T’is the season to be jolly and it’s no secret that Ontario’s capital fully embraces the season. If you’re looking for a reason to visit Toronto in December, this line-up will certainly persuade you. Get in the holiday spirit with these fantastic ways to experience Christmas in Toronto!
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Toronto Christmas Market aka Distillery Winter Village
This is easily my favourite of the holiday events in Toronto. The Toronto Christmas Market, now known as the Distillery Winter Village, is a favourite among locals and visitors alike – and for good reason. The Distillery District is already one of the most charming neighbourhoods in Toronto but come Christmas time, it becomes pure magic!
If you’re not familiar with the Distillery District, this pedestrian-only area was the vision of a small group of developers looking to transform this once-neglected collection of Victorian Industrial buildings. Now, this area is one of Canada’s leading arts and culture districts that impresses everyone who visits.
Now enter the Distillery Winter Village which adds an extra layer of beauty to this already gorgeous area! With quaint wooden stalls, twinking lights, holiday photo walls and the iconic Distillery Christmas tree, it’s guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Sponsored by Parfums Christian Dior, this year’s white spruce tree stands 51 feet tall and is adorned with 70,000 twinkling lights, 400 midnight blue ornaments, 1,700 gold balls and 1,000 custom DIOR star charms. It really is quite the sight to see!
SOMETHING TO NOTE: Tickets are required on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4:00 pm as well as December 27th to the 31st after 4:00 pm. Tickets are $11 plus tax per person, though kids 9 and under are free of charge.
Of course, that’s not all the historic Distillery District has to offer! Go Tours Canada offers walking tours so you can learn more about this incredible area of Toronto. Click here for more details and to book your tour. There is also quite a collection of art galleries and shops to peruse during your visit. Of course, there is no shortage of fantastic restaurants either for when all that wandering works up your appetite.
The best part? The Distillery Winter Village is open until December 31st so if you don’t have a chance to visit before Christmas, you still have time to get there before the year is done.
Visit the Stackt Holiday Hills
The holiday feels are alive at North America’s largest shipping container market! For six weeks until December 31st, Stackt Market transforms into a unique winter wonderland with fun for all ages.
Make sure your phone is charged so you can snap all the photos you like with the festival’s immersive photo installations. Cross a few of the folks off your list with some of the amazing small businesses you’ll find throughout the market. Pop in for a quick visit and explore or sign up for some of the incredible workshops and experiences Stackt has to offer this holiday season.
Try your hand at the unique Canadian game, Crokicurl. Grab your tickets for Unbounded Well, a unique offering inspired by Scandinavian spa and wellness mindsets. Go for a ride on the Ferris wheel and take in the stunning views of the city. This is certainly one of the Toronto Christmas events that’s not to be missed!
Holiday Lights Tour of Casa Loma
It’s been over a decade since I visited Casa Loma and there is no better time than for their Holiday Lights Tour. Prepare yourself for, dare I say it, the best Christmas lights display in all of Toronto?
Wander through two kilometres of dazzling lighting displays as you make your way through the gardens and tunnels of Casa Loma as they’re all decked out for the festive season. From forests of decorated trees with the Grinch making an appearance to singing penguins and plenty of festive displays in between, the Holiday Lights Tour really is a sight to see. Plus you can send a letter to Santa as you make your way through the tunnels and even snap a photo with jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself!
INSIDER TIP: Finish off your evening with a visit to Casa Loma’s famous restaurant, Blue Bloods. Dinner can be pricey but cocktails, appetizers and desserts are fairly reasonable so you can enjoy a visit without breaking the bank! Honestly, you want to enjoy at least a quick visit because the ambiance is absolutely stunning.
Casa Loma’s Christmas at the Castle
Casa Loma is all decked out for the holidays both outside and in! While the Holiday Lights Tour takes you mainly around the grounds, Christmas at the Castle is the interior tour of this masterful piece of architecture.
