December and January weather is like everything else around here: it’s changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Here’s what you can expect and what you should prepare for.

When we opened our doors back in 1955, Toronto winters were fairly predictable: the snow fell in early November and melted in mid-March.

Today, a White Christmas isn’t a given. But it’s still Toronto, so you’ll need to be prepared for five inches of snow AND five-star dining.

With that in mind, as you pack for Toronto in winter, here are some considerations:

Outerwear

You’ll need a coat, a hat, a pair of gloves and warm, comfortable boots. T.O.’s a walking city, and where we are is perfect for exploring the very best of the city by foot. A short walk east is the Gay Village. West is the Mink Mile and the University of Toronto campus. South is Chinatown, the Discovery District and trendy Queen West. And north is Rosedale Valley and Mount Pleasant featuring some of the most gorgeous paths and parks in town.

If you’re not into schlepping heavy boots, you can always pick up a pair when you’re here. And since you’re minutes from the premier boutiques of Yorkville, the funky Yonge Street shops and the bargain style of Kensington Market, you’ll have no shortage of options.

Outfits

Expecting a drab, dreary winter outpost? You won’t find that here. The Toronto scene’s hopping, it gets especially upbeat in December and January, and it’s to the moon around us where the locals get dolled up to go food-shopping and bar-hopping.

The key to making it work is layers. For going out, we suggest a light jacket with a thick sweater underneath, both of which you can shed in a cozy resto that jacks up the heat (most of them do). If you have a 3/4 length coat, you can go light on the pants and you’ll be walking enough to keep your legs warm. A December walk around town is a must, especially around our part of town because the Bloor-Yorkville BIA goes all out for the holidays. A January walk might be less festive but more rewarding if you have reservations for Winterlicious, the city’s yearly restaurant festival. Many of the best restos in town offer discounted prix-fix meals.

As for shoes, yes, bring your best but be prepared for the possibility that you won’t wear them. That snow dump we spoke about earlier could come at any time. Toronto City Services is pretty good at getting the salt trucks out right away. No fashion statement is worth permanently damaging your favourite pair of boots or pumps.

Folks around here have been pushing City Hall to switch from salt to sand like they did in Montreal. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s so much better for the long-term health of your footwear. And besides, you’re a visitor so what do you care what it costs?

Out of town

Being so close to a primary route north to cottage country is a huge advantage of staying with us. And packing for a jaunt into the winter woods is a whole other beast. A pair of very tall, very warm boots is a must. And you may want to consider long underwear and big fuzzy slippers if they’ll fit in your bag.

But whatever you wind up packing for your December/January Toronto visit, be sure to pack your patience. This time of year brings a ton of people to town so you may have to wait for certain things. We can promise you it’ll be time well spent.

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