Whimsical Winter Art Festivals and Exhibits in Toronto

Grab some friends and enjoy the outdoor art and light exhibits Toronto winters are known for. Local writer, Jenn Weatherhead Harrington, rounds up the art, ice installations and most creative use of lights you’ll want to see around this season.

Winter is one of the most exciting times of the year in Toronto, especially when it comes to art. The city comes alive with incredible outdoor art exhibits, yearly festivals and new attractions. Bust out the layers and get ready to take in some of the best and coolest art the city has to offer this winter season.

Ice Breakers on the Waterfront

Where: Queens Quay West
Dates: January 19 to February 24

It’s no secret that the waterfront in Toronto is the place to be in the summer months. But come winter, you’d be missing out if you bypassed the waterfront thinking it’s just a summer destination.

Those frosty shores come alive with inventive and mind-blowing, large-scale art exhibits from January 19-February 24 this year. The PortsToronto wanted to bring warmth, light and brightness to winter along the urban waterfront and has been housing buzz-worthy (and Instagram-worthy) art installations for the past few years.

The winter-themed public art exhibit showcases five incredible pieces of artwork from international artists. This year, you can expect to see “colours, kaleidoscopic mirrors and arches of sweet-sounding bells”. Don your best winter gear and head to the waterfront for your new profile pic and be in awe of the artwork.

Beaches Winter Stations

Where: 1675 Lake Shore Blvd E
Dates: February 18 to April 1

Much like the Ice Breakers on the Waterfront, the Beaches Winter Stations is all about celebrating and enjoying the beaches of Lake Ontario in the colder months, and it is truly one of the best parts of winter in the city.

Each year, the Beaches area in the east end of Toronto gets dotted with art installations that take your breath away, make you want to take photos from every possible angle, and leave you thinking “how’d they do that?!”.

This year’s lineup under the theme “Migration” looks to be fitting in all of those: a forest of butterflies crafted in yellows, oranges and reds to mimic monarch butterflies; The Mind Station, where you can pop your head out of the interactive installation; two sets of stairs climbing over a wall; an installation that reflects on human movement; and finally the lifeguard tower reimagined in a cool installation of towers at different levels. Get your camera ready.

Bloor-Yorkville Icefest

Where: Yorkville Village, near Cumberland Street and Bay Street
Dates: February 9th, 2019 (12PM-8PM)

Now in it’s 14th year, the Icefest in Yorkville has become one of the coolest winter traditions in Toronto. Ice sculptures line up the neighbourhood, showing off just how beautiful the cold and winter can be. Also on hand each year is live ice carving so you can marvel at how blocks of ice turn into artful masterpieces.

In past years, you could walk through an icy forest of trees, next to ice woodland animals, giant snowflakes and castles. You can also warm up with some maple syrup taffy and, of course, indulge in some hot chocolate.

Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition

Where: West Island, Ontario Place
Dates: November 23, 2018 – March 17, 2019

Ontario Place is another spot in the city that you may think is just fun in the summer but you’d be remiss not to check out the Winter Light Exhibition on the west island this season! 18 pieces by local and international artists are on display, showing off light, temperature and ice in this season’s theme, Disruptive Engagement.

Some installations are interactive (go on and give a hug to the Warm Hug piece and see it light up!), some are meant to mesmerize (the multi-dimensional Obscura will likely take up a lot of photos on your phone), and some aim to capture warmth (the glow from the Greenhouse installation will do the trick!). No matter which installation you stumble across, it’ll get your artsy vibe on and make you appreciate those dark winter nights.

Toronto Light Festival

Where: The Distillery District
Dates: January 18-March 3, 2019

Enter the free light exhibition in the historic Distillery District–a way to brighten, lighten and make winter hip, fun and interactive. The result is a magical, urban, outdoor art exhibit unlike others in the city.

For artists, it’s a chance to play with the medium of light and how it can be manipulated and transformed. For visitors, it’s a way to see incredible art outside for free. Last year’s exhibits showed off work by American, Canadian, Japanese and Dutch artists (to list a few).

About the Author

Jennifer has been jetting around the world for the past 12 years, finding hidden gems, idyllic luxury hotels and off-the-beaten-path destinations. In Toronto, she calls the Bloor West/High Park area home sweet home. Her byline has appeared in The Globe & Mail, ELLE Canada, HELLO!, FLARE, FASHION, Metro News and more. She runs her own travel website, TravelandStyle.ca – a stylish online destination focused on finding beauty and style in travel.

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