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. The city is alive with activities of all sorts, from high-wattage sparkle to handmade charm. So whether you’re a traditionalist or a little more on the edge--or want to holiday like a local--we’ve rounded up a range of events to make your season bright.

Fireworks explode over Toronto City Hall.
Cavalcade of Lights @ Nathan Phillips Square /
Saturday, November 24, 2018

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 an 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. Starting November 24, 2018.

Toronto Christmas Market

No trip to Toronto during the holidays is complete without a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market. Inspired by the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, this five week-long event celebrates the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Set in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, the Market brings together local craftspeople, artisanal food-makers and spectacular light displays for a truly festive experience. Free admission Tuesday to Friday and $6.00 admission Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. Closed Mondays. November 15 to December 23, 2018.

Venus Winter Market

Venus Fest is hosting its first Winter Market which showcases local businesses run by and supporting women and non-binary folks. Local, hand-crafted goods, made with love, will warm up your seasonal gatherings. Lula Lounge, December 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check out more of the holiday markets that have popped up in recent years using our guide, Must-Visit Holiday Markets.

Santa Claus poses in front of a large Christmas tree at Casa Loma.

Christmas at Casa Loma

For a truly unique and memorable Christmas experience, a visit to Toronto’s castle is a must. 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 stunning sight during the festive season.

Ballet Creole

If you crave great dance but perennial favourite The Nutcracker is not your style, then Ballet Creole may be just the thing. Quincy Jones + Handel + African-Caribbean dance = Soulful Messiah. Ballet Creole brings in the holidays with the universal languages of music and joy. Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre December 7 to 9.

The Happy Place

For people who want the festivity without the Christmas, there’s the Happy Place. A rubber ducky room, rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches and a confetti dome are all designed to make your day – and your Instagram – a whole lot brighter. It takes over 245 Queens Quay West in the Harbourfront area November 1 to January 2, 2019.

Home Alone

Imagine a full symphony orchestra playing along to your favourite holiday movie! The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Home Alone in Concert with the orchestra and Resonance Youth Choir singing along with the film. Enjoy this new Christmas classic in a fresh way, at Roy Thomson Hall December 6 to 8, 2018.

Aurora Winter Festival

New for 2018, the Aurora Winter Festival promises to be like visiting a hidden village near the North Pole filled with captivating light displays, magical characters, amusement rides and plenty of other joyful activities. Located on the Ontario Place site, which itself is having a big Winter Light Exhibition the whole area will be a vast winter wonderland. November 29 to December 30, 2018.

Polar Express in IMAX 3D

One of the first films to be converted to IMAX 3D, Polar Express can be seen this holiday season in all its epic glory at the Cinesphere at Ontario Place. The film tells the story of a doubting young boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole. December 8, 9, 15 & 16.

Conservatory by Candlelight

The displays at the Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory at Christmastime are the highlight of the year. Each conservatory is decorated and filled with thousands of flowering plants including over 30 varieties of poinsettia. For a very special experience, visit the conservatory in the evening on a weekend when dozens of candles are lit at sundown. The shows run until mid-January.