Capture the Spirit of the Holiday Season in Toronto
With spectacular shows, countless shopping opportunities, outdoor skating rinks and top-notch restaurants, Toronto transforms into an urban winter wonderland and a great getaway during the holiday season. Gain access to hotel packages and tickets to some of the city’s most popular attractions and events!
Holiday Shopping in Toronto: You Can’t Get This Online
There’s something about shopping for the holidays that’s extra special. Maybe it’s the Christmas decorations adorning street-shop windows, the festive music playing in the malls, or the many handcrafted gifts that only make their appearance once a year at the One of a Kind Christmas Show. Whatever it is, it makes holiday shopping in Toronto a truly magical experience.
Holiday Shopping in Toronto
Get bundled up, grab yourself a seasonal coffee or hot chocolate, and make your way to Toronto to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. So many unique items and experiences await; you won’t get anything like this by sitting at home and clicking “Add to Cart.”
Window displays worthy of Santa himself
As far as holiday window displays go, you can’t beat the ones at The Bay. Toronto’s version of Macy’s in New York, the flagship Hudson’s Bay Centre at Yonge and Queen goes all out every year with their Christmas-themed tableaux. Everything from miniature trains, to mechanical mice, to caroling Santas, to life-size nutcrackers – simply walking by these windows is enough to get anyone in the holiday spirit.
It’s worth a trip to The Bay just to see the festive displays alone. But inside the store even more magic awaits (of the retail variety). Eight levels chalk-full of designer shoes, fragrance, outerwear, formalwear, casual wear, jewelry, accessories, home décor, and beauty products make The Bay an ideal destination for one-stop shopping. Check out The Room on the fifth floor for unique European collections and influential designers not widely available anywhere else.
Magic and merriment at the mall
You haven’t truly experienced the spectacle of holiday-time at a mall until you’ve been to Toronto Eaton Centre. Starting in November, Toronto’s most iconic mall becomes Holiday Shopping Central, complete with a ton of lights, giant decorations, and the famous Schwartz Christmas Tree. Keep an eye out for Christmas-themed events and programs such as the Christmas Jukebox and Story Time with Santa. After you’re done, make your way to Nathan Phillips Square for free outdoor skating.
Toronto’s many other malls are bursting at the seams with holiday cheer as well. Head to Yorkdale in the north end, Square One in Mississauga, or Bramalea City Centre in Brampton to get your fill of the spirit of the season – and fill up some more shopping bags while you’re at it.
The famous One of a Kind Christmas Show
Looking for a special gift that you won’t find anywhere else? The One of a Kind Christmas Show, began in 1975, is the largest consumer craft show in North America. Appealing to those in search of the unique and the fantastic, this ten-day long event brings together over 800 artisans, craftspeople, and designers to display their wares. There’s no mass-market merchandise here – only quality, lovingly crafted goods.
This year’s One of a Kind Christmas Show runs from November 27th to December 7th at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. Browse handmade ceramics, textiles, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and crafts to find that perfect and exclusive gift for that perfect and exclusive someone.
Festive cheer at the Distillery District Christmas Market
Now going on its fifth year, the Toronto Christmas Market is the epitome of festive cheer. For the month of December leading up to Christmas, the historic Victorian-era Distillery District is transformed into a traditional European Christkindlmarkt. Carnival rides, gift shops, carolers, and plenty of hot food and drinks create a festive Old World atmosphere like no other.
After you’ve admired the 45-foot Christmas tree and had your fill of mulled wine and hot chocolate, wander around the numerous artisan boutiques and indoor shops and galleries for holiday gift inspiration. Bergo, Distill, and GOTSTYLE are all great places to find gifts, while galleries like Thompson Landry and Arta sell one-of-a-kind masterpieces for the art lovers in your life.
