The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is held annually in November in the city's downtown. Don't underestimate the number of people in attendance, which is about half a million people. Being prepared and having a plan of action may help soothe your nerves as you battle the crowds and try to enjoy the festivities.
Don’t Underestimate the Crowds
The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is the biggest Santa Claus parade in Canada and one of the most highly attended parades in North America, drawing about 500,000 people to line the 6 km long route.
Be prepared to share the sidewalk with plenty of fellow onlookers.
Not a people person? The parade is always broadcast on TV or watch from one the hotels along the parade route.
Arrive Early If You Want a Good Spot
Kinda goes without saying that you will be competing with thousands of other people to get a good view of the parade. People begin arriving as early as 9 am to claim their real estate. Ten am is still a good bet, but by 11, it's getting squishy and you should hope your shoulders are strong because your kid is gonna be on them to see the parade.
Have a Plan If You Get Split Up From Your Kids
Having a plan in place is the best way to prevent a potentially bad situation.
With half a million people crowded along the parade route, getting lost is a real possibility for kids. Talk to children about what to do if they get lost. Possibly have a go-to spot picked out. Make sure younger kids know their last names, their parents' or guardians' names and cell phone numbers or write it on a piece of paper and stick it in their pockets.
Especially if arriving by subway, talk to your kids before you emerge from underground because the moment you step out onto the sidewalk, the mayhem begins.
We always tell our kids to go to a policeman on duty immediately or a parent with kids who is sure to be sympathetic.
Be Prepared for Long Waits
In addition to the time you will need to wait for the parade to start, there can be long waits between floats - sometimes painfully so.
Best thing for parents to do is arm themselves with stuff to keep kids amused: colouring books, games, snacks, etc.
Check the Weather Forecast Before You Head Out
Weather on the day of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade has ranged from sunny to raining to below freezing. Cold weather will be misery if you're not dressed properly. Layers are best.
Pack a Knapsack
Don't head out the door empty-handed. The parade only lasts about 90 mins but expect to be out in the open air for much longer - especially if you want a good viewing spot.
Handy items to pack include a blanket or chairs to hold your spot, rain poncho, tissue for cold, runny noses, extra sweaters, mitts, hats and scarves, snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate or warm soup.
Leave the Car at Home
Leave the car at home or far away from downtown. Driving and parking in downtown Toronto is no fun at the best of times, but on parade day, with street closures and thousands of pedestrians, it's particularly dismal.
People coming in from out of town may want to park at a GO Station (often free) and take the GO Train into Union Station. GO is offering a special enhanced schedule on parade day. Another option is to park at Yorkdale Mall and take the subway downtown from there.
The following Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) stops are along the Toronto Santa Claus Parade route: Christie, Bathurst, Spadina, St. George, Museum, Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode, Queen, and King Stations.
Know Public Washroom Locations
Of course, your kids will have used the washroom before heading out for the day (because we always remember to do that, right?) but you don't want to miss the jolly man's appearance because you were racing around looking for a public toilet.
Hotels along the route are a good bet and will generally have a lobby bathroom. The Eaton Centre and The Bay, both on Queen, have several public washrooms. Tim Horton's and McDonald's are located all along the route.
Check Out the Website and Download the App
Check out the Toronto Santa Claus Parade website for all the latest info on the parade, and an app that will let you track Santa's movements and ring sleigh bell sounds.
Wear a Red Nose
Be a part of the fun and pick up a red nose at a participating Canadian Tire or at Union Station on parade day.
Consider a Smaller Scale Parade
Not to be a party pooper, but I would opt to visit a smaller scale parade at another town or city as they tend to have more character and fewer crowds. Consider Guelph, Hamilton, Oakville or any other community that has a reputation for putting on a decent Santa Claus Parade.
The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is incredibly commercial and tends to push the product more than it does create the magic.