Top Things to Do in Toronto for the Holidays

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.

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 spirit. ShareThis

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Toronto Christmas Market

November 18 to December 22, 2016. Inspired by the tradition of the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market is a month-week long event celebrating all the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Taking place in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, this annual event brings together local craftmakers, carollers, musicians and artisanal food-makers for a truly festive experience.

Sip on mulled wine, European Christmas cocktails and hot chocolate as you peruse the 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 carollers, brass bands and authentic European dancers provide holiday entertainment for the whole family. Free admission Tuesday to Friday and $6.00 admission Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. Visit for the latest information.

Christmas at Casa Loma

Throughout December. 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.

This December take part in the holiday magic during Christmas at Casa Loma for a wide range of activities and exciting performances that are fun for the whole family.

Festive Displays & 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.

Toronto’s waterfront becomes a Spectacle of Lights starting end of November 2016. See the Toronto Music Garden come alive with an animated lighting installation where music notes, harps and a canopy will be shining brightly with over 39,000 low-energy LED lights, along with the other exciting displays at The Westin Hotel, the Fire Hall and the Amsterdam Bridge at Harbourfront Centre.

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 those staying near Pearson International Airport.

For the most iconic holiday window displays in the city, take the subway down to Queen station where the flagship Hudson’s Bay store location rivals Macy’s in New York with functioning train sets, mechanical mice and moving Santas.

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 into the Gardiner Museum for its fabulous 12 Trees of Christmas exhibition with trees decorated by a variety of top designers.

The Christmas Flower Shows 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, carolers, 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.

For more on holiday displays check out My Top 5 Holiday Windows.

Live Performance & Theatrical Productions

No staged production is more authentically “Christmas” than The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s famous adaptation of E.T.A Hoffman’s storyThe 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 with humour, surprise, brilliant choreography and magnificent costumes. Not to be missed. December 10 to 31, 2016 – Four Seasons Centre.

Your favorite Disney characters and stories brought to life with the artistry of ice skating to create an unforgettable family experience as Disney on Ice presents Dream Big. All the beauty, sparkle and fantasy that Disney is known for come together in this production. Dec 23, 2016 to January 1, 2017 – Rogers Centre.

For lots of laughs, check out Sleeping Beauty, the family musical PANto-monium! November 25, 2016 to January 7, 2017 – Elgin Theatre.

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 stunning Koerner Hall. December 14 to 17, 2016.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s annual Christmas concert will have you singing along with your favourite carols and chuckling along with narrator Colin Mochrie. Join in The Twelve Days of Christmas at Roy Thomson Hall. December 9 to 11.

It’s the biggest Messiah in Toronto! These heartening 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 at Roy Thomson Hall.

Theatre Guide

For more productions check out our Theatre Guide.

Santa Claus Parades

A favourite holiday tradition for over a hundred years, there are two major Santa Claus parades to choose from in the region – Toronto and Brampton. Make memories for your kids and get set for an exciting afternoon full of marching bands, colourful floats, costumed revellers and, of course, the big guy himself.

Sunday, November 20, 2016: Toronto Santa Claus Parade makes its way from Bloor and Christie through downtown Toronto for nearly 6 kilometres of excitement and fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2016: Brampton Santa Claus Parade takes place under the stars, for extra twinkle, with a start time of 5:00 p.m.

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