T’is the season to be jolly and all that jazz! As October comes to an end and the leaves fall off the trees, we can’t help but have visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. Okay I’ve never had a sugar plum in my life, but when November 1st rolls around my brain immediately clicks into holiday overdrive. Whether you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit with some Ontario Christmas markets or thinking of a gift for the traveller you love that isn’t materialistic, these Christmas getaways in Ontario are guaranteed to please!
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Niagara Region: Fun Getaways for Christmas
There’s more to Niagara than just the Horseshoe Falls! Growing up in the area, the Niagara Region is near and dear to my heart for a solid dose of holiday cheer.
Things to Do in Niagara Region
It isn’t a Niagara Christmas getaway without visiting the Winter Festival of Lights. The Niagara Parkway is transformed with incredible light displays in Queen’s Park and beyond. Be sure to also explore the Dufferin Islands where you can see life-size moose, bears and more! You can also enjoy their Deck the Falls self-guided tour where you’ll enjoy out-of-this-world holiday decorations, eats, treats and more. Niagara Falls has no shortage of holiday cheer and these insider tips can ensure you enjoy the most of what the area has to offer!
RELATED: If you love Christmas lights, you’ll want to check out these incredible Christmas light displays across Ontario!
The lights are magical, but the true Christmas spirit can be found in the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Take a stroll along streets that look as if they were on the Christmas card your mother got last year. Grab some gifts at the local shops and take a peek inside the Just Christmas store for some amazing holiday decor. If your Christmas typically involves donning an ugly sweater, then the Ugly Sweater Holiday Food Tour is a must! Enjoy 2.5 hours of great eats and shopping opportunities. Don’t be shy – the ugliest sweater wins a prize! Click here to book from Canada and click here to book from elsewhere in the world. While you’re there, don’t miss all of the incredible things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake to round out your visit!
No trip to Niagara is complete without at least one wine tasting. Anyone who has been to Niagara (or has at least searched “winery” on Google Maps) knows there is an overwhelming number of wineries in the region. I’ve dabbled in a fair number of them and can say that my top three for a holiday tasting would be Konzelmann for incredible reds, Peller Estates for refreshing whites, and Inniskillin for some of the best ice wine I’ve ever had. No matter your wine preference, you can’t go wrong at any of these properties. Not only are they magical on a regular day but they’re extra charming with additional holiday décor!
Restaurants in the Niagara Region
Despite being a festive mecca, there aren’t many restaurants in the Niagara Region that offer set dinner menus with an extra dash of yuletide cheer. However, Niagara does brunch well which is the perfect way to start any Sunday. One option is the Tiara Restaurant at Queen’s Landing which offers a seasonal brunch menu every Sunday in December. Another is The Cannery at Pillar and Post. Both are adorable little spots in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the perfect place to spend a Sunday embracing the holiday spirit.
If you are looking for a dinner special, on Thursdays and Fridays from mid-November until Christmas, you can enjoy a Dickensian Feast at the Prince of Wales hotel. Make new friends at the large communal table as you enjoy live music courtesy of Scrooge himself as he tinkles the ivories with classic Christmas carols on the piano.
While it may not have a set holiday menu, I’d say having a bird’s eye view of the Festival of Lights makes up for it! You can enjoy these amazing views at the Skylon Tower‘s Revolving Restaurant along with picture perfect scenes as Niagara Falls lights up the night. The food is seriously amazing and you can spend as much time on the observation deck as you’d like once you’re done!
If you’re looking for tasty seafood, Tide & Vine has you covered. What started as oyster shucking from a 1970s VW camper van has transformed into Niagara’s only oyster house. It’s seriously the best seafood restaurant in the region. Their menu is constantly changing meaning you’ll always have something new to try!
Festive Hotels in the Niagara Region
For the perfect holiday getaway, I highly suggest staying in Niagara-on-the-Lake. There are a number of beautiful boutique hotels, including the Prince of Wales Hotel. Take advantage of their Twelve Days of Christmas package where you’ll not only stay in style but can enjoy added perks such as a holiday hot cocoa bar, martini bar, fireside s’mores and more! I’d say this would certainly ensure NOTL is one of the top Christmas getaways in Ontario.
If you’d like to stay close to the Falls, the Old Stone Inn is your perfect holiday headquarters. This turn-of-the-century flour mill turned boutique hotel will charm your socks off as one of the few historic inns in the region. With their Deck the Falls package, you can stay in style while enjoying added perks such as two passes to Deck the Falls, two toques to keep your head warm as you explore and more.
