter wanderer.

Where to stay in Kingston

At only a five-minute walk from downtown Kingston, the Rosemount Inn and Spa is the go-to place for a winter getaway in Ontario. This historic 11-room boutique hotel has a modern twist, with all the amenities you might expect from a large hotel and more. They even have a spa, offering massages, facials and wraps, to warm you up from the frosty weather.

Don’t miss

Enjoy a winter weekend in Kingston, Ontario, Canada | Winter is the perfect time to go on a weekend getaway to a nearby city. So pack your bags and head to Kingston to take in its history, food and events like Lumina Borealis all winter long.| My Wandering Voyage

Kingston knows that its winters are long. So instead of sitting and waiting for spring, they throw a month-long celebration of the longest season: Feb Fest. This event takes over the downtown with ice skating, ice sculptures, snow slides, hockey classics, and even a polar plunge! They even bring in special guests like ice skater extraordinaire Kurt Browning. And you can’t miss tasting a delicious Beaver Tail!

RELATED: Enjoy a winter weekend in Kingston, Ontario

Winter weekend getaway to Kitchener

Kitchener alley in Winter

This tech hub is actually a winter paradise. Did you know Kitchener’s original name was Berlin? Yup! So Kitchener really embraces its German heritage with events like Oktoberfest and Christkindl Market. Plus, its geographic location makes this a top contender on the list of best winter weekend trip ideas in Ontario. Kitchener is only an hour or so from Toronto, so if you only have a day, this city is great, but make sure to come back and check out all the other places the Kitchener-Waterloo Region has to offer!

Enjoy winter outdoors in Kitchener

There really is nothing like tobogganing. For kids, it’s a blast, for adults is like a blast from the past. You can have all sorts of fun at the Chicopee Tube Park. Winter is their bread and butter. On Saturdays, they have Saturday Late Night Tubing, where you can speed down the hill under the city lights. After you’ve had your fun on the slopes, you can warm up in the log Chalet Café.

Where to Fika in Kitchener

Show and tell coffee in Kitchener

Show and Tell Coffee is a warm and comfortable spot to get your coffee and cake for well-deserved Fika. They serve rare and seasonal coffees from roasters around the globe. I tried their lavender latte, and it was the bomb dot com.

Where to eat in Kitchener

All aboard the cozy train; next stop: Grand Trunk Saloon. This restaurant is all about food for the soul, with classics like chicken and waffles, Jambalaya, and burgers. But they also have one-of-a-kind dishes, like frog legs!  

Where to warm up your spirits in Kitchener

Time for a nightcap? Then the Lokal has you covered. The modern and crisp cocktail bar has a drink menu longer than my arm. They create pretty much everything and have nearly every liquor known to man. Plus, it’s inside a hotel, so when you’re all “warmed up,” you can just head upstairs!

Where to stay in Kitchener

Kitchener Walper Hotel

The Walper is an icon to downtown Kitchener. The hotel dates back to 1893, but don’t worry, it’s been renovated into a classic/modern look that just screams sophistication. Each room has a similar vibe but different décor. Plus, The Walper rooms are stocked with amenities that you’ll definitely write home about.

Don’t miss

Kitchener Christkindl Market

You’ve heard of Germany’s Christmas Markets, but have you heard of Kitchener’s Christkindl Market? Canada’s original Christkindl Market celebrated everything we love about German-style markets, mulled wine, beautiful wooden booths, Christmas décor and more. There’s even ice skating, a candlelight procession, and opening ceremonies from the Christkind angel.

It’s held over the first weekend in December, so don’t miss it!

Winter weekend getaway to Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Village at night

Blue Mountain Village has been the ideal place to enjoy winter in Ontario for as long as I can remember. It’s a ski village that is comparable to Whistler, BC or Mont Tremblant, Quebec, but more accessible for those of us that live in southern Ontario. Plus, Blue Mountain Village really knows how to throw a party. They’ve got events going on almost every week. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding, then hit the slopes. If that’s not your thing, there are so many other winter activities, plus cozy places to curl up and get warm. These reasons are why Blue Mountain Village makes the list of best winter weekend trip ideas in Ontario.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Village is known for its slopes. The Blue Mountain Resort has all kinds of downhill adventures. Strap on skis or a snowboard of hop on a toboggan and try out its 43 runs. There’s even mountain top skating, snowshoe trails and the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster. Get all your gear rentals, lift passes and lessons right here.

Where to Fika in Blue Mountain Village

Any café that has “Royal Majesty” in the name and makes Smores hot chocolate get’s my vote in the best place for Fika! The Royal Majesty Espresso Bar Bakery in Blue Mountain Village checks both of those boxes. Plus, they are licensed, so you bet they have Bailey’s and coffee.

Where to eat in Blue Mountain Village

Get yourself some fresh craft beer and a tasty meal in Northwinds Brew Pub, a lodge-style brewery in the heart of Blue Mountain. Their menu has just about everything for you to walk away satisfied. The views of the slopes aren’t half bad either!

Where to warm up your spirits in Blue Mountain Village

Twist Kitchen and Cocktails has all the glitz and glamour you would expect from a cocktail lounge, including the impressive drinks menu. They just did a big revamp in early 2019, It now has this retro but modern vibe to it, perfect for a cocktail after hitting the slopes.

Where to stay in Blue Mountain Village

What’s better than relaxing in a homey room with a fireplace after a day skiing? Nothing. At Westin Trillium House, you’ll find the comfort dial turned up to the max with signature amenities and views of Georgian Bay or the ski hill. It’s located right in Blue Mountain Village, giving you easy access to the pedestrian-only village. And when you’re ready to warm up even more, they’ve got a heated outdoor pool. Can I get a heck ya!

Don’t miss

Blue Mountain Village at night

Blumination Dream Trail – Every winter from December to March, you can take a stroll through Blue Mountain Village’s Blumination Dream Trail. This one-kilometre walk leads you through spectacular lights and interactive displays. Nothing short of magical!  

Winter weekend getaway to Alton

Alton Fire and Ice Festival

Alton is the smallest town on this list, but it definitely packs a punch as one of the best winter destinations in Ontario for a cozy weekend. This little village is located in the municipality of Caledon and is known for the old mills and historic charm. During winter, the town gets together for a fun weekend called the Fire and Ice Festival, that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Alton

Just 20 minutes north of town is the prestigious Hockey Valley Resort, where you can ski or snowboard to your heart’s content. The Resort offers seven runs ranging from beginner to double black diamond. While it’s a smaller ski hill, it offers many of the same amenities as a larger one, like chair lifts, a magic carpet lift for beginners, rentals, private lessons, and more. Enjoy their Ski Café or sip on cocktails at Babbo, the wine and bar patio and watch the winter lovers do their thing.  

Where to Fika in Alton:

Where else can you get warm drinks, delicious treats AND a beautiful art gallery to explore? Why, none other than the Alton Mill Honour Café located inside the Alton Mill Arts Centre. The Alton Mill, which dates back to the mid-1800s, survived a disastrous flooding but was then destroyed by a fire just 20 years later. Luckily, the mill was rebuilt! It now houses a respectable gallery and, of course, the café. What exceptional about this spot is that except on busy weekends, the café is self-serve on an honour system!

Where to eat in Alton

You can’t go to Alton without dining at Ray’s 3d Generation Bistro and Bakery. While the business has been family owned since 1966, it was a bakery since the 1930s. By the third generation, Chef Jason added on the casual fine dining restaurant. You’ll want to book ahead for this place as it’s tiny dining area is often very full! But it’s got a revolving chalkboard menu, packed with scrumptious dishes, like my personal favourite, the spicy sausage penne.

Plus, after your meal, you can pop into the bakery and grab some traditional favourites like butter tarts and chocolate chip cookies!

Where to warm up your spirits in Alton:

Sip on cocktails, wine or a brew at the Headwaters Restaurant located inside the Millcroft Inn and Spa. This is definitely a fancy place, so be sure to dress up, but they do offer a lounge menu. This historic mill overlooks a beautiful waterfall that is just stunning in the winter! They even have live music every Saturday from 7 to 11 pm.

Where to stay in Alton

The Millcroft Inn and Spa should be your first choice for a winter weekend getaway in Ontario. This historic mill has been renovated beautifully, and during the holiday season, they turn everything up a notch with gorgeous decorations and a magical snow-covered landscape. During the colder months, they offer a snowshoe adventure through the winter trails, and every Saturday, they have bonfires on the terrace. Fall asleep to the sound of the babbling brook and water spilling over the falls. Plus you can warm up by indulging in a spa treatment or relaxing in their year-round hot spring pools.

Don’t miss

Alton Fire and Ice Festival

The cherry on top of an awesome winter weekend in Alton is the Fire and Ice Festival, a one-day magical experience of everything fire and ice held at the Alton Mill Arts Centre. From the pond hockey classic to skating on the pond, watching ice carvers work their craft, snow slides, guided forest walks, scrumptious treats and more, there’s something for everyone. But the best part is the incredible fire sculpture.

I’ll never forget the memory of watching a seemingly uninteresting giant egg be set on fire. As the layers of brush burned away, inside, a massive metal phoenix rose out, its wings extending as if it were to take flight. It was seriously like something out of Harry Potter. This festival is a must-experience for anyone looking for winter destinations in Ontario to visit.

Winter weekend getaway to Elora

Elora Downtown | The ultimate list of things to do in Elora, Ontario. Visit Elora for its small town charm, natural beauty and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants | My Wandering Voyage travel blog

If small-town Ontario could be summed up by one place, it would be Elora. The charming downtown with one-of-a-kind shops, the river and natural areas, and the hospitality from the locals make you want to stay here forever. The town doesn’t hibernate; instead they dial it up with decorations, lights, wintery charm, so you’ll have to add this to your list of winter weekend getaways in Ontario.

A.J. Casson, one of the famous Group of Seven painters – called Elora “Ontario’s most beautiful village.” The town is located where the Irvine Creek meets the Grand River. There’s a gorgeous waterfall and a steep gorge to explore. Elora is one of the best places to visit in Ontario in winter.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Elora

Have you ever tried ice climbing? It’s like rock climbing, except with picks, warm clothes, and lots of ice. You can try it right here in Elora with One Axe Pursuits. This adventure company offers rock climbing, caving and zip lining in the summer. But when the weather turns, it’s time for ice climbing!

The experience is built for beginners and includes all the equipment.

Where to Fika in Elora

Elora Lost and Found Cafe | The ultimate list of things to do in Elora, Ontario. Visit Elora for its small town charm, natural beauty and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants | My Wandering Voyage travel blog

I may have mentioned this a thousand times, but The Lost and Found Café has been my favourite spot in Elora since it opened a couple of years ago. The adorable décor and the delicious food make me want to hang out here all day.

It’s set in the beautiful Elora Mews, a limestone pedestrian market in Elora’s downtown. The Lost and Found Café offers incredible, mouth-watering sandwiches and delicious treats. They even have vegan options. My personal favourite is their featured lattes that change every month.

Where to eat in Elora

New in town is the Friendly Society, a “neighbourhood restaurant.” They’ve got a delicious menu with dishes like Canadian Whisky Maple Salmon, Butternut Squash Pasta and fancy grilled cheese. Plus, their chic decor and view overlooking the Grand River make this place the ideal spot to enjoy a warm winter meal.

Where to warm up your spirits in Elora

The Elora Brewing Company is a rustic craft brewery and the talk of the town. From the incredible atmosphere to the rich flavours, this place an ideal location to warm up your spirits on a cold winter’s night.

Lady Friend, Three Fields and Elora Borealis are always on tap, but they also feature seasonal brews too. You can’t leave without digging into the menu! The crispy chicken bites, Three Fields Mussels and housemade pickles are crowd favourites.

Where to Stay in Elora

Elora Mill in the Winter | The ultimate list of things to do in Elora, Ontario. Visit Elora for its small town charm, natural beauty and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants | My Wandering Voyage travel blog

Enjoy your winter weekend getaway in Ontario at the Elora Mill Hotel and Spa. Let me tell you, it is the epitome of luxury. There are 30 guest rooms and suites with absolutely jaw-dropping views overlooking the gorge. There are so many luxuries like fireplaces, walk-in showers, natural stone and wood, and so much more.

While you’re there, you have to visit the Stable Spa and let the natural beauty and relaxing atmosphere wash away your stress.

Don’t miss

Elora Mill and the Tooth of Time | The ultimate list of things to do in Elora, Ontario. Visit Elora for its small town charm, natural beauty and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants | My Wandering Voyage travel blog

The Tooth of Time is a famous rock that sits precariously in the middle of the Grand River waterfall. You won’t want to miss the view of it in the wintertime. It’s a magical sight with the snow, ice and cold water. You can take in the view inside the Elora Mill restaurant, outside the historic Elora Mill building or from the brand-new pedestrian bridge that connects Victoria Street to Mill Street.

RELATED: Enjoy small-town charm in Elora, Ontario – the ultimate list of things to do in Elora

Winter weekend getaway to Huntsville

The Muskoka region is Ontario’s winter playground. From snowmobiling to ice fishing to skiing and snowshoeing, Huntsville and the surrounding area is perfect for anyone looking for winter destinations in Ontario.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Huntsville

Winter Hiking at Arrowhead Provincial Park

Just 20 minutes north of Huntsville is Arrowhead Provincial Park, the ultimate winter adventure destination in Ontario. There are cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails, frozen waterfalls, winter views of the Big Bend and a lovely skating trail through the forest.

Where to Fika in Huntsville

Seven Main Café has everything you need to Fika – a warm, inviting place, freshly baked sweets, and delicious coffee and tea. Seven Main Café is located in the oldest existing commercial building in Huntsville and offers a tonne of other merchandise like jams, giftware and take-home treats.

Where to eat in Huntsville

Is there anything cozier than a seasonal meal inside a log cabin? I don’t think so. Well, 3 Guys and a Stove in Huntsville checks that box. Their homey aesthetic pairs perfectly with their delicious seasonal food. Think slow-roasted beef brisket stew, mushroom risotto and slow-roasted lamb shank. Ah, my mouth is just watering thinking about it.

Where to warm up your spirits in Huntsville

Lay of Bays Brewing Co. taps

In the summer, you might want to sit on a patio for a delicious brew, but in the winter, the cozier the place, the better. Huntsville Brewhouse is a batch-brewing facility for the Lake of Bays Brewing Co. They’ve got a wicked menu and a long list of beer on tap. They also make cocktails with Ontario-based spirits.

Where to stay in Huntsville

Muskoka airbnb in winter

Grab a bunch of your gal-pals and get cozy in this cabin just outside of Huntsville. The Wolegib Modern waterfront Retreat in Muskoka sleeps eight, has three bedrooms, four baths, and is just an all-out GEM. It’s located right on the Muskoka River across from a conservation area, which gives the feeling of total isolation.

Don’t miss

Just 30 minutes south of Huntsville is Bracebridge, the location for an epic winter event: the Fire and Ice Festival. The whole town turns into a winter wonderland with snow tubing right on the main street, public skating, Crokicurl, Ice Sculptures, maple taffy, campfires, buskers, and so much more. 


Related: Top Things to do in Muskoka in Winter


Winter weekend getaway to Hamilton

over looking Hamilton in Winter

Hamilton is a really interesting city. Not only are there hip places to hang out that make you feel right in the middle of everything, but within the city limits, there are hundreds of waterfalls and green spaces that give you the feeling that you’re in the middle of nowhere. Hamilton sits both on top of and below the Niagara escapement and it makes for a perfect place to visit in Ontario in winter.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Hamilton

Winter waterfall in Hamilton

Exploring frozen waterfalls sounds like something out of a Disney movie, but you can do it right here in Hamilton. There are hundreds to choose from, but the best ones to visit in winter are Tiffany Falls, Sherman Falls, Webster Falls and Albion Falls. To see the waterfalls frozen, you’re going to want to visit when the temperatures have been quite cold for several days in a row to give the moving water time to freeze.

Where to Fika in Hamilton

Mulberry Street Coffeehouse is a beautiful coffee shop in downtown Hamilton. They’ve got a long list of delicious coffees and sweet treats like cakes, cookies, seasonal donuts and fun treats called Hello Dolly.

Where to eat in Hamilton

Hamilton is a large city with so many restaurant options, but the Brux House Craft Beer & Kitchen jumped out at me. It’s warm and rustic interior pairs so well with its seasonal palette. Dishes like the Bloomin’ Brussels, Pan Seared Steelhead Trout, and Duck Confit are enough to make anyone’s mouth water.

Where to warm up your spirits in Hamilton

There’s something nice about simple, classic design, and Grain & Grit Beer Co. has it. They are dog-friendly, release new brews every month, and is just a fun place to hang out. Two winter beers on tap are the Winter White Stout and the Sweater Weather Stout.

Where to stay in Hamilton

The Barracks Inn is a boutique hotel located in Ancaster, just a few minutes outside of Hamilton. The 19th century stone building has kept all of its antique charm but has upgrades all of its amenities, like plush white sheets and luxurious bathrooms. I can’t get over the enormous stone fireplaces!

Don’t miss

Hamilton Winterfest has been running for over 40 years in the city. It’s celebrated for the first two weeks in February with over 75 activities city-wide. From concerts to tournaments to pop up and skating, there’s something for everyone during this mid-winter festival.

RELATED: 52 day trips from Toronto for every traveller

Winter weekend getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Prince of Wales Hotel Niagara on the Lake winter

Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most enchanting town during the winter. The historic downtown all lit up with winter lights and snow give that Hallmark-movie-feeling. While Niagara-on-the-Lake is a popular spot in the summer, in the wintertime, the town turns it up a notch. Seriously, the whole town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has this hygge thing down pat. I mean, the well-appointed streets and gorgeous lights, who wouldn’t want to stay here forever?

Enjoy winter outdoors in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Lace-up your skates and take to the ice at Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery. Enjoy this favourite winter activity just like famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky. The outdoor ice rink in the middle of the estate is open when the weather cooperates from December to March. You can skate up a storm or relax at the heated Whisky bar, where you can try the collection of wine, beer and spirits made locally. They have a winter cocktail menu with drinks like a Spiced Ginger Toddy, Rusty Skate and Mulled Beer.

Where to Fika in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The Pie Plate is located in an old house with an apartment that you can stay in upstairs. But it’s the bakery that you’re going to want to come here for. Situated in Virgil, a smaller town outside Niagara-on-the-Lake, this sweet bakery/ restaurant seems to have it all. They’re famous for their thin-crust pizzas and tasty sweet treats made from recipes passed down from the owner’s grandmother.

Where to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Queens Royal Park Gazebo Niagara on the Lake winter

Bistro Six One sits right in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their cozy atmosphere and delicious cuisine make this a top place to eat in the town. I mean, what’s more winter than French onion soup? Or how about rainbow trout or mushroom ravioli? But what makes Bistro Six One stand out is their wood fire pizza.

Where to warm up your spirits in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for its wine, so, while you’re enjoying a winter weekend getaway here, make sure to stop into a few. Peller Estates and Jackson Triggs are the more well-known ones. But it’s worth checking out Two Sisters Vineyards, a fun and fancy vineyard just south of Niagara-on-the-Lake. They have Wine and Cheese Nights throughout the week, and Wine Wednesdays. Two sisters started the vineyard, which produces premium reds – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Where to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake

There are hundreds (seriously!) of B&Bs in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Each one has its own story and lovely atmosphere. Because of that I couldn’t recommend one over the other, just yet. Have a look at the map below to see what best suits your needs for a stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake:

Booking.com

Don’t miss

Icewine in a glass Niagara Icewine Festival Niagara on the Lake winter

Icewine is something that is truly Canadian. I mean sure, the dessert wine was developed in Germany, but Canadian Icewine is something more. It must be the fact that we have winter six months of the year. Icewine is made from grapes that were frozen while still on the vine. Making icewine is pretty tricky, which means there are limited quantities of icewine in the world. Except in Canada, where we are the largest producer of Icewine in the World, which is why we have a whole festival dedicated to it in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Icewine Festival is celebrated over three weekends in January, starting with the annual gala for icewine producers, followed by a two-weekend extravaganza. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s downtown transforms into an Icewine wonderland with culinary creations, music, shopping, ice sculptures and, of course, sampling the Icewine!

