Top Things to Do in Toronto for the Holidays

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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 sparkling lights, outdoor skating rinks, wondrous window displays and seasonal performances.

Gooderham & Worts sign at night.
Toronto Christmas Market

Only in Toronto

Toronto Christmas Market

Inspired by the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market is a five week-long event celebrating the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Set in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, the Market brings together local craftspeople, musicians and artisanal food-makers for a truly festive experience. Gather with friends and sip on mulled wine as you peruse the selection of hand-made ornaments, wood carvings and crafts. Cozy up by the fire or take in carollers, brass bands and authentic European dancers. Free admission Tuesday to Friday and $6.00 admission Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. November 16 to December 23, 2017.

Or check out one of the many other Christmas markets that have popped up in recent years including the huge Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square from December 1 to 23, 2017. Part Christmas market and part carnival, you can shop for unique gifts, ride a carousel, go for a skate or enjoy a festive cocktail at the ice bar. Admission is free.

Christmas at Casa Loma

Built by Sir Henry Pellatt over a three-year period from 1911 to 1914, Casa Loma is an homage to the Gothic castles of days gone by, complete with soaring battlements and secret passageways. Decked out in lights and seasonal decor, North America’s only castle is a sight to behold during the festive season.

Fireworks explode over Toronto City Hall.
Cavalcade of Lights @ Nathan Phillips Square /
Saturday, November 25, 2017

Festive Displays & Lights

Cavalcade of Lights

For many, the holiday season doesn’t officially begin until the illumination of Toronto’s famous Christmas Tree in Nathan Phillips Square. This special event takes place every year at the Cavalcade of Lights. 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, this is a celebration that will warm the hearts of even the frostiest of attendees. Don’t worry if you miss the kick-off event, the lights are ablaze every night for weeks after. November 25, 2017.

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

Illuminite kicks off the festive season in Yonge Dundas Square with an evening of music, dance and spectacle with special guests the St. Michael’s Choir. For festive cheer just outside the city, check out the tree-lighting ceremonies at Mississauga’s Celebration Square and Brampton’s Gage Park – ideal for visitors staying near Pearson International Airport.

Window and Light Displays

For the most iconic holiday window displays in the city, take the subway to Queen station where the flagship Hudson’s Bay store and Saks Fifth Avenue each put their own twist on these must-see window displays.

When November and December roll around, the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and its “Mink Mile” becomes the place to go for upscale holiday shopping. Even if you don’t have the budget to spend on Bloor-Yorkville’s price tags, it’s fun to simply window shop and admire the festive displays. While you’re in the neighbourhood, drop in to the Gardiner Museum for its fabulous 12 Trees of Christmas exhibition with trees decorated by a variety of top designers.

The Royal Botanical Gardens is staging Winter Lights at the Rock from the end of November and throughout December. This 1-kilometre walk through RBG’s historic Rock Garden explores the multicultural traditions that make up the essence of being Canadian.

Christmas Flower Shows

The floral displays at the Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory are the highlight of the year. Each conservatory is decorated and filled with thousands of flowering plants including over 30 varieties of poinsettia. On the first Sunday in December, the shows’ grand opening features horse and wagon rides, carollers, hot apple cider and a visit from Santa. For a very special experience, the conservatory can also be enjoyed by candlelight on several weekends. The shows run until mid-January.

Ballerinas dance The Nutcracker on stage.
The Nutcracker /
Onstage December 9 to 30

Live Performance & Theatrical Productions

The Nutcracker

No staged production is more authentically “Christmas” than The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s famous adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s story. The National Ballet of Canada has been staging the beloved two-act ballet every year since 2005, enthralling children and adults with humour, surprise and sumptuous sets and costumes befitting this fantastic tale. Not to be missed. December 9 to 30, 2017.

Reach for the Stars: Disney on Ice

Your favourite Disney characters and stories are brought to life with the artistry of ice skating to create an unforgettable family experience as Disney on Ice presents Reach for the Stars. All the beauty, sparkle and fantasy that Disney is known for come together in this production. December 22, 2017 to January 1, 2018.

Panto-monium!

For lots of laughs, check out Ross Petty Productions’ A Christmas Carol, the over-the-top family musical at the Elgin Theatre. November 24 to December 31, 2017.

Seasonal Concerts

Keep it classy by attending one of the many seasonal symphony and choral performances in the Toronto region. Join Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra for an uplifting and profoundly moving performance of Handel's Messiah. Experience this baroque masterpiece in the intimate and acoustically perfect Koerner Hall. December 13 to 16, 2017.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting Home Alone in Concert with the orchestra and Etobicoke School of the Arts Choir playing along with the film! Enjoy this new Christmas classic in a fresh way, at Roy Thomson Hall November 30 to December 2, 2017.

For something a little different, the Electric Messiah is a cross-cultural, multimedia riff on Handel’s classic. Held in the hip Drake Underground with four singers, guitar, electronics, electric harpsichord and turntables, it’s a chance to be immersed in a unique musical/theatrical experience. December 4 to 6, 2017.

It’s the biggest Messiah in Toronto! The TSO’s performances of Handel’s immortal oratorio will be given in Sir Andrew Davis’s uniquely grand-scaled edition, with a large classical orchestra, huge choral forces and esteemed vocal soloists. December 18 to 23, 2017.