To say this year has been one of the most trying in this millennia is an understatement. It certainly won’t be the usual holiday season, but luckily a small sense of normalcy can be found… thanks to Christmas lights! That’s right folks, I don’t know about you but I’ve already seen more displays than ever before pop up across the province and I’m here for it. If you’re looking for a dose of holiday cheer, you won’t want to miss these stellar destinations for Christmas lights in Ontario!
DISCLAIMER: Please follow your local restrictions and stick close to home while exploring the light displays on this list. Do your part to help keep everyone safe during this holiday season!
Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls
When: November 14 – January 10
Cost: Free (Dufferin Islands by Donation)
I couldn’t resist starting with the mecca of all holiday celebrations – the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls. It’s also near and dear to my heart as this Ontario light festival has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. Though as Canada’s largest illumination festival, it’s really not to be missed.
Since the Ontario Power Generation became its title sponsor, the festival continues to more each and every year. Take a drive along the Niagara Parkway to admire the displays in Queen Victoria Park, catch a view of the Horseshoe Falls and finish your visit with the Dufferin Islands loop. The last is easily my favourite stretch of the festival with the large animal displays including moose, bison, Inukshuks and more!
This year, the Winter Festival of Lights boasts over 3 million lights as they’re sprinkled throughout the tourist area of Niagara Falls. Space is emphasized to allow plenty of room for a safe visit. Weekends are always busy, especially as it gets closer to Christmas so I recommend visiting on a weeknight if you want to get up close and personal to the displays. They have some pretty amazing photo-worthy ones this year! If you plan on visiting, you won’t want to miss these three walking routes for families, date nights and nature lovers. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Floral Showhouse! Their annual poinsettia show is pretty spectacular.
RELATED: Check out my post for more information on the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls.
Lakeside Festival of Lights in Burlington
When: November 27 to January 8
Spencer Smith Park might be a hotspot in the spring for cherry blossoms but in the winter, it shines bright in a more literal way! For 25 years now, the Lakeside Festival of Lights has brought holiday cheer to downtown Burlington. You’ll find over 60 light displays peppered across Burlington’s waterfront.
Whether you choose to stretch your legs and walk through the park or enjoy the views safely from your car along Lakeshore Drive is up to you. This year though, the displays are set up to make it easier to see them if you do choose to drive. Whatever you do, be sure to keep an eye out for the Lakeside Festival of Lights’ mascot, Twinkle, and say hello if you see him!
Exploring the Lakeside Festival of Lights is the perfect holiday date night or family outing, especially since there are so many great restaurants close by. Why not place an order for take out, enjoy the lights while you wait and then head on home for a delicious meal? Sounds like a great way to get into the spirit of the season to me!
INSIDER TIP: Since you’re already in Burlington, you won’t want to miss the city’s Bright Nights festival in the heart of town. Head up Brant Street towards City Hall and you’ll see a number of gorgeous light displays along the way!
Winter Wonders at RBG in Burlington
When: Wednesday through Sunday from November 18 to December 23 as well as December 28-30 and January 2-3
Cost: Free with general admission or membership
This year, Hendrie Park in the Royal Botanical Gardens is transformed into a picture-perfect winter wonderland! Follow the charming 1.5 km long pathway adorned with festive lights. You’ll love the 7 winter wonders light displays, each one telling a unique story. You’ll learn about the origins of popular holiday traditions as you stroll through the gardens. You’ll want to plan to spend at least an hour enjoying the displays, though it might be even longer if you’re a shutterbug like me!
Festive music fills the air along with a number of opportunities to indulge in some festive flavours at the Turner Pavilion Teahouse. Are you a craft beer lover? You’ll want to plan your visit for a Thursday evening so you can enjoy some regional beers on Craft Brew Thursdays. On weekends, you can enjoy an especially festive prix fixe dinner menu at the RBG Centre’s Greenhouse Café (reservations required). The possibilities are endless at RBG!
