How to Survive and Thrive During Downtown Toronto’s Winter Season

Photo by LinedPhoto via Unsplash

If you are studying, working, or living in the City of Toronto, you are probably familiar with what to expect in your daily commutes. We all adjust and adapt at different rates, so do not feel bad if you are still adjusting to the bustling city atmosphere (believe me, I still find it noisy and annoying to commute, especially during the winter season). This information is for students who are new to the dynamics of downtown Toronto and would like information on…

  • Preparing for the winter season.
  • Methods of commuting.
  • Other accommodations.
  • And events offered by the University of Toronto.

The typical winter experience in Toronto includes icy roads/sidewalks,  slush in pedestrian-busy locations (therefore everywhere), and the presence of high wind chills that leave your face feeling numb.

Prepare For Delays.

When it snows heavily, prepare for delays. It can be difficult to tell when a class may be cancelled due to the weather, so check the Campus Status website to determine if school is open. If you are concerned about your class being cancelled, or have an upcoming test that may be affected by the weather conditions, always contact your professor directly or call respective faculties to get answers. However, it’s more likely that you will have to attend class in a snowstorm, so make sure to exercise the following tips.

Leave earlier to get to your classes on time.

If you have a morning class, factor this into your commute distance. If you are walking, leave earlier (assuming all paths are slippery). Or if you are taking transit such as the TTC, download the app for real-time GPS tracking. If you are traveling to campus and taking the go-train or the subway train, keep in mind that it gets very slippery underground, especially on extra crowded days when the weather is bad. People do not want to be covered in snow.

Dress warmly.

Firstly, wear a winter coat. Bring a scarf, a hat, and gloves in your bag. Bring an extra pair of socks if your boots are short at the ankle. And definitely wear winter boots if there is a lot of snow.

As mentioned earlier, there are a few ways to get around the city. When snow and sleet are part of the equation, you will encounter delays. This is especially true during the evening rush hour, which can start as early as 3 pm and end at 8 pm. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic create the most congestion downtown. If you live close to campus and prefer to take a bus, streetcar, or train, visit the TTC website for service alerts. If you do not live on or near campus, and instead commute from the north, south, west, or east, the commute is longer. You might be taking the GO Train on a daily basis. Visit to plan your trips and purchase tickets.

I would commute from the westbound area into Toronto. On snowy days, it gets extremely congested at Union Station during the morning and evening commutes.

If the train has no seats available, you may stand. However, if you choose to wait for the next train, you may have better luck. Overall, if you dislike trains during rush hour, change your schedule so that your classes are earlier. If the subway takes too long in the morning, you can walk 25 minutes to and from the University of Toronto Campus – Union Station. Or take the underground PATH network to stay warm. It’s a good workout and you’ll save money.

Winters in Toronto can be cold and isolating, meaning people would rather stay indoors. As a result, life in the city can become lonely, and sometimes make you feel quite sad.

But there are several great events you can attend to offset these feelings of winter isolation:

Learning To Love Winter

It can also be a hassle to gear up for weather you haven’t experienced before! Visit Learning To Love Winter for information on dealing with cold days while staying healthy! This session is hosted by the Centre for International Experience and is highly recommended to students who are experiencing their first year of life in Toronto.

Intercultural Communication Sessions

Start with something new, such as the Intercultural Communication sessions at the University of Toronto. Hosted by the Centre for International Experience, these sessions “help students reflect upon their multiple cultural identities; how these impact daily interactions with others” and to help them “develop strategies for communication and understanding across differences” (Student Life UToronto via Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network). You need to register for this event via the link above, so please join. It is a positive experience for all!

Burn Bright: Winter Retreat

Another upcoming event you should consider is Burn Bright: Winter Retreat by the Multi-Faith Centre. This event places emphasis on self-discovery through a two-day nature retreat. So sign up now if you want to connect with the world around you through winter games, workshops, Indigenous teachings, and self-reflective activities! Please note that transportation to and from campus is included. However, $30 will cover a private room and meals. For more information and any updates to the schedule, visit the link above.

Apartment Hunting 101

Now, this is something that may interest you even more! Apartment Hunting 101: URent: Finding a Place! is an ongoing event that you must register for. Although, the title sort of gives it away. Are you searching for a place to live off-campus, yet still in Toronto? Hosted by Housing Services at the University of Toronto, these sessions will benefit you greatly. Housing is an important part of your experience because you need a place to call home. Here’s an excerpt from the event description: “A step-by-step guide to budgeting, finding roommates, securing safe and affordable housing, signing leases and more!” (Student Life via UTHS). All of this information is critical to making proper decisions when signing contracts, so please check it out. Sessions run until March 2020.

Get Crafty Thursdays

Take care of your mental health this winter season with some self-expression and creativity. Get Crafty Thursdays are hosted every Thursday until April 2020. This is a great opportunity to shake off your stress. Visit for full schedules and sign up! Sessions are held at Hart House. It’s an excellent way to enjoy socializing! Additionally, no artistic skills are required for these sessions. There is always time for some constructive crafting!

Best wishes as you explore and study at the University of Toronto. You’re ready for this winter season!

Published on January 27, 2020

About Campus Guides Team

Our student-written campus guides help students who want to get a sense of what life at their new school and city will really be like by avoiding embellishment and focusing on what actual students think.