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Things To Do in Toronto This Holiday Season

Celebrate the holiday season with loved ones by exploring the city…
 
By Courtney Hardwick
 
Toronto is a world-class city all year round, but there’s no denying that the holiday season brings out something special. Whether you’re a local venturing downtown with friends from the GTA, or visiting the big city with family for a little getaway before the holidays, Toronto has something for everyone.
 
Think of celebrating in the city as the perfect holiday gift! From grabbing a bite to eat or a festive libation to visiting Christmas-themed pop-ups and events inspired by the most joyful time of year, there’s no shortage of holiday festivities planned in the city this year. You may not be able to make it to all of them, but that’s okay, there’s always next year! Here are just a few must-see, must-do and must-eat Toronto destinations that you can experience with your friends and loved ones this holiday season.
 

 
HOTELS
First things first: book a home base where you and your loved ones can get a good night’s sleep.
 
Right across from Union Station, The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is convenient for out-of-towners travelling by bus or train. Enjoy their lavish Christmas season decor and book a Festive Afternoon Tea at the Clockwork Champagne & Cocktails bar. Or throw on your favourite Christmas sweater and swing by their annual holiday pop-up bar, The Thirsty Elf, for a Gin-gle All the Way, Polar Punch or Merry Manhattan.
 
If you’re looking for something a little more local and low-key – but still steps away from all the action – check out the Annex Hotel on Brunswick Ave. Their tech-first approach makes social distancing easy, and the focus on self-serve features instead of traditional in-person service makes it ideal for independent travellers who care about their budget more than being waited on. The hotel is all about local flavour, so whether it’s a staycation or a trip to the big city, you’ll be experiencing Toronto in all its glory.
 
If West Queen West is more your scene, it doesn’t get much better than Gladstone House. Recently renovated, the hotel has managed to preserve its history (it was built in 1889) while adding a modern flair. Each room comes complete with decor from local artisans– you might even get inspired and find a unique gift for a hard-to-buy-for person on your list. Grab a bite at the Gladstone Bistro + Bar, or check out one of the many bars and restaurants in the vibrant West Queen West area.
 
If you’re in dire need of a shopping trip to start checking a few names off your Christmas list, the Beverley Hotel couldn’t be in a better location. On Queen West within walking distance of the Eaton Centre and all the unique shops Queen Street has to offer, this boutique hotel will ensure you have a productive trip. Or, if you want to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the downtown core and have a relaxing stay, The Ivy at Verity is a boutique “European-style” boutique hotel on Queen East that doesn’t skimp on service. ’Tis the season to treat yourself!
 

 
HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS
You and your loved ones can get into the spirit of the season with festive events that only come around once a year. [Make sure that you check websites to see if tickets are needed or if there are any other COVID-related restrictions]
 

Want to experience the holidays like royalty? Visit Casa Loma’s Christmas at the Castle from November 25 to December 30. Enjoy the magical festive decor including a 40-foot-tall tree in the Great Hall, and a stunning collection of other signature holiday trees decorated by renowned Canadian designers. Don’t forget to bring the kids for a visit with Santa in his castle workshop.
 
Starting November 12, take a festive trip over to Ontario Place and immerse yourself in an enchanting drive-through experience that will make you forget all about Toronto traffic. Snow Magic is 1.7 kilometres of independent art installations, some of which rely on real-time artist involvement.
 
If you’d rather get some steps in while you take in your dose of Christmas cheer, Night of Lights might be more your speed. The immersive experience features more than a million LED lights animated and synchronized to popular holiday tunes. Afterwards, you can take a stroll through Holiday Fair in the Square and pick up a couple of unique gifts.
 
If you’re in the downtown core, walk by Nathan Phillips Square to catch a glimpse of The City of Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights, starting November 27. Not only will the city’s annual glittering tree and skating events return, but there will also be mesmerizing light installations inspired by cultural festivals from around the world.
 

 
GRAB A BITE – OR A SIP WITH FRIENDS
Don’t miss these limited-time-only pop-ups and delicious all-year-round favourites.
 
If you’re already downtown enjoying a day of shopping and Christmas cheer, you might as well take a stroll over to Bathurst and Richmond and check out Sweaters N’ Snowflakes, an outdoor winter wonderland pop-up experience complete with live music, food, drinks, and a cozy firepit.
 
In fact, if you love themed pop-ups, you’re in luck: there are plenty of them this year. Miracle Bar is returning along with cocktails inspired by the season. Jingle Balls Nog and Elfing Around are just a couple of the drinks on this pop-up near Bloor and Ossington. If you’re doing a 12 Bars of Christmas night, head a couple of doors down to Sippin Santa, a holiday tiki bar that will make you feel like you’re spending Christmas on an island with a well-earned umbrella drink.
 
There’s no shortage of Mexican food in Toronto, including Ossington mainstay Papi Chulo, complete with guac, margaritas and holiday decor that will keep the Christmas cheer going. Other popular Mexican spots include Campechano’s new-ish College Street location, Parkdale classic <u>Grand Electric, and Kