27 wonderful winter festivals in Toronto

by José Gonzalez

It may be cold out, but you don’t have to spend winter under a pile of blankets at home. Or, at least you don't have to do that every day. There are fun festivals happening all over Toronto this winter to liven up the season, and some of them are even held indoors so you can avoid frostbite! [Photo courtesy of Ontario Place]

27 wonderful winter festivals in Toronto

Winter at Ontario Place
Ontario Place experiences a revival of sorts, at least for the winter, inviting people back in to take a stroll through the light displays, cuddle up next to a bonfire or strap on some skates, and hit the ice. While you're there you can also enjoy movie screenings at the Cinesphere or walk through the new Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail.

Next Stage Theatre Festival
Hosted by Fringe, this festival introduces a number of new theatre works. Many of the artists presenting work here are established Fringe veterans, and this festival gives them the opportunity to take their work to the next level, or rather, the "next stage."

Toronto Design Offsite Festival
More than 100 free events, exhibitions and window installations across the city explore the world of design. Held primarily in the west end of the city, many of the displays are between Keele and Yonge, with the majority along Queen Street West. There are symposiums and special passes for those looking to spend a bit more, but if you'd like to keep your dollars unspent, you can still plan a walking tour through the city to check out all the artwork.

  • When: January 15 to 21
  • Where: Various locations around the city
  • Price: Free
  • More information

Canada's Top 10 Film Festival
Ten of the best films produced in Canada in 2017 are screened in this festival. In addition to seeing some of Canada's best films, there are a number of industry events and learning sessions, including conversations with many of the filmmakers.

Soundtrack of the City
Indie music has been a staple of the Toronto scene for a while, and this festival in the Queen/Kensington area highlights some of the music that makes up the city's background ambiance. Performers include Caitlin Stephen, Angèle, Beige Shelter, Boreal, 9 Lives and Counting, Across the Board, Eleanor Shore and Carmen Toth.

Toronto Light Festival
The Distillery District lights up for the winter as this outdoor festival returns. More than your ordinary light display, this is light art that's spread across 13 acres and 44 buildings with in a number of unique designs and patterns.

Dance Ontario Dance Weekend
Twenty five dance companies from around the world bring more than 350 dancers and musicians to a weekend event filled with all types of dance. The festival also includes two world premieres from choreographers Shameka Blake/AIM and Riley Sims/Social Growl. Dancers can also take part in free workshops to hone their skills or explore new kinds of dance.

Poutine Week
Travel around the city seeking out the best poutine you'll find outside of Montreal. A whole week of poutine might be some kind of crime against your waist line, but it only comes around once a year, and you've got a whole spring and summer to work it off.

Toronto Tea Festival
Tea lovers can warm themselves up this winter as they sample the many flavours of teas from around the world. This festival lets visitors sample and purchase teas both trendy and traditional, and visitors can also purchase other tea essentials such as teaware and tea-related products.

Toronto Fashion Week
Every year Toronto keeps up its fashion game, and this fashion week looks to push things even further with a number of fashion shows featuring work by top designers. This year the festival welcomes healdiners Jean Paul Gaultier, Petra Collins, Francesco Carrozzini, David Drebin and many more.

Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival
An outdoor beer festival means you never have to worry about your drink going warm. Craft breweries from across Southern Ontario are bringing some of their best beers for outdoor drinking and eating right in the downtown core. As a bonus, the first 500 visitors will get a free toque.

When: February 10 from 11 am to 5 pm

Toronto Black Film Festival
This film festival features work created by Black filmmakers and artists creating a space for discussions on major cultural, social and socio-economic issues. Entering its sixth edition, this festival champions the work of independent artists creating films that highlight the lives of Black people living around the world.

Winterfolk Music Festival
Concert venues along Danforth host the 16th iteration of this annual festival of folk music. Some of these concerts are ticketed, but you can purchase wristbands that get you into as many non-ticketed concerts as you can handle over the three-day run. More than 100 artists will be participating including Laura Bird, Jerome Tucker Band and Jory Nash.

Next Wave Film Festival
This festival opens up the world of film to a younger audience with screenings for the under 25 crowd, 24-hour movie marathons and a cool fort to hang out in between movies. And the best part? If you're under 25, all the regular screenings are free!

IceFest
The Bloor-Yorkville Ice Fest turns the chic neighbourhood into an outdoor ice sculpture gallery. In addition to enjoying the sculptures, you can watch a live ice carving competition, take a break in the ice lounge or enjoy some warm treats. Previous years have included maple syrup taffy and ice kiddie cubes with collectible toys for two dollar donations each.

  • When: February 24 from 12 pm to 8 pm and February 25 from 12 pm to 5 pm
  • Where: Village of Yorkville Park
  • Price: Free
  • More information

Hungry for Comfort: Surviving a Canadian Winter
It's looking to be one of the coldest winters in years, so this timely new festival will show you how First Nations people and early European settlers in Canada survived the bitter winter. For its innaugural year, this festival focuses on the culinary traditions of the people who lived in Canada centuries ago with speakers, demonstrations, workshops and tastings.

Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival
Laughter is a good way to warm up, and if you need a break from repeats of Saturday Night Live or Kids in the Hall, you can catch some original sketch comedy by some of the city's best comedians. Billing itself as Toronto’s longest running comedy festival, it was founded in 2005 and has become one of the big comedy highlights of the year.

New Creations Festival
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra takes a break from the classics to perform some bold, original new pieces of music. This year includes three concerts: Processions, a piano concerto by Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, Little Mass by Scotland’s James MacMillan and Doctor Atomic, a double concerto by Gary Kulesha.

Winter BrewFest
Try to pace yourself as more than 150 different beers from Ontario and Quebec are on offer at Exhibition Place. Warm yourself indoors with a drink and some gourmet food served from some of the city's best food trucks.

Toronto Storytelling Festival
One of the oldest forms of entertainment, storytelling has been an important part of countless cultures around the world. This festival welcomes storytellers both international and local to regale audiences with stories hosted in venues across the cities.

Celebrate Toronto
Toronto turns 184 this year, so that's as good a reason as any to have a party. Celebrate the city's founding with vendors, shopping, food trucks, interactive activities, skating, a DJ skate party and a photography competition.

New Ideas Festival
New works in the world of theatre take to the literal and metaphorical stage at this juried festival of new writing, works-in-progress and experimental theatre. Each week of the festival explores a different theme with plays through the week and play readings held every Saturday.

Toronto ComiCon
Fans of all things geek-culture are invited to this convention where they can meet many of the creative people who give life to their fantasies. There will also be booths with plenty of shopping deals, an artist alley to meet upcoming talent and undoubtedly many cosplayers dressed as heroes and villains across all franchises.

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