Top Things to Do in Toronto for the Holidays

Spend your holiday season safely enjoying Toronto’s winter activities, events and more.

Toronto is alive with events of all sorts, from high-wattage sparkle to virtual markets bursting with festive treats. Here, we’ve rounded up the top things to do this holiday season that are equally fun and safe.

The Christmas tree is a must-see at the Winter Village at the Distillery Historic District

Enjoy holiday magic on wheels

Whether you have kids of your own, or really love Christmas decorations (and seeing Santa!), explore Toronto’s holiday drive-thrus. The Toronto Zoo’s Holiday Drive-Thru comes with a drive-by Santa, a 35-ft tall Christmas tree and entire North Pole village. Bring your non-perishable food items, as the Zoo will donate them to Toronto’s vulnerable communities. Buy your tickets online.

Love flashing lights and Instagrammable installations? Holiday Nights of Lights’ 1 million LED lights can be seen as far as the North Pole—or so we’ve been told. You’ll have to ask Santa yourself. Journey down twinkling light tunnels that glitter in tandem with heart-warming Christmas tunes. Tickets are available online until January 3rd.

For an extravagant sight, head to Polar. Toronto Pearson International Airport’s multi-level Christmas drive-thru is a first of its kind in Canada. The most detailed of all the drive-thrus, this one has 6 holiday-themed levels, including epic light tunnels for the Insta. Purchase your tickets online

This next one is free, but you’ll still need to reserve your time slot to attend. The CF Holiday Drive-Thru recently popped up at Sherway Gardens with 7 themed areas and kid-friendly activities. The experience lasts 35 minutes, taking your car through a narrated, elf-led adventure to power Santa’s sleigh.

Finally, Bluff’s Winter Wonderland leads you across a 1-km trail of Christmas lights at the base of the Scarborough Bluffs. Brimming with iridescent holiday decor, it likewise features a North Pole village with a resident Santa. Bluff’s Winter Wonderland’s popularity led to a sell-out debut. Luckily, new time slots were added, but you’ll have to be quick to snag them.

Also read: 7 Fun Toronto Drive-Thru Experiences this Holiday Season

Explore holiday magic by foot

Toronto neighbourhoods shine bright this holiday season with festive installations and tunnels. Bundle up and venture out into your hood or nearby areas to soak up holiday cheer.

Bloor-Yorkville recently decked itself out in Holiday Magic, including a light tunnel and massive Christmas tree. The neighbourhood also added heated benches with interactive lights and QR codes. Scan the codes to order curbside takeout from nearby restaurants like Eataly, Amal, Sofia, Cibo and more.

In the same vein, the Distillery Historic District decked its laneways and cobblestone streets in dreamy string lights and festive decor. The best part? A gorgeous, towering Christmas tree at the centre of it all. Explore the Winter Village, where quaint restaurants and shops offer curbside pickup of their services. 

Another festive installation—with a beautiful tree included—lives at the Front Street entrance of Union Station. The TD Union Holiday pop-up displays a glacier wall formation with immersive sound and lighting. Catch it before it’s gone.

Also read: Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Toronto

Find Toronto’s window displays

Love holiday window displays? Then hold onto your Santa hats because you’re in for a treat. As per tradition, Hudson’s Bay astonishes crowds with an epic window display on the corner of Queen and Yonge Street. This year’s musical activation features Santa’s Workshop in motion. 

Head to The Junction’s Window Wonderland to see festive windows designed by local artists and animated by augmented reality (AR). Simply download the free Augle app and the windows come alive right before your eyes, or more specifically your phone screen. 

Finally, if you find yourself in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood, Crow’s Theatre raises spirits with a new festive pop-up, the Dundas & Carlaw Holiday Corner. Until January 3rd, sip mulled wine or hot cocoa, while enjoying a festive window installation.

Celebrate with at-home entertainment

Are you the homebody-type who prefers to stay in when temperatures dip below zero? No worries, we got you. Slip into your leisurewear, grab your hot chocolate and get festive from your couch.

The Nutcracker is back, this time on screen, courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada. Stream Toronto’s holiday favourite via the Cineplex Store until January 2nd.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with Against the Grain Theatre, recently released a 70-minute, visual and acoustic rendition of Handel’s Messiah. With a full chorus backdropped against scenic Canadian landscapes, this masterpiece warms hearts until December 26th.

Grab your favourite snacks and stream Soulpepper Theatre’s A Christmas Carol on December 17th at 7 p.m. EST. This year’s annual performance, directed by Michael Shamata, is donating its proceeds toward the Fred Victor Regent Park Food Security Program. RSVP to take part.

Christmas shop locally and virtually

If you’re still crossing items off your shopping list, don’t fret. Virtual markets currently offer local goodies, perfect for your loved ones or yourself. Scour the Trinity Bellwoods Happy Holidays Virtual Market for unique goods by small businesses. This year’s featured sellers are listed on the Trinity Bellwoods Flea’s Facebook event page, with discount codes available until December 21st.

There’s still time to check out the One Of A Kind Show’s (OOAK) winter selection including clothing, accessories, home decor, edible treats and more. With everything made in Canada, this large-scale virtual market features 700 high-quality businesses. This year’s show is free and allows buyers to virtually chat with sellers, should they have questions. OOAK is on until December 20th.

Also read: Uniquely Toronto: Holiday Gift Guide

Glide through the holidays

Ice skating is a popular Torontonian pastime, especially now that more people are opting for outdoor activities to stay in shape. Luckily, Toronto has 54 skating rinks throughout the city to choose from—the most popular undoubtedly being Nathan Phillips Square. However, with a newly established safety capacity of 25 people per rink, prospective skaters must reserve their time slots ahead of time for entry.

The Bentway’s skate trail underneath the Gardiner is also open and taking reservations through Eventbrite. Access to the rink is free, however, $5 donations are encouraged and will go toward winter care kits for Toronto’s homeless.

Finally, if you’re not a skater but still want to partake in a good ol’ Canadian winter activity, try Stackt Market’s Crokicurl. If your face is currently scrunched in confusion, Crokicurl is a mix of crokinole and curling. The game is straightforward, with a dedicated host that monitors scoring and clarifies rules. It’s played with 2-8 players from the same household and lasts 50 minutes. Food and beverages are also available onsite for takeout after your game. Purchase your tickets online.

Watch Christmas favourites on the big screen

A saving grace for Toronto’s cinephiles, the Ontario Place Drive-in continues to entertain movie-goers for yet another season. Upcoming movies include classics like Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Polar Express. Take note that the Vista Eatery is currently closed, so pack snacks and your thermos of hot chocolate—maybe even a cozy blanket. 

Order in an epic holiday feast

This holiday season, Toronto hotels and restaurants are cooking up delicious and hearty meals to enjoy at home.

The Four Seasons Hotel’s Café Boulud festive feast includes turkey, roast beef or ham dinners that can feed entire families. House wine and dessert included. Meanwhile, St. Regis Toronto’s LOUIX LOUIS serves Christmas-dinners-to-go with mouthwatering options like turkey or AAA prime rib roast. Delicious side dishes include truffle soup and crushed potatoes. The Fairmont Royal York also cooks up a storm with meals for groups of 4 or 8. Other hotels curating extravagant to-go dinners for the holidays are the Drake Hotel and TOCA at the Ritz-Carlton.

Select Toronto restaurants have also added holiday meals to their menus for a limited time. Current restaurants include Pantry, Richmond Station, Enigma and Liberty Commons. The list keeps growing so keep checking in on your local favourites.

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