Capture the holiday spirit at nine of the city’s most cherished, festive traditions—some of which have been thrilling locals for generations.
Ice skating Toronto’s outdoor rinks and trails
’Tis the season to hit the ice at one of the city’s open-air rinks. With the iconic TORONTO sign as a backdrop, Nathan Phillips Square’s famous rink is a must-skate for any visitor, but it’s not the only cool place to show off your skills.
Glide along The Bentway’s looping 220 m (722 ft) skate trail beneath the Gardiner Expressway or try the family-friendly path at the east-end’s Evergreen Brick Works. – Skate seasons vary; check links for info
Getting festive at The Distillery Winter Village
Inspired by Europe’s outdoor markets, The Distillery Winter Village at the Distillery Historic District has quickly become one of the city’s favourite and most Instagrammable holiday events.
Stroll the cobblestone streets lined with wooden kiosks where you can purchase handmade gifts from 65+ local artisans. Music, twinkling string lights, a 17 m (56 ft) Christmas tree, carollers, buskers and a strolling Santa and elves all add to the storybook magic. – November 16–December 31, 2023
GET THE INSIDE SCOOP: Everything You Need to Know About the Distillery Winter Village
Exploring WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland
It’s not the North Pole, but you’ll find a world of holiday spirit just 30 km (19 miles) north of Toronto at Canada’s largest theme park, Canada’s Wonderland.
During WinterFest, the theme park transforms into an immersive holiday experience for all ages, with millions of spectacular lights, ice skating on Snow Flake Lake (advance online reservations required), Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, live holiday shows, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus and select amusement park rides open for exhilaratingly festive winter fun. – Select dates, November 17, 2023 - January 6, 2024
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Tips to Enjoy WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland
Checking out holiday window displays
The tradition of holiday decor goes back to the 1920s when seasonal store windows attracted shoppers to visit Toronto’s two biggest retailers at the time.
A century later, festive displays still attract crowds of revellers. Explore the dreamy, wishlist-inspiring windows of Yorkville’s Mink Mile. In the west-end Junction neighbourhood, the Window Wonderland festival invites shoppers to use an augmented reality (AR) app to watch the various window displays come alive. – Mid-November 2023–January 2024
Take a break from shopping while at the Eaton Centre and enjoy Rowland Emett’s whimsical Dream Machines. Cadillac Fairview and Ontario Science Centre have partnered together to bring these kinetic sculptures to downtown Toronto this holiday season. Showcased in the holiday display windows (along Yonge Street, just south of Dundas Street), these unique sculptures come to life every half hour from 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Note: The Hudson’s Bay windows won’t be displayed this year due to construction along Queen Street W.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: These Festive Holiday Windows Will Give You All the Feels
Photographing the city’s most epic Christmas trees
A towering Christmas tree works magic when it comes to getting people into the festive spirit. Two of downtown’s biggest, brightest trees are at Nathan Phillips Square and The Distillery Winter Village, where each beautifully decked-out tree tops 15m (50 feet) in height. – Mid-November 2023–January 2024
Counting reindeer at the Santa Claus Parade
A Toronto tradition since 1905, hundreds of thousands of people line the parade route of the Original Santa Claus Parade to welcome Saint Nicholas each year. The parade will take over downtown streets with larger-than-life floats, magical characters, special performances, and Santa and Mrs. Claus, of course. It’s a celebration not to be missed! – November 26, 2023
Celebrating City Hall’s Cavalcade of Lights
It’s “bright lights, big city” at this annual free event that marks the official start to Toronto’s holiday season. The family-friendly Cavalcade of Lights celebration at Nathan Phillips Square features the lighting of Toronto’s 15 m (50 ft) Christmas tree, live musical performances, ice skating and more. – November 25, 2023 - January 7, 2024
Catching the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker
The National Ballet of Canada has made the performance of The Nutcracker, a cherished holiday season tradition. The company’s take on the beloved classic is James Kudelka’s 1995 staging, which opens at a Christmas Eve party in rural 19th-century Russia. – December 8–30, 2023
Celebrating the longest night at Kensington Market’s Winter Solstice Festival
One of Toronto’s most memorable holiday events, Kensington Market’s Winter Solstice Festival Parade celebrates the longest night of the year with music, jugglers, stilt walkers, lion dancers and lanterns as it winds through the streets of this bohemian neighbourhood.
If you can’t make the parade, check out the market’s eclectic mix of shops for gift-giving ideas and treat yourself to authentic Mexican churros from Pancho’s Bakery and an eggnog spiced latte from Fika Café. – Date TBD