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Best outdoor rinks for ice skating in Toronto

Toronto has more than 50 outdoor rinks. Let’s skate!

Updated for 2023/2024 season

It should be easy to find ice rinks to go skating in Toronto. It’s a winter city. We are blanketed in snow for a third of the year, at least. It gets freezing cold here. But we are in denial.

Just look at how many of our citizens cocoon inside for months. I can’t totally blame them. We’re missing a lot of the things that can make the season pleasurable. You know, like public bonfires, backyard saunas and all-you-can-eat fondue. And the umpteenth time you’ve had to squeeze your wet winter coat into your chair at a restaurant because our establishments don’t think we need coat hooks or cloak rooms, well, you’d be forgiven for fleeing for beaches far away or even ski towns where they actually know how to do winter.

One thing this city does have that makes winter wonderful is skating.

Lacing up and hitting the ice at one of the many outdoor skating rinks in Toronto is easy and low cost — rinks are generally free, with reasonable rates for skate rentals/helmets etc. In the cold, dark winter months, it’s the best way I know to get outside your place (and your own head), for fresh air and exercise.

There are more than 50 outdoor rinks run by the city for free, plus more private rinks are opening all the time.

Where to go skating in Toronto depends on the vibe you’re after. Romantic setting? Raising your heart rate? A safe place to practise on your Bambi legs? Here’s my honest takes on the different outdoor skating rinks in Toronto so you can find the best one for you!

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A community rink for ice skating in Toronto
My happy winter face

Know Before You Go: What to Bring Skating in Toronto

Your own skates. If you can afford it and think you’ll do this more than once, ditch the rental line-up scene and purchase a pair, new or used. Because if you don’t have a good fit, you won’t have a good time. And not every rink offers rentals at all. There’s such freedom in looking outside on a snowy day, thinking “I’d like to skate right now,” and being able to grab and go. Think of it as the difference between a City Bike rental and your own bike. Oh, and it’s the only way to get out on a lake or other unofficial rink, or take an after-hours night skate.

Warm clothes. But not too warm. As with skiing or other winter sports you will heat up once moving. I’ve enjoyed skating in Toronto in -20 weather, but if it’s below zero you’ll want hat and gloves and maybe some handwarmers. Do not wear thick socks though! Your feet will get sweaty and then wet. (I like to wear just tights and then put my socks in my pockets to keep warm for when I change back into my boots.)

A willingness to fall. You will fall down. As long as you don’t crash into a kid you’re fine. Brush the ice off of your butt and keep going.

Endless Possibilities

Best places for outdoor skating in Toronto

ice skating in Toronto at City Hall
Silent night at Nathan Phillips Square

Most romantic rink: Nathan Phillips Square

Open November 27, 2023 to March 17 2024. 10am to 10pm daily. Rentals and sharpening availablebring government ID if you want to rent.

The City Hall skating rink is the quintessential Toronto experience. You get views of our landmark Star Trek-approved towers, the Instagram-famous Toronto sign, and, through the holiday season, a giant Christmas tree and many pretty lights, all smack in the city centre accessible by public transit.

The rink itself is a large oval surface with its own Zamboni, so it’s generally in great condition. They have skate rentals, skate sharpening, a change room, washrooms, and hot chocolate nearby. If you’re lucky you might catch a few advanced figuring skaters practising their spins in the centre. It’s big enough to accommodate all and is especially lovely at night.

Recommended for: Date nights and wowing out-of-town guests.

Skaters at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto
The Colonel Samuel Smith Park Figure-8, courtesy City of Toronto

Best West End skate: Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Open November 27, 2023 to March 17, 2024. 9am to 10pm. No rentals.

This figure 8-shaped skating trail is a West End favourite. Colonel Samuel Smith Park Skating Trail is not as big as its reputation might suggest, but skating amongst the trees near the lake makes you feel like you’ve left the city. It’s quite popular with families, so expect many little people to swerve around. (And lots of hot dads, just saying.) From downtown, best accessed with a car (free parking lot) although the Queen 501 streetcar will get you there eventually.