RELATED: Read more about why you need to visit Ontario’s only royal botanical gardens.
Enchanted Evenings at Blue Mountain
When: November 14 – January 3
The holiday magic at Blue Mountain Resort is always in full force. Stroll through Blue Mountain Village and admire the sights and sounds of Christmas, adorned with garland and bows. Add a dash of snow and you’ll have picturesque views that will be perfect for next year’s Christmas card!
You’ll find a number of interactive light displays scattered throughout Blue Mountain Village. Pop by the Events Plazas and join in with the singing trees Friday and Saturday nights. Be sure to check out the Blumination Trail along with live performances on Saturdays and Sundays.
Not all fun is to be had at night though! During the day the lights might be dim, but you could catch a glimpse of Santa as you do a little shopping or enjoy a bite to eat.
Festival of Lights in Sudbury
When: Late November until Early January
Science North is a must-visit whenever you’re in the Nickel City, and that’s even more so come Christmas time! In partnership with the Sudbury Charities Foundation, Science North sponsors an incredible light displays which takes over the museum’s front parking lot. From reindeer to trees to hockey (of course!), your family will love the variety of displays and the photo opportunities that come with it. It’s a 20+ year tradition that locals and visitors adore!
In addition to the Festival of Lights in Sudbury, they also run the Festival of Trees. Set up inside Science North’s lobby, beautifully decorated trees are donated by local businesses and organizations which you can bid on! All of the funds raised by this event go to support initiatives at Science North as well as groups supported by the Sudbury Charities Foundation.
RELATED: Sudbury is a fantastic winter destination and you’ll agree once you see all the cool things to do in the city!
Festival of Northern Lights in Owen Sound
When: November 21 to January 3
At the southern tip of Georgian Bay, you’ll find the city of Owen Sound which shines bright come Christmas time. Home to the Festival of Northern Lights, you’ll find a wide variety of light displays lining the heart of town. 1st Avenue is the place to be for a serious dose of holiday cheer! You’ll find over 400 displays shining along both 1st Avenue East and West as well as 2nd Street East.
That’s not all, though! You’ll also want to visit Harrison Park for even more Owen Sound Christmas lights. This is where you’ll find the winter wonderland walking path. Enjoy a stroll as you take in the lights and don’t forget about the infinity tunnel! The lights are on every evening from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
RELATED: Harrison Park is home to one of the many beautiful waterfalls you can find in Grey County. Don’t miss my ultimate guide to visiting the natural beauties in the area!
Lights On Stratford
When: November 19 to February 14
The city known for its elaborate theatre productions, Stratford goes all out for the festive season. The downtown core is transformed with a sense of whimsy and wonder with beautiful light displays and projections. Harnessing the expert craftsmanship of their local artists, lighting designers, prop builders and creative minds, you’ll be blown away by their enchanting works.
What makes Lights On Stratford really unique is that everyone gets in the spirit. You’ll find light displays in popular areas of the city like Market Square and the Shakespearean gardens, but you’ll also see local businesses sporting their own gorgeous spectacles. Follow the snowflake stars as they lead you to all of the winter wonder Stratford has to offer.
Christmas Panorama in Simcoe
When: December 5 to January 3
Attracting over 60,000 visitors each year to Norfolk County, the Christmas Panorama in Simcoe is definitely a favourite amongst Ontarians!
Said to be Ontario’s oldest light festival, Simcoe Panorama has been sharing their Christmas spirit for decades. In a typical year, this festive display takes over Wellington Park with its signature River of Lights. Trolley rides will take you on a jovial tour around the park and you can enjoy a number of holiday eats and treats from local vendors. In the past, there have been llamas in pyjamas, character meet and greets and even a Christmas Market!
This year, things are a little different as vendors have been cancelled and visitors are encouraged to stay in their vehicles for everyone’s safety. Please save walking through the displays for next year! Plus there are even more displays to explore with their Light Up the County Tour. If you’re reading this and live in the area, be sure to add your home to the interactive map if you have decorated your house with lights!