Winter weekend getaway to Ottawa

Ottawa is one of the coldest capital cities in the world. But instead of hiding indoors, we embrace that fact! Winter in Ottawa can be a real treat, especially when the Rideau Canal freezes over! From all the Christmas lights and decorations to the winter activities during Winterlude, Ottawa rounds out the list of winter destinations in Ontario for a cozy weekend.

Enjoy winter outdoors in Ottawa

The most wintery thing to do in Ottawa is to don your skates and head out on the Rideau Canal. From January to about early March, the river freezes over, creating the world’s largest skating rink. The 7.8-kilometre skateway sees about 20,000 people per day since even the locals use it to get to work and school. It is completely free to access the Rideau Canal Skateway, and it’s even lit at night. Along the Skateway, there are warm-up areas as well as vendors selling warm food, like poutine and Beavertails.

Where to Fika in Ottawa

Byward Café is fairly well-known, as it sits at the front of the Byward Market. They’ve got all sorts of tasty treats and delicious coffee in a warm and inviting atmosphere. It’s a perfect place to warm up after a long skate!

Where to eat in Ottawa

Arctic Char, Charcuterie, Wild Boar, and so much more. The Oz Kafe in the Byward Market has a one-of-a-kind menu. Inside this restaurant, you’ll find stone walls, thick wood beams, and a warm ambience, making it the perfect winter spot to eat!

Where to warm up your spirits in Ottawa

Lowertown Brewery is a new addition to the craft brew market in Ottawa. The Lowertown Brewery is located in the Byward Market and serves up comfort food and pre-prohibition cocktails as well as whatever is on tap. They’ve got at least nine in-house beers plus cider and wine. Plus, they have this cozy vibe going on with beautiful big windows, wood tables and an arcade area!

Where to stay in Ottawa

Stay in a jail, without doing the crime at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel. Yup, that right, you can stay in this 150-year old former jail. They’ve got stone walls, iron doors and former solitary confinement cells. Don’t worry, you’re free to leave when you want. They’ve got a historic double cell (the former solitary confinement area), double jail cell (host to the white-collar criminals), a private cell with two bunk beds, and an authentic jail cell (only 3’ by 9’ with a single bed).

Learn about the jail’s captivating (and haunted) history with a jail tour every day at 11 am.

Don’t miss:

Celebrate everything there is to love about winter at Ottawa’s Winterlude, a two-week-long cold-weather festival. The free event offers ice sculptures, skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, family fun activities at the Snowflake Kingdom and so much more. This festival makes braving the coldest capital worth it for a winter weekend in Ontario.

Must pack items for a winter weekend in Ontario:

Now that you have several options for places to visit in Ontario in winter, you’re going to have to expand your suitcase to fit in all the warm winter gear you’ll need to take with you. The cold weather in Ontario is ~snow~ joke. Temperatures can easily get to -40 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. (Fun fact: Did you know that -40 is the same temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit? It’s that cold.)

All bundled up for winter

The key to staying warm is layers and the right type of fabric. So here are the best things to pack for a winter weekend in Ontario:

