Foodie Guide to Ontario’s Winter Festivals
From wine country to cottage country, the nation’s capital to the north, winter heats up across Ontario with special festivals celebrating the season. Enjoy entertainment, fun activities, events and legendary mascots. But arguably the best part of Ontario’s winter festivals is the delicious food and drink.
Note: some 2022 event details still to come.
The lights are on in Stratford! Explore a light extravaganza with four walkable locations including the Sky Castle installation in Market Square, the interactive Shakespearean Gardens of a Thousand Lights, Journey to the Stars on Tom Patterson Island and Stratford Festival Avon Theatre.
Come for the lights and stay for the bites. One of Ontario’s most prominent theatre, cultural and arts destinations is also home to inviting accommodations, unique shopping, gorgeous galleries and notably diverse food and drink experiences. Perfect for a weekend getaway. Look for signature festivals menus and drinks, follow the chocolate trail or the bacon & ale trail, or both, and don’t miss the over-the-top flavours at Lazy Glaze Doughnuts. Get your South African BBQ fix at the Braai House, head to the Grounded Vegan Café for plant based salads, grills and wraps or tuck into casual Canadian fare at the community-shared, worker-owned Red Rabbit Resto. The Common features an eclectic internationally inspired menu, while Bijou Restaurant embodies the farm to table philosophy.
Dates: December 17 – January 28
Places to Stay: The Bruce, Mercer Hall, The Parlour Inn
Channeling everything Nordic, this winter festival takes place at Harbourfront Centre and will dazzle Toronto’s waterfront with sculptures and light installations from the Fjord Studio Nordic Lights exhibit in Oslo. What’s also cool is the wide variety of amazing restaurants within walking distance from the Harbourfront. Enjoy Chinese cuisine overlooking the lake at Pearl Harbourfront, select from the brew inspired menu at Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto’s largest waterfront craft brewery, or try the speciality flame-seared sushi at Miku. For the ultimate dinner views, book a table at 360 Restaurant, located at the top of the CN Tower, almost 400 metres above the city. If it’s a pastry and coffee you’re after, soak in the Scandinavian vibes at Fika Cafe in Kensington Market.
Location: 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto
Dates: January 19 – February 13
Places to Stay: Radisson Blu Toronto Downtown, Hotel X Toronto, Le Germain Hotel, the Westin Harbour Castle
Explore delicious, innovative, regionally sourced, globally inspired food in one of Ontario’s most exciting foodie cities. Kingstonlicious is a celebration of the best of Kingston’s culinary community. The annual prix fixe event features everything from three-course dinners to casual takeout options from over 40 participating restaurants. Turn date night, girl’s night or dinner with your bestie into a weekend getaway.
Location: City of Kingston
Dates: January 20 – end of March
Places to stay: The Rosemont Inn, Frontenac Club
Indulge in Ontario’s VQA wine culture and thriving culinary scene at wineries across Niagara. Get your Niagara Ice Wine Discovery Pass to sample the finest ‘liquid gold’ from dozens of wineries, paired with sweet and savoury chef-made treats.
Curated food pairings range from ice wine inspired and infused bisques, soups and stews to tarts, ice cream and gelatos. Savour wine country poutine from 13th Street Winery, a taro potato puff and mango sauce from Alvento Winery, Creekside Estate Winery’s beef chili, ice wine glazed buffalo chicken sliders from De Simone Vineyards, spicy pakoras from Flat Rock Cellars and Henry of Pelham’s bacon quiche. Save room for the creamy, mouth-watering crème brûlée from Ridge Road Estate Winery.
Dates: January 14-16, 21-23, 28-30
Places to Stay: Oban Inn, Pillar and Post Inn & Spa, Harbour House
From intricate ice sculptures to ice skating along the Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skate trail, endless frosty fun in Canada’s capital will build up an appetite. Winterlude is one of the largest and most popular winter events in the nation and celebrates Ottawa’s cultural, artistic and culinary diversity.
Warm up with nostalgic treats like hot chocolate, maple taffy, poutine and sweet or savoury BeaverTails. Central to all the highlights and activities, the ByWard Market is Ottawa’s famous foodie hotspot with great restaurants, cafes, bars, stalls and food shops. C’est Bon Cooking gourmet food tours offers guided walking tours to share the food and history of the neighbourhood. Head to Becta Dining + Wine Bar for upscale Canadian cuisine. Have a tea or something stronger at the opulent Moscow Tea Room or raise a glass at the Chateau Lafayette, affectionally known locally as the Laff, Ottawa’s oldest tavern. Get tips on making the best cocktails from various Glebe restaurants, bars and cafes during the Winter Cocktail Corner. And visit the Ottawa Farmers’ Market on Sunday for fresh, local produce and food.
Dates: February 4-21
Places to Stay: Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market, Fairmont Château Laurier, The Westin Ottawa, Les Suites Hotel Ottawa
Bon Soo is a long standing winter tradition that celebrates the season with unique events, entertainment, food and a loveable mascot. Events and activities take place at various locations across Sault Ste Marie, from pancake breakfasts, massive ice slides and the polar bear swim, while headquarters are at The Machine Shop on Huron Street in the Canal District.
Within this historic venue, you’ll find a selection of dining options from the upscale The Mill Steakhouse & Wine Bar to The Boiler Room, a casual wood-oven pizzeria or Blockhouse Pub. Nearby the Mill Market Farmers’ Market brings together the best from Northern Ontario’s lakes, fields, forests, kitchens and workshops each Saturday. From hearty northern Ontario BBQ traditions to authentic Italian and internationally inspired fusion, you’ll find great dining options in ‘the Soo’. Start your day right at the Breakfast Pig Badass Eatery. Sample Indigenous fusion food at Chummy’s Grill, great Italian at Fratelli’s Kitchen + Pizzeria or book the exclusive seven course chefs table at the Taj Indian Cuisine.
Location: Sault Ste Marie
Dates: February 4-13
Places to Stay: Quality Inn & Suites Bay Front, Delta Hotels By Marriott, The Water Tower Inn
Celebrate the Lunar New Year and explore authentic and fusion East and South East Asian cuisine in downtown Toronto’s Chinatown. You’ll find everything from spicy pho to steaming hot pots, dumplings, dim sum, bún, bánh mì, bibimbap bulgogi, sushi, maki and soul warming noodle soups. Toronto’s Chinatown is nestled west of Beverley Street and east of Augusta Avenue on Dundas Street West, and south of College Street and north of Queen Street on Spadina Avenue. Note, additional Lunar New Year celebrations take place throughout the Greater Toronto Area, including Markham, Mississauga and Scarborough.
Location: Toronto Chinatown
Dates: February 1
Places to Stay: The Annex, Kimpton Saint George Hotel, Hyatt Regency Toronto
Celebrating snow and all the things we love about winter, Barrie’s seasonal festival takes place through February and involves indoor and outdoor activities from snow sculpting and winter yoga to wildlife appreciation and unique art installations.
Fuel up at one of Barrie’s epic brunch spots, like Common Good Café & Socialhouse, The Farmhouse on the waterfront or Dunlop Street Diner. Head to B’spoke Kitchen + Market to satisfy a range of culinary cravings or check out the winter menu and signature cocktails at North Country BBQ.
Places to Stay: Horseshoe Resort, Four Points by Sheraton Barrie
Follow a self-guided, socially distanced ice sculpture trail around Bloor-Yorkville featuring some of world’s most iconic destinations. Which will surely inspire you to visit one of the many globally inspired eateries in the neighbourhood, from the flavours of Italy at Buca Osteria & Bar to elevated seafood at Alobar. If you’re looking for spot to sip a beverage, escape to the Writer’s Room Bar, the legendary rooftop lounge at the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel with a bird’s eye view of downtown. To top it off, Bloor-Yorkville Icefest donates to Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charity.
Date: February 8
Places to Stay: Park Hyatt Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel, Windsor Arms Hotel, The Hazelton Hotel, The Anndore House
Hamilton’s Winterfest features over 50 community-run activities across the city ranging from author readings to park tours. In addition to live entertainment, virtual programming makes this urban event accessible to all.
And the best part? Hamilton is one of Ontario’s best destinations for foodies. From creative comfort eats to fine fusion dining, there’s something for every palate and craving, including halal, vegetarian and vegan. There’s also a flourishing craft brew and cider scene. Be sure to include the weekend brunch at the Ancaster Mill.
Dates: January 29 – February 15
Places to Stay: The Pearle Hotel & Spa (Burlington), Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen’s, The Barrack’s Inn (Ancaster)
Historic downtown’s Main Street transforms into a winter wonderland with all your favourite snow based activities like cross-country skiing, skating, snowshoeing and fat biking, lined by bustling shops, restaurants, bakeries and breweries.
Enjoy refined atmosphere at Tall Trees, tasty all-day menu at Algonquin Café and Deli, craft brews and comfort food at Huntsville Brewhouse or dine at local landmark, On the Docks Pub. The sweeping views add to the ambiance at Eclipse Restaurant & Terrace at Deerhurst Resort.
Dates: February 25-27
Places to Stay: Deerhurst Resort, Hidden Valley Resort, 3 Pines Lodge
Last updated: June 2, 2022