Lights at Glenhyrst in Brantford
When: December 4 to January 1
Cost: Free (Donations Appreciated)
Back in 2012, local Brantford resident Jeff MacDonald moved his huge light display from his home on Joysey Street to Glenhyrst. Ever since then, it’s become a celebrated experience that many look forward to each year. The Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant is thrilled that the event not only gets bigger and better each year but that attendance continues to increase. Some even drive through the display on their way home from work daily!
While typically Glenhyrst encourages walking through the grounds, this year’s event is drive through only. There will also be a donation bin where volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food items for the local food banks along with events to help support the Boys and Girls Club of Brantford and the Lansdowne Children’s Centre.
RELATED: Looking for more things to do in Brantford? Don’t miss my guide to the telephone city!
Festival of Lights in Belleville
When: November 20 – January 4
What started with tragedy has become a beloved festival for many locals and visitors alike. On Christmas Eve in 1958, the Foster family lost their son to a senseless car accident. They coped as best as they could and as a result, built a Christmas display dedicated to him. With the help of the Culloden family who also lost their son in the accident, they have created a festive legacy that the young and young at heart both love and adore.
Hop in your car and head to downtown Belleville for a Christmas sensation you can enjoy from your vehicle. Follow the waterfront roads as you’re treated to 5 kilometres of gorgeous displays and holiday music. Afterwards, head to enchanted downtown Belleville and support the local shops and restaurants with a little holiday shopping along with a bite to eat. Don’t forget to vote for your favourite holiday decoration display as they could win some cold hard cash!
Christmas Lights Across Canada in Ottawa
When: Early December to Early January
If you’re looking for a truly festive destination, look no further than our nation’s capital. Ottawa is absolutely decked out for the holidays with thousands of colourful lights adorning city buildings, parks and streets. Christmas Lights Across Canada is a big hit year after year!
Follow the pathway as it leads down Confederation Boulevard, Wellington Street, Mackenzie Street, Elgin Street and Sussex Drive. It continues across the Alexandra Bridge and onto Laurier Street in Gatineau, Quebec. In addition, Parliament Hill features a new artistic light installation, Entre les rangs. Meant as a tribute to fields of wheat, these crystalline stems wave in the winter winds to capture the rhythm of the urban space surrounding them.
Ottawa’s Trees of Hope
When: December 1 – January 4
Ottawa’s iconic Fairmont Château Laurier becomes an absolutely breathtaking sight as the main lobby is completely decked out with gorgeous Christmas Trees. The Trees of Hope raises funds for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to help support the important work done in pediatric care and research.
This year, the Trees of Hope has gone virtual! That’s right, you can take your own virtual tour of these gorgeous Christmas trees from the comfort of your own home. There’s also an online auction if you’re looking to do a little holiday shopping or you can participate yourself with a donation and have the chance to win $500!
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
When: Late November & Into December
I’d be amiss to not include this bundle of travelling holiday cheer! The CP Holiday Train brings lights across Canada and the USA as it stops from city to city, bringing the Christmas spirit along with it. For two decades now, the train has been collecting donations in every destination it stops which is then donated to the local food bank. All donations gathered in that community stays within it – and CP donates on top of that!
At each and every stop, you’ll also be treated to live music as musicians travel along the train! It takes a bit of coordinating as the stops vary each year depending on the schedule but it’s something you should try to visit at least once in your lifetime.
While things are a little different this year, the CP Holiday Train is still gathering donations to the communities typically involved along the CP Holiday Train Route. However, you can now tune in from wherever you are across the country and even the globe! Find out more on their Facebook page here.
Additional Christmas Lights in Ontario
The above destinations are what I’d consider the top light displays in the province. This does not mean that’s all there is, though! Here are a few more local ideas if you’re looking to explore some holiday lights that are off the beaten path.
- Centennial Park in Ayr [December 6th to January 8th] – Head to the heart of town where you’ll find 45 Christmas trees, each uniquely decorated thanks to members of the community including local businesses, schools, community groups and more.
