Festive Toronto Christmas Traditions

These festive Toronto activities are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. 

Brighten your holiday season with safe activities happening around the city. Sure, circumstances may be out-of-the-ordinary, but Toronto still glows with traditions that only come but once a year. While some activities may be on hold or somewhat modified, there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the magic of the season.

Fans can stream The Nutcracker from home via the Cineplex Store

See The Nutcracker on screen

The classic Christmas experience, courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada, has been a Torontonian tradition for the last few decades. This year the show still goes on. Via the Cineplex Store, stream The Nutcracker to your living room, starting December 4th.

This season’s beautiful production, choreographed by James Kudelka, features Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stanczyk as its principal dancers.

Shop the One Of A Kind Winter Show

The One Of A Kind Show is back for another season, this time with their annual Winter show! Channel your holiday feels into this virtual market that showcases over 700 Canadian artisans selling everything from clothing, to stationery to Christmas decor and more.

On until December 20th, support local businesses while sipping homemade mulled wine or spiked hot chocolate for that authentic holiday market vibe.

Experience the power of Handel’s Messiah

If there’s one Toronto Christmas tradition that fills you with awe and wonder, it’s the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Handel’s Messiah. Joined by a full chorus and special guest singers, this beloved Christmas classic uplifts and fills your heart with holiday cheer.

This year’s virtual presentation is produced by Against the Grain, in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performers. The 70-minute piece is filmed against Canadian landscapes, in different languages and is available via YouTube. Register to view this online masterpiece, taking place from December 13 to 26. Admission is free with an option to donate in support of Toronto artists.

The 116th Annual Santa Claus Parade featured musical guests like Kelly Clarkson and Dolly Parton

See St. Nick at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Taking place on Saturday, December 7th, the 116th Annual Santa Claus Parade brightens up Canada’s Wonderland rather than Toronto’s streets, this time without any physical spectators. This year’s parade is for television only, prioritizing public safety. Watch it on CTV at 7 p.m. and look forward to over 20 festive floats, musical guests (ahem, Kelly Clarkson and Dolly Parton) and marching bands.  

Skate at Nathan Phillips Square

Perhaps no Toronto holiday tradition is as heartwarming as skating beneath the twinkling arches of Nathan Phillips Square. While skating rinks are currently open, it’s good to note that they now have a limit of 25 people and spots must be reserved ahead of time

Due to its popularity, Nathan Phillips Square gets booked rather quickly so you’ll need to act fast. Luckily, Toronto has a total of 54 ice rinks that are just as magical. Broaden your horizons to other picturesque spots like High Park’s woodsy rink, among others.

P.S. If you’re heading to Nathan Phillips Square, make sure to BYOHC (bring your own hot chocolate) as its onsite Snack Bar is temporarily closed.

Visit Santa from your car

Good news! Despite the year we’ve had, Santa’s still making his list and checking it twice. Since malls are temporarily closed, Santa won’t be sitting in his usual Toronto Eaton Centre throne. Instead, catch him around town at various drive-thru events. Plan a drive by visit to Ol’ St. Nick that likewise features sparkling holiday lights and music, adorable elves and even an entire Christmas village. 

Although the kiddos can’t sit on his lap, they can still snap pictures from their car seats. And don’t forget their letters to the North Pole, as most drive-thrus have onsite mailboxes. Explore Toronto’s drive-thru scene to find the Santa nearest you.

Also read: Best Places to See Christmas Lights

Gaze at holiday window displays

Every holiday season, Hudson’s Bay outdoes itself in the window display game. See it for yourself at the corner of Queen and Yonge Street in Toronto’s downtown core. Bask in the glow of their gorgeously executed windows, currently themed Santa’s Secret Workshop, and featuring a moving replica of the North Pole, or more specifically the inner-workings of what would be Santa’s factory. Walk by different sections including candy cane, ornament and gift making, Santa’s mailroom and more. Festive music and extravagant details included. Remember to keep a safe distance.

To add to your festive window adventures, head to The Junction’s Window Wonderland. Toronto’s hippest neighbourhood now features a magical display of holiday windows, created by local artists in partnership with Buds Collective. Until January 31st, enjoy 10 interactive painted windows, brought to life by AR.

Also read: Support Local: Shop Ambassador Picks for the Holidays

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

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