What to Pack for a Toronto Winter Weekend
The winter months don’t stop me from traveling. If anything, the short, gray days only tickle my travel bug more, as I look for ways to escape the cold weather blues. However, it was still surprising that I decided to head north to Toronto in the middle of February, over the U.S. President’s Day long weekend holiday.
Unluckily, the weekend turned out to be the coldest of the year (so far) in Toronto! The Saturday high temperature was a record-breaking -26 degrees C (-14.8 F) without the wind chill, and the city even went as far as to issue an extreme cold temperature warning. I’m from New York City, where the cold and snow tends to paralyze and drives many into hibernation. One thing I’ve learned from my travels is that cold doesn’t have to stop your adventures: you just need the right clothing! Another is that you need to find some great places to warm up.
Equipped with the right winter gear, the magic of Toronto doesn’t have to be put off until summer.
My packing list for urban winter adventure may not be the most glamorous, but even in freezing Toronto, these seven items allowed me to brave the weather and fulfill all of my plans to explore:
Hat, Gloves and Scarf
I’ve never been much of an accessories girl, but I’ve learned that carrying around a hat, gloves and a scarf can be a complete game changer when it comes to being comfortable. During a Toronto winter, a popular style is the “tuque”, or the beanie with a pom-pom on top.
I know we’re not in 1985, but leg warmers can fit over jeans or tights, and make a huge difference. True to their name, they really do keep your legs warm!
It’s necessary to ditch the heels in a Toronto winter. Snow boots are warmest on days when my toes start to freeze. Plus, committing to boots saves on packing space.
After studying abroad in Prague, I came home and bought a knee-length puffy winter coat and have never looked back. Semi-stylish and super warm, my parka fits over everything and traps all the heat inside.
Ski clothes are not just for skiing! Some basic thermal tops and leggings work wonders when worn under more stylish apparel.
I roll them up when I’m outside for an extra layer on my legs, and then roll them down when I come inside. High socks are also great to layer with ankle socks on really cold days, for an extra layer on my toes.
They’re totally acceptable to wear under jeans for extra warmth. Wearing two pairs at once also helps you to stay warm if you want to wear a dress or cute skirt.
Now you’re packed… What to do during a Toronto winter?
Packing smartly was the first step in conquering the cold. Step two: Toronto’s amazing food and beer, art, nightlife and friendly atmosphere kept me warm from the inside out. My stomach was definitely in for a treat with cozy brunches and craft breweries around the city. I never could have imagined that Eggs Benedict could go so well with Belgian waffles at Le Petit Dejeuner, or that delicately fried chicken matched the innovative mocktails at The County General. The complex beer recipes at C’est What and Bellwoods Brewery were exceptional, despite my admittedly high standards after living in Central Europe.
It was impossible not to dance as Butch Haller, a 90-year-old rockstar, played covers of songs from Jay-Z to Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen.
To defrost, I visited various places that highlighted the artistic side of Toronto. The Distillery District is home to dozens of cute boutiques that showcase Toronto designers’ innovative sense of style. The Artspace Distillery Studios warehouse provides a space for designers to both create and sell their handmade clothing and jewelry directly to customers. On Queen Street West, a pop-up gallery beckoned with an exhibit called “Hangin’ Pictures On My Wall” by NASKADEMINI. Suddenly, I was out of the cold and immersed in hip-hop and its relation to art, music and culture.
On the coldest night, when tempted to hibernate indoors, a live bluegrass show at The Dakota Tavern warmed me up. It was impossible not to dance as Butch Haller, a 90-year-old rockstar, played covers of songs from Jay-Z to Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen. Accompanied by a bassist and drummer, the trio kept the whole bar dancing until 2am!
Equipped with the right winter gear, the magic of Toronto doesn’t have to be put off until summer. Everywhere I went, Toronto was full of life and energy, even with its outdoor patios empty and streets dusted with snow. As the Torontonians say: cheers!
Top image: Maxime FORT (Creative Commons)