Peruse each room as they are all festively decorated. The centrepiece of the whole event is certainly the 40 foot tall tree at the heart of the Great Hall. Plus, there are eight other magnificent trees throughout the property all crafted by talented Canadian designers. Of course, kids of all ages are welcome to visit Santa’s workshop in the castle and visit with the holiday mascots as they wander the building.
Pay a Yuletide Visit to the Fairmont Royal York
It’s no secret that many of the hotels in Toronto get decked out for the holidays but the Fairmont Royal York really takes it to the next level.
The Fairmont kicks off the Christmas season with its annual tree-lighting extravaganza around the middle of November. Plus, this is when they do their festive window reveal! This year, you’ll find the adorable Gingerbread Lane on the main floor of the hotel and the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas Photo Wall in the Fraser Room of the East Lobby.
INSIDER TIP: The Fairmont Royal York has a Trees of Hope holiday package where if you book this special offer, $10 from every night will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. You’ll also receive 10% off the daily rate with this offer as well as a $25 dining credit for any of their restaurants. Click here to book your room!
Grab a Beverage at a Festive Pop Up
Speaking of the Fairmont Royal York, they’re home to one of the festive pop up bars you’ll find in Toronto. If Christmas sweaters, kitschy decorations and cheerfully festive cocktails sound like the perfect trifecta for a holiday night out to you, then you’ll want to make sure you pay The Thirsty Elf a visit! With drinks like gin-gle all the way and Christmoose vacation, it certainly sounds like a great date spot with your partner or gal pals!
Want to make it a mini pub crawl? Then you’ll want to hit up Miracle on Bloor! This year the cocktails are being served up by the team at Civil Liberties and they have quite the roster. You can count me in for a holiday spiked chai or a grandma got run over by a T-Rex. Another reason to visit? A dollar from every drink sold is donated to Nellie’s Shelter which provides shelter, education and advocacy for both women and children across the GTA. Drink, be merry AND do good this holiday season!
Festive Fun at Nathan Phillips Square
Nathan Phillips Square is another top spot to go for some fun things to do in Toronto in winter. While you can hit up the outdoor skating rink all winter long, this area gets an extra dose of cheer leading up to Christmas.
First, you have the gorgeous Cavalcade of Lights which is looking to bring the energy of international lantern, fire and light festivals to the heart of Toronto. There are a number of gorgeous installations scattered throughout the square like the lunar lanterns, Santa’s Village and more.
Then from December 2nd until the 23rd, Holiday Fair in the Square adds to the magic with an artisan marketplace, the holiday midway, delicious festive eats and treats as well as the Polar Point Bar. It’s a great spot day or night to get in the spirit of the season.
See The Hudson’s Bay’s Christmas Window Displays
Once you’re done at Nathan Phillips Square, head across the street to the Hudson’s Bay Company. While I have my reservations about supporting the company itself due to the turbulent history with the Indigenous of these lands before it was known as Canada, the window displays are free to admire and do add some holiday cheer to Queen Street.
This year they’re a little different as Hudson’s Bay has opted to incorporate a digital component. While each window depicts a “room” of sorts with various holiday elements, admirers can scan a QR code to “transport” themselves into each scene. Utilizing the front and back cameras of your phone, the augmented reality adds an extra layer of fun to this festive tradition.
Fleurs de Villes NOËL Bloor-Yorkville
From December 7th to 11th of this year, Bloor-Yorkville was decorated with a festive floral trail executed by some of the city’s top florists – just in time for the holiday season!
Over 30 installations were scattered across a number of blocks throughout this area of downtown Toronto. Meander in and out of iconic buildings such as Holt Renfrew, the Manulife Centre, the W Toronto Hotel and more. From intricately decorated mannequins to floral frames perfect for photos, you’ll be blown away by the artistic skill that it takes to make these gorgeous displays!
INSIDER TIP: Unlike many of the Toronto holiday activities on this list, the Fleurs de Villes is best seen in the daylight rather than at night!
Enjoy A Christmas-Themed Meal
Christmas in Toronto isn’t complete without a festive-themed meal and luckily there are a few restaurants in the city that have some great offerings!
