Family winter getaways in Ontario
What winter days lack in length, they more than make up for in adventure.
Whether you’re drawn to the call of the wild or prefer the warmth of indoor attractions, there’s something special in store for everyone in your family this season.
Check out some of the best winter weekend family getaways in Ontario.
Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton and Niagara
Visit the Toronto Zoo
Embark on a wild adventure at the Toronto Zoo this winter.
This iconic attraction transforms in the wintertime with over 10 kilometres of trails and Canadian and Tundra animals in their natural winter habitats.
At the Tundra Trek outdoor experience, witness majestic polar bears among other snow-loving animals. Four indoor tropical pavilions provide more animal discovery.
Admission rates are discounted in the winter as some animals are not visible in the colder weather. You can also save by purchasing a Toronto CityPASS for discounted admission at even more of Toronto’s top attractions.
With restaurants and cafes on-site, the Toronto Zoo is an enchanting and educational full-day trip for the family.
There are plenty of places to stay in Toronto. Located downtown, the Chelsea Hotel is a great option for families. It features a Family Fun Zone with a pool, indoor waterslide, a teen lounge and educational activities at the kid centre. You can also show your room key to receive a discount at some of the city’s best attractions.
Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens
Explore snow-covered trails, peaceful gardens and scenic landscapes. Visit the Rock Garden and enjoy self-guided activities that allow you to explore and learn as a family. Find conifers and witch hazel outside in the Arboretum or head inside to the RBG Centre to visit the Mediterranean Garden, Cacti and Succulent Collection and Orchid Display.
Waterpark escape in Niagara Falls
If you’re looking for the ultimate indoor winter escape for families, look no further than Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls.
This indoor water park resort offers an enchanting wonderland of fun and excitement with awesome waterpark attractions that’ll send you splashing down water slides, leisurely floating along the lazy river and braving the towering wave pool.
Check out vacation packages to bundle and save on the resort’s top attractions.
Stargazing at Point Pelee National Park
Take a trip to the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland for a unique winter camping and stargazing experience at Point Pelee National Park. Over 12 kilometres of trails undergo a mesmerizing transformation in the winter covered in a blanket of snow.
Designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2006, this park is one of the top locations in Canada to explore the night sky. Evening stargazing events called Dark Sky Nights are hosted on select dates throughout the winter season. Bring your binoculars or a telescope, pick up a seasonal star chart from the front gate and rediscover the stars.
Book a site in Camp Henry and stay in an oTENTik, which is a cross between an A-frame cabin and a prospector tent. These accommodations are heated, sleep six people and are walk-in only with a nearby parking lot available for one vehicle. There are four accessible and two pet-friendly tents available. Book your reservation on the Parks Canada reservations website.
Alternatively, stay nearby in Leamington. The Best Western Plus Leamington Hotel & Conference Centre is a great option and is close to several restaurants.
Snowtubing in Waterloo
Chicopee Tube Park is one of the area’s most popular wintertime attractions for good reason.
The park boasts six different tubing chutes, reaching heights of up to 76 metres (250 feet) and lengths of 274 metres (900 feet). It’s not unusual for this park to hit capacity on weekends. Buy tickets online in advance to guarantee your spot.
If you have time, visit THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener for fun and engaging exhibitions that will entertain the whole family.
Ottawa and Southeastern Ontario
Ice skating in Ottawa
In the wintertime, Ottawa turns into an enchanting wonderland of snow and ice.
Skate along the frozen waterways of Ottawa’s iconic Rideau Canal. At just under eight kilometres, the Rideau Canal Skateway, is the world’s longest skating rink, Skate rentals are available under the McKenzie King Bridge.
Of course, this attraction is weather-dependent. If the canal hasn’t frozen yet, there are several other great skating rinks in Ottawa to enjoy.
Afterwards, treat yourselves to a Beavertail and hot chocolate in the ByWard Market.
Plan your visit to Ottawa during Winterlude, a free festival that takes place during the first three weekends of February each year.
Admire stunning ice sculptures made by artists from around the world and check out Kingdom, a huge winter playground. Additional indoor and outdoor activities and events during Winterlude highlight Indigenous culture and Canadian diversity.
Cross-country skiing in Prince Edward County
With idyllic scenery, culinary delights and a wide variety of places to stay, Prince Edward County offers the perfect blend of outdoor exploration and cozy relaxation.
Visit Sandbanks Provincial Park for a winter escape like no other. With ten kilometres of groomed trails, hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski along the snowy shores of Lake Ontario.
At kid-friendly Parsons Brewing, enjoy delicious fare, hot chocolate and even ice skating on the outdoor skating rink.
Learn to luge at Calabogie Peaks
Located in Ottawa Valley, Calabogie Peaks Resort is the tallest ski and snowboard resort in Ontario. The resorts also offers the unique opportunity to experience the high-speed sport of luge.