- Old Scugog Road in Bowmanville [dates vary] – Thanks to the gusto of local residents, Old Scugog Road becomes a top holiday destination in the city of Bowmanville. Enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights as they adorn the houses that line the street. You can get a taste of it in the video above!
- Downtown Brampton [dates vary] – If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas date night in the Toronto area, you’ll want to head to downtown Brampton. There’s not one but TWO outdoor skating rinks and plenty of festive Christmas, a perfect way to end the night after a romantic dinner in the city.
- Rural Lights & Winter Nights in Clearview Township [November 30 – February 28] – Over 20 light displays are spread out across 14 locations including Creemore, Stayner and more! Hop in the car with your immediate household and enjoy this self-guided ride as you’re captivated by the gorgeous 3D light displays across Clearview Township. You can find the map of the route here.
- Holiday Sparkle in Cornwall [December – January] – This brand new drive through event will have you admiring the Gray’s Creek Conservation Area in a new way! Enjoy the light displays safely from your car and add a little sparkle to your holiday season. The event is free but you must reserve a time slot to help with crowds.
- Christmas Fantasy of Lights in Frankford [End of November – January] – For almost two decades, Frankford Tourist Park has been a go-to for holiday fun for locals and visitors alike. One of the highlights is the Memory Tree where loved ones (with a small donation) are honoured and featured on the tree. Be sure to check out the displays along the riverbank of the Trent River!
- Light Up the Hills in Halton Hills [December 1 – January 3] – What started with the vision of a towering evergreen covered from tip to base with sparkling Christmas lights has grown into what is now known as Light Up the Hills. For over a decade, this massive tree in Georgetown’s Dominion Gardens Park has been a beacon of hope, created from the desire to bring everyone together for a dose of holiday cheer.
- Holiday Lights Extravaganza in Orangeville [November 22 – January 8th] – Admire the beautifully decorated homes of Orangeville with this fantastic map displaying the homes participating as they ensure the town of Orangeville gets in the holiday spirit.
- Lights at Lansdowne in Ottawa [Novemver 27 – January] – Typically the sight of the Ottawa Christmas Market, this year it’s home to a brilliant light display and home to the largest tree in the city. Head to Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza for a number of brilliant light displays that make for the perfect holiday photo opportunity.
- Celebration of Lights in Sarnia [December 1st to January 1st] – This long-standing tradition is something locals and visitors both look forward to in the city. Completely organized by volunteers, many flock to Centennial Park to get in the festive spirit.
- Rio Lane in St Catharines [dates vary] – This is truly a hidden gem for festive lights in Niagara. Tucked away off of Linwell Drive you’ll find a culdesac with displays galore! The folks living on Rio Lane have been spreading holiday cheer for over 40 years and it’s one of my favourite spots to check out during the holidays. Be sure to bring some non-perishable food items as they collect donations for Community Care!
- Doug Whitney Christmas Fantasy of Lights in Trenton [End of November – January] – What began as a passion project in 2002 has grown into a beloved holiday tradition. In 2015, it was dedicated to Councillor Doug Whitney who passed away earlier that year.
- Wonders of Winter in Waterloo [November 28 to January 1st] – For almost twenty years, the Wonders of Winter has brightened Waterloo Park for the month of December. Beginning with a modest 5000 lights and one creative citizen, it has since grown to include a number of light displays with local clubs, the city and generous citizens getting involved to give the park some holiday magic.
Paid Holiday Light Shows in Ontario
As you may have noticed, the above Ontario Christmas lights are all free! The holidays can be a time when money is tight, especially with everything that’s happened this year, so I focused on displays that can be enjoyed by all. However, if you are able to spend a little cash, here are some more paid Christmas lights across the province.
- Glow Niagara in Fort Erie [November 18 to January 2] – The newest light show in the Niagara Region, Safari Niagara has been transformed into a festive drive through adventure. Admire the twinkling Christmas landscape along this 3 km long route that is sure to be enjoyed by the whole family. Tickets are $30 per vehicle and can be purchased online.
