Things to do in Toronto

Christmas in Toronto: Top Holiday Events

Don your Santa caps and fire up the reindeer — it’s time for Christmas in Toronto.

When a cold wind sweeps over Lake Ontario and twinkling lights sing their shining chorus, it can only mean one thing: Christmas is here at last.

The city dresses up in reds and greens for a season of collective glee. Wrapped in tinsel and bathed in a cheerful glow, it spreads its joys across its streets through the long, cozy winter. Sure, there are things to do in Toronto, whatever the weather. But the show of holiday spirit here is worth a celebration in itself.

As Santa gears up for his big night, dive deep into the city’s wintry wares. Here’s how to spend Christmas in Toronto.

Outdoor Celebrations

Brave the chill for frosty fun in Toronto’s great outdoors.

1. The Distillery Winter Village

Toronto's historic Distillery District, clad in cobblestones and crumbling bricks, is a fitting canvas for this annual Christmas revelry. All dressed up in festive ornaments, The Distillery Winter Village recalls old holidays. After dark, a canopy of twinkling lights rains electric sunshine down on the streets, setting the tone for a night of pure, festive joy.

Meander along the pedestrian-only roads, sampling comfort food and taking in the glittering tree towers high above the ancient structures. Since you're in the Distillery District, it's only fitting to pop into a pub for some liquid cheer in the form of festive cocktails.

Local vendors set up shop in cozy cabins ripe for browsing. You can hunt for stocking stuffers or nestle onto a heated patio for some prime people-watching.

Photographer: Julio César Mercado

2. Fair in the Square

A local gathering space transforms into a winter wonderland as Christmas approaches. Toronto’s inhabitants flock to the Fair in the Square for a winter evening amidst shining lights and merry chatter.

The artisan market offers handcrafted gifts, and the on-site food trucks serve soul-warming fare. Stop by the Polar Point Bar for a toasty hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and melty marshmallows. Local entertainers put on dazzling shows similar to our own performances, all with a dash of holiday flair.

And a trip to the Fair in the Square wouldn't be complete without a spin around the skating rink. Tie up your skates and hit the rink to show off some ice-skating tricks of your own. A wintry skate is a splendid Toronto New Year’s event to enjoy.

3. Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Phillips Square

There are countless things to do in Toronto, and many of them take place in Nathan Phillips Square. This activity hotspot kicks off the holiday season each year with a dash of extravagance.

The Cavalcade of Lights puts on a memorable opening night performance, complete with live music and ceremonious tree lighting. But you can enjoy this sparkling display all season long.

Don your skates for a trip across the rink, gliding and twirling beneath tunnels molded from a sea of shimmering lights. Don’t leave the park without snapping a photo or two. Warm lights and holiday glee make a picturesque combination.

Photographer: Maarten van den Heuvel

4. WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland

What better place to spend the Christmas season than a certified wonderland? Revel in the festivities at this amusement park at its holiday best. WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland brings the North Pole to Toronto. Strands of light drape the park in a golden glow as crowds dash between attractions.

Unleash the acrobat within as you brave thrilling rides with perilous drops. Or, take a quaint spin around the antique carousel. Festive foods make satisfying between-ride treats and themed zones bring your favorite Christmas characters to life before your eyes.

Cultural Experiences

Cozy up to Toronto’s dynamic culture this Christmas.

5. The Nutcracker Presented by the National Ballet of Canada

As masterful storytellers ourselves, we know how a great tale can move you. Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit by reliving this classic Christmas fable. At the hands of the National Ballet of Canada, this performance of The Nutcracker will live in your holiday memories forever.

The curtain rises on a world where life-sized sweets, ethereal fairies, giant mice, and toys all come to life. Intricate costumes and vibrant sets enfold audiences into an enchanted world. Told by movement and Tchaikovsky’s emotional score, it's a performance you won't want to miss.

