As Canadians, we know that frosty temperatures don’t have to put the chill on fun. While the season may look a lot different this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still safely enjoy it.
With lockdown measures in various stages across Ontario, the safest way currently to spend time together as a family is at home. But with the great outdoors just a few steps (or a quick car ride) away, there are plenty of activities well within provincial borders to look forward to.
Before embarking on any activity, be sure to adhere to local public-health measures and advice regarding travel, distancing and masking. And to ensure any activities are COVID-safe and responsible, the best options are excursions that keep you outdoors and bubbled with your immediate household only.
Whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly day trip or a luxury escape, we’ve rounded up some fun, safe activities to try when your region’s COVID-19 measures allow for it.
A cross-country ski or snowshoeing adventure
Feeling like you’ve been stuck inside for a year? There’s nothing like a cross-country ski or snowshoe excursion to get you outdoors and get you moving. There are plenty of Toronto parks suitable for this kind of activity, from High Park to Cedarvale Park to the Etobicoke Creek Trail. Just be sure to dress warmly in layers to stay cozy on your excursion.
The Bruce Trail, which stretches 900 kilometres from Niagara to Tobermory, is beloved by cross-country ski and snowshoeing enthusiasts. But check the official website to find out about COVID-related closures and safety guidelines before planning an expedition.
Downhill skiing at Blue Mountain
Boasting numerous runs and one of the highest verticals in Ontario, Blue Mountain consistently tops the list when it comes to the best ski resorts in the province.
Earlier this season, the Ontario government designated ski hills as an outdoor recreational facility that may continue to operate in the event of provincewide lockdowns. While things can always change, at press time, Blue Mountain is open, with COVID-related guidelines in place.
Just be sure to plan in advance – guests may secure mountain access with a season pass or by purchasing a lift ticket online in advance. Walk-up lift tickets will not be available this season.
Dog sledding in Muskoka
If you thought dog sledding was something you could only do in the northern parts of the country, guess again. Only two hours from the city, Muskoka – otherwise known as Ontario’s premiere cottage country – offers the perfect terrain for your family and a bunch of furry friends.
Huntsville’s North Ridge Ranch is currently operating under COVID-safe guidelines. Each tour begins with a lesson so new dog sledders feel comfortable, before beginning on a scenic 20 kilometre route through the wilderness. Not entirely sure you want to commit to three hours of dog sledding? The company also offers a pared-back, one-hour tour for families with small children who need to make it home for nap time.
Rent a luxury cottage
Looking to get away from the city and spend some time with your immediate family? Why not try a cottage rental? A safer option than a hotel staycation, these rentals are self-contained, with many hosts offering contactless check-in and key drops and the chance to continue your Netflix binge-watching, just in a new and exciting location.
Or, try your hand at glamping. If regular camping isn’t necessarily up your alley, glamping is the next best (and seriously luxe) option. And yes, you can glamp in the dead of winter.
Websites like Glamping Hub feature a variety of chic rentals to choose from, depending on your price point, desired location and just how adventurous you are. (Think yurts versus an insulated cabin.) From Egyptian cotton sheets to private kitchen facilities, these getaways are a far cry from sleeping bags and hot dogs over the fire.
Spend time at the spa
It’s been a hard year, which means that you and your loved ones deserve some rest and relaxation. While we may not be able to jet off to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, the next best thing is right here in Ontario.
Blue Mountain’s Scandinave Spa is currently open with reduced capacity, offering services like registered massage therapy and Scandinavian Baths Hydrotherapy, which allows guests to dip in the facility’s hot and cold baths. A good soak with a stunning view is just what the doctor ordered.
Take a private aerial flight tour of Toronto
Nothing says luxury like flying, right? And while Canadians are being advised to stay put, a private flight tour offers the perfect in-between of safety and indulgence. iflyTOTO, which operates out of Markham, Ont., offers guests an hour-long experience, including a 30-minute flight over Toronto’s skyline and landmarks. COVID-19 safety measures include enhanced cleaning, temperature checks, reduced capacity and masks in the airport.
Enjoy a Michelin-quality meal at home
After a great day out, bring the experience of a five-star restaurant right into your home.
Toronto-based company North of Here is a Canadian hospitality collaborative founded by Chef Roland Torok-Ducharme, who wanted to take his experience in Michelin-starred restaurants abroad and bring it to Canada. Foodies and non-foodies alike can order from a set menu featuring ingredients such as beef tartare and baked sea bream, to be delivered straight to their homes. Each menu contains a recipe card, and the courses all require minimal cooking, ensuring that you can truly enjoy your evening and spend less time in the kitchen.
Or, for nature lovers, how about a late-winter picnic? High Park is a great option for people who don’t want to leave the city but still want to get outside. Local shops offer tasty takeout options, such as Italian sandwiches and tiramisu from Roncesvalles’s Alimentari. Post up on one of the park’s many picnic tables, and top off your al fresco experience with some decadent hot chocolate in a thermos.
Whatever local exploring your family is doing this season, make sure you’re up to date on any local travel restrictions before you hit the road.