The hill spills beneath the runners of your toboggan, plunging into a darkness made even deeper by the sparkle of snow beneath the moonlight. Your nose is cold but your mittened hands are warm, and your heart is pumping in anticipation of careening downhill at breathtaking speeds, cutting through the silence of a wintry world.
Or maybe you are perched high on ice skates, and push off to glide across a smooth sheet of ice, the wind at your back. The air is so cold that each exhalation spreads small puffs of breath into the wind.
This winter, it’s time to rediscover the joy of sledding or skating beneath a starry sky or warm beams of sunlight. Check out these spots to sled and skate in Ontario’s Highlands, and remember to BYOS (bring your own sled or skates).
Outdoor Shinny Rinks
Skating outdoors during the winter is practically a Canadian tradition. The outdoor shinny rink is where kids and adults congregate in the long evening hours to shoot a few pucks or practice their turns. Grab your skates and thermos full of hot chocolate and head to one of these outdoor rinks for some good old-fashioned and Canadian fun.
- Smiths Falls Rink of Dreams
150 Elmsley St. N., Smiths Falls
Located beside the Smiths Falls Memorial Community Centre, this rink is big enough you won’t need to worry about bumping into anyone. Push yourself through the wintry air, then walk or drive to downtown Smiths Falls for a cup of hot chocolate from The Vault Eatery & Pub, or a hot toddy from Bowie’s. Washrooms are located inside the community centre.
- Pond Skating at Calabogie
30 Barrett Chute Rd., Calabogie
Skate beneath the stars at one of the most scenic winter spots in the valley, Calabogie Peaks Resort. The pond is located directly behind the hotel. When you’ve had your skating fill on the pond, warm up with a meal at the FeastON certified Canthooks Restaurant inside the resort.
- Coe Hill Outdoor Pavilion
2100 Hwy 620, Coe Hill
The pavilion is covered, which is a nice addition during inclement weather, and Coe Hill is a cute small community just perfect for an old- fashioned skate outdoors. Wander down the street to the Hideaway Primitive Grill and pick up a stick-to-your-ribs meal that will warm you from the inside out.
- Village of Haliburton
76 Maple Ave., Haliburton
The outdoor rink in Haliburton was made from an old skate park, and it’s being put to good use since its opening in 2018. Skate outdoors in the village of Haliburton for a small-town experience, and don’t forget to chip in and shovel the rink if needed using the shovels available. Warm up afterwards with Maple Avenue Tap & Grill’s pad thai and a bowl of homemade soup.
- North Frontenac Rink
6598 Buckshot Lake Rd., Plevna
Canadian Shield terrain is the backdrop for the community skating rink in Plevna. Get out and play a game of shinny or put in a few laps. Helmets are encouraged and the rink is open for use until 11 p.m.
Fun Sledding Hills
Sledding is a time-honoured winter tradition that’s cheerfully upheld each year by generation after generation of Canadians. The breathtaking journey downhill, where your stomach drops a split second after your sled, is worth the trudge back up the hill afterwards. Bring your sled, crazy carpet, or tube and enjoy this family-friendly outdoor activity.
- Gemmill Park in Almonte
182 Bridge St., Almonte
This is an epic sledding hill where every community child has hurtled down at some point in their lives. Washrooms are nearby at the Almonte Arena, and parking is available directly in front of the sledding hill for easy sled transport. The hill is close enough to downtown that you can make the trek afterwards to warm up with a hot drink and a cozy meal. Try Joe’s Italian Kitchen for a rustic wood fired pizza.
- Tubing at Mount Pakenham
577 Ski Hill Rd., Pakenham
Tubing at Mount Pakenham is a family favourite for all ages, and a nice alternative to skiing. At the end of the day make the short drive to the village of Pakenham to Centennial Restaurant, known for their pizzas, the perfect gooey and cheesy après-sled meal.
- North Hastings Community Centre (Bancroft Arena)
103 Newkirk Blvd., Bancroft
The toboggan hill beside the community centre will offer fun for the whole family, with the community centre nearby in case you need to go inside to warm up or use the washroom. Refuel with one of The Granite’s hearty pasta dishes before heading back to the hill for more fun.
- Glebe Park in Haliburton Highlands
289 College Dr., Haliburton
Glebe Park has it all for outdoor adventure – situated on 175 acres of wooded land and rolling hills the property has trails for walking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In winter you can use the Nordic ski trails, snowshoe, or sled on the toboggan hill. Before or after your downhill adventure, leave some time to wander through the on-site Haliburton Sculpture Forest.
- Ma-te-Way Activity Centre
1 Ma Te Way Park Dr., Renfrew
This is a one-stop-shop for winter and summer outdoor activities. Sled on the on-site toboggan hill until you’ve run out of steam then transition to skating on the outdoor rink. Kung Po House Chinese Cuisine will fill your belly at the end of a long day outdoors – try their famous hot and sour soup and rest easy knowing it’s MSG-free.