winter vacation toronto

The top 10 staycation ideas for Toronto this winter

Winter has dug in its feet in Toronto, which has many of us dreaming about leaving the city for warmer climes or just a cozy resort up north. For those who don't have the time or means to escape Toronto, however, there is another option. The staycation.

Yes, it's an annoying neologism, but it communicates well what this is all about. Taking a few days off without going anywhere. Whether you want to rest up and be pampered at the spa or take in some culture, having a few days to explore your hometown can be every bit as rewarding as a more conventional vacation.

Here are my top stay-at-home vacation ideas in Toronto this winter.

Stay at Toronto's new downtown hotel
The recently opened Delta Toronto Hotel boasts 567 rooms over 40 storeys that tower over the rapidly tourist-drawing and condo-ifying South Core area, which makes it a great place to take staycation. The new space is modern, cheery and colourful, with bold pops of colour in the lobby and some swanky standing bathtubs in the rooms. Not into new? There's always the best luxury and boutique hotels in Toronto.

Try out a new restaurant
Take your pick from a line-up of newly opened eateries or hold out for some of the most hotly anticipated restaurants to come. Last year's most buzzworthy, Bar Isabel is set to branch out with opening of Bar Raval, while newcomers like Kanpai look especially promising with a menu of Taiwanese snack foods and cocktails on draught set to debut in January.

Hit the spa!
A trip to the spa is almost compulsory if you're planning a so-called staycation. Fortunately, Toronto is stacked with options when it comes to pampering oneself. Make your hotel choice based on its spa service, and then relax.

Immerse yourself in film
The Kubrick exhibition might be closing on Jan. 25, but there's lots of other film events to get you out of your house or hotel room. Look out for fests like Human Rights Watch (Jan 30 - Feb 1), The 8 Fest (Jan 30 - Feb 1), Great Digital (Jan 30 - Feb 5), Black Film Festival (Feb 10-15), and Reel Artists (Feb 18-22).

Revisit the 1980s art scene at the AGO
You wouldn't feel like a tourist in your own city if you didn't hit up a major art gallery, and what better time to do so? This will be Canada's first large retrospective of the NYC graffiti/fine art artist. Basquiat's often massive paintings are fascinating to behold in person, as child-like sketches and sardonic scrawled wordplay tackle issues of racism, social justice, and politics that are unfortunately just as relevant today.

Watch the sun set from the bar at Canoe
Having dinner at Canoe has become a bit too touristy for my taste. Having an early drink at the bar, on the other had, is something that more people should indulge in. Watch the sun set over the inner harbour over drinks that cost the same about the same as restaurants in the area that lack a view. The planes landing at Billy Bishop are also pretty cool.

Take in the power of Wagner
How often do you get to the opera? Thought so. Taking a few days off in one's own city is the perfect opportunity to get down to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts to take in some of the most powerful music you'll ever hear.

Have a drink in a cavern
The thought of a bar inside a hostel sounds less "cozy night out" and more "$10 for multi-shot drinks in a jug," but that's not the case here. Luckily, the Hostelling International in-house bar does offers both, living up to its name with low, sloping exposed-brick walls and long communal tables.

Shop 'til you drop
It wouldn't be a vacation without a little bit of shopping, now would it? Fortunately, Toronto's retail scene has never been stronger. Hit up one of our new fashion or design stores or check out all the international brands that opened up shop in this city last year.

Go for an outdoor swim in the freezing cold
It's always nice to give the middle finger to dropping temperatures by engaging in some activity that you're not supposed to be able to do -- like, say, swimming outdoors. You won't want to try this out the pool at home (really, please don't do that), but the massive indoor/outdoor pool at the Sheraton Centre is open right through the cold months. Day passes for non-guests are $35.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions in the comments.

Photo of the new Delta Toronto


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