Lights, lattes, and luxury in Bloor-Yorkville
If you can’t make it to the Distillery District Christmas Market, shopping in Bloor-Yorkville provides a worthy alternative. The most exclusive (and pricey) shopping district in Toronto is the place to go for holiday shopping. White lights line sidewalks and store-fronts decorated with Christmas trees and festive displays. The carols playing in the background at Holt Renfrew may be enough to draw you inside, where you will discover floor after floor of high-end fashion and accessories.
Drop in at Starbucks or The Second Cup to warm up with a gingerbread latte. Then continue your shopping at the many designer labels and boutiques lining chic Bloor Street West and quaint Yorkville Avenue.
Fashionable Finds on Queen West
For a more budget-friendly holiday shopping option, head to Queen West. This vibrant, dynamic neighbourhood hums with culture and creativity. With more consignment stores and vintage boutiques than you can count, rummaging through clothing racks to unearth those one-of-a-kind finds is the name of the game here. Hunt for goodies at shops like I Miss You and Vintage 1. Then head to one of the neighbourhood’s funky cafés or take a stroll through bohemian Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Holiday shopping in Toronto is so much more than a transaction – it’s an experience. Learn more about shopping in Toronto.
Sample Itinerary: Holiday Magic in Toronto
Toronto is the perfect destination for a romantic weekend getaway during the holidays. From world-class shopping to festive events and attractions, it has all the right ingredients to create a truly memorable vacation.
Sample Itinerary: Holiday Magic in Toronto
Looking for inspiration? Check out this sample itinerary for a magical couple days of yuletide cheer in Ontario’s capital.
Day 1: Shopping, Skating, and a Romantic Stroll
Begin your holiday with a trip to Toronto Eaton Centre. Around holiday time, the city’s most iconic mall becomes a hub of activity filled with shoppers, Christmas decorations, and (depending on when you go) Santa himself. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a loved one, you’re sure to find it here. Head to the Apple Store or Indigo for gifts anyone will enjoy. Or check out one of the over 90 fashion, accessories, and footwear retailers.
Post-shopping, head outside to Yonge-Dundas Square. Often called the Times Square of Toronto, the large public space at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets is always buzzing with activity. In the winter, look for the three-dimensional polar bear trio and the 40 foot sculptural light tree (it’s hard to miss). If you’re lucky, you might even catch some live music on the outdoor stage.
It’s a short walk to Toronto’s other famous square – Nathan Phillips Square, the home of City Hall and the city’s most popular outdoor skating rink. Rent a pair of skates for $10 and take your partner for a spin around the rink to the tune of Christmas music. Afterwards, warm up with some coffee and a light meal at Café on the Square.
Take the subway from Osgoode subway station up to St. George – the gateway to Toronto’s upscale Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood. An evening stroll through the lights and windows displaying holiday tableaux is the perfect way to wrap up your day. For a romantic late-night dinner, make your way to Matisse or Sassafraz for gourmet food and wine.
Day 2: Snowshoeing, Theatre, and the Distillery District Christmas Market
After a sleep-in at your hotel, it’s time to head out to the west end to explore the winter wonderland known as High Park (nearest TTC stop: High Park station). Spanning 400 acres, High Park is Toronto’s largest park, and in the winter its hiking trails are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If you don’t have the appropriate gear, you can’t go wrong with simply exploring the park by foot. The snow-topped trees, hanging icicles, and frozen streams are picture perfect no matter how you view them.
How about a matinee show to warm both your body and your spirits? There’s no lack of holiday-themed productions to entertain you in Toronto. For laughs, check out Ross Petty Cinderella or The Second City’s Holidazed and Confused. For good old-fashioned holiday cheer, you may prefer The National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Nutcracker or Donny & Marie Christmas in Toronto.
No holiday trip to Toronto would be complete without a visit to the most festive attraction of them all – the Toronto Christmas Market held in the historic Distillery District. This month-long event transforms the romantic neighbourhood into a Victorian-era, European-inspired Christmas village. Sip on hot chocolate from Soma Chocolatier, mulled wine, or hot rum punch as you wander among the artisanal booths displaying a variety of Christmasy crafts and gifts. Treat your ears to the music of carolers on the stage near the 45-foot tree. Then toast the holidays with a glass of wine and a fancy meal at Archeo or Tappo Wine Bar before retiring to your hotel for once last magical evening.
