Best Holiday Windows in Festive Toronto

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Mechanical nutcrackers, animated bears, electronic carollers, over-sized glittery snowflakes and fireplaces bedecked with stockings… These are a few of my favourite (holiday) things – and I can expect to find them each festive season in window displays throughout Toronto. By Doug O'Neill.

A mannequin in holiday and Christmas dress.

I like to pick an evening, just after dusk, in mid-December to get the full flavour of our holiday windows. Sometimes I’m greeted with scenes straight out of Dickens – and other times they’ve got touches of Disney.

Hudson’s Bay Company

176 Yonge Street.

If you’re seeking a contemporary but festive Yuletide scene: After almost a decade of Santa and industrious elves, the Hudson's Bay Company has revamped its iconic holiday displays. Five animated windows, done up to look like snow globes, play on the theme of “Shake Up Your Holidays.” The engaging tableaux include a vintage-style circus conducted by a mechanical master of ceremonies, two polar bears meeting for a high five and a starry holiday scene set against Toronto landmarks.

While you’re there: after checking out the Hudson’s Bay windows, I like to head over to the City Hall rink, just down the street, for some ice skating. Just look for the Instagram-worthy TORONTO sign. (Visitors can rent skates; free admission.)

Snow White holiday window at Saks Fifth Avenue Toronto.

Saks Fifth Avenue

176 Yonge Street.

If you prefer more glam than wintry wonderland: Just around the corner from the Hudson’s Bay’s new windows, festive-seeking pedestrians will find the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows on the west side of Yonge Street. The Saks Fifth Avenue design team have rocked it with their enchanted forest in celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Each of the 5 windows show a different interpretation of Snow White’s iconic dress, set against an otherworldy forest backdrop.

While you’re there: Cozy up to the octagonal bar at the glitzy Lena Restaurant or sit down to a meal with your friends in a velvet-lined booth.

Holt Renfrew

50 Bloor Street West.

If you’re looking for a stylish take on Christmas: The Canadian high fashion mecca Holt Renfrew’s flagship store holiday windows are always fun and chic. This year’s “Bearing Gifts” polar-bear theme is quite entertaining — polar bars on their backsides, paws up in the air juggling or propping up gifts.

While you’re on Bloor Street: check out the traditional and eye-catching displays at Harry Rosen menswear (82 Bloor West). Get your favourite uncle a fabulous tie while you’re there.

Rosedale Neighbourhood

If you’re curious (okay, nosey) like me: the festive lighting on the century-old homes in upscale Castle Frank and south Rosedale could be right out of a Disney holiday flick. Take the subway to the Castle Frank stop and walk due north.

While you’re there: one subway stop east will put you on the Danforth. Try the Dora Keogh Irish Pub (141 Danforth Avenue) for a post-walk libation and live music.

About the Author

Doug O’Neill is an ardent Torontonian and freelance writer who can be found on Twitter @dougoneill.