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Toronto Travel Guide: Toronto 2010 Winter Acrtiveties

Looking for a physical challenge or a change of scenery? The winter holidays are the perfect time to take advantage of cold weather perks, explore the GTA’s stables, ice rinks, hills and trails, or take in some culture and learn a new skill.

Outdoor Winter Activities:

Cross Country Skiing at Albion Hills
Throw on your warmest clothes and adventurous spirit and get out there for some physical fun. Albion Hills Conservation Area, north of Toronto, has more than 1200 acres of hills, trails and forest catering to beginners and experts.  Equipment is available on-site for half or full-day rental. A heated café and additional winter activities are also offered at the conservation.

Downhill Skiing
Instead of lamenting the season’s fluffiest visitor, take advantage of the snow and spend days off on the slopes. For those new to the sport, most ski resorts offer beginner training programs and packages. Here are some skiing destinations in the GTA:

If you’re in the Durham region, check out Brimacombe: Oshawa Ski Club and its ski and snowboard Discover Packages — $48 to $70 gets you a four-hour equipment rental, a class and a lift ticket. 

The Horseshoe Valley Resort is just one hour north of Toronto. Order online for special rates, or look into planning a group package. If you feel like going all out, make a trip out of it and stay at the hotel.

Torontonians might find the Earl Bales Ski & Snowboard Centre or Centennial Park Ski & Snowboard Centre more accessible. Friday nights are Teen Night, where skiers ages 13 to 19 receive double their purchased time, and Saturday nights are Family Night, during which adults can ski or snowboard for $18, and up to two children participate for free.   

Outdoor Skating at Nathan Philips Square or the Harbourfront Centre
The pool at Nathan Philips Square becomes a popular free skating rink each winter, open seven days a week to the public with rentals on-hand. It is one of the only rinks that is exclusively open for public skating, so bundle up and pop by any time between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Free, all-ages, Skate Culture events at the Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink take place all winter, including Learn to Skate programs, DJ Skate Nights and HarbourKIDS:SK8 weekend (unveiling the new Natrel Kinder Rink). Skate for free at the Harbourfront Centre every day of the week (10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun-Thurs, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri-Sat).

Visit the Toronto Zoo
Toronto’s animal haven is open all year round, so warm up with a hot cocoa and have a gander at snow leopards, Arctic wolves, elephants and more. Most of the animals are still visible throughout the winter and are said to be more active in cooler climates.

Indoor Winter Activities:

You don’t have to get out in the cold to get out of the house. For the most part, these indoor options will give you and your children a workout, or get them learning a new skill.

Martial Arts
Days off from school can make kids a little rowdy. Find a way to direct that energy in a positive way. Martial arts are great for keeping kids in check and focused on something besides the TV and junk food. There are also plenty of options available for those looking for self-defense courses for kids and parents to take together. Martial arts courses are available in Toronto, Brampton, and the Durham area.

Indoor Horseback Riding
Ever been horseback riding? The winter season is a great time for kids (and parents) to discover a new hobby, or brush up on old skills. Creditview Stables in Brampton offers a number of programs ranging from introductory courses to preparation for show rings. All riders eight years and older can take part. Don’t worry about cold weather — the indoor arena accommodates year-round riding and training.

The Movies
If you wanna keep it low-key and stay indoors, check out the movies playing around the city. Winter picks, like Disney’s A Christmas Carol (also available in 3D), Fantastic Mr. Fox, Hoodwinked Too! The Hood and the Evil, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, guarantee a hearty helping of family fun. Besides the big theatres, there’s always something new and old playing at the local repertory theatres like the Bloor Cinema and the Royal Cinema.

Golf in the wintertime? Fore sure! Indoor golf is a great way to hone skills off-season. Repeat tricky holes a few times and watch your handicap fall. Or, drop in and play for a quick hour — no 18-hole commitments here. It’s great for young players trying to get their game up to par on the state-of-the-art simulators. 

Mini Golf
If your kids prefer mini-golf, they can putt their way through cosmic mini-golf courses around the city. With glow in the dark sets and holes ranging from easy to challenging, kids of all skill levels can work on their hand-eye coordination and laugh their butts off in the process. Head to a Putting Edge Fun Centre — they have lots of locations around the GTA.

The Wave Pool
This is no place for structured swim, so don’t bank on perfecting that front crawl. The Wave Pool takes swimming to the next level, with three-foot waves for swimming, surfing or riding a mat — not to mention a huge, twisting water slide. 

Playdium Playdium is kind of the equivalent of a kid-friendly nightclub. It all happens under neon lights, only the dance floor is replaced by row upon row of interactive games — video games of all kinds and ticket-spewing redemption games. Top it off with a treat from the concession and they’ll be in paradise.

Wander the Museums
Mummies and science and sleepovers, oh my. Take advantage of time off by soaking up a little culture with the kiddies. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are old faithful choices, each boasting hours worth of stimulation. The ROM hosts monthly sleepovers for children with varying themes, like dinosaurs and Egypt. The Ontario Science Centre is a hotbed of learning and interaction, especially with the addition of family-friendly workshops (check the schedule for dates). There’s also plenty to learn about our fine city at Toronto’s historic museums.

Toronto for Free:

Sports, walking tours, pensive workshops and general tomfoolery. But all of these indoor and outdoor activities have one great thing in common — they won’t put a dent in your wallet.

Tobogganing is definitely a rite of passage for Canadian kids. Here are a few hill possibilities, but check parks near you for more convenient options. Tubing rentals are also available at some of the resorts. Trinity Bellwoods Park, High Park, Blue Mountain and Horseshoe Valley all have great hills.

Libraries throughout the GTA are constantly hosting cool interactive events and workshops. And the best part is, they’re free! Children can participate in arts & crafts and concerts, as well as storytelling and writing programs. Teens have open mic nights, leadership programs, crafts and discussions.

Brush up on your backstroke, breaststroke, or even the illustrious butterfly stroke — or just splash around. Knowing how to swim is an important skill for children and a fun activity all-year round. Practice swimming in your local indoor pool — call (416) 338-7665 to find info about pools around the city.

Discovery Walks
Exercise + nature + history = free? Yes, this equation is actually quantifiable. With a vibrant city at your fingertips, the Discovery Walks program is a perfect way to spend a day (not a dollar) learning about Toronto and spending time outdoors. Grab a map, frolic in the snow and watch natural, cultural and historical features unfold before your eyes. Maps are available at civic centres or print one off the web. 

Indoor Leisure Skating Rinks
Outdoor skating is one of the quintessential Canadian winter pastimes, but if cold tushies aren’t your thing, and you still want to get your ice on, head to one of the city’s indoor skating rinks. Check the Toronto skating guide or call the skating hotline at 416-338-RINK to find a rink nearest you and hours of operation.

Riverdale Farm
They all know the story of Old McDonald, but many city kids have never seen a working farm in action. Feeding animals, collecting eggs, grooming horses and milking cows and goats are some of the many activities that take place daily at Riverdale Farm. Children can interact with farmers and spend time wandering the area, while preschoolers socialize and play with books, puzzles and games in the meeting house playroom.

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