  • Merino wool thermal base layers. Keep that body heat inside with sweat-proof thermal base layers. The worst thing you can do is sweat in the winter since it will make you feel wet and then cold. That’s why wool base layers are so great. They whisk away that sweat and keep you dry and warm.
  • Wool socks (with a bonus wool base layer). Again, wool is your best friend in winter. Double up with a base layer on your feet, then add in a thick warm sock over top.
  • Warm snow boots. You’ll want waterproof and insulated snow boots to brave these Canadian winters.
  • Fleece. Fleece is your friend in winter. It’s warm and comfortable, plus it can hold up against a little bit of water.
  • Snow pants. When you’re out snowshoeing, skiing or even skating, you’ll want an extra warm layer between you and the cold, wet snow. Depending on your activity, you might want a light waterproof layer or warm puffy pants.
  • Heavy (synthetic) down jacket with faux fur trim. Don’t mess around with winter and get yourself a warm insulated winter jacket. Down or synthetic down is best, but make sure you look for one with faux fur trim around the hood. You’d be surprised how well the trim will cut downwind on your face!
  • Hat and mitts. Top off your outfit with a cozy hat on your head and warm, weatherproof mitts on your hand. Did you know? Your hand will stay warmer in mitts rather than gloves (the fingered ones) because of your own body heat?
  • Hand/ Toe warmers. In case you can’t keep your hands and toes warm, or if you know you’re going to be out in the snow all day, then invest in some hand warmers and toe warmers. They are a lifesaver.
  • Sunglasses. Snowblindness is a real thing. So prepare yourself by bring some polarized sunglasses!
  • Crampons. Crampons are the easiest thing to throw in your bag. And they are so useful to get a little extra traction when you’re out on a hike.

RELATED: The ultimate road trip packing list (+ free checklist)

Best winter destinations in Ontario:

winter in ontario

To recap here are the best places to have a cozy and adventure-filled winter weekend in Ontario:

  • Kingston – for Feb fest
  • Kitchener – for the Christkindl Market
  • Blue Mountain Village – for the Blumination Dream Trail
  • Alton – for the Fire and Ice Festival
  • Elora – for the winter adventures
  • Huntsville – for the snow-covered forests
  • Hamilton – for the frozen waterfalls
  • Niagara on the Lake – for the charm
  • Ottawa – for Winterlude

Before you say “no thank you” to winter, be sure to check out these amazing winter destinations in Ontario for a cozy weekend. Get your Fika on, warm up by the fire or enjoy the magical winter wonderland outdoors. It’s the longest season in Canada, so might as well enjoy it!


Despite the blistering cold, the layers of clothes and lack of sun, there are so many great reasons to enjoy winter in Ontario, Canada! These nine towns across Ontario have embraced the season. So, bundle up and get ready to explore the best winter destinations in Ontario for a weekend getaway. #WinterDestinations #Ontario #Canada #Travel
Despite the blistering cold, the layers of clothes and lack of sun, there are so many great reasons to enjoy winter in Ontario, Canada! These nine towns across Ontario have embraced the season. So, bundle up and get ready to explore the best winter destinations in Ontario for a weekend getaway. #WinterDestinations #Ontario #Canada #Travel

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11 Comments

  • Reply Eunice Tan January 10, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    Great list of winter destinations! Definitely taking note of blue mountain village and Hamilton.

  • Reply Navigation Junkie January 9, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Great post, so informative! I always tended to shy away from going anywhere or doing anything in the winter (I hate the cold!), but recently started going out more…so many great things to do and places to visit.

    • Reply Olivia Rutt January 12, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      I find that the more you look forward to doing in winter, the better the season becomes!

  • Reply Supal // @supaldesai_ January 8, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    Ah I’ve been to Kingston in the summer ages ago, but not in the winter! It looks so incredible charming! I’m hoping to travel more of North America this year, so saving this!

    • Reply Olivia Rutt January 9, 2020 at 8:20 am

      That’s awesome. I kept meaning to go back this summer, but before you know it, it was winter again! I hope you have a blast travelling around the continent. If you need any tips, let me know!

  • Reply May Durkee January 8, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    What an incredible and complete guide. So much to do in Ontario. Loved it!

    • Reply Olivia Rutt January 9, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Thank you! Hopefully, you find a place you’d like to visit 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie January 8, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Great article, thanks for sharing these tips! Now I need to visit Hamilton just to see all of the waterfalls!

    • Reply Olivia Rutt January 9, 2020 at 8:21 am

      Thank you! And right?! There are so many I still have yet to discover!

  • Reply Taylor Deer January 4, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    All of these places look absolutely perfect for a winter getaway! I love Canada during this time of the year because of how cozy it gets. Beautiful photos!

    • Reply Olivia Rutt January 9, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Thank you!! And I know! Winter always seems to be dreaded by so many people, but there are so many great things to do!

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