Recommended for: People who like nature more than crowds

Skating in Toronto at the Bentway rink

Best Free Lessons: The Bentway

Opening December 16 to January 8 (“Holiday Hours”) from noon to 9pm on daily, then from January 9 to February 19 it’s 5pm to 9pm weekdays and noon to 9pm on weekends and school holidays. Rentals and sharpening available.

The Bentway Skate Trail is a fantastic use of an otherwise empty urban space near Fort York, with a 220-metre figure-8 style loop with straightaways that are long enough to get some speed going when it’s not too busy.

New for 2024, half the rink is closed on Tuesday nights for lessons. You must register in advance.

Special programming includes Free Hot Chocolate Mondays (starting January 8,) from 5pm to 9pm and Free Rental Fridays (starting January 12) 5pm to 9pm.

The posted hours are when the Bentway services are in full swing: music, rentals, hot chocolate for sale, etc. But there’s nothing preventing you from skating this rink outside their operating times as it’s fully outdoors without barriers. This may be controversial but for a night skate I prefer the Bentway to City Hall, because once the kids go home for dinner you can almost have the place to yourself. They have a shorter operating season than the city rinks though so get in there while you can!

Skating at College Park in Toronto
Barbara Ann Scott Ice Trail photo courtesy the city

Skating at College Park

Open November 27, 2023 to March 17, 2024. 9am to 10pm. No rentals.

The official name of this rink is the Barbara Ann Scott Ice Trail. (Scott was an Olympic champion from the 1940s known as “Canada’s Sweetheart.”)

Located just south of College and Yonge (enter from either Yonge or Bay streets), this rink is a quiet downtown alternative to Nathan Phillips Square, with pretty trees and washrooms not too far away inside College Park.

English 300*250

Skating at Evergeen Brickworks

Open weekends and holidays only from December to March. 11am to 5pm. Rentals and Skate Sharpening

This popular East End farmer’s market has a small skating trail and lessons but to be honest I’m confused whether you need to register or not! Some information is here.

Skating at Harboufront

Still CLOSED due to infrastructure upgrades

Skating at Union Station

CLOSED for 2023 they are doing indoor roller skating instead.

Skating on Grenadier Pond High Park
No Skating on Grenadier Pond. (Until somebody clears the ice. Shhhhh.) Photo by Gary J Wood via Flickr

Skating on Grenadier Pond in High Park

Generally not safe until late January/February

OK so skating is not technically allowed here. But skating in High Park is a community tradition, with locals volunteering to clear the snow and check the ice for safety. If you happen to be here when conditions are right and someone has made a rink, you’ll want to have those skates because it’s a real Toronto winter experience.

Skating on Toronto Island
Winter fun on the Island

Skating on Toronto Island

Generally not safe until late January/February

Another natural space you can skate at your own risk if conditions are right. Taking the ferry over to the Toronto Island in the off season always feels like a real adventure, even more so in deep winter. On a crisp freezing February day, you can find Island residents and intrepid mainlanders skating there, with gorgeous city views and zero crowds. I don’t recommend this for beginner skaters or solo activity. I do recommend talking to a local before stepping out onto any ice to get intel on conditions and taking proper safety precautions.

Read more about the wonderful Toronto Islands here.

Words of warning: Beware the synthetic rink! Any rinks which are not operated by the city, or on a body of water, may not be actual ice. (Like if one pops up on a rooftop.) Owners will tout it’s just like ice but it’s definitely not.

Also don’t make the same mistake I did: always check the City’s skating rinks page before heading out to confirm the rink you want is actually open. They can close due to weather or equipment issues.

Happy skating and if you have your own favourites I missed let me know in the comments. (It’s fun to read things that aren’t Russian porn spam!)

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