Winter delights: Ontario’s coolest outdoor activities, and where to eat along the way | Ontario Culinary
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Winter delights: Ontario’s coolest outdoor activities, and where to eat along the way

A group of people gather around an outdoor firepit at West Avenue Cider House

Guests at West Avenue Cider House in Freelton can book a personal outdoor firepit. KAYLA BETH PHOTOGRAPHY

Ready to experience all that winter in Ontario has to offer? Here are the province’s coolest outdoor activities, plus must-visit pit stops and (of course!) where to eat along the way.

Bundle up for a walk-through light show in the Heart of Ontario

Take a jaunt to the Hamilton/Halton/Brant area for an illuminated walk in the woods at Winterlit, along the wooded trails at Mountsberg Conservation Area. There are stunning light displays and art installations to enjoy, and even soundtracks from local musicians.

Antiques displayed on shelves

Nearby hotspot: Make a pit stop at Freelton Antique Mall on your way to the trail, where you can shop from over 200 vendors offering unique antiques and collectibles.

Local eats: Head over to Freelton’s Feast On-certified West Avenue Cider House, which serves up a wide variety of ciders to try – think Spanish-style sour cider, Kentucky bourbon barrel-aged cider, not to mention a classic version made from 100-per-cent Ontario heritage apples – alongside simple but satisfying snacks. There’s pizza, sausage rolls and charcuterie and cheese plates featuring some of Ontario’s best cheese and cured meats. Bonus: guests can book a private firepit in the cidery’s meadow for an extra-cozy meal.

Skate your way through a park in Brampton

Grab your skates for a trip to the Chinguacousy Park Skate Trail. Designed in an irregular ‘canal’ shape, this 2,000-square-metre trail is perfect for skaters of all skill levels.

Nearby hotspot: Enjoy all the park has to offer with a scenic walk past the Chinguacousy Park Greenhouse to the Clock Circle. Then, take in more sights to see at Historic Bovaird House, a mid-19th-century Ontario farmhouse and Brampton’s only historic residence that’s open to the public (tip: if you time your visit right, you can get in on a free tour of the residence).

Local eats: Warm up from your time outside with a bit of spice at Get Grill, where chef Bab T marries the flavours of his Nigerian heritage with Asian and other international cuisines. Try a tasty wrap or bowl – there are steak, chicken, seafood or veggie options – featuring a wide array of flavour profiles including jerk, suya, shombo, basil, tandoori and Mediterranean.

Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in the snow in Hastings County

If you’d like a winter experience right out of Narnia, head over to Littlebrook Farm in Madoc, which offers horse-drawn carriage tours of the region’s backcountry trails. Guests can take in the wintry views – and even spot wildlife – in comfort thanks to the farm’s hard-working horses, Guinness and Cocoa.

Two horses pull a carriage through the snow in a forest

Horses Guiness and Cocoa are the stars of the show at Littlebrook Farm in Madoc. GABRIELLE ASCOTT

Nearby hotspot: Eagle’s Nest Lookout is a must-visit for the breathtaking views.

Local eats: Round out your day with some sweet treats from Madoc’s Hidden Goldmine Bakery. The butter tarts here are renowned, but you might also want to dig into some wintry specialties like mincemeat tarts and pies, shortbread, gingerbread – and you can’t go wrong with their good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies.

Visit a ski resort in Simcoe County

Get out in the snow at Horseshoe Resort where you can try out a world of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, skating, fat biking and even snowmobiling, all in the scenic surroundings of Horseshoe Valley and the Copeland Forest.

Skiiers and snowboarders hanging out slope side

Horseshoe Resort in Barrie offers outdoorsy fun for the whole family.

Nearby hotspot: Take warming up to the next level with a stay at Vettä for a Finnish Nordic Spa experience. Recharge with the age-old Finnish tradition of hydrotherapy, visit the steam rooms or indulge in a massage, all while surrounded by nature.

Local eats: Keep the coziness going at The Common Stove. Built around a wood-fired grill, the ambiance is warm and welcoming, while the menu is stacked with locally-sourced meats and vegetables.

A selection of meals on dishes on a wooden table with flatware and a glass of red wine

Orillia’s The Common Stove serves up hearty meals featuring locally-sourced ingredients.

Try snowtubing in Perth County

During the winter months, River Valley Golf Course transforms into a thrill-seeker’s dream thanks to its 800-foot-long tubing slides. Visitors can fly down the hill solo or link up to four tubes together for a group ride, but either way, they’re guaranteed an adventure. Be sure to stop by the property’s newly-renovated chalet for home-made fries and a warm drink.

Nearby hotspot: Get a hit of history at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, which is “devoted to the study, display, and interpretation of the human occupation of Southwestern Ontario over the past 13,000 years.” In addition to its indoor exhibits and activities, including paint nights, the museum also offers access to the Lawson Architectural Site, a sixteenth-century, pre-contact Iroquoian village where visitors can check out a reconstructed longhouse.

Local eats: Located in charming Listowel, Hōm offers elevated comfort food that won’t break the bank. Opt for oat-crusted chicken breast served with pumpkin gnocchi, house-made linguini or a perfectly-cooked steak. Or, visit on a Tuesday to experience the restaurant’s seasonal five-course tasting menu.

Check out a light festival in Niagara

Canada’s largest free outdoor light festival, the Winter Festival of Lights, returned this November and runs until February, boasting spectacular displays with millions of lights and larger-than-life displays. To commemorate 40 years of the festival, they’ve added a new illumination light show inspired by winter in the north. There’s also a self-guided hot chocolate trail that promises an indulgent winter warmer for every taste. The trail hits 17 restaurants and bakeries across Niagara Falls, where visitors can try versions of hot chocolate made with mint, orange or s’more flavours, as well as cocktails made with homemade marshmallows.

Nearby hotspot: Keep up the pace with a visit to Woodend Conservation Area for a winter walk down the trails to take in views of Lake Ontario and the escarpment. Or, take an indoor break with a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory, an oasis featuring more than 2,000 butterflies fluttering amid tropical plants and trickling waterfalls.

Local eats: Head to Redstone Winery in nearby Beamsville for an indulgent meal at its Feast On-certified on-site restaurant, where locally-sourced ingredients and alcohol are the stars of both the food and cocktail menus.

Bonus: the Niagara Icewine Festival is back!

Calling all wine fanatics! The Niagara Icewine Festival is (finally) back in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In January, experience the best that winter in wine country has to offer with the Discovery Pass, a passbook containing eight experience vouchers, redeemable at participating wineries. The event kicks off with the annual Icewine Gala, Canada’s largest black-tie dinner and most luxurious VQA Icewine and table wine-tasting event, with more than 35 wineries represented.

Fall in love with the Great Taste of Ontario again and again.

Visit to download curated passports to our province’s most delicious destinations.