The holidays season is always a busy time of year, but it’s also a time when the city comes alive with fun things to see and do. If you’re looking for a few ways to break up all of that shopping, baking, cooking, and wrapping, or you just want to get into the holiday spirit, there’s plenty to do. Here are 10 of the best things to do during the holiday season in Toronto.
Visit a European-style Christmas market
Through to December 22, you can experience the charm of the Toronto Christmas Market happening in the Distillery District. Rated one of the top 10 holiday markets in the world, this is a market that makes it easy to get into the holiday spirit. Walk the cobblestone streets of the Distillery and enjoy live entertainment, festive lighting displays, vendors selling handmade gifts and ornaments and heated beer and mulled wine gardens.
Toronto is also getting a second Christmas market at Nathan Philips Square December 8 to 22. The square will be transformed into a traditional European Christmas market in support of Epilepsy Toronto.
Experience Christmas at Toronto’s Historic Sites
There are plenty of holiday-themed events and activities going on at the City of Toronto's Historic Sites throughout the festive season. Events are grouped in five categories including family fun, just for kids, shopping, crafts and workshops, and theatre, music and evenings out. For example, you can experience a Victorian-themed Christmas at Mackenzie House and at Colborne Lodge in High Park, while over at the Spadina Museums you can get a taste of a 1920s Christmas. Kids can write a letter to Santa at Mackenzie House or do some gingerbread cookie decorating at Gibson House Museum. Whether you want to be entertained, learn something new, shop, or participate in a holiday workshop, there are lots of options.
Go for a Skate
Get some fresh air and exercise during the holidays with a skate around one of Toronto’s outdoor rinks. Natrel Rink at Harbourfront is one of the most scenic rinks in the city being set against the Lake Ontario shoreline. If you get hungry you can grab a hot drink and something to eat at the rinkside restaurant Boxcar Social. There’s also great skating to be had at Nathan Philips Square. Skating is free at both rinks, but if you don’t have skates, it’s $10 to rent a pair.
Get Festive at Casa Loma
Get into the festive spirit at Casa Loma every Wednesday night in December (7, 14, 21, 26 & Jan. 4) for Magical Winterland Nights. There will be lots of family-friendly fun happening, including illusionist entertainer Professor Wick’s holiday-themed magic show, live performers Soli and Rob and Circus Jon and even a special appearance by Paw Patrol. Santa will also be on hand in his castle workshop and there will be live carolers to sing along with to really get you in the holiday spirit. If you get hungry, enjoy some chili, s’mores and hot cocoa.
Hang Out With Santa
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Only Santa really knows and you and the family can pay him a visit while he’s here from the North Pole. The jolly guy in red will be at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre between November 26 and December 24 hanging out in his cozy log cabin where he’ll read a story and then kids can have a chance to hang out with him. There will also be a sensitive Santa on hand for kids with autism, an experience designed with shorter wait times and smaller groups. All proceeds from your visit with Santa go to one of three charities of your choice, including Autism Speaks, Women’s College Hospital Foundation, and Covenant House.
Check Out the 12 Trees of Christmas
Visit the Gardiner Museum to see some uniquely decorated trees with their annual 12 Trees of Christmas. The theme of this year’s display is Good for the Earth and artists were asked to come up with tree ideas that incorporate recycled or sustainable materials or that somehow showcase something good for the earth. This year’s exhibition is being curated by internationally-renowned artist, curator, filmmaker, writer, and climate change activist, David Buckland.
Do Some Seasonal Shopping
Tis the season for lots of shopping, but there’s no need to do all of it at a mall. Toronto is filled with craft fairs, holiday popups, and Christmas markets for most of the holiday season so there’s plenty of chances to pick up some locally-made gifts for everyone on your list, whether you’re looking for clothes, accessories, handmade jewelry, kids’ stuff, art or food items.
See Some Holiday Lights
Toronto’s waterfront will be awash with lights between November 26 and January 1 for the Spectacle of Lights on Toronto’s Waterfront. Stop by to see three illuminated installations including fully animated music notes, harps, and canopy at the Toronto Music Garden. There will also be lighting displays at The Westin Hotel and the Fire Hall.
Take an ugly Christmas sweater cruise
Don your best ugly Christmas sweater and take to the water for Mariposa’s Ugly Sweater Christmas Cocktail Cruise. The two-hour cruise through the Toronto Harbour will get you beautiful views of the city skyline and there will be food stations and hors d’oeuvres, an ugly Christmas Sweater and Santa costume contest, complimentary Bad Santa photo booth and a DJ playing holiday classics and top 40 tunes.
Go back in time at Pioneer Village
Black Creek Pioneer Village offers a few ways to feel festive during the holiday season. Festive Weekends are happening through until December 23 wherein you can enjoy Victorian Christmas traditions and activities. Saturdays in December (3, 10 & 17) you can experience the village at night where everything is lit by candles and historic lamps. In addition to taking in the decorated homes and workshops, there will be live music and holiday activities. You can also opt for a Sunday visit (December 4, 11 & 18) to take part in a traditional three-course Christmas dinner.