The Best of Holiday Shopping in Toronto this Year

Plan ahead and buy local—it’s time to shop and find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

Toronto is Holiday Shopping Central for many and this year is no exception. Even though we’ll be doing it differently this year, holiday shopping in Toronto still has plenty of sparkle and glow—albeit with a few adjustments to how to get it done.

Holiday window displays at Toronto's Hudson's Bay on Yonge and Queen Street
The flagship Hudson’s Bay holiday windows have been a holiday tradition for over 100 years

What you need to know about holiday shopping this year

Starting November 23, 2020, the City of Toronto will be in lockdown (for 28 days), which means malls and non-essential businesses will be closed for in-store shopping—but do still offer curbside or storefront pickup. 

Cross things off your holiday list with more ease (and safely) using these 3 tips. 

1. Plan before you go and research online 

Gone are the days of casual walk-bys into random stores (at least for now). From knowing what’s open in Toronto to where to park for curbside pickup, being informed will save you time and keep you efficient. Or, take online shopping to the next level with retailers who are offering creative support from afar. Some offer a live chat online or augmented reality technology so you can try products in advance of purchasing.

2. Order ahead and enjoy curbside or storefront pickup

It’s like having a personal shopper do the heavy lifting for you and a few clicks of a mouse (or a phone call) later, all you need to do is show up to claim your purchases. Many retailers are offering some form of pickup but you’ll likely need to pre-book your time slot to avoid lineups.

3. Consider giving a gift card

Gift cards can take the guesswork out of holiday shopping, especially when you have numerous difficult-to-shop-for people on your list. Plus, they’re easy to safely purchase (from a distance), there’s no need for gift wrap and you can even have them delivered directly to the recipient.

Shop local and support small businesses

Not only is it more important than ever to shop local, but keeping it close to home also means you don’t have to venture too far to get what you need (read: safer). Many of the smaller brick-and-mortar stores are also now online or active on social media, so it won’t be too challenging to find shops that need your love.

There’s even a new crowdsourced website called Not Amazon that lists local small businesses by category. From contactless pickup to online ordering and even virtual personal shopping, there are so many ways to support the small businesses that make up the neighbourhoods across the city.

If you’re looking for shops in a specific neighbourhood, check with the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) for a roundup of retailers and promotions that are hyper-local.

Need gift ideas? You’ll find something that fits the bill in our Uniquely Toronto: Holiday Gift Guide.

Also read: Amazing Local Delivered-to-You Experiences

Taking Pictures at the One Of a Kind Show
The One of a Kind Show moved online this season for their first-ever digital Show

Find One of a Kind online

Looking for a special gift that you won’t find anywhere else? The One of a Kind Online is the flagship event supporting craft and the Canadian makers behind unique handmade goods. It is the largest consumer craft show in North America and holding their first-ever digital Show this holiday season.    

Until December 20, 2020, you can connect and shop online with 700+ makers, shop Canadian-made and support small businesses of artisans, craftspeople and designers across the country. There’s no mass-market merchandise here—only quality, lovingly crafted goods.

And if you’re inspired to do some crafting at home, you can learn how to make your own rustic sign, handmade greeting cards and more at home from DIY workshops with One of a Kind Online Makers (for free).

Similar to the in-person Show, you can browse virtual aisles of handmade ceramics, textiles, baked goods, Christmas ornaments and jewellery to find perfect and exclusive gifts for anyone on your list. Scroll through the weekly gift guides for more inspiration.

Also read: Toronto’s Best Holiday Markets for 2020

Magic and merriment at the mall

While holiday shopping isn’t quite the same this year, you can still get your shopping done at the mall. There is limited access available, with only essential retailers open for in-person shopping at 50% capacity—so be patient and be prepared to wait in line.

You haven’t truly experienced the spectacle of holiday time at a mall until you’ve been to the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Starting in November, Toronto’s most iconic mall normally becomes the ultimate holiday shopping destination, complete with dazzling lights, spectacular decorations and an artful 50-foot Christmas tree. 

Shoppers can place orders with retailers and then pre-book appointments for pickup. With select retailers offering curbside pickup, it’s like holiday shopping delivered to your car! Dedicated pickup parking zones and spots can be found in various parts of the parking lot. Shoppers ordering from retailers with storefront pickup must book appointments and in-store shopping will not be allowed.

If you’re looking outside of the downtown core, shoppers can now also pick up their online or phone orders from participating retailers using curbside and storefront pickup at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Learn more about what’s available at Yorkdale during the lockdown, including essential retailers that are open for in-store shopping.

Festive cheer at the Distillery Winter Village 

Although the iconic Toronto Christmas Market isn’t running in the Distillery Historic District this year, businesses are open for holiday shopping until December 21, 2020. Browse the Distillery District Holiday Gift Guide to find unique ideas for everyone on your list including specialty gifts, art, fashion and more that you won’t find anywhere else. 

The shops and galleries are open for online orders and curbside pickup. Restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries are open for takeout or delivery as well. If you are stopping by for curbside pickup, be prepared to wear a mask both indoors and outdoors, as part of the Distillery District’s updated mask-wearing protocol. The holiday lights and Christmas tree will also be turned on from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day, until the end of the lockdown.

Also read: Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Toronto

Marvel at lights and window displays worthy of Santa himself

As far as Toronto holiday window displays go, the ones at the Hudson’s Bay store draw the most attention and have been a tradition to mark the season for over 100 years. Every year, thousands of holiday-loving Torontonians (and visitors) make it a point to marvel at the beloved displays at the flagship store at Yonge and Queen. 

From a jovial Santa Claus and industrious elves to giant snow globes, mechanical nutcrackers and animated polar bears, the window displays never cease to amaze onlookers each holiday season. This year, the 5 displays follow a “Santa’s Secret Workshop” theme, including departments for snow-making, candy canes, gifting, ornament-making and a mailroom.

The most exclusive shopping district in Toronto is the place to go for high-end holiday shopping. Known as The Mink Mile in Bloor-Yorkville, the always-sparkly district gets even sparklier leading up to the holidays. Lights are strung in trees along the sidewalks (139 trees this year) and storefronts are decorated with festive displays.

The annual Holiday Magic lights are also on display in the Village of Yorkville Park. From a twinkling light tunnel to oversize snowflakes, a sparkling Christmas tree and more, there are a variety of unique displays that will give you all the holiday feels. 

Also read: Top Holiday Windows in Festive Toronto

Please consider shopping local and supporting small businesses this holiday season. Make sure to check with individual businesses for hours or protocols, and shop safely and responsibly.

More Toronto Shopping: Where to Find Stylish Canadian Designer Clothes in Toronto | Shopping in King West

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