In 1905, the Toronto Santa Claus parade premiered when a single float carrying Santa Claus arrived at Toronto Union Station and made its way to the downtown Eaton's department store where Santa shook hands with Timothy Eaton. See vintage photos of 1918 Santa Claus Parade
This humble start has morphed into a major production featuring more than 30 floats, 25 bands and 1,700 participants. Toronto's Santa Claus parade is the longest running children's parade and one of the overall largest parades in the world.
Although the parade has lost its innocence and basically became a marching advertisement for brands, upcoming movies and businesses, the spectacle still delights about half a million people every year. Traditions and highlights that have continued include the popular monkeys that seem to be walking on their hands, celebrity clowns, and, more recently, a "red nose" promotion in which patrons can buy and red red noses and raise money to sustain the parade.
In 1982, the parade was almost cancelled when the return on investment was not deemed worthy and the whole operation was turned over to a not-for-profit organization that brought in corporate sponsorship. Hence the prevalence today of coffee chains, media companies, etc.
Since the 1950s, the parade has been televised, first across North America and today worldwide. An estimated 30 million people tune in each November to get a taste of Christmas celebrations in Canada.
The Toronto Santa Claus parade is held annually on a Sunday in November.
Tips for Visiting the Parade
Be prepared for the weather, the wait and the crowds: Read our tips for visiting the Santa Claus Parade.
Weather in November
Weather on parade day is a crap shoot. Rain, snow or sunny skies are all possibilities. As is so often the case, dress in layers and dress for colder temperatures than you imagine. It's a lot of standing and waiting.
Toronto Santa Claus Parade Route
The parade lasts about 90 mins. Berczy Park on Front Street directly across from the Hummingbird Centre is designated for wheelchairs and provides a great view of the Parade.
- The parade starts at Bloor & Christie
- Down Bloor past the ROM to Avenue
- Right on Avenue, around Queen's Park, continuing down University
- East on Wellington (which turns into Front), ending at Front & Jarvis right by St. Lawrence Market. See map.