5 Festivals and Exhibits that Will Make You Love Winter

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.

Ice Breakers on the Waterfront

Where: York Street Park
Dates: January to February, 2020

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. 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 incredible pieces of artwork from international artists. 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 13 to March 29, 2020

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 theme “Beyond the Five Senses” explores how many senses we really have, and what they tell us about the world that surrounds us and our place within it.

Aerial view of the Beach Winter Stations

Bloor-Yorkville Icefest

Where: Yorkville Village, near Cumberland Street and Bay Street
Dates: February 2020

Now in it’s 15th 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.

Ice sculptures at The Bloor-Yorkville Ice Fest, Toronto

Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition

Where: West Island, Ontario Place
Dates: February to March, 2020

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! Many pieces by local and international artists will be on display, showing off light, temperature and ice in this season’s theme, Cocoon / to Cocoon.

Some installations are interactive, some are meant to mesmerize, and some aim to capture warmth. No matter which installation you stumble across, it’ll get your artsy vibe on and make you appreciate those dark winter nights.

A couple at the Ontario Place Light Festival

Toronto Light Festival

Where: The Distillery District
Dates: January 17 to March 1, 2020

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, German and Swedish artists (to list a few).

The Toronto Light at The Distillery District

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.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.


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Funding Provided By

  • City of Toronto
  • Government of Ontario
  • Greater Toronto Hotel Association

Lead Partner

  • Air Canada
  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Premium Partners

  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Beanfield
  • Casa Loma
  • CN Tower
  • Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre