But where to twirl to rocking music, or enjoy winter silence surrounded by snow? Where to find a downtown skate break, or a rink where kids can get ‘edgy’ on their blades? My attitude towards winter? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” So here are some favourite skating places where you can lace up, or Velcro down, revel in exercise and fresh air, and glide happily through the season.
Fantastic Family Fun: The Natrel Rink, Harbourfront Centre
With over 100 skating classes for kids, teens and adults—with the oldest student in his 70s!—as well as skate and helmet rentals, we have no excuse for not lacing up a novice nephew to skate along the beautiful lakeside scenery on Canada’s largest artificial outdoor rink at Harbourfront Centre. Popular DJ Skate Nights every Saturday let us groove under the lights to rock, soul, soca and more. It’s an all-weather blast of fun for families and couples, or anyone who wants to ‘rock’ on skates.
Insider Tip: Rubber mats lead the way from the rink to adjacent buildings so you can walk indoors on your skates for food treats, hot cocoa and a warming fire.
Open mid-November to mid-March.
Nature Immersion: The Evergreen Brick Works Ice Trail
Whenever visitors come to town, I escort them to the Evergreen Brick Works to discover the true green heart of Toronto. In winter, the landscape turns white of course, but as you skate along the Ice Trail (chairs available for tots) or hike the uphill trails, it’s urban nature immersion at its best. Add bonfires, hot chocolate and marshmallows, twinkling lights, farmers selling their wares on Saturday mornings—and the experience here is reminiscent of a Currier and Ives postcard. Skate rentals in all sizes; free skate sharpening.
Insider Tip: Yes, you can take TTC to the Brick Works—free shuttle buses run daily from just north of Broadview Station.
Open weekends and holidays, December to March, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. plus some evenings.
Iconic Urban Fare on the Square: Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall
We parents and kids often head to the expansive ice surface outside our mid-century modern design City Hall. It’s always busy, especially when lit up at night or on weekends. But still we twirl and race and fly under the “Freedom Arches” pretending we are Olympic-like champions. Zambonis keep ice smooth, and benches alongside allow for rest breaks—a terrific opportunity to watch diverse crowds testing their skills. On Nov. 28, the Cavalcade of Lights extravaganza lights up the square with fairytale-like illuminations, music, fireworks and real superstar skaters.
Insider Tip: The square’s new Skate Pavillion and Concession building offers rentals, change rooms, snacks, hot chocolate and a roof terrace for superb viewing.
Open November — March. Rink guards daily, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Shoppers Delight: The Skating Oval at The Shops at Don Mills
We moms are shopping for dashing duds at Toronto’s upscale open-air mall, but things seem to be fitting a little snuggly. So why not bring our skates and work our muscles on Canada’s only outdoor shopping mall ice surface? Even better, the small rink sits alongside food guru Rose Reisman’s Glow Fresh Grill and Wine Bar so after our exercise break, why not reward ourselves with lighter fare such as tapas and doll-size desserts—key lime mousse in a tiny shooter glass? Now if only our waistlines could replicate!
Insider Tip: This small rink is also great for kids, especially during holiday evenings when they can swirl around a Christmas tree—all aglow, with “presents” underneath.
Open mid-November to March.
Downtown Diversion: Lake Devo, Ryerson University
When studying at Ryerson, the small but quirky Lake Devo rink, appointed with huge granite boulders from Muskoka, provided a welcome break from technology and deadlines. This two-timing rink (a small pond in warm weather) is especially beautiful at night when lit up by the new Ryerson Image Centre; Devonshire Square at the corner of Victoria and Gould Streets.
Insider Tip: Bring your hockey stick to evening class. A city Zamboni makes regular trips to clean the ice surface and evening games of pick-up shinny hockey happen spontaneously.
Open daylight until evening, weather permitting.
Note: Be sure to check weather conditions before heading out to any of these skating places, as hours and openings are always “weather permitting.”
About the Author
Kate Pocock is a Toronto-based writer who specializes in family travel on her site Family Travel Link. For more than 20 years, she has travelled around the world with her three kids, and nine nieces and nephews. Kate is also the author of Fodor’s Around Toronto with Kids and contributed 14 chapters to National Geographic Guide to Family Adventure Vacations.