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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Winter Fitness Fun

Last spring I ran my first (and only) 10 km race.  As a non-runner, it felt like a big deal and necessitated what I considered to be fairly serious training.  Although I’ve never much cared for running, I much prefer being outside to in a gym, and as a person who often struggles to make exercise a priority, committing myself to goals (like a race) has always worked particularly well for me.  But now it’s cold.  Like really, really cold.  And the lure of my fireplace and hassle of schlepping to the gym in the snow has resulted in some slowly atrophying muscles.  When discussing today’s post, Robyn suggested looking into races and fitness events in the Spring for some motivation.  Great idea, I thought, but spring is still months away.  I need to find something to do now.  Enter the winter race!


Turns out there are actually quite a few options for organized outdoor physical activity in Toronto and the surrounding area, from serious triathlons to fun/freezing group bike rides.  I won’t event pretend that I’m about to become a winter runner, but I’ve already signed up to become a member of the Toronto Outdoor Club and if I didn’t already have plans this weekend, I’d be all over Ottawa’s Carlton Cup.  If, like me, you need some motivation to get moving during the cold months ahead, check out some of the options below to get your blood pumping while enjoying the great outdoors.

Toronto Outdoor Club:  The TOC offers a wide-variety of outdoor events year-round, from advanced overnights in Algonquin to early morning urban hikes for dim sum.  The club is free to join and costs to participate are kept as low-cost as possible.  A majority of events take place in and around southern Ontario (with lots to do right here in Toronto), but occasionally the club offers trips to neighboring provinces or travel further away from home.  Apparently the club’s events fill up fast and often result in a wait list, so check out the event calendar now and get yourself signed up!

wall tent night resize

The Carleton Cup, aka “The Ultimate Canadian Triathlon” (Skate – Run – Drink), is an annual race held in Ottawa on the Rideau Canal.  Racers in the Carleton Cup collect pledges to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Canada, then SKATE the canal, RUN through Byward Market to the Aulde Dublinder and then DRINK the beverage of their choice.  The 24th Annual Carleton Cup is scheduled for this Saturday January 26th, but you’re in luck: there is no pre-registration for the Carleton Cup, so if you can make it to Ottawa, simply show up at the Aulde Dubliner on the 26th between 5 and 630 pm to hand in your pledges, register and to receive your race #.  The race starts at 7:45pm.

If you don’t consider drinking beer a sport but otherwise like the sounds of the Carlton Cup, the Winterlude Triathalon might be for you.  Also in Ottawa, the Winterlude Triathlon starts with an 8 km skate on the Rideau Canal, followed by a 5 km cross-country skiing leg, and concludes with a 5 km run.  Early bird registration has already started, but the race itself isn’t until February 2nd, so you still have lots of time to register.  Mandatory race kit pick up is Friday night, Feb 1st between 5 and 8PM.


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