It’s that time of year again. Winter has arrived and it’s time to get out and explore some of the most magical towns in Ontario.
There are so many reasons why Winter is the best time to explore. For one, there are way less tourists so you won’t encounter lineups and wait-times. For many of Ontario’s tourist towns, Winter is considered low season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a price drop. And the main reason why Winter is the best time to explore Ontario towns is that it’s the most magical time of the year.
So pack your bags, bundle up, and let’s hit the road!
Recommended by Stephanie from The World As I See It
One of the most magical towns in Ontario to visit in the winter is Bracebridge! While it’s a popular destination in Muskoka in the summer months for water activities, Bracebridge is a wonderful place to visit all year long, especially in the winter! With its convenient location right off Highway 11, it makes for a great day trip from Toronto or even winter weekend getaway!
There are a sleighful of things to do in Bracebridge in the winter! One of the best attractions is the three main waterfalls that can be found right in town. If adventure is what you’re after, strap on a pair of snowshoes and hit one of the many trails in the area. Or head over to Liv Outside Centre to try ice climbing or fat biking!
In addition, there’s plenty to do right downtown! You can take a self-guided historic walking tour to learn more about the town’s history. Or consider some retail therapy, for Christmas shopping or for yourself. Bracebridge is home to a lot of sweet boutique shops, with items ranging from books to local artisan goods.
One of the biggest winter festivals in Muskoka takes place in Bracebridge. Every January the Fire and Ice Festival takes over downtown with a host of fun activities. There’s ice skating, ice displays, fire pits, and more! The main attraction is the epic tubing hill that runs right down the main street!
So, plan your next winter escape to Bracebridge by booking a stay at the historic Inn at the Falls. The hotel is a short walk from downtown and has its very own restaurant.
Recommended by Kelly from Just One Passport
Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is a popular wine region in Ontario, in fact it’s the largest wine region in Canada. However, it’s not just wine that NOTL is known for! It’s a popular year round destination, but the twinkling lights and festive atmosphere make Winter the most magical time of the year to visit NOTL.
NOTL is one of the world’s largest producers of icewine which can be found in abundance during the Winter months. For the non-wine lover and for a unique experience, a visit to the Prince of Whales for high tea will provide a little insight into this long-time British culture.
JUST ONE TIP: January in NOTL is Icewine Festival time, turning the Niagara Region into one large winery fiesta
The outdoor enthusiast isn’t forgotten in NOTL. In fact she is celebrated. Whether you prefer to hike the trail along the Niagara River, skate outdoors, take a horse and buggy ride through the historic streets draped with Victoria architecture, wander the quaint shops along the main street, or snuggle up alongside an outdoor fire, you can’t help but to feel the magic that’s in the air when visiting NOTL.
For those folks who don’t want the Winter magic to end, there are plenty of quaint inns and bed and breakfasts to choose from if you want to extend your stay. For more Winter magic, Niagara Falls is a 20 minute drive down the street.
Recommended by Erin from Pina Travels
Orillia is a large town that’s home to around 30,500 people. About a 1.5 hour drive north of Toronto, it’s nestled between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. Because Orillia is right on the edge of Muskoka, many weekenders know it as the spot to stop for a grocery run or quick lunch on their way up to Algonquin Park or Muskoka.
Orillia has plenty to offer besides a grocery run! It’s a charming town that has museums, restaurants, trendy shops, and plenty of outdoor spaces that are especially gorgeous in the winter.
On Orillia’s main street you’ll find lots of trendy boutiques selling everything from cottage decor to clothing. The Mariposa Market is an Orillia staple, having been on the main street for over 30 years. The Mariposa has a gift shop, bakery, market, and a scent shop. When you’re hungry, head to Studabakers for pub fare, and then drop by Couchiching Craft Brewery for a locally made beer.
If you’re in the mood for some history and culture, head to the Orillia Museum of Art & History, or visit the Leacock Museum. If you’d like to enjoy Orillia’s wintry nature, hike the Scout Valley Loop Trail or drive 10 minutes out of town to Bass Lake. This beautiful little lake is home to one of Ontario’s Provincial Parks. In the chilly months, the park becomes a winter wonderland. You can follow a short trail along the lake and explore the snowy forest.
Recommended by Nina from Ottawa Things To Do
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, and a beautiful place to visit in winter. It’s home to some of the best festivals, activities, and attractions all year round.
Winterlude is one of Ottawa’s most popular annual events that celebrates Canada’s snow-filled season. With ice sculptures, ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, and fun winter activities like snow tubing, it’s a great way to experience the city in a unique way.
Ottawa is also home to some amazing museums that are perfect for exploring during the cold months. From the National Gallery of Canada to the Canadian Museum of History, there are tons of places to explore and learn about Ottawa’s history.
And don’t forget to explore the shops and restaurants around town! From cozy cafes to unique boutiques, there’s something for everyone here. I recommend heading to Sparks Street for beautiful Christmas light displays after dark. They brighter lights in the parks and at Parliament get really busy, but the cute candy cane designs here are so lovely.
And don’t forget to head to Wesley Clover Parks for their drive-through Christmas lights display until mid-January! The proceeds go towards the children’s hospital so it’s a win-win to visit.
The Chateau Laurier Fairmont is definitely the best place to stay in Ottawa.
Recommended by Nina from Nina Out And About
Throughout November and December, the town is overrun by markets. From craft to Christmas, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to support local vendors and find great holiday gifts. In fact, their dog collars and bandanas are especially cute!
The town also has an exceptional range of winter activities, from snowshoeing to ice skating. The nearby trails are great for a snowshoeing adventure, and you can ever tramp alongside the Rideau River (which continues all the way to Kingston).
The free ice rinks around the town are lovely for an outdoor skate, especially the one in Code Park. It has pretty fairy lights up throughout the season.
Stay at the Perth Best Western to be near everything and get to have dinner in their glass solarium, where the twinkling lights indoors reflect onto the outside and make you feel like you’re in a dark night sky preserve!
Recommended by Stephanie from The World As I See It
Set along the Avon is Ontario’s very own Stratford! This magical Ontario town is a must to visit this winter! While many visit for the theatre festival, there are so many incredible things to do in Stratford all year long!
In the winter Stratford is transformed into a Hallmark movie playland of lights and festive activities! New for 2022, visitors will find one of the town’s Christmas Markets at the Tom Patterson Theatre. Inside you’ll find over 50 vendors selling a long list of goodies.
Another must-do for the holiday season is their famous Christmas Trail! The trail brings you to various fun shops around town where you can exchange coupons for unique items ranging from foodie treats to winter essentials! Plus, there are other tasty foodie trails to enjoy too! There’s a Bacon & Ale Trail and a Chocolate Trail!
Another incredible experience during winter is Lights on Stratford’s Winter Festival of Lights! Stratford comes alive with incredible and colourful light displays that range from massive structures to fun displays lighting up buildings throughout town.
If you’re looking to book a winter getaway to Stratford one of the best places to stay is the Edison Inn! Named after Thomas Edison, who once lived in the building that houses the Inn, it has a perfect downtown location. You are steps away from all the best restaurants and attractions in town.
There are many more towns that can be added to the list of Winter Wonderland towns here in Ontario, these are a few of our favourites. What’s your favourite Winter wonderland town to visit.
Happy Winter 🙂 Stay Warm
PIN TO VISIT MAGICAL ONTARIO TOWNS THIS WINTER