It’s no secret: winter here in Thunder Bay can be finger numbing, face burning, and to be honest down right cold (brrr!). If you’re not from Northwest Ontario you might think winter is our favourite season. After all, we endure the chilly temperatures for what feels like more than half of the calendar year, and we spend a big chunk of our time participating in outdoor activities.
That’s because despite Mother Nature’s best attempt to keep us in hibernation from approximately November to April, winter is something we’ve perfected up here in the North. Similar to a perfectly aged bottle of wine, some things take time to get just right, and thankfully we’ve mastered how to comfortably embrace the icy cold elements and still have a lot of fun.
1. Ice Fishing
Believe it or not, fishing out on a frozen lake can offer the same tranquility, sport, and fun as fishing in the summer. For instance, just a short drive outside of Thunder Bay (to the west) lays one popular ice fishing hotspot, Lac des Mille Lacs (near Upsala). Drive out for a day of solitary relaxation on the lake, or pack up for a weekend of fun with family and friends. Ice shack rentals can be found for reasonable prices.
2. Sleigh Rides
Kids and adults alike can take part in some playful winter fun by jumping on a traditional sleigh ride in Thunder Bay this season: Book your rides at Gammondale Farm through the winter season from approximately mid-November to mid-March with sleigh rides for groups of 10 or more, or a romantic cutter ride for two.
Visitors are taken on a picturesque gallop through the white-frosted landscapes of the Slate River Valley surrounded by the scenic Nor’wester Mountain range in the rural country side south of the city. In addition, there is an array of other family-fun activities such as farm animal visits and complimentary hot drinks in the cozy log house.
The City of Thunder Bay Parks Division also lists sleigh rides as part of their program offerings at Centennial Park.
3. Visit the Ski Hills
Thunder Bay is lucky to boast not one but two downhill ski hills, so if you feel like your adventure quotient is lacking this winter, why not grab your skis or snowboards and come ride the slopes at Loch Lomond or Mount Baldy! Aside from being quaint and friendly, these ski hills have comfortable chalets, reasonable rates, and additional activities like tubing, cross-country skiing, and live entertainment.
4. Skating at Prince Arthur’s Landing
If you’re looking for a unique night out this winter, why not go for a skate-and-dine in the heart of the Waterfront District? The artificial rink at Prince Arthur’s Landing exudes a sense of magic and delight as skaters are surrounded by exquisite landscapes like the beautiful Lake Superior shoreline, the almighty Sleeping Giant, and the historic CN Train Station.
After your skate you can walk a short distance to enjoy a meal in the bustling downtown core, now fully established with an impressive mix of deliciously local restaurant options. The rink and pavilion are open daily from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5. Try Fat Biking
Snow biking or fat biking (big goofy-looking tires) has become a very popular winter activity in the Thunder Bay region, proving we Northerners will stop at nothing to prove we can take any summer activity and “winterize” it.
Get out and explore the snowy, pristine trails at locations like Centennial Park and Shuniah Mines within city limits or make the short drive out to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. For example, Sleeping Giant, Northern Ontario’s most popular Ontario Park, has over 100 kilometers of trails and over half of them are bikeable, including during the winter.
6. SnowmobilE groomed trails
Ask any snowmobiler who has taken a ride in the Northwest Ontario region and they’ll surely agree, our region is one of the best places to ride. Why? Unparalleled northern scenic beauty, countless, low-traffic trails to explore, and an abundance of snow all come to mind.
The Thunder Bay Adventure Trails Snowmobile Club creates and maintains trails in our region connecting to the trails west to Atikokan. The local club offers staging areas where riders can park for the day or for their weekend adventure, and promotes riding events such as the Teen Challenge - Sled for Eternity, so come and see why there’s snowbetterplace to ride than in Thunder Bay!
7. Winter Fun Days at the Marina
If you’re looking for the perfect opportunity to get the whole family out for a day of fun and laughter, look no further than the 5th annual Winter Fundays program at Prince Arthur's Landing! Taking place every Sunday from January to March, come out and embrace winter by taking part in a different fun outdoor activity, for free!
The schedule includes awesome activities like snowshoeing, winter games, scavenger hunts, skating, and so much more! Find the full schedule here, which is subject to change in situations of extreme weather.
8. Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing
Two traditional and adored Canadian winter activities: trekking through the snow by ski and by snowshoe. Luckily for snowshoers and skiers alike, there are countless trails and snowy territories in the Thunder Bay region waiting to be explored.
Discover the trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Kakabeka Falls Provncial Park, Lappe Nordic Ski Centre, Kamview Nordic Centre for cross country sking. Loch Lomond Ski Area, or one of the region’s Conservation areas managed by Lakehead Region Conservation Authority offer great snowshoe venues.
Go for the physical challenge, for the quiet crunch beneath your feet, or for the intimate connection with the beautiful, winter wilderness in our area. Whatever your motivation, it’s easy to pack a lunch and make a day of your ski or snowshoe journey. Rentals can be found at two local outdoor stores Chaltrek or Wilderness Supply.
9. Frozen Falls at Kakabeka
Kakabeka Falls, otherwise known as our Niagara of the North, is equally as spectacular in the wintertime as it is in the summer.
Imagine it: the all-powerful waterfalls transformed into an icy, snowy, wonder; trees and plants frozen and clinging from surrounding rocks; glass-like icicles dripping from the snow covered cliffs; layers of dense, frosted ice, blanketing the river below - views are guaranteed to impress!
Plan a full day trip to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park and enjoy the over 10 km of groomed trails for skiers of all levels, and explore some of the quaint shops and restaurants within the Kakabeka region too.
10. Dogsledding Boreal Forest
Dogsledding: an iconic, Canadian winter adventure that will make even your coldest winter days or nights lively and enjoyable. In the Thunder Bay region there is one dogsledding team leading the pack: Boreal Journeys Sled Dog Kennel (in Kaministiquia).
Trip options vary from a 2-day overnight camping trip, a full day journey learning how to mush your own team, a night ride under the stunning winter stars, or a series of sled rides with the whole family. Come and take in the incredible sights as you sore through the storied landscapes of Northwest Ontario on a dogsled; book your memorable winter experience today!
Other fun Northern winter activities not mentioned: saunas followed by jumping in frozen lakes or snow banks; snowball fights with friends and family; making your own real maple syrup candy in the snow.