- Gift of Lights in Kitchener [Novemer 14 to January 3] – Head to Waterloo Region for this 2 km long drive through light display. It now features 300 individual light displays, including two light tunnels making it the biggest its ever been. However, it is a little steep at either $20 or $25 per car, plus an additional $10 if you want to skip the line.
- Journey Into Enchantment in Markham [November 20 – January 4] – The Angus Glen Golf Club has some extra holiday sparkle this year as this Christmas drive through claims to be the most surreal and magical holiday event in the Greater Toronto Area! Tickets are issued per vehicle and cost $30 on weekdays and $35 on weekends.
- First Light at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons in Midland [mid to late November] – This historical site and living museum recreates what it was like for the French Jesuit settlement who lived here from 1639 to 1649. Enjoy a cup of cedar tea, listen to the first Christmas hymn of what is now Canada and listen to the stories told by the Huron Wendat Nation. As one of Ontario’s signature experiences, it’s not to be missed.
- A Country Christmas at Saunders Farm in Ottawa [November 28 – January 3] – You may know Saunders Farm for its ghouls and goblins as its a popular spot around Halloween, but you’ll see it in a whole new light come Christmas time! Drive through this 180 year old farm as you join Mazey, their young sapling, as she searches of her own Christmas star. Tickets are $25 per vehicle when purchased in advance.
- Alight the Night in Ottawa [November 22 – January 2]] – Head to Upper Canada Village for Alight the Night – Eastern Ontario’s largest outdoor light festival! Historic meets modern as you’re transported back to the 1860s with this holiday event. Throw on some layers and enjoy an evening stroll as over a million lights deck out this historic site. Tickets are $14 per person, children under 5 are free.
- Enchanted Holiday Drive in Ottawa [December 3-22] – Hop in your car and make your way to Karters’ Korner where you’ll find Ottawa’s newest and most immersive Christmas drive through experience. With 8 live scenes and a giant mailbox where the little ones (and big kids) can mail their letters to Santa, it’s sure to be a wonderful holiday memory. Tickets are just under $50 per vehicle and can be purchased here.
- Vintage Village of Lights in Ottawa [November 25 – December 23] – Roll down your windows and take in the sights of the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. Drive through the 1920s and 1930s village and tune into the old-fashioned radio program for the full experience. Tickets are $25 per vehicle.
- Festival of Lights in Orono [December 11-13] – Head to the Orono Fairgrounds where Soper Creek Wildlife Rescue has partnered with the Orono Agricultural Society to create this brand new drive through holiday light display! There’s a $10 entry fee but all proceeds are going to repair the wildlife rescue as it has suffered a significant amount of damage due to a recent storm. Tickets must be purchased in advance online.
- Bluffs Winter Wonderland in Scarborough [November 27 – December 20] – You’ve never seen the Eglington GO Station quite like this before! Enjoy the drive through experience located in the south parking lot as you explore Reindeer Way, Snowman Alley, The Enchanted Forest and finish at Santa’s House for a distanced meet and greet with jolly old Saint Nick. Tickets cost $25 but there’s a Travelzoo deal on right now!
- Polar in Toronto [November 27 to January 3] – It’ll feel weird to travel to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for something other than a flight, but as Canada’s first multi-level drive through Christmas light display spread across six levels, it’ll be worth the trip. It comes with a steep price tag though at $55 per vehicle on weekdays and $65 on weekends.
- Holiday Nights of Lights in Vaughan [November 20 to January 7] – Settle in for a 2.25 km drive featuring over one million LED lights, animated displays, drive through tunnels and more! This synced up light show is said to be the first of its kind in Canada. Ticket prices vary per vehicle and a portion of the proceeds go to Epilepsy Toronto. Get your tickets here.
