The Bentway: Toronto’s Favourite Cold-Season Hotspot

Chill out and cozy up during The Bentway’s fifth winter season of skating and public art.

Launching December 17, 2022, you’re invited to chill out and cozy up along The Bentway’s 220-metre figure-eight skate trail, located under the Gardiner Expressway.

Adding some extra warmth this year, The Bentway celebrates the experiences of newcomers encountering Toronto’s cold season for the first time. Featured “First Winter” programming includes the glowing new art installation, Beacons, by Shellie Zhang; performance; music; storytelling; and community care initiatives.

Aerial view of The Bentway Skate Trail (photo by Droneography).

Special “First Winter” Programming

Special programming during The Bentway’s 2022/23 winter season celebrates Toronto’s multiculturalism and explores what it is to experience winter in the city for the first time.

Many of us have fond memories of winter in the city – lacing up our skates, holding mittens under a magical snowfall, a friendly neighbour helping dig out our car… If you’re a newcomer to Canada, winters will include a series of ‘firsts’, with new memories to be made and treasured. This season we’re exploring how experiences of winter can connect all of us, our stories, and our traditions.

Anchoring the season is Beacons by artist Shellie Zhang (b. 1991; Beijing, China), which consists of five vibrant sculptures that light up the Gardiner’s concrete columns. Beacons is inspired by Zhang’s conversations with newcomers as well as her own experience arriving in Canada, and how efforts of collectives and friendly strangers helped brighten what otherwise felt like an endless, gloomy period of cold. Commissioned by The Bentway, Beacons glows with the dusk and dawn-time colours of Toronto’s skyline in winter, a reminder of the passage of time, and the warmth we draw from our community during these dark, frozen months.

Shellie Zhang, Beacons (2022) Commissioned by The Bentway. Details of the installation (photo by Samuel Engelking).

Join in the “First Winter” festivities by taking part in some of The Bentway’s public programs:

  • First Winter Memories: The Bentway invites newcomer residents, partners, and artists to express memories of their early winter experiences in Toronto – visit thebentway.ca to submit a memory and see what others have shared.
  • Lunar New Year festivities: On January 22, celebrate Lunar New Year with an array of dancers, vendors, and performers from the East Asian Diaspora, including Lion Dancers from the Hong Luck Kung Fu Club.
  • Midwinter Concert: On February 9, The Bentway Studio at Canoe Landing comes alive to showcase the talents and stories of the artistic newcomer community in concert, co-presented with Small World Music.
  • Family Day celebrations: The winter season closes out on February 20 with a free, all-ages, musical and multicultural skate party for Family Day. Details to-be-announced.

The Bentway is also working with newcomer community groups to connect their clients with free programming this winter. If you’re a newcomer or lead a newcomer group, please email hello@thebentway.ca for information about Newcomer Skate Lessons, Indigenous Knowledge-sharing guided by the Talking Treaties Collective and co-hosted by Fort York National Historic Site, Creative Storytelling led by the Department of Imaginary Affairs, and Communal Dinner with Newcomer Kitchen.

Images, top row: Newcomer Kitchen; Family taking selfie at The Bentway Skate Trail (photo by Shane Parent); Skating through the Transform The Trail art commission 2021 Moving with Joy by Maureen Gruben (photo by Shane Parent). Bottom row: Small World Music; Polar Bear Skate 2019 at The Bentway (photo by Andrew Williamson); DJ warms the crowd at a Bentway event (photo by Nicole Pacampara).

Winter Skating

Over the holidays (December 17 to January 8), skating will be open every day from 12pm-9pm, including skate rentals, skate sharpening, and a hot chocolate bar.

The Bentway’s Polar Bear Skate returns on December 31 at 12pm! Both a clothing drive and a wild way to close out the year, brave Torontonians are invited to strip down to their skivvies and skate the trail for a good cause. Registration is now open at thebentway.ca/polarbearskate.

After the holidays (January 9 to February 20), skating will be open weekends 12pm-9pm; weekdays 5pm-9pm; holidays and TDSB Elementary P.A. days 12pm-9pm – all including skate rentals and skate sharpening. During this period, the Hotspot (Chocolate) Bar will be open Fridays to Mondays only.

Also from January 9 to February 20, visitors can enjoy special treats and offerings. Visit thebentway.ca for information about Billy Bishop Free Rental Fridays, Free Hot Chocolate Mondays courtesy of CityPlace Fort York BIA, and Free Beginner Skate Lessons.

Community Care

Winter can be hardest for Toronto’s most vulnerable residents, including newcomers. For the 3rd year in a row, Bentway visitors are invited to “pay-it-forward” by donating to Winter Care Kits (including gloves, hats, hand-warmers, grocery gift cards, and more) that will be distributed to local residents experiencing homelessness and poverty. Donations can be made as a top-up to skate/bar transactions; by credit card at onsite “tap” stations; or online at thebentway.ca/wintercarekits.

Full details on the Winter 2022/23 season can now be found on our website. Starting December 17, daily information on ice conditions (including weather-related closures) will also be posted online.

Year-round, visit thebentway.ca for details about The Bentway’s programming and activities; and follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. #thebentway #skatethe8.