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Instead of hibernating, consider welcoming the coldest months with a positive attitude.arienne parzei/Handout

Toronto

Why hibernate when you can skate, bike or stroll around the city?

The only way to truly love a Toronto winter is to fully embrace it. Staying sane during the shortest and darkest days requires suiting up and getting outside. From skating figure-eights to alfresco cocktails, instead of hibernating, consider welcoming the coldest months with a positive attitude.

Do An outdoor skate will make you feel like you’re starring in your very own Hallmark movie, and there are dozens of public rinks in Toronto in which to carve a turn. At the Evergreen Brick Works, the skating weaves through snow-covered gardens under exposed beams from the roof of the old brick factory. Or one can chill in the wind chill at Harbourfront Centre’s loop overlooking the lake. And this year, the Bentway Skate Trail has a large-scale installation of sculptural sleds by Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben.

The Bentway Skate Trail has a large-scale installation of sculptural sleds by Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben.Handout

See You know that feeling when astronauts send home photos from space of the universe revealing itself? That’s sort of how I feel when people post photos of the skyline from the Toronto Islands. Book a morning ride with Toronto Bicycle Tours, bundle up, catch the ferry across the harbour and enjoy the serenity of snow and ice during a 3.5-hour excursion around the largest car-free community in North America. Visit landmarks including Gibraltar Point Lighthouse and, naturally, snap some magical shots of the skyline.

Eat and Drink The cobblestone-lined Distillery District does winter right, starting each year with January’s Light Festival. You walk, you shop, you nosh. The district’s best alfresco eating is the year-round patio at El Catrin, where they do authentic Mexican – chilaquiles, pitchers of traditional margaritas – amidst firepits and colourful surrounds. Then there’s Soma Chocolatemaker for postprandial hot chocolate.

The district’s best alfresco eating is the year-round patio at El Catrin, where they do authentic Mexican food.Handout

Stay The Drake Hotel’s new modern wing, with its curated art-filled lobby and rooms, is creative and playful. The pocket-sized bar overlooking Queen West almost feels like an elegant train car. The hotel is also just a snowball’s throw from some of the city’s best independent shops, and Trinity-Bellwoods park for coffee strolls.

The Drake Hotel’s new modern wing, with its curated art-filled lobby and rooms, is creative and playful.Brandon Barré/Handout

Niagara

See the falls from great heights, and get energized at the newly opened Power Station

A few winters ago, the falls froze over – a rare occurrence – so a few friends and I drove to see the spectacle. It was sparkly and misty and blue and white. Frozen’s Elsa would have felt right at home. You come to Niagara Falls to see the falls, so why not experience them and all the surrounding attractions in all their wintry splendour?

Do The Niagara City Cruises and its famous red ponchos may be drydocked for the season, but you can still enjoy the falls in sundry ways. The Journey Behind the Falls experience lets you see them from below and behind, while the Niagara Falls Illumination lights up at dusk and transforms them into a multi-coloured marvel. Or see the falls from on high in a private cab on Clifton Hill’s Niagara SkyWheel, Canada’s largest observation wheel.

See I’m a sucker for decommissioned buildings and light shows, and the Currents at the Niagara Parks Power Station is both: an immersive experience that transports viewers from the Ice Age to the harnessing of the falls to produce electricity, all while you move around the open space surrounded by images of water and light and storytelling.

Eat and Drink For more than 30 years at Casa Mia Ristorante, mother-and-son chefs Luciana and Claudio Mollica have been dishing out everything from homey bowls of housemade rigatoni pomodoro to seven-course tasting menus that flirt with molecular gastronomy, where food and science intersect. Meanwhile, granddaughter/niece Olivia trained at École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in France, worked at Paris’s Hôtel Plaza Athénée, then returned home and opened the nearby Café Fifty Four, where she bakes the best croissants in Canada.

Stay Following a $50-million renovation, the Sheraton Fallsview reopened in July, 2021, with a sleek new design – the lobby is clean and glossy while rooms have the look of a boutique hotel, even though the Sheraton is anything but. It’s got towers and a spa and connects to an indoor waterpark and casino. And don’t worry, it still offers stunning unobstructed views of the thunderous falls.

Note: Inside dining at restaurants and several attractions are temporarily closed and slated to reopen Jan. 31.

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