Obviously, we all need to stay home as much as we can. However, if you’re going to go outside for some physical activity, (mask on!), here are some places to safely partake in two of Toronto’s favourite winter activities: Tobogganing and outdoor skating.
The city runs 54 outdoor skating rinks and has officially “sanctioned” nearly two dozen tobogganing hills in local parks. Below we round up some of our favourite spots that we think you and your family could check out.
While all information is current as of publication time, the rules and recommendations around COVID-19 can change rapidly so we recommend checking the city’s skating and tobogganing pages before heading out. And just so that we’re all clear, spending time outside is allowed as long as you use your judgement. Just make sure that your family is feeling healthy, is practicing physical distancing and that you’re all wearing your masks.
To help ensure physical distancing at city operated outdoor rinks, a reservation system has been set up using the same details you use to register for other parks and recreation programs. Head here to secure your family’s 45-minute time slot.
Reservations are released a week ahead of time and book up quickly. However, a few spots are kept aside for walk-ups and you can also try to snag a cancellation which, as this writer has discovered, aren’t uncommon. Just have your family show up early at your preferred rink and register with the person with the clipboard (we’ve also found that going later in the day helps).
Note also that while washrooms are open (where available), skate rentals, indoor changing rooms and lockers are all closed so come prepared. And come with masks. While they aren’t required when on the ice, they are mandatory for when you’re waiting in line or using the washroom. Also required are CSA approved hockey helmets for skaters under the age of six.
Finally, most rinks are equipped with at least one push-style skating aid, but their numbers are limited so if you have a newbie skater in the family, be sure to line up early for your slot.
420 Yonge St
Home to the Barbara Ann Scott ice trail, this downtown destination only opened to the public in 2019, making it one of the lesser known destinations on this list and a quieter alternative to the always popular Nathan Phillips Square. The five-metre wide loop features plenty of seating and also happens to be the most environmentally friendly rink in the city.
Colonel Samuel Smith Park Skating Trail
65 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Dr
While not a long as some of the skating trails you’ll find outside of Toronto, this spot is still one of our favourites because it’s just so pretty! Not only is it surrounded by trees and near the lake, the old power plant-turned-(temporarily closed) change rooms provides a great backdrop for photos with the kids.
455 Cosburn Ave
Tons of families frequent this east end destination, making it a friendly and welcoming spot for young skaters. Just note that all those newbies mean that the competition for skating aids can be tough.
1873 Bloor St W
Set in the always lovely High Park, this option takes the form of the classic outdoor skating rink. It’s also a much safer option than nearby Grenadier Pond, which as of publication time, is still closed to skaters (though it may open later in the season).
2075 Queen St E
While your family can’t (safely) skate on Lake Ontario, they can admire it while taking a spin around this East-end rink. Besides its scenic setting, the rink also features a fire cage (image a fire pit enclosed by a pyramid-shape metal grid), which is sometimes lit in the evenings.
Mel Lastman Square
5100 Yonge St
North York families, we didn’t forget about you! The rink found outside North York Civic Centre is spacious, well-lit and has easy access to such nearby amenities as coffee shops and parking. Just note that it doesn’t have any boards, which could be good or bad, depending on your skating style.
Queensway Park Rink and Trail
8 Avon Park Dr
This long-standing rink is now also home to its very own skating trail, which features plenty of lights for evening skating and plenty of benches for those who are easily tired. While the trail is not as long as the Colonel Samuel Smith Park skating trail, that brevity can be beneficial when you’re skating with little ones!
250 Fort York Blvd
While the Bentway is operated independently of the City of Toronto, it also requires that all skaters register in advance. Registration for the upcoming week opens every Friday at 10am. Time slots are an hour here and masks are required on the ice. And while in years past, the Bentway’s food and drink options have been a great way to top off a fun after of skating along its 220-metre long path, this year all of those options are closed (though washrooms are still available).
No reservations are required to zip down any of the city’s official tobogganing hills, but participants are encouraged to keep an eye on crowd levels so that they can practice physical distancing. And while the city encourages families to stick to the sanctioned hills listed here, we couldn’t help but include a few “unofficial” hills below. Regardless of where your family toboggans, mask use is recommended.
Bickford Park & Christie Pits
400 Grace St & 750 Bloor St W
Technically home to three tobogganing hills, Bickford Park is a great choice for families who are looking for some fun without the speed. If you have older kids who do want to feel that rush, the steeper hill at nearby Christie Pits is worth checking out. Christie Pits is also where you can find washrooms, thanks to its on-site outdoor skating rink.
165 Centennial Park Blvd
Here’s one for the thrill seekers. Besides being home to a (closed during COVID-19) ski slope, this park also has a designated tobogganing one that’s known for its speed. This park is also known for plenty of free parking.
150 Greenwood Ave
This beloved park is a great choice for families with kids of varying ages due to its spacious hill that provides a range of thrills and speeds. It’s also home to a fantastic skating trail, making it an ideal option when some family members want to skate and some want to toboggan.
125 Seneca Hill Dr.
This little gem isn’t listed on the city’s website but we’re highlighting it anyway because it’s such a great option for little ones. Home to a wide, gentle hill, Linus Park is a popular spot for North York families. It also features a great view of the city.
Riverdale Park, East & West
East side: 550 Broadview Ave
West side: 375 Sumach St
Arguably the east-end’s best-known tobogganing spot is technical two parks, split by the Don Valley Parkway. While both sides are popular, the west side is known to have a gentler, more little-kid friendly experience while the east is best suited for those looking for speed.
190 Sherwood Ave
Midtown’s prettiest park also features a variety of levels, as well as plenty of space to pull a sled around, just in case your little one isn’t a fan of hills. Sherwood Park is also connected to Toronto’s underrated ravine system, so if your kids get bored of sledding you can also go for a scenic walk.