Toronto’s Winter Traditions
By Cristina Cantarelli
Sure, it can get a little nippy over here. Your toes might curl up and your fingers might go numb but Toronto has always been one of the best cities to take in the winter season. Although the sun hibernates for a few months, our city doesn’t! There are many winter traditions you can join in that will give you a local experience and make you forget about the cold and frost!
Cavalcade of Lights
The Cavalcades of Lights celebration officially kicks off the spirit of the season in Toronto. For almost 50 years, thousands of Torontonians have flocked to City Hall in November to see the illumination of this 50-foot tree. Grab a Timmy’s hot chocolate for the firework show and watch some of the best performances in Canadian music.
Polar Bear Dip
Hang up that snowsuit and dust off the bikini! Every year on January 1st, Torontonians strip away the layers for a jump into Lake Ontario. The Toronto Polar Bear Dip has been an annual tradition at Sunnyside Beach for almost 15 years but it’s not just to get rid of our New Year’s Eve hangovers. The event helps raise money for Habitat for Humanity and build housing projects in Toronto.
One of my favourite winter memories as a child was tapping real maple syrup. Just a few minutes from downtown, Black Creek Pioneer Village is Toronto’s largest outdoor living history museum and it is an especially nostalgic tradition for families during March Break. The maple syrup festival takes place in a re-created village from the 1860s. It’s a unique experience of what it was like to live in rural Ontario complete with Victorian costumes, horse-drawn wagon rides, and sugar bushes where you can learn to boil real sap in a traditional syrup cauldron just like our early settlers once did. Brewing sweet Canadian maple is sure to get you all warm and fuzzy inside, no matter how cold our winters get.
Even in minus 30 degree weather Torontonians are an adventurous folk. Tobogganing is one of our past times and with more than a dozen hills in the city, you don’t have to go too far to find a good slope. Centrally located, Christie Pits and Trinity Bellwoods offer a variety of hills from beginner to more advanced. Just south of the city, all the tobogganing action is at Riverdale Park. Here you’ll get traditionally straight slopes and some of the best views of city every time you climb to the top. If you’re a winter sports connoisseur head West to High Park – you’ll be sliding in the background of some of the tallest, picturesque trees! In the summer they bloom colourful cherry blossoms. In the winter they’re beautifully blanketed in sheer white snow.
In Toronto, we like to turn our summer pools into ice rinks and that’s exactly what we do at Nathan Phillips Square. Torontonians have been skating their way to this square for over 40 years and if you ask the locals they will tell you some of their fondest childhood memories took place here. The rink is located under our distinctive City Hall towers and in the backdrop of our Tree of Lights. You can glide under the Freedom Arches or go for a skate at night when the rink illuminates with sparkly holiday lighting and vibrant music. No skates? You can rent a pair for just a couple bucks an hour.