Toronto: Fantastic Winter Getaways in Ontario
If you’re looking for some of those big city lights, there is no shortage of them in Toronto. With more holiday activities than you can shake a stick at, it’s a natural choice for a yuletide getaway!
Things to Do in Toronto
In a city as massive as Ontario’s capital, holiday cheer awaits around every corner. Take a stroll through the Eaton Centre and admire what’s probably the largest Christmas tree in the city along with their other incredible décor. The Eaton Centre goes all out for the holidays! Don’t miss the window displays outside the Hudson’s Bay Company as well.
Did you know that Toronto has a castle? If you didn’t, well now you do as Casa Loma decks its halls for the season. Meander through the floors of this early 20th century landmark and admire the eight signature trees crafted by talented Canadian designers. Kids will also love it as they can visit Santa in his castle workshop (umm who else wants one of those?!) and craft until their heart is content. Also, if you can spare a toy, Casa Loma has a toy drop-off location so you can give back during this festive season.
What’s probably the largest Christmas market in Canada, the Distillery District transforms into the magical Toronto Christmas Market. Explore the vendors and indulge in a number of eats and treats as you admire the 19th century architecture. It’s easily one of the best Christmas Markets in Canada! Once you’ve wandered along all of the cobblestone streets, head to Nathan Phillips Square for the Holiday Fair in the Square. Unleash your inner child with the rides and games as you support Epilepsy Toronto. Don’t forget to hop on the ice and go for a skate, too!
Once night falls, head to Ontario Place to experience the brand new Aurora Winter Festival along with the Winter Light Exhibition. Enter this magical world and explore the enchanting light displays, amusements, and more. It’s as if you’ve been whisked away to an enchanted land like Narnia! If you’re addicted to cute photo ops and Christmas lights, a visit to Ontario Place is a must!
Throughout the holiday season, there is also an overwhelming number of one-time events and more are added each year. When do the Christmas festivities truly begin? I’d say the official kick-off would be the Santa Claus Parade. While I’ve never attended myself, I have fond childhood memories of being snuggled up with a hot chocolate by the fire, watching the parade on TV.
This next one is a little trickier as it takes some serious coordinating, but the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train is a fan favourite across the country. For 20 years now it has been collecting donations at each of its stops for the local food bank. It always makes an appearance in Toronto and while it’s often a mid-week event, it really is something you should experience at least once in your life! I was able to catch it in Cambridge and to see so many families and friends together helping others while enjoying the concert really was incredible.
Restaurants in Toronto for Festive Eats
While dining at one of the incredible Christmas Markets is definitely a must, these Toronto restaurants are serving some festive sit-down meals.
If you’re craving Italian, Buca opens its doors at lunch specifically for a holiday menu. With locally-sourced seasonal ingredients and house-cured meats that are sure to please, this restaurant will have you wishing it was Christmas every day.
When it’s cold outside you can’t go wrong with a hearty meal. The Carbon Bar has a plethora of Southern-inspired dishes that will warm you from the inside out. Whether you’re looking for ribs, seafood or something a bit lighter, you’ll be walking out of here with a serious food coma.
If brunch is your jam, then you’ll be all over the holiday brunch at Auberge du Pommier. This three-course prix fixe features some of the chef’s winter favourites. With a variety of dishes, it’s the perfect way to start your Sunday.
Don’t care for a special menu? One of my favourite places to eat is the Pow Wow Cafe in Kensington Market. These Indigenous-inspired meals are the perfect fuel for a day of winter wandering. Grab their Pow Wow Style Corn Soup and a cup of cedar tea – it’s a foolproof combination for beating the windchill.
Toronto Hotels For Your Christmas Getaway
With a big city comes no shortage of hotels, however there are a few that stand out from the crowd. Since we’re looking to continue the yuletide vibe, it only makes sense to stay somewhere that embodies just that!
The Omni King Edward Hotel is not only decked to the nines but has an amazing holiday package where you can sip, stay and save while you’re doing it! Enjoy 10% off, two special holiday cocktails and a nice 1:00pm check out. They even have a Festive Coordinator to help you book a reservation for their holiday offerings. You can see what other people have to say about but in my personal opinion, t’is the season… why not spoil yourself with the Queen’s Holiday Lunch?
