The Aurora Winter Festival has his Toronto, and is brightening the East Island of Ontario Place! The festival brings gorgeous light installations, food trucks, and family-friendly holiday fun Wednesdays to Sundays between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. until December 30, 2018. Torontonicity was invited to check out the winter wonderland on its’ opening day, and experience the magic.
The festival is intended to bring the excitement of the winter season, and specifically the north pole, to an outdoor space in the heart of the big city. It is currently being held in both Toronto and Vancouver, and allows guests an opportunity to enjoy activity stations located throughout the grounds, like carousels, ferris wheel, tube slide, and an adorable mini train for the little ones.
The main attraction of the Aurora Winter Festival is the light installations that have been set up as a path that guests can explore. Adults and children alike get to walk from the Luminous Gardens, Whimsical Forest, and Arctic Retreat, before ending up at the Disco Den! I would suggest bringing warm gloves to protect your hands, because you’ll surely be grabbing for your camera the entire walk through to capture the vivid colours of the many sculptures.
I have to comment on how engaging the characters were on the walkabout through the path, especially the yeti in the Disco Den! They managed to get a lot of guests dancing, and made so many little kids laugh. It was adorable!
Make sure to pay attention on your walk through the Whimsical Forest, as some of the sculptures aren’t illuminated, but just as eye-catching. This fox, despite being oversized, has a beautifully reflective surface that captures the lights of surrounding sculptures in such a lovely way.
After all that walking, dancing, and skating you may need to warm up! Make sure to stop by the quiet fire pit located on the north-east side of the island near the carousel, as the view of Toronto’s skyline at night is worth it.
If you need a drink, or just want to enjoy a cocktail by the fire, you can visit the bar just a few steps away and grab something in their signature Aurora cup. It comes in a light bulb shape, and has multiple light settings, making any drink instantly eye catching! I would suggest getting their Yin’s Punch, because it’s cotton candy flavoured, blue, and gives the full effect. Parents worry not, as there is a kid-friendly version of the punch that is completely alcohol free.
There’s also a beautiful pond for guests who want to skate! It’s decorated with an illuminated narwhal and evergreen tree, and I love that the tree has benches around the base so skaters can take a quick break and just enjoy their surroundings. If you have skates, it’s worth bringing them along, but there is a renting option on the grounds for seven dollars a pair.
Another warming opportunity exists tucked away behind the frozen pond, on the easternmost point of the island. The tent has benches for guests to take a break, sit back, and enjoy live musical entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed musician Matthew Winkler’s live performance, especially his cover of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.” Totally worth checking out in the evening!
Don’t fret if you get hungry and forgot some snacks for the family, as there is a section of food trucks available for anyone needing to refuel. I was super excited to see my favourite mini dessert on site: Tiny Tom donuts! I was also happy to see vegetarian and vegan options courtesy Randy’s Roti & Doubles truck, that regularly make vegan doubles and a lot of veggie options: spinach, pumpkin, chickpeas, and eggplant.
Craving fries, or maybe some tasty pub food? Try Chef Al’s Pub Fare truck, which offers burgers, fries, fish & chips, and a few interesting varieties of poutines like haggis and whisky gravy poutine.
Maybe you’re looking for something sweet and homemade? Ask owner Clive about his family’s homemade baked goods at the British Baked Goods booth. He’ll let you know which items are peanut-free, or other options depending on dietary restrictions.
Forgot to pack gloves or just find that you’re a bit cold and could use an extra layer? Make sure to stop and check out the vendors in the market near the main entrance. You’ll most likely walk by them on your way in without taking much note, and then with all the fun in the park itself, forget that you have shopping options nearby. There’s a cute little booth with colour socks, delicate jewellery, or you can say hi to Kate who has warm and cozy clothes you can layer to keep the fun going right until closing time!
If you’re planning on visiting the Aurora Winter Festival make sure to go before the December 30th closing date, as I’m sure it’s going to be packed once school is out for vacation. Also, remember to wear warm clothes and bring extra layers just to be safe. The East Island of Ontario place doesn’t have many large structures, so it can get quite cold with the wind blowing across the lake. To save time, try to buy your tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in line, and know what entry hour you want in advance. Once you’re in, you can stay for as long as you want, and with all there is to see and do, you’ll definitely be there until closing! Enjoy!