From European style Christmas markets to parades and fireworks, Toronto knows how to celebrate the holidays. Here is your complete guide to the 6 Best Holiday Events in Toronto for Families.
1. Santa Clause Parade
In its 112th year, the Toronto Santa Clause Parade is a Canada wide tradition. Kicking off at 12:30 pm on November 20th, families can pick a number of places along the route to settle in for the parade. I find that University Avenue south of Dundas provides ample space for families wanting a great view. Dress in layers. Bring a blanket to sit on. Bring snacks.
2. Santa’s Log Cabin at the Toronto Eaton Centre
From November 26 until December 24th, kids can meet up with Santa himself at the Toronto Eaton Centre. Where this event differs from others is in the attention paid to detail. The ticketed event includes a holiday-themed story time and some individual time interacting with the big man himself. All proceeds go to one of three charities of your choice: Autism Speaks Canada; Covenant House and the Women’s College Hospital Foundation. Even more impressive is that there are 2 types of Santa visits available: Santa who is jolly, happy and bright or Sensitive Santa, a program designed with Autism Speaks Canada and is for individuals with autism and their family members. Buy tickets here.
For an added bonus of holiday spirit, head to the Eaton Centre on November 24th at 6:00 pm when the shopping mall will unveil a 100 foot tall Christmas Tree. If that’s not enough the unveiling will be accompanied by Choir! Choir! Choir! leading the crowd in singing What A Wonderful World.
3. Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Philips Square
The Cavalcade of Lights is the City Hall kick-off to the holiday season in Toronto. Taking place on November 26th at 7 PM. The evening starts with Choir! Choir! Choir! joined by Canadian band Whitehorse leading the crowd in song (think contemporary pop music) which leads up to the lightning of the official Toronto tree. The night continues with lights, music, performances and fireworks. This event is quite crowded and not easy to navigate with a stroller. I find if we stay back a little, we can still enjoy the party and have a great view of the fireworks.
4. The Toronto Christmas Market
Speaking of crowds, one of Toronto’s most popular events and my personal favourite is the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery. I visit the market several times during the Christmas season to get the best of all of it. For families visiting with children, I personally recommend going on the weekend as soon as it opens. This year the market is opening much earlier (November 18) and will be open on weekends at 10 am. During the week it opens at noon. These extended hours will give you plenty of time to experience the Market without the crowds. I also recommend visiting without the kids for an evening. The market is the perfect date spot with plenty to see and do and lots of spots to cozy up as a couple or with friends and enjoy a mulled wine.
5. The Nutcracker
No holiday post is really complete without including the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of The Nutcracker. Performances begin December 10th and wrap up on December 31st. Each performance includes a story time that is free for ticket holders and occurs 1 hour before the ballet starts. I recommend attending story time or reading the story at home before attending, fuelling up on snacks and explaining to your children before hand how a ballet works. Attending The Nutcracker with loved ones is a tradition passed on through generations. Tickets are available here.
6. Christmas Festival At Harbourfront Centre
For nine magical days in December, Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto will turn into a magical Christmas land. With a market with over 60 vendors, igloo domes and a polar express train, families will find plenty to do. The event runs from December 9 through the 18th and is open from 3pm to 9pm on Monday through Thursday and 10 am to 10 pm Friday through Sunday. Look forward to musical performances and kid shows, skating parties and plenty of family friendly activities.
As the holiday season is kicking off particularly early this year, I will continue to update this list as more of my favourite activities confirm whether or not they will again host holiday celebrations. This includes Casa Loma who had a spectacular light show last year.
Tis the Season
Get out there and celebrate.