Guide to Visiting the Toronto Cavalcade of Lights

Weather permitting, free ice skating is offered daily from 10 am to 10 pm by mid-November. Photo Courtesy City of Toronto

For more almost 50 years, Toronto has kicked of the holiday season with the Cavalcade of Lights, a festive evening at Toronto City Hall that features the illumination of Toronto’s official Christmas tree, performances by top Canadian musical talent, a fireworks show and skating party at Nathan Phillips Square, a public area outside of the city hall.

The Cavalcade of Lights is free to attend.

A Saturday towards the end of November (November 25, 2017).

Time and Place

Festivities begin at 7 pm when musicians hit the stage; the tree is lit shortly before the fireworks, which begin at 8 pm; concert continues at 8:15 and ice skating opens up to all. The event is held at Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W., between University and Yonge. Dress warmer than you think you should: chances are the temperature will be below freezing. 

Getting There

Nathan Phillips Square is easily accessed by the TTC Queen streetcar (501), or the Yonge Line subway (exit Queen station) or the University line (exit Osgoode Station).

Bringing your car to downtown Toronto, especially on the night of a big, free public event, will be a challenge. The better option is to take public transportation, or take your car to a GO station (like the Oakville station, where there is plenty of free parking) or to a shopping mall, like Yorkdale. Car parking is available in the underground parking garage at Nathan Phillips Square as well as metered parking on University Avenue which is just a couple of blocks west of Nathan Phillips Square. 

Nathan Phillips Square is wheelchair and scooter accessible.

Where to Stay

Several hotels, including the Sheraton, the Hilton (see rates and reviews on Trip Advisor) and the Delta Chelsea, are within a 10 minute walk of Nathan Phillips Square.

Nearby luxury hotels include the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the Shangri-La and the Ritz-Carlton Toronto (see rates and read reviews on Trip Advisor).

See more Toronto hotel recommendations.

While You're In the Area

The Toronto Eaton Centre is right next to Nathan Phillips Square as well as The Hudson's Bay Company (the Bay, a Canadian department store that has been around as long as the country itself. 

Lots of restaurants are in that area, from cheap noodle joints to exclusive steak houses and more. Check out Zomato, a directory of places to eat, to find something to your taste and price range. 

Other attractions within a 15 minute walk include, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the CN Tower

Free Ice Skating at Nathan Phillips Square

Skate under the holiday lights at Nathan Phillips Square’s famous outdoor ice rink.

Weather permitting, the rink is usually open daily from 10 am to 10 pm by mid-November.

Call the Rink Hotline: 416-338-RINK (7465) for details. Please note that all children under age 6 need a CSA approved helmet before going on the ice.

Skate rentals and indoor change rooms are available to visitors. For skate rental info call: 416-368-8802.

Fun Facts about the Official Toronto Christmas Tree

  • The tree is between 15 and 18 metres (55 to 65 feet) tall and features 700 individual ornaments and 3,810 metres of LED lights (525,000 lights).
  • It takes 8 people to get the tree into place, after which it must settle for three days. 
  • Workers spend two weeks hanging ornaments and stringing lights. 
  • The tree is usually a White Spruce.
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