Another great option is the Chelsea Hotel where you can take advantage of their Santa sale for the perfect weekend getaway. With an amazing location just a few blocks from Nathan Phillips Square and the Eatons Centre, it’s prime holiday real estate. You’ll also get exclusive discounts on hot attractions like the Royal Ontario Museum, bicycle tours and more! Take a look at what people are saying about the Chelsea Hotel.
Unionville: One of the Adorable Christmas Towns
If you’re looking for something close to Toronto but with that small town vibe, Unionville is a fantastic option! It’s certainly no stranger to the spotlight as it’s been a shooting location on big shows such as Schitt’s Creek and Gilmore Girls along with the odd Hallmark movie. Come Christmas time, this adorable section of Markham is bursting at the seams with festive charm!
Things to Do in Unionville
Just taking a stroll down Main Street will immediately put a smile on your face as it’s decked out with garland and lights. Add a sprinkle of the fluffy white stuff and you’ll certainly have the picture perfect view that’s straight out of a Christmas movie!
As you explore, be sure to pop into Old Firehall Confectionery as they have a wide range of festive treats. Pick up a few of their hot chocolate bombs to take home and enjoy. They’ll really hit the spot come Christmas morning… if they last that long! You’ll also find macarons, truffles and other delicious treats which are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you’re looking to do a bit of shopping, stop in at Pretty Thingz. Here you’ll find a wide range of goods from comfy shawls to perfume. There will be plenty of items that catch your eye! Whether you pick up a gift or two for the folks on your list or treat yourself to something special… no judgement here!
Of course, make sure you have your camera and/or phone ready as Unionville always has some gorgeous light displays! A number of the storefronts even get in on the festive spirit. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to snap a photo for your next family Christmas card, Unionville is certainly it!
INSIDER TIP: When visiting, I’d recommend arriving in the afternoon and grabbing dinner so that you don’t miss out on seeing the light displays all lit up come nightfall!
Unionville Restaurants to Eat At
There is no shortage of great eats to be found along this little stretch of Markham. With quite a variety of cuisines, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy.
For hearty Italian eats, I’d recommend a meal at Il Postino. This upscale restaurant is housed in what was once the area’s post office! Focusing on locally-sourced ingredients, they serve up modern takes on Italian classics. They also have an amazing wine list that will perfectly round out your experience.
Another fantastic option is Next Door Restaurant, located in the Unionville Planing Mill. Their menu focuses on Canadian cuisine but not in the traditional sense. Canada is bursting with cultural diversity and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. If you’re looking for unique flavour profiles you won’t find anywhere else, a meal at Next Door is a must during your visit to Unionville!
Where to Stay Near Unionville
As Unionville is a small stretch of Markham, there aren’t any hotels immediately located within it. However, its close proximity to Toronto makes it a great little day trip during your visit to the city, or you can stay in one of the hotels close by.
A fantastic option is the Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham at the corner of Highway 7 and Town Centre Boulevard. Every one of their rooms is a suite that offers a separate bedroom and living space. There are even two-bedroom suites for larger families or those travelling with relatives! This elegant hotel also has a full-service spa, on-site dining options and other wonderful amenities. See what others have to say about their experience or book your suite now.
There is also the luxuriously designed Toronto Mariott Markham just steps from the Unionville GO Station. Their rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows which either offer a view of the city or a garden view where you can admire the building’s green roof. Guests will also love their elevated infinity pool and 24-hour fitness centre! Click here to book your stay or see what others have shared about their experiences.
Of course if you’re looking for a festive accommodation option for your Ontario Christmas getaway, I recommend checking out the Toronto hotels listed above.
Stratford: A Fantastic Ontario Christmas Getaway
Home to the world-renown Stratford Festival, the city is certainly one of the top holiday destinations in Ontario! The city’s charm is magnified by the spirit of the season.
Festive Things to Do in Stratford
No holiday visit to the city is complete without checking out the Stratford Christmas Trail. For $30, you’ll receive six vouchers which you can redeem at participating businesses in town. From tasty treats to handy household items, these festive goodies are the perfect way to do some Christmas shopping while enjoying some holiday cheer!
While chocolate is a year-round treat, a visit to Rheo Thompson Candies for their mint smoothie chocolate is an absolute must. It’s Christmas in chocolate form! You’ll also find a plethora of other delicious treats that will help you cross off at least a handful of the people on your list.
Of course, Stratford is already picturesque on its own but with the added holiday lights, it’s even more magical! Enjoy a stroll around the heart of town where you’ll find a number of spots to snap a cute photo or two. If you’re looking for a beverage to enjoy as you do this, pop over to Revel for the best coffee in town.
