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5 Top Holiday Windows in Festive Toronto

By Doug O’Neill. Mechanical nutcrackers, animated elves, electronic carollers, over-sized glittery snowflakes, designer mice sleeping in ornate matchboxes and fireplaces bedecked with stockings… These are a few of my favourite (holiday) things – and I can expect to find them each festive season in window displays throughout Toronto.

I like to pick an evening, just after dusk, in mid-December to get the full flavour of our holiday windows. Sometimes I’m greeted with scenes straight out of Dickens – and other times they’ve got touches of Disney.

My Five Top Picks for Holiday Window Tours on Foot

Hudson’s Bay Company

176 Yonge Street (Yonge and Queen)

If you’re seeking a contemporary but festive Yuletide scene: After almost a decade of Santa and industrious elves, the Hudson’s Bay has revamped its iconic holiday windows in 2016. A total of 29 animatronic woodland animals (high-tech but still warm and fuzzy) in an enchanted forest setting delight passers-by in five windows along the south side of Queen Street, just west of Yonge. In lieu of traditional Christmas images of chimney settings, midnight elves and red-nosed reindeers, crowds are entertained (and fascinated) by a gaggle of geese on snowshoes, hockey-playing bunny rabbits, snowball-throwing squirrels and a huggable furry bear beneath the glow of the Aurora Borealis. It can’t get anymore Canadian than that!

While you’re there: after checking out the Hudson’s Bay windows, I like to head over to the City Hall ice rink, just down the street, for some ice-skating. Just look for the Instagram-worthy TORONTO sign. (Visitors can rent skates; free admission.)

More: Hudson’s Bay Company.

Saks Fifth Avenue

176 Yonge Street (Yonge and Queen)

If you prefer more whimsy than wintry wonderland: Just around the corner from the Hudson’s Bay’s new windows, festive-seeking pedestrians welcome the first-ever Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows on the west side of Yonge Street. The Saks Fifth Avenue design team have rocked it with their “Land of 1000 Delights” featuring nine fantasy music box vignettes. Empress Gingerbread, Marchioness of Confections, Lady Lollipop, Duchess de Chocolate and other Grand Dames of fashion and style don one-of-a-kind couture gowns for the holidays. Window-gazers are dazzled by mannequins in confectionary hoop skirts made of humungous cakes, over-sized candies and Lilliputian cookies. Enormous swirl lollipops, piles of hard rock candy and whipped cotton candy lend a rainbow of colours in lieu of traditional green-and-red splashes.

While you’re there: Cozy up to the octagonal bar at the glitzy Lena Restaurant (176 Yonge St., part of the Saks Building) or sit down to a meal with your friends in a velvet-lined booth.

More: Saks Fifth Avenue.

William Ashley China

55 Bloor Street West

If you’re looking to be wowed at first glance: Sometimes it’s difficult to see the china for the tree! William Ashley staff erect what must be the tallest (real) Christmas tree each year. It’s Instagram-worthy! Their holiday window displays are true art. Imagine pyramids of delicate china tea cups taking the shape of holiday motifs.

While you’re there: once you’ve Facebooked the incredible window display, head up to the The One Eighty Lounge (top of Manulife, 55 Bloor Street West) for a festive night cap and for a stunning view of downtown Toronto.

More: William Ashley China.

Holt Renfrew

50 Bloor Street West

If you’re looking for a stylish or romantic take on Christmas: the mannequins in Holt’s holiday windows add a little chic (and sometimes a touch of bling!) to the season. Fashion meets festive while a track of holiday carols play in the background. You’ll find yourself singing along. Just sayin’.

While you’re there: check out the window displays at Roots (80 Bloor West.) Last year they embraced a Canadiana theme.

More: Holt Renfrew.

Rosedale Neighbourhood

If you’re curious (okay, nosey) like me: the festive lighting on the century-old homes in upscale Castle Frank and south Rosedale could be right out of a Disney holiday flick. Take the subway to the Castle Frank stop and walk due north.

While you’re there: one subway stop east will put you on the Danforth. Try the Dora Keogh Irish Pub (141 Danforth Avenue) for a post-walk libation and live music.

About the Author

Doug O’Neill is an ardent Torontonian and freelance writer who can be found on Twitter @dougoneill

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