It’ll come as no surprise that the Reign at Fairmont Royal York has a number of holiday offerings depending on when you visit. First is their 3-course Festive Prix Fixe Dinner available from December 16th until the 26th. They also have their Festive Sunday Brunch available starting December 4th until Christmas Day.
Then there’s the Festive Buffet at the Old Mill Toronto. Nestled along the banks of the Humber River, their historic dining room is transformed with yuletide cheer as you indulge in dishes like roasted Canadian prime rib and cornish hen.
While Blue Bloods Steakhouse isn’t offering anything specifically festive, the Casa Loma restaurant is pure magic all on its own. Plus you’ll be able to see the lights if you are able to snag a seat by the window so that will add some holiday vibes to your meal!
More Ways to Experience Christmas in Toronto
Have you crossed off the top Christmas things to do in Toronto that I listed above? Or just looking for more Christmas activities in Toronto? Here are a few more recommendations:
Watch the Santa Claus Parade – An age-old tradition for over a century, you know Christmas time is about to begin when the Santa Claus Parade happens! Grab a seat along the route to catch it in-person around the middle of November or wait to watch it from the comfort of your own home when it airs on TV in early December.
Admire Canada’s Tallest Christmas Tree – The Eaton Centre is typically home to a massive tree that spans the entire height of the mall. Unfortunately for 2022, they have chosen not to have one but hopefully it will make a return in 2023!
Stroll Through the Financial District – This may be where a lot of trade and commerce happens but they sure get down to business when it comes to decorating! Take a stroll along Richmond, King and Adelaide between Bay and Yonge Streets as you spot brilliant trees and other decor. Brookfield Place, First Canada Place and the TD Centre are all great spots to admire some lights!
Experience Glow Christmas – Head to the Toronto Congress Centre to enjoy some delicious holiday-themed food and drinks, live performances, beautiful lights and a holiday market. This is a great spot to go with the whole family for a spirited outing.
Meander Through Yorkville Village – If you’re checking out the Fleur de Villes then chances are you’re doing this anyway, however Yorkville Village has some lovely displays of Christmas lights that are perfect for a romantic stroll with your partner or a fun place to get some cute photos with friends.
See the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker – If you’re a fan of theatre, then you’ll want to add The Nutcracker to your plans for the Christmas season. Experience the National Ballet’s take on James Kudelka’s 1995 staging in 19th-century Russia.
Festive-themed Afternoon Tea – Pinkies out as you enjoy a bit of royal treatment! The Omni King Edward Hotel has a Nutcracker-themed tea service in the Victoria Café which pairs perfectly with the performance, though you can also enjoy this activity at the Epoch Bar & Kitchen Terrace as well as at Clockwork.
Kensington Market’s Winter Solstice Festival Parade – Enjoy the longest night of the year with this festive celebration! With music, jugglers, stilt walkers, lion dancers and lanterns galore, it’s certainly a spectacle to see.
Allan Gardens’ Christmas by Candlelight – Feast your eyes on over 30 varieties of poinsettias and other floral displays for the holiday season. Unfortunately, Allan Gardens is currently undergoing restorations so stay tuned for this to return in 2023!
Northern Lights at Exhibition Place – Don’t miss this immersive experience as you explore stunning outdoor light displays at the Grand Bizarre. Northern Lights is happening every night from December 1st through January 8th from 5 PM to 10 PM so you have plenty of time to catch the show!
Canadian Tire Christmas Trail at Black Creek Pioneer Village – Hop in your car as you drive through this 1.5 kilometre long journey with thousands of lights, a plethora of interactive displays, live entertainment and more. Don’t forget to snap your photo with Santa and yes, you’ll enjoy it all from the comfort of your own vehicle!
Where to Stay in Toronto
As you can imagine, there are a number of hotels in Toronto that will make a great spot to call home base while you check out all the festive fun. However, I absolutely loved my stay at the Chelsea Hotel and cannot recommend it enough.