6. A Christmas Carol at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts

An endless pool of local talent means holiday performances shine on Toronto's stages. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts is part of the city's stunning theater scene, and during the Holidays, one show, in particular, is a must-see.

A Christmas Carol is a classic holiday tale that comes to life on stage. Take your seats in this hallowed theater to witness Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from town Grinch to champion of goodwill. Experience laughter, awe, and even a few tears as you watch this moving Christmas performance.

7. Toronto Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concerts

Music sets the mood for Christmas revelers. A hearty dose of jingling bells and hooting trumpets is enough to get anyone into the festive spirit. And with the pros at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in charge, this year’s rendition of the classics will surely delight.

The TSO Holiday Pops show is an annual favorite. Smooth vocals and a jazzy score serve up holiday tunes with a twist. Tap your feet and sing along as Toronto’s talented ensemble spreads Christmas joy through the beauty of music.

8. The Christmas Story at the Church of the Holy Trinity

Get back to where it all began with this hallmark piece of Toronto’s holiday performance scene. The Christmas Story recounts the classic Nativity tale in a splendidly acted pageant. Dozens of members rally together at the Church of the Holy Trinity to bring this touching story to life.

Accompanied by a moving organ arrangement, this show will have you contemplating your connection to this emotional season.

9. Handel’s Messiah at Roy Thomson Hall

Once again, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra puts on a performance worthy of any precious December evening. This time, it's teaming up with the harmonious voices of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to bring you a spectacular rendition of Handel’s Messiah.

Rejoice as the oratorio rings out across the resplendent auditorium, gleaming with holiday decor and bright stage lights. Make it a night to remember. Get dolled up in your symphony best to make your entrance at Roy Thomson Hall. While you’re at it, why not enjoy a decadent meal at one of Toronto’s best restaurants?

Photographer: Ronin

Shopping and Markets

Go on a holiday shopping spree at Toronto’s finest exchanges.

10. Official Lighting Ceremony at Bloor-Yorkville

The moment millions of tiny, glittering lights electrify the streets of Toronto is one for the holiday memory books. Experience it for yourself at Bloor-Yorkville’s Official Lighting Ceremony. With the neighborhood illuminated, a concert of epic proportions begins, showcasing some of Toronto’s best up-and-coming musicians.

Away from the stage, tree-lined roads drip with lights where local shops sell giftable wares. Wander the community, stopping to take in handcrafted items and thoughtful cultural attractions, all bathed in a cheerful, festive glow. In this home for music and local togetherness, the spirit of Christmas rings clear and true.

11. The One-of-a-Kind Winter Show

Handmade gifts make a special kind of impact on Christmas morning. Shop for the pieces that matter at the One-of-a-Kind Winter Show, a unique marketplace dedicated exclusively to artisanal objects, all molded, threaded, and drawn by an eclectic group of crafty Canadians.

Makers from across the country journey to Toronto to showcase their finest pieces. Handcrafted jewelry, apparel, and artwork highlight the care and detail of making an item that lasts. Peruse the booths to find gifts that will wow their recipients as the wrapping is torn away.

12. Union Winter at Union Station

The bustling halls of Toronto’s Union Station grow even louder at Christmastime, with the sound of shuffling city-goers running merry errands. To make spirits bright, the station presents travelers with Union Winter for a bit of holiday whimsy on an otherwise unassuming commute.

In the TD West Carriageway, standard walking space gives way to over 5,000 sq. ft. of wooden roller skating tracks. Lace-up to race down the tunnel, with retro-style lights leading the way.

With satisfying snacks, tasty drinks, and regular DJ nights, this is city travel with a touch of the unexpected enchantment of the holiday season. It’s wild and wacky, just the way we like it.

13. Evergreen’s Winter Market at the Brick Works

The Evergreen Brick Works beckons Torontonians to its lush green trails all year. City inhabitants can’t resist the charmingly unkempt river grass, wind-swept trees, and lily pad ponds.

