Warming up to Winter

It’s cold, slushy, grey and by about 5pm, dark.  Weekday nights out, impromptu visits with friends, and long days spent lounging outdoors are all a thing of the past.  It’s winter in Toronto, and in addition to being cold, you’re getting BORED.  Unless you’ve got the budget (and the job flexibility) to become a snowbird, there’s not a hell of a lot that can be done to escape winter. So, what’s to be done?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that instead of trying to fight it, we embrace it.  From winterized patios to cross country ski trails, there is fun to be had in Toronto in the winter. Bundle up and read on!

Heated Covered Patios. Pay a visit to one of Toronto’s winterized patios and embrace the true north cold and free over with a spiked cider and an open fire. With it’s enormous fire pit and scattered heat lamps, El Catrin‘s huge outdoor patio is tough to beat, but Big Crow gets major cozy points for their Canadiana styled winter lodge, complete with striped wool blankets.  Drake Sky Yard is another great bet.  Generally reserved for the bottle service elite in the summer months, the Sky Yard transforms itself in the winter into a cozy camp-style setting with patio heaters and an open fire.

drake-sky-yard(Image: Connie Tsang/The Drake Hotel)

Toronto Island.  Not a popular winter destination for Torontonians, but why not?  Cross country ski the trails, wander Ward’s Island Village and check out the charming, snow covered wooden houses, go for a skate around the lake front, and then warm your bones with dinner and some hot beverages at the Rectory Cafe. Although many of the island’s attractions are closed in the winter months, that’s what makes it so beautiful.  Dress appropriately, pack some snacks, and if you want to dine at the Rectory, plan to go Wednesday through Sunday.
Toronto Outdoor Club Activities.  Want to get some physical activity in this winter?  Check out the TOC for a wide variety (overnights in Algonquin to urban hikes for dim sum) of outdoor events in and around Toronto.  The club is free to join and costs to participate are kept as low-cost as possible. Events fill up fast and often result in a wait list, so check out the event calendar now and get yourself signed up!

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Toronto Patio Guide

I’m only half kidding when I emphasize that patio season is an official season of Torontonians (and all Canadians, for that matter). There are only a few precious months of the year when we get to indulge in the sun, booze and comraderie all at the same time. It takes a special talent to be able remember all of the hidden gems found around the city, since some of the best patios are hidden on the roofs of buildings away from plain sight and others are secretly nestled in the back of your favorite bars and restaurants.

Below is a list of my favorite patios in Toronto, but first a BIG thank you to BlogTO for creating the most useful app of the summer: Toronto’s Patio Guide.

home screen

The app is quite impressive! The searchable fields pick up on all of the elements you may really care about: neighbourhood, capacity, accepted reservations, heating, coverage, open hours and patio type.  What I especially like is that the types of beer on tap are listed for each establishment. Heaven forbid you get a coveted spot on a patio only to find out they no longer serve Blanche de Chambly!

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