Holiday Events & Exhibitions
Toronto is filled with events, festivities and displays that will make anyone feel nostalgic this holiday. Stroll through one of the city’s many neighbourhoods to discover the spirit of the season. Bloor-Yorkville is transformed into a magical holiday wonderland, with an official lighting ceremony featuring jazz vocalist, Molly Johnson. Downtown Yonge becomes a winter playground with dazzling lighting installations and a series of special events.
Whether you explore all of Greater Toronto or just a few of our unique neighbourhoods, we’re sure that you’ll return home with a heart full of holiday cheer and shopping bags full of great holiday gifts. Holiday Events & Exhibitions.
Video: The Spirit of the Season
The D’Alfonso family – Cal, Julie, and their twins Hannah and Olivia – hadn’t been on a family trip in years before they decided to come to Toronto for the festive season. Between the Cavalcade of Lights, ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Distillery District Christmas Market, the D’Alfonsos discovered plenty of fun ways to get into the holiday spirit in Toronto.ShareThis
Winter Break: Fun for the Whole Family
Winter break is a prime opportunity for spending quality time with family. The kids are out of school and the world is rife with activity. Why not take a trip to Toronto, where there’s plenty of exciting activities to keep the whole family entertained?
Winter Break: Fun for the Whole Family
Make this winter break a trip to remember.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
288 Bremner Boulevard | RipleyAquariums.com
Discover the mystery and majesty of marine animals at Ripley’s Aquarium. One of Toronto’s newest and most popular attractions for families, the aquarium features over 16,000 aquatic creatures, including sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, and more.
Be transported to the tropical and colourful waters of the Indo-Pacific at Rainbow Reef. Step onboard the moving sidewalk at Dangerous Lagoon and travel through a glass tunnel teeming with sharks. Then touch a stingray as you learn about these amazing creatures from the friendly educators at the Shoreline Gallery. A trip to Ripley’s Aquarium is an experience of a lifetime.
301 Front Street West | CNtower.ca
Toronto’s tallest and most iconic structure will delight kids and adults alike. Purchase a Family Pass (four tickets) and take a journey up the glass elevator to the LookOut Level at 346 metres (1,136 feet) for a spectacular view of Toronto. On clear days you can see over 160 kilometres to Niagara Falls and Rochester, New York. Walk on air (if you dare) on the world famous Glass Floor, or be a real risk-taker with the hands-free EdgeWalk around the tower’s main pod. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious meal at the rotating 360 Restaurant.
2000 Meadowvale Road | TorontoZoo.com
Home to over 5,000 animals representing more than 460 species, the Toronto Zoo is ideal to visit during winter, when crowds tend to be smaller. Your kids will love getting up close to their favourite animals, including lions, gorillas, and the only giant pandas in Canada. Be sure to visit one of the pavilions (African Rainforest, Malayan Woods, and more), where the tropical climate provides a welcome break from the cold.
Hockey Game at the Air Canada Centre
Winter is the time when Canada’s Game is at its peak. Treat the family to a Toronto Maple Leafs game at the 665,000 square foot Air Canada Centre (40 Bay Street). Or cheer on Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, running from December 26th to January 5th (tickets on sale now).
For more affordable but equally exciting games, catch the OHL Mississauaga Steelheads at the Hershey Centre (5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga) or the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum (100 Princes’ Boulevard).
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen’s Park | ROM.on.ca
History comes to life at the Royal Ontario Museum. Travel back in time at the Age of Dinosaurs exhibit, featuring one of the world’s best collections of dinosaur fossils with favourites like the Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops. Explore the Hands-On Biodiversity gallery, where the kids can touch a shark jaw, explore a fox’s den, observe an active beehive, and more. And get lost in a seemingly endless collection of artifacts from civilizations around the globe.
The Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Road | OntarioScienceCentre.ca
More educational family fun awaits at The Ontario Science Centre. Stroll through a rainforest, crawl through a cave, and touch a tornado at The Living Earth exhibit. Navigate a distorted room or have a hair-raising experience at the Science Arcade. Don’t miss out on BRAIN: The Inside Story – an unprecedented journey through the essential bundle of neurons that is the human brain (opening November 19th).
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
10 Dufferin Street | MedievalTimes.com
Experience an evening filled with epic battles, jousting tournaments, and royal feasts inside the stone walls of Medieval Times’ Toronto Castle. This year’s all-new show features more fun and excitement than ever before, with awe-inspiring horsemanship and falconry, choreographed swordfights, and rousing live jousting. All this plus a four-course meal fit for royalty.
Looking for something fun to do that’s a bit easier on the wallet? How about free outdoor skating? Every winter in Toronto, Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West) and Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) become hubs of activity as locals and visitors alike lace up their skates and glide around in the open air. Both locations have skates available for renting on site. Drop by Natrel Rink on a Saturday night, when premier DJs turn the scenic spot into the city’s only dance party on ice.
If you’re staying close to Pearson International Airport, head to the outdoor rinks at Brampton’s Gage Park (45 Main Street North, Brampton) or Mississauga’s Celebration Square (300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga) instead. The crowds here tend to be smaller, and afterwards you can explore the many sights and activities these suburban cities have to offer.
Let the sounds of the season fill the air, and your hearts. Toronto offers many musical performances to help set the mood of your trip. From the dazzling artistry of the National Ballet of Canada’s presentation of The Nutcracker, to the classic show-stopping production numbers of Donny & Marie Christmas in Toronto. This is a lineup worthy of a standing ovation. View our Theatre Guide.
Top 10 Toronto Holiday Events
The holiday season in Toronto is a time for family, friends, fun, and festivity. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the city transforms into a wonderland filled with outdoor skating rinks, snow-covered parks, festive window displays, and sparkling lights.
Top 10 Holiday Events
If you’re planning a visit to Toronto in November or December, you won’t want to miss these iconic holiday events that are sure to get you in the festive spirit.
Santa Claus Parade
Celebrating its 110th year, the Santa Claus Parade has long been a favourite holiday tradition for families. Every year in November, thousands of people line up along Bloor Street, University Avenue, and Front Street for the biggest celebration of the season. Bring the kids (and a thermos full of hot chocolate) for an unforgettable afternoon full of marching bands, colourful floats, costumed revelers, and – of course – the big guy himself.
When: Sunday, November 16th starting at 12:30 p.m.
Where: See the parade route.
The Toronto Christmas Market
Inspired by the tradition of the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market is a four-week long event celebrating all the sounds, sights, and scents of Christmas. Taking place in the historic, cobblestone-lined Distillery District, this annual festive event brings local craftmakers, carolers, musicians, and artisanal food-makers together for a truly magical experience.
Sip on mulled wine, European Christmas cocktails, and hot chocolate as you peruse the endless selection of Christmas merchandise including hand-made ornaments, wood carvings, candles, and crafts. Then cozy up by the fire with your loved one, or make your way to the central stage where carolers, brass bands, and authentic European dancers provide holiday entertainment for the whole family.
Santa will be at the Christmas Market every day to take pictures with children and find out what they want for Christmas.
When: Friday, November 28th through Sunday, December 21st
Where: The Distillery Historic District
Cavalcade of Lights
For many, the Holiday season doesn’t officially begin until the illumination of Toronto’s famous Christmas Tree at Nathan Phillips Square. This special event takes place every year at the Cavalcade of Lights. Also featuring performances by some of Canada’s top musical talent, a brilliant fireworks show, and outdoor skating party under the glow of more than half a million lights, the Cavalcade of Lights is a must-attend holiday tradition that will warm the hearts of even the frostiest of attendees.
