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Where to go skating in Toronto

Originally published 2020. Updated for 2022/2023 season

Toronto is 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.

Toronto has more than 50 outdoor skating rinks

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. So here’s my best advice on where to go skating in Toronto this winter and how to enjoy it when you get there!

Skating in Toronto
My happy winter face

Where to go skating in Toronto depends on the vibe you’re after. Romantic setting? (Harbourfront or Nathan Phillip Square) Raising your heart rate? (Bentway after hours) A safe place to practise on your Bambi legs? (Your local rink) There are more than 50 outdoor rinks run by the city for free, plus private rinks are opening all the time.

Know Before You Go: What to Bring Skating

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.

Best places to skate in Toronto

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

Skating at Nathan Phillips Square

Open November 26, 2022 to March 19, 2023. 9am to 10pm. Rentals and sharpening available.

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. Expect beginner skaters on dates, tourists, and if you’re lucky, a few advanced figuring skaters practising their spins in the centre. It’s big enough to accommodate all and is especially lovely at night.

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

Skating at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Open November 26, 2022 to March 19, 2023. 9am to 9:30pm. 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.

Lacing up at Union Skating rink, photo from their Facebook page.

Skating at Union Station

Open November 28, 2022 to January 29, 2023. Free rentals. 11am to 7pm Sunday to Wednesday and 11am to 9pm Thursday to Sunday.

Attention beginners: this new rink is conveniently located on the subway line right at Union Station, and offers free skating, free skate rentals, and free lessons! Staff are super helpful and friendly — they’ll even help you lace up.

You can register for a reserved timeslot (45 minutes) in advance, or try your luck as a walk-in. To sign up for a free skating lesson on a Tuesday at 1pm email

(The night I tried it out, this rink was mostly filled with first-time skaters which was delightful to see, but also not the best spot if you want a carefree leisure skate. Still a very welcome addition to the Toronto rink scene.)

Woman skating at the Bentway in Toronto

Skating at The Bentway

Opening December 17 to January 8 (“Holiday Hours”) from noon to 9pm on daily, then from January 9 to February 20 it’s 5pm to 9pm weekdays and noon to 9pm on weekends and school holidays. Rentals and sharpening available.

My go-to skating spot for the past few years is under a highway. 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 2022, special programming for First Timers including free lessons. See details on the First Winter programme here.

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. 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 26, 2022 to March 19, 2023. 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.

Skating at Harboufront

CLOSED for 2022 winter season due to infrastructure upgrades

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.

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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