RELATED: For more amazing things to do in town during your Christmas vacation, be sure to check out my guide to visiting Stratford!
Restaurants in Stratford for a Bite
There are more Stratford restaurants than you can shake a candy cane at with cuisines ranging from diner eats to Thai. If you’re craving something in particular, chances are you’ll find something like it in the city.
However, if you’re going to eat anywhere in Stratford then it has to be at Braai House. Your taste buds will be treated to South African cuisine, but with a modern twist. From their bobotie (think Shepherd’s Pie but with curry-like spices) to their pizzas with unique toppings like boerewors (South African sausage), you’ll be blown away by the combination of flavours. Make sure you save room for dessert too because you won’t want to miss out! I cannot speak highly enough of Braai House so make sure to book a reservation as it’s a popular spot for dinner in Stratford.
One of the most elegant restaurants in Stratford, Revival House was once a whimsical little church. You’ll be blown away by the high ceilings and gorgeous stained glass that has been maintained inside, setting the ambiance for your delightful dinner. As for their menu, you’ll enjoy a mix of Canadian and Thai-fusion eats using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. Whether you enjoy a classic burger or try something different like their Traditional Laotian Nam Khao, you will leave with a full, happy belly.
For more delicious recommendations, check out the Eat Local Ontario guide where Steph and I spill the beans on all the incredible restaurants in Stratford!
Where to Stay in Stratford
As you can imagine in a town so adorable, there are a number of fantastic hotels in Stratford. While it doesn’t seem like any have holiday getaway packages, staying in the heart of the town will ensure you’ll enjoy plenty of festive fun.
I had the pleasure of staying at Edison’s Inn during my visit to Stratford and it was perfect. Offering three uniquely decorated suites, it’s named after Thomas Edison who actually lived in the building briefly during his lifetime! This boutique hotel will ensure you sleep soundly in their comfy beds and cozy vibes. With a prime location close to a number of restaurants and shops (not to mention a cafe right below!), you can’t go wrong with a night or two here. Book your stay now or see what others have to say about their experience.
Waterloo Region: Great Christmas Weekend Getaways
Home to Canada’s very first Christkindl Market, Waterloo Region is a great holiday destination. You’ll find a number of holiday-themed events and with more being added each year, a trip here will fill you with yuletide cheer!
Things to Do in Waterloo Region
As I mentioned, Kitchener’s Christkindl Market really is a holiday must-do. Indulge in homemade German eats that are comparable to the Fatherland as you sip on glühwein, peruse the adorable huts and do a little shopping. The only bummer is that it’s on for just one weekend. If you miss it though, the Kitchener Market embraces the Christmas vibe and is the perfect way to spend your Saturday morning all December long.
St. Jacob’s is another holiday hotspot as this picturesque little town turns into a winter wonderland. Take a stroll down the main street and do a little shopping or hop on the Polar Express. Enjoy a train ride through the country while sipping hot chocolate and listening to carols and music from the motion picture’s soundtrack.
For 2018, Waterloo Region added a Mistletoe Trail where couples of all shapes and sizes (yes, even your four-legged and furry loves!) can steal kisses under this iconic greenery. It sure led to some adorable photo-ops and even a proposal!
Once night falls, enjoy a stroll through Victoria Park or Waterloo Park or you can head down to Cambridge and check out their four festive light displays which are sure to please. Hopefully there will be some snow, too! Does that sound a little too chilly for you? There’s always the option of Gift of Lights for a drive-through light extravaganza, however it does cost $15, $20 if you don’t buy in advance. I’d personally suggest Victoria or Waterloo Park instead so you can actually take your time enjoying the lights and photo ops! If you’ve seen enough Christmas lights though, there are plenty of holiday shows for all ages put on at the St. Jacob’s Playhouse, Centre in the Square and more.
Waterloo Region Restaurants with Holiday Eats
There is no shortage of delicious food in Waterloo Region and many create special holiday menus. Indulge in locally-sourced goodness at the Fork and Cork Grill that’ll put you into a serious food coma. Their 3-course menu is a total steal at $45/person plus they have Earl Grey crème brûlée which always wins me over.
If you’re looking to splurge a little, the best location is none other than Langdon Hall. Decked to the nines, the food is just as amazing as the décor. Indulging in their 3-course lunch special at $72/person is the best way to enjoy without your wallet completely hating you. The toughest part will be choosing what items from their incredible menu.
Seriously though, you could eat yourself silly in Waterloo Region. I mean, just look at all these great restaurants in Downtown Kitchener – and that’s just one small area of the region! Trust me when I say it’s easy to find some awesome meals in the area.
Where to Stay in Waterloo Region
Waterloo Region isn’t the most friendly for those relying on public transit if you’re looking to explore outside of the downtown core. While it is easy to entertain yourself in downtown Kitchener or Uptown Waterloo for a weekend, you’ll need a car to truly take advantage of the area.
I highly suggest staying at the Walper Hotel. This boutique hotel underwent a facelift a few years back and since then it’s raised the bar for hotels in the region. Built in 1893, you’ll see that historic charm meld with modern aesthetics. It’s truly breathtaking and with plenty of amazing coffee shops, local craft breweries, restaurants and more at your doorstep, it’s the place to stay in my opinion. Don’t believe me? See what other visitors have to say about it!
Other Ideas for Christmas Getaways in Ontario
There is no shortage of holiday cheer in Ontario! Whether you’re looking to chase Christmas markets or just need an excuse to get away, here are a few other destinations of none of the above really caught your interest.
It’s a no-brainer that the Muskoka area would make an adorable Ontario winter getaway. If you’re looking for something a bit more outdoorsy, a road trip to Algonquin Park and Arrowhead for some of the best Ontario winter hikes is a fantastic idea. Plus you have so many adorable towns like Bracebridge and Huntsville that get decked out with Christmas lights. There’s also the picturesque Bayview Wildwood Resort that is a wonderful destination all on its own. Not only do they offer lakeside accommodations but they have cross country skiing, ice fishing, skating, toboggans and more! Bayview Wildwood Resort has a number of holiday packages leading up to and after the holiday to make it a fantastic Ontario Christmas getaway.
Head to Kingston where the St Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario to find the spirit of winter. With a number of Santa Claus parades, and markets like the Kingston Holiday Pop-Up Market, Amadeus’ German Christmas Market, and more, there’s plenty of yuletide fun to be had. Go for a stroll down the city’s waterfront or pop some skates on in Market Square. If you’re looking for more Christmas fun, head to nearby Morrisburg for Alight at Night or Brockville for their River of Lights display!
For a true dose of holiday cheer, Canada’s capital is a foolproof choice. Ottawa has so much to offer in the winter months, including but not limited to a skate down the Rideau Canal, brilliant light displays on Parliament Hill and great eats in the Byward Market. Saunders Farm puts a country spin on Christmas with hedge mazes, wagon rides, their farm shop and more. You can see Upper Canada Village bursting with colour thanks to their Alight at Night displays. There’s also the drive-thru Magic of Lights extravaganza at Wesley Clover Parks… and that’s just a taste of what Ottawa has in store!
If you’re heading towards Ontario’s Southwest, London has a number of Christmas events to offer. Take a stroll through the downtown core as well as Victoria Park to check out their festive light displays. Enjoy a skate at Storybook Gardens, one of Ontario’s outdoor skating trails. There are also a number of Christmas markets in the area like Bellamere Winery’s Old World Christmas Market and the Christmas Merry Makers Fair at the Covent Garden Market. All of this makes it one of the great places to visit during Christmas in Canada.
Continuing west, Windsor is full of festive fun and can certainly be a fantastic option for Christmas getaways for couples. Wander through the streets of downtown and enjoy their Light Up the Night Festival. A number of local theatres show Christmas movie classes like Elf and A Christmas Story so you can enjoy them on the big screen. You also won’t want to miss Winterfest which features different events, markets and Santa visits every weekend from the end of November until Christmas Day!
There are a number of other spots for holiday cheer in the County of Essex besides Windsor. In Amherstburg, you’ll find the River Lights Winter Festival where you’ll find photo opportunities galore in both Toddy Jones Park and King’s Navy Yard Park. As you explore, pop into some of the local shops for unique gift ideas. There’s also the adorable town of Kingsville and while I know it for the epic brewer’s suite at the Grove Hotel, it also boasts its own Fantasy of Lights at Lakeside Park. At just 30 minutes apart, you can easily visit both in one trip!
Which of These Ontario Christmas Getaways is Your Favourite?
So these may be themed around Christmas time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit once the holiday has come and gone! Each of these destinations would still make an amazing Ontario winter escape or some epic March Break getaways. They have so much to offer in the colder months! Whether you make this a winter adventure or a holiday excursion, these places to visit in Ontario during Christmas surely won’t disappoint!
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