For festive cheer outside the city, check out the tree lighting ceremonies at Mississauga’s Celebration Square and Brampton’s Gage Park – ideal for those staying near Pearson International Airport.
When: Saturday, November 29th
Skating at Nathan Phillips Square or Natrel Rink
After the Cavalcade of Lights is finished, outdoor skating continues at Nathan Phillips Square all season long. Bundle up and bring the kids for an active family outing. Alternately, make your way down to Natrel Rink at the Harbourfront Centre in front of the scenic shoreline of Lake Ontario. Afterwards, grab some hot food and drinks at the Lakeside Local Bar & Grill.
Skating is free at both Nathan Phillips Square and Natrel Rink, with skate rentals available for a small fee.
When: Mid-November to mid-March
Where: Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West) and Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West)
The Nutcracker presented by National Ballet of Canada
No staged production is more authentically “Christmas” than Tchaikovsky’s famous adaptation of E.T.A Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The National Ballet of Canada has been staging the beloved two-act ballet every year since 2005, enthralling both children and adults. Infused with humour, surprise, brilliant choreography, and magnificent costumes, this traditional presentation of the classic tale is a feast for the eyes, ears, and imagination. Not to be missed.
When: December 13th through January 3rd
Where: The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West)
Christmas at Casa Loma
North America’s only castle is a sight to behold during the festive season. Built by Sir Henry Pellatt over a three-year period from 1911-1914, Casa Loma is an homage to the Gothic castles of days gone by, complete with soaring battlements, secret passageways, five acres of gardens, a massive pipe organ, and over 98 rooms.
Casa Loma is worth a trip at any time of the year, but around Christmas the Old World charm and romantic décor take on a special appeal. Highlights include strolling carolers, an elves’ workshop, visits with Santa, holiday music on the organ, and beautiful decorations – all in a stunning setting that truly brings the magic to life.
When: Month of December
Where: Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace)
Window Shopping in Bloor-Yorkville
Bloor-Yorkville is the Fifth Avenue of Toronto. When November and December roll around, the “Mink Mile” (as it’s sometimes called) becomes the place to go for holiday shopping – at least, for those with fat wallets. Even if you don’t have the budget to spend on Bloor-Yorkville’s three-to-five-digit price tags, it’s fun to simply window shop and admire the festive displays.
For the best holiday window displays in the city, take the subway down to Queen station where the flagship Hudson’s Bay Company location rivals Macy’s in New York with functioning train sets, mechanical mice, and moving Santas.
When: November through December
Where: Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and Hudson’s Bay Company at Yonge and Queen
Winter stroll through High Park
If any park in Toronto lives up to the song “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” it’s High Park. Toronto’s largest park spans 161 hectares (400 acres), complete with sporting facilities, gardens, playgrounds, and a zoo – all of which remain open in the winter. Stroll through frosty tree-lined lanes, frozen streams, and vast expanses of fresh powdered snow. Afterwards, warm up with some gourmet coffee from one of the many cafés lining Bloor West Village.
When: First snowfall until spring thaw
Where: High Park (Bloor Street West and Parkside Drive at High Park subway station)
Blades on Stage
Marvel at the talent of Canada’s finest figure skaters, like Elvis Stojiko, Shae-Lynn Bourne, Violetta Afansieva, and Pete Dack. This holiday performance takes place at the Princess of Wales Theatre and combines the art of figure skating with the showmanship of musical theatre. Whether you’re a diehard fan or are new to the world of skating, you will be amazed at the gracefulness and athleticism of Canada’s finest.
When: December 24th to January 4th
Where: Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West)
There’s no shortage of holiday-themed shows and concerts this season to get you in the festive spirit. Check out Donnie & Marie Christmas in Toronto from December 9th-21st at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West). Laugh until it hurts at the Ross Petty Cinderella pantomime (Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street). Or keep it classy by the attending the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s moving performance of Handel’s classic Messiah at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street).