Winter is upon us in Canada, which means you might be thinking we’re all in full hibernation mode.
How cold does it get in Toronto? We get asked that a lot. Our answer is, yes, it does get cold, but not as cold as you might think.
Below is a comparison of average temperatures for various major North American cities over the course of the year (we left off Los Angeles and Miami because, well, no need to rub it in). You’ll notice we’re about the same as Chicago and Boston, and warmer than most other Canadian cities throughout the year, which isn’t surprising given that we’re farther south than all of them.
You may not be surprised to learn that Canadians spend a lot of time talking about the weather. In everyday parlance, you’ll hear many Canadians refer to something called “wind chill.” This is technically a measure of the wind’s cooling effect on the skin. So on a typical winter day in Toronto, the temperature might be 0 degrees Celsius, but we say it “feels like” -7 with the wind chill.
Meteorologists tend to get ruffled about our wind chill obsession, as it often becomes a way for us to gripe about the weather being much worse than it actually is. That is, we say the wind chill temperature rather than the actual temperature to be extra dramatic about the cold we are experiencing.
The thing to note about winter in Canada is there’s generally a trade-off between temperature and sunshine. On the coldest days of the year in Toronto, you’ll have crystal clear skies and gorgeous sun. You’d probably still prefer to be on a beach, but there’s nothing more refreshing than a crisp, sunny winter day. As long as you dress for it, it’s beautiful.
More on that point – winter apparel. It’s serious business here. It’s no coincidence that the king of the fashionable parka, Canada Goose, is made right here in Toronto. (And by the way, the company just launched a new line of Inuit-made parkas in New York last week.) We pride ourselves on stylish practicality, and homegrown Canadian brands like Roots, Lululemon, Mackage, Arcteryx, Moose Knuckles, and Aritzia have taken up the mantle on helping Canadians look good and stay warm all winter long.
We also stay active all winter long. From ice sculpture festivals and Holiday Markets, to skating rinks, ski hills, and trails around the region, there are countless ways to enjoy the outdoors over the course of our long winters. But even if you don’t want to go outside, there’s so much to do indoors, that you might find winter goes by much faster than you think.
One of the things I love about winter is it gives me time to catch up on all the cultural activities our city has to offer. The last thing I want to do when the sun is out and it’s over 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit) is sit inside a dark movie theatre or spend a day in an art gallery. I don’t think I’m alone; visit anywhere in the Toronto Region when it’s nice out and you’ll see every outdoor space and patio is full of people.
But Toronto has an amazing array of things to do inside, from art galleries and museums, to our world-class theatre scene, to Raptors and Leafs games, to dozens of venues to catch the buzziest new films and music acts. Each year, the City of Toronto hosts the Winterlicious Festival, where hundreds of restaurants across the city offer three course, fixed priced menus for between $23 and $53 ($18 and $41 USD), giving us an added excuse to eat for comfort and try some of the amazing places our city has to offer. North of the city in York Region, there’s also Richmond Hill’s Winter Carnival and the beautiful Winterfest at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan. West of Toronto in Burlington, active winterites can enjoy skating on the waterfront, or partake in the annual Chilly Half Marathon. And don’t forget Raptors 905 games in Mississauga, where you can scout the next generation of NBA stars from our G League team (the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are both alumni).
There really is no shortage of things to do around the region, and the ebb and flow of the seasons allows you to allocate your pastimes accordingly.
You might hear a lot about Canadian winters…but the reality is, there are enough awesome things about this place to compensate for the weather – great people, fantastic work opportunities, excellent schools, one of the world’s most vibrant food, sports, and arts scenes, and blissful summers that are almost as long as our winters. You might have one experience shoveling snow or walking outside on a -10 day and find any excuse possible to leave. But I suspect the warmth of the people, the quality of life we offer, will give you more than one reason to stay. I convinced my British partner to move here instead of Australia. He loves it here, and I suspect you will too. So long as you dress for it.