In December, the wild space carves a comfy cranny for Evergreen’s Winter Market. Despite frigid winds and frosty lakeside mists that say otherwise, this is where Toronto comes to chill for the season.

A dedicated holiday hangout space, the Winter Market offers live music, arts and crafts, vintage markets, and cookie decorating workshops. You could hunker down here until spring without running out of absorbing activities.

Follow your nose to the food court before popping over to the market for an afternoon of shopping. Decked in string lights and surrounded by nature’s wild ways, this unconventional yet magnetic spot is a great place to spread holiday joy.

14. Holiday Market at St. Lawrence Market

Fresh foods and local ingredients abound at Toronto’s most popular Farmer's Market. St. Lawrence Market shows its festive side for holiday shopping, conveniently presenting city dwellers with the perfect winter day out.

Stop by booths brimming with fruits and vegetables just plucked from the earth and waiting to be used in a delectable Christmas dish. Extended hours mean you’ll have extra time to chat up your favorite merchants as you bag up crunchy carrots and fragrant citrus fruits.

Browse tables stacked with artisan goods to find a uniquely local gift. Or make food a priority, and head to the baker’s booth for a perfectly delicious pie.

Photographer: Jeff Smith

Family Fun

Make memories with your whole crew at these family-friendly festivities.

15. Santa Claus Parade

Jolly marchers have taken to Toronto’s streets for over a century to ring in this splendid season. Rosy-cheeked and grinning despite the chill, the procession calls to onlookers from every corner of the city. Together, they shout and cheer to celebrate the festive month sprawling out before them.

Local flair is on full display at this Christmas kickoff. Marching bands play brassy tunes as drumlines keep the crowd in rhythm. Backed up by massive floats, the Santa Claus Parade is a cheerful display of holiday passion, and that’s why we love it.

Bundle up and take to the streets to see it in person, or snuggle up in your home or hotel to enjoy the show in cozy warmth.

Photographer: frankychoi

16. Holiday Fun at Casa Loma

A wintry day spent at Casa Loma makes a merry tradition for many Toronto families. The Gothic castle turns its festive dial to 10 yearly when its annual Holiday Program opens to the public.

Feast your eyes on the massive tree in the Great Hall to taste Christmas glamour. An in-house Santa’s workshop offers crafty fun for the whole family, while resident illusionists put on a show that even we’d be proud of.

Nutcracker mascots dance, and carolers sing as the scent of sugary treats wafts through the ornate halls. Outside after dark, light displays wind a luminous path through the gardens. Bundle up and walk the trail, or enjoy the cozy scenes still visible through the castle windows.

17. The Santa Express and Holiday Train Rides at the York-Durham Heritage Railway

Railway buffs get their Christmas kicks on these historic tracks. Trains chug along the York-Durham Heritage Railway to preserve a steam-powered piece of Toronto’s industrious past. But their modern priority isn’t work — it's play.

Christmas time treks turn the trains into mirthful voyagers, dutifully carrying passengers into a world of frosty holiday fun. Climb aboard for a trip to Santa’s workshop. Train cars decked in festive garb make for immersive fun along the way.

Conductor Elves turn the ride into a full-blown musical as passengers, big and small, sip hot drinks and snap merry photo ops. The big man himself visits onboard, making this one of the best family activities in Toronto during the winter season. Hop off at the nearby Holiday Hills festival to follow one celebration with another.

Embrace the Festive Spirit With Toronto’s Holiday Highlights

Just-wrapped gifts and crisp snow blankets keep spirits bright with glee all winter. But when the holiday season comes to a close, Toronto dwellers look for a new source of cheer in this beloved city.

That’s where we come in. Our troupe of twisty, tricky acrobats live to spin their stories for breathless audiences. Holidays or not, our shows are a happy parade of joy that marches long after the tinsel has been packed away for the year.

Give a cheer; the circus is here! Set your sights on our shows in Toronto today.

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