FAQ for Christmas Light Viewing
As this is a unique year to say the least, you might be wondering if there’s anything you should know about visiting the light displays near you. Here are some frequently asked questions I’ve seen about Christmas light displays in Ontario.
How Much Does a Christmas Light Show Cost?
Well, that depends! As you saw, some of the light displays across the province are free while others may cost $10-$20. Luckily there are a variety of options to fit everyone’s budget.
What Should I Wear When Viewing the Lights?
If you’re planning on visiting a drive through display or one with that option, I say wear whatever is comfortable! However, it’s a good idea to have a heavy hoodie or winter jacket on because chances are you’ll want to roll the window down to snap a few photos and that can get chilly.
Is getting up close and personal to the Christmas lights more up your alley? Then you’ll definitely want to bundle up. Layers are key (especially if there’s any wind!) and I recommend having a thermal layer underneath, some warm leggings or pants, a warm hoodie and a winter jacket. You’ll want to dig out the winter boots if you haven’t done so already and be sure to bring a pair of mittens and a toque along for the trip.
Where Can I See Christmas lights in Ontario?
There are a number of cities hosting some festive fun! Here is a round-up of all the places where you can see Christmas lights in Ontario to brighten your holiday season (listed in alphabetical order):
- Ayr – Centennial Park
- Belleville – Festival of Lights
- Blue Mountain – Enchanted Evenings
- Bowmanville – Old Scugog Road
- Brampton – Downtown
- Burlington – Lakeside Festival of Lights, Bright Nights in Downtown, Winter Wonders at the Royal Botanical Gardens
- Clearview Township – Rural Lights & Winter Nights
- Cornwall – Holiday Sparkle
- Fort Erie – GLOW Niagara
- Frankford – Christmas Fantasy of Lights
- Halton Hills – Light Up the Hills
- Kitchener – Gift of Lights
- Markham – Journey Into Enchantment
- Midland – Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons
- Niagara Falls – Winter Festival of Lights
- Orangeville – Holiday Lights Extravaganza
- Orono – Festival of Lights
- Ottawa – Christmas Lights Across Canada, Lights at Lansdowne, A Country Christmas, Alight the Night, Enchanted Holiday Drive, Vintage Village of Lights
- Owen Sound – Festival of Northern Lights
- Sarnia – Celebration of Lights
- Scarborough – Bluffs Winter Wonderland
- Simcoe – Christmas Panorama
- Sudbury – Festival of Lights at Science North
- St Catharines – Rio Lane
- Toronto – Polar
- Trenton – Christmas Fantasy of Lights
- Vaughan – Holiday Nights of Lights
- Waterloo – Wonders of Winter
- Virtually – Trees of Hope, Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
Where is the Best Place to Look at Christmas Lights?
That’s a tough one! Personally, I think the best display on this list is the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls but many of these holiday displays are fantastic in their own way.
When Should I Check Out the Christmas Lights in Ontario?
Times for the festive displays can vary, though it’s safe to say that the majority of the Christmas lights in Ontario are up by December. Weekends are always busier and the days will get busier as you get closer to Christmas. I recommend mid-week earlier in the month for planning your visit, but snow isn’t always guaranteed. Personally, I think the Ontario holiday lights are the best viewed with a layer of snow!
Get in the Holiday Spirit!
I don’t know about you, but when the Christmas lights come out, I just can’t help but smile as my heart is filled with holiday cheer. Luckily there seem to be plenty of displays so if you’re wondering what Christmas lights are near me, take a peek at the map of Christmas Lights in Ontario below… or just go for a drive. I think you’ll be surprised at how many you’ll find!
However, if there is a display that I’ve missed, please let me know in a comment below or contact me via email at lindz[at]ivebeenbit.ca and I’ll happily add it to this list!
Looking for More Festive Winter Fun in Ontario?
Check Out These Fantastic Christmas Markets in Ontario
Plan a Holiday Themed Adventure With These Christmas Getaways in Ontario
You Don’t Want to Miss These 20+ Outdoor Skating Trails in Ontario