Perfect for kids aged 10 and up one-hour luging lessons are hosted between January and March by the Ontario Luge Association, with instruction from former Olympic athletes and coaches. The lesson price includes facility and track fees as well as equipment rentals.
Enjoy comfortable resort accommodations and more wintertime activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, pond staking, ice-fishing and more. Complete your winter retreat with excellent dining options located in the resort and nearby in downtown Calabogie.
Horseback riding in Caledon
Ice skating in MacGregor Point Provincial Park
Located on the shores of Lake Huron near Port Elgin, MacGregor Point Provincial Park is a great destination for a family weekend away.
The park operates a magical, 400 metre ice-skating loop hidden in the heart of the forest. Each day after dark the trail lights up, allowing you to skate under the stars until 10:00 p.m.
Elevate your magical winter experience by staying in one of six yurts available year-round in the park. Each yurt is heated and sleeps up to six people. There is also a firepit and propane barbeque outside. Book online through the Ontario Parks Reservations system.
Bird watching in the Kawarthas
Connect with nature and discover the beauty of Ontario’s winter wildlife on a bird watching excursion in Ken Reid Conservation Area, just three kilometres north of Lindsay in the Kawarthas Lakes region.
Explore over 10 kilometres of trails, including a floating boardwalk, and spot as many birds as you can with the help of their free bird checklist information guide. Bring your binoculars and some hot cocoa on your adventure.
Skate and snowshoe in Muskoka
Famous for its cranberry marsh, Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery is also a wonderful winter destination. In additions to a waterfall, hockey rink, outdoor fire pits and an on-site winery with hot mulled wine, the main attraction is a 1.2 kilometre skating loop with the aptly named Cranboni smoothing the trail.
The trail is open daily between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., with tiki torchlight skating on Saturday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Skate rentals are available on-site.
Other activities include guided farm tours, wine tastings and snowshoeing. Warm up after your skate with some mulled wine or hot cran-apple cider by the fireside patio.
Book resort, lodge or cottage accommodations nearby in Bracebridge or beyond and explore Muskoka’s winter wonderland.
Snow adventures in Mattawa
Situated on 485 acres overlooking the Laurentian Mountains just outside North Bay, Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge boasts extensive trails for cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing and skating.
It’s also one of the few places in Ontario where you can try kicksledding, a Scandinavian sport that’s likened to using a scooter on snow.
Accommodations at Nature’s Harmony range from winterized glamping tents and a Mongolian yurt to log cabins with fireplaces. If you’re visiting for the day purchase day passes to access the resort’s trails and groomed sliding hill. Tubes and sleds are included in the rate while kicksled rentals cost extra.
Looking to add downhill skiing and snowboarding to the agenda? Take a daytrip to Antoine Mountain and shred the slopes.
Winter fun in Sault Ste. Marie
With outdoor adventure, fun festivals and unique attractions, Sault Ste. Marie is a winter destination your whole family will enjoy.
Skate along the waterfront at Clergue Park’s skating trail, a kilometre-long circuit that takes skaters past the Art Gallery of Algoma and the Elsie Savoie Sculpture Park. The trail is open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekends and noon to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays.
For fat biking adventure, head to Hiawatha Highlands, just a short drive from downtown, and set tracks down on the world-class mountain bike trail system. Fat bike rentals are available on site and a daily pass must be purchased to ride the trails.
Immersive and interactive activities and displays put kids in the pilot’s seat at the Canadian Bushplane and Heritage Centre.
Time your visit in Sault Ste. Marie to coincide with Bon Soo, the city’s beloved annual winter carnival. Enjoy live music, entertainment and activities like snow tubing, a polar bear dip and an outdoor obstacle course. Find a tasty spot to eat and drink in downtown Sault Ste. Marie and book your stay at a comfortable hotel or cozy bed and breakfast.
Learn new winter skills in Thunder Bay
Got kids who keep trying to build an igloo in the backyard?
Learn how to build a solid snow shelter from the surrounding natural environment with Outdoor Skills And Thrills in Thunder Bay.
Suitable for all ages and tailored to beginners, including those with limited experience in the outdoors, this fun workshop will teach your family how to build a “quinzee” or shelter in the snow. Available for groups of up to six, the Snow Shelter Adventure can be booked online for quarter-day, half-day or full day sessions.
Or maybe you have budding astronomers in your family.
In Thunder Bay, you’re far enough north that seeing the aurora borealis is within the realm of possibility. At Fort William Historical Park, the state-of-the-art David Thompson Astronomical Observatory is home to one of the largest telescopes in Central Canada, capable of spotting galaxies, planets and nebulae.
Reserve a spot to special Star Walk events offered on select dates throughout the year, including Friday evenings in February from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Alternatively, you can request a private Star Walk experience by phone.
Additionally, every Sunday from early January until March, Thunder Bay hosts the family-friendly Winter FunDays at Prince Arthur’s Landing Marina Park with free activities including snow sculpting.
Last updated: January 11, 2024