outdoor winter toronto

The top 10 things to do outdoors this winter in Toronto

Outdoor activities this winter in Toronto will help you fight the urge to hibernate as the mercury dips and the city is blanketed with snow. While it's easy to curl up by the fireplace (or space heater, as the case may be), staying active over the coldest months is a great way to burn calories and ward off the winter blues. In other words, the best way to survive winter is by embracing it.

Here are 10 fun things to outdoors this winter in Toronto.

Hit up a skating trail
Skating might be the most obvious winter activity to partake in, but if you're looking to shake things up a bit you might try a skating trail. Instead of circling around an ice pad ad nauseum, the trail at Colonel Sam Smith Park allows skaters to travel in a figure eight pattern across 250 metres, which features a lot more variety than your average rink. Just watch out for slow skaters.

Strap on your skis
The joy of Toronto's ravine system doesn't end when the leaves fall. While most of the groomed areas to cross country ski are located a short drive from the city, High Park has some excellent trails, and many intrepid skiers carve tracks in places like the Moore Park Ravine and the Toronto Islands. If downhill is more your game, you have local options, too.

Go for a cold weather run (possibly in a red Speedo)
Hardcore runners don't hang up their shoes come December. On the contrary, cold weather running helps build fitness and, assuming you're dressed properly, is a relatively warm activity as you're always moving. If you're feeling brave and don't suffer from body image issues, the Santa Speedo run should be on your list of things to do this winter.

Hit the hills!
The cheapest winter activity might also be the most fun. Toronto is blessed with many excellent tobogganing hills that fill up with eager thrill seekers in the wake of fresh snow. For my money, Riverdale Park is the best of the bunch, though everyone will have a favourite hill. If you want to avoid the kids and families, make a night run. Just lay off the booze, ok?

Ring in the New Year with a chill!
Not for the faint of heart, Toronto's annual Polar Bear swims are one shocking way to ring in the new year, but the participants always seem like they're having a good time. Perhaps an icy cold dip is on your bucket list? Head to Sunnyside Beach January 1st -- just be sure to bring a flask with some strong stuff in it.

Catch a wave
And you thought the folks doing the Polar Bear Dip were nuts...winter surfing is actually a thing in Toronto, especially as storms kick up more surf in the colder months than they do in the summer. You'll need a thick wetsuit, of course -- but assuming you don't bail too many times, it's less cold than you might think. Or at least that's what the folks who've tried it will tell you.

Throw some spikes on your bike and race
For the last 13 years, adventure-seeking cyclists have outfitted their bikes with spiked tires to participate in the annual Icycle race held at the Dufferin Grove Park ice rink in ate February. As a spectator, it's wild to see riders lean into deep turns around the corner of the rink, and it's even wilder still to try it out yourself -- though it is amazing how well the spikes work. Proceeds go to help subsidize the medical costs of bike messengers injured on the job.

Play at being Sidney Crosby on an outdoor rink
If hockey is Canada's favourite winter pastime, then shinny is the game at its purest form: skates, stick and gloves. Toronto is stacked with outdoor ice pads for Shinny. Some of the best daily games go down at Dufferin Grove Park, Christie Pits, and Ramsden Park. Weekends are always busy at all the rinks around town.

Try your hand at ice climbing
You'll have to make the short drive to Ancaster to try out ice climbing in real life, but you can build up your climbing strength at any one of Toronto's many indoor rock climbing gyms. The skills are a little bit different between the two disciplines, but there's plenty of crossover as pertains to one's comfort level and strength. Ice climbing is a pure winter sport insofar as it exposes participants to a beautiful environment but poses a serious challenge to be overcome.

Hit up a sugar shack
Maple syrup season takes place in late winter (typically near the end of March), and various conservation centres around Toronto mark the occasion with educational walking tours and massive pancake feasts. The Kortright Centre is a good bet near the city, just make sure to arrive early, as the lineup to access the park can be painful for those arriving in late morning.

What did I miss? Add more suggestions to the comments.

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Photo by Jesse Milns

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