I was greeted by warm, welcoming vibes as I first stepped into the lobby of this Toronto hotel, and I couldn’t help but smile at all of the festive decorations! There are at least four festively decorated trees in the main area, a number of displays in each of the entrance hallways and a gingerbread house competition where visitors can vote for their favourite. There is no shortage of Christmas cheer at the Chelsea Hotel!
INSIDER TIP: If you find yourself in the neighbourhood, pop in to see these adorable gingerbread houses. There are a number of other light displays around the area so meandering to see all the festive sights and sounds will surely make for some fun things to do on Christmas break and throughout the festive season.
The Chelsea Hotel is a fantastic spot to call home base when in Toronto, no matter what time of the year it is. They have a plethora of fantastic amenities making it a perfect hotel for families, business travellers and those looking for a romantic getaway. There is a pool with a waterslide as well as arcade games, pool tables and more in the family fun zone. For the more mature crowds, there’s an adults-only pool, saunas and fitness centre. I honestly wish I had been able to experience more of it but alas, there was too much adventuring to be done!
As for the rooms themselves, there are a number of options ready to cater to your needs. My mom and I stayed in one of their classic rooms which had everything we needed including a mini-fridge, Nespresso machine, desk so I could periodically work and fantastic bath amenities. Each night we sunk right into their cozy beds and slept soundly, despite being in the heart of Toronto. Of course, we could hear the odd car horn and sporadic police sirens, but you’re in Toronto – that’s just part of the ambiance! Earplugs will nullify any noise as I slept the best those two nights we stayed then I had in the past week.
Things to Do at Christmas Near Toronto
Of course, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had outside Toronto’s borders! If you’re looking for some fantastic Christmas day trips from Toronto, here are a few recommendations:
Elliott Tree Farm
This has to be one of the best day trip destinations for Christmas fun near the big city! Located just outside the little town of Erin, Elliott Tree Farm has so much to offer visitors. Besides the obvious reason to visit so you can cut down a fresh tree for your home, they have a number of other activities to enjoy.
They have a number of other decorative items including wreaths and handmade ornaments as well as other items from local artisans that make fantastic gifts for friends and family. Go for a stroll along the trails and then head to the horse barn turned canteen for some incredible eats. Or if you’re looking for some quality nature time, book a private campfire and come loaded up with hot dogs and smores. It’s the perfect way to spend a winter afternoon!
Take a look at their website for full details. If you can’t make it for Christmas, keep them in mind for March when maple season is upon us as they have a fantastic sugar bush experience that’s fun for the whole family.
Canada’s Wonderland’s Winterfest
See this iconic Southern Ontario theme park in a whole new light as Canada’s Wonderland is transformed into a winter wonderland! Explore the park as you participate in a number of holiday-themed activities including live shows from talented performers, dazzling light displays like Candy Cane Lane, holly jolly eats and treats, letter writing to Santa and more. It’s the perfect way to fill your evening with yuletide cheer.
Niagara’s Winter Festival of Lights
Say hello to Canada’s largest light festival! A tradition for many (my family included) since its inception in 1982, the Niagara Winter Festival of Lights gets better and better each year.
Now running for 101 nights from the middle of November until February, Niagara Falls is transformed into a brilliant display of festive lights. Take a stroll along the Niagara Parkway and go for a drive around the Dufferin Islands to soak up all the festive cheer. New for 2022, they’ve added a hot chocolate trail and other fantastic amenities. Take a look at their website for more details!
Ready to Enjoy These Christmas Activities in Toronto?
As you can see, Toronto really embraces the festive season. Whether you live in the city, looking to do a day trip or possibly enjoy a weekend getaway, there is plenty of festive fun to be found in Ontario’s capital. You’ll even need to plan a few visits if you want to check out all of these Christmas events in Toronto!
Looking for More Festive Fun in the Province?
Check out These Fantastic Christmas Getaways in Ontario
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Here Are 30+ Christmas Markets in Ontario Yule Absolutely Adore
While I experienced a number of the items on this list in partnership with Destination Toronto and the Chelsea Hotel, all of the content and opinions here are 100% my own and speak to my personal experience.