I don’t know about you, but I still love getting outdoors, even in the cold weather. I think this was a great year for Toronto with the opening of the Bentway, more Christmas markets than ever and now ‘Winter’ at Ontario Place.
Ontario Place really went all out, turning the property into a magical winter wonderland that lights up with twinkle lights, art from local artists and a bonfire at sunset. The festival started late 2017 and will go all the way until March 18, 2018.
At dusk until midnight the island is illuminated by 12 exhibits created by 20 artists. We saw bridges lit up with falling snow flakes (Bridge of Imagination by Phil Sutherland and Reana Niceforo)A giant lit up icicle hanging outside of the silo’s by the old log ride (Icicle Silo by Chris Foster) and a mirrored box, large enough to stand in that overlooks the seemingly endless Lake Ontario ( Expanded Horizon by Polymetis). The soft, fat snowflakes falling onto the ground while the lake quietly lapped at the shore made for the perfect setting.
Be sure to have a walk over to the West Island to see a forest of tree’s lit up with twinkle lights- over 180,000 to be exact! It looked like it could have been the backdrop to a scene from a romance movie.
After enjoying the artwork and taking in the scenery we headed to Ontario Place’s synthetic ice rink. This was my first time ever skating on synthetic ice and it did take a little bit of getting used to. It doesn’t feel right at first but after a few laps I got more used to it. I would have still preferred the real thing. It might be the Canadian in me.
The rink was perfectly set with the background of the lit up Cinesphere. It’s also near a BeaverTail food truck and a small cafeteria like indoor area. Perfect for lacing up your ice skates on their picnic tables (If you don’t bring your own you can rent a pair for $10). We saw some families snacking away on your typical rink style food, think hot dogs and fries. We grabbed a cookies n crème BeaverTail and some hot chocolates to warm up. If these options don’t sound to your liking, maybe bring some food from home for the kids or yourselves to eat in the cafeteria, there wasn’t too much to choose from to be honest, but we made it work.
If you wanted to catch a flick, the Cinesphere has reopened! They’re showing a variety of movies for all ages and the night we were there they were screening Lady Bird. Tickets are $15 for adults and $11 for children. You can see what’s playing at Ontarioplace.com.
The perfect ending to the evening and my very favourite part of the Winter fest was the Bonfire. It’s located just a short walk away from the rink (behind the BeaverTails truck) and they start lighting it at 6pm. You can sit in giant Muskoka chairs or on the surrounding stone logs and maybe roast a marshmallow or two. It was very peaceful and right by the lake and reminded me of camping as a kid.
One thing that really surprised me was the lack of attendance. I’ll admit we were a little late to the game in checking the grounds out a few months into the festival, but we went for a skate on a Saturday around 4pm, walked the grounds, admired the artwork and had a quick sit at the bonfire and saw less than 20 people. I don’t understand why, as we did have a really good time on the grounds and would recommend this to family and friends. Maybe it’s because this was its inaugural year, or maybe it’s because they needed a bit more advertising. It’s hard because we drive by Ontario Place all the time and you can’t really see the festivities from the roadway, so it’s almost hidden. (They do have opening hours and their Winter at Ontario Place logos on a sign near the roadway though) Come to think of it, we weren’t even sure where to park or enter the grounds when we first arrived.
I’m going to chalk it up to the first year kinks that still need to be worked out, but I’m really hoping this won’t be the last. It’s really fun for families and adults alike and it’s the perfect excuse to get out of the house when a lot of us just want to bundle up inside and hibernate. Also, did I mention that other than the skate rentals it’s free! I’d encourage you to go check it out before it shuts down for the season, and I’m hoping they’ll be back and can’t wait to see what art installations they come up with next year!
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.