The Aurora Winter Festival is back this year and has taken over the Ontario Place West Island bringing all the lights, music and holiday cheer your family needs to enjoy the outdoors this season! Torontonicity was invited to check out the gorgeous lights festival installation, and discovered that this family attraction may actually be a fantastic date night option during these cold winter months.
Let’s start by acknowledging the cold weather factor: yes, the Aurora Winter Festival is out on the water and yes, it is colder there than most places in Toronto. Guests can spend hours roaming the grounds enjoying the gorgeous light sculpture gardens, and stopping for multiple picture-perfect photo opportunities, so don’t make the mistake of wearing runners or sneakers. My recommendation is to dress warmly, wear layers, bring an extra pair of mittens and prepare to stop often around heat lamps.
Now that you know to prepare for the colder temperature, and have bundled up, you can head out to enjoy the 2 million LED lights that took roughly 600 hours to install! The illuminated bridge leading to the entrance is mesmerizing enough, so make sure to take a moment to enjoy the colour transitions – and of course to stop and take a selfie or two.
On our way into the festival, we witnessed a beautiful proposal on the bridge, and realized how fantastic the grounds would be to explore on a date! The grounds have been divided into themes, like the mystical worlds and North Pole. Each area has a warming station or café bar with heat lamps that serve delicious hot treats like mulled wine, apple cider, and hot chocolate. These are the perfect spots to stop and enjoy a cozy conversation with someone.
There is also a market with small huts where guests can stop and check out some handmade goods from 30 festive vendors, including the ever so popular Chatime bubble tea hut! You can purchase some colourful funky socks, jewellery, and get a mini preview of the ROM Bloodsuckers exhibit (where you can possibly go on your next date). There’s also a gorgeous Christmas tree in the market that’s covered in deep royal purple lights that’s absolutely stunning! This was my favourite tree of the Aurora Festival.
If you and your family (or date) want to run around a little, check out the Aurora Rides and Games area. Just like the CNE, guests can buy tickets to play carnival-inspired games for a chance to win some prizes. This is also a great area for anyone bringing kids, as it gives them a moment to join some rides and play!
After burning off some energy in the games area, you’ll need to refuel. Thankfully the Aurora festival has fifteen food trucks on site for you to satisfy your cravings! You can grab some tacos, pasta, curries, a wide variety of poutines, and even a couple of warm churros that you can carry around while you visit the next exhibit.
There are picnic tables for guests who want to enjoy their meal outdoors near the food trucks, but the organizers have erected an entertainment tent where you can sit and casually select items off a menu from a set group of food trucks, and have it delivered right to your table! This is a great option for a date as it gives you an opportunity to enjoy a little live music from local musicians who perform acoustic sets within the tent. You can take this moment to warm up, and get to know your date’s favourite music genres and artists over a cup of hot chocolate.
Now that you’ve loaded up on food, you can head back out to visit the mythical and majestic guests that currently reside on the island. Make sure to snap a picture with one of the twelve friendly elves, or the oversized yeti – if you can find him! (Hint: he’s near Candy Cane Lane.)
The Aurora Winter Festival is a great way to get family, friends, and blossoming relationships alike out to enjoy the holiday season. The festival is on until January 5, 2020 and tickets can be purchased online at Aurora Winter Festival tickets: Please take note that there are entry windows based on times, but guests are welcome to stay for as long as they want once they’ve entered the grounds. These winter months are long, and there’s no point in missing out on all that’s happening in Toronto!
You might also be interested in reading, “Family Friendly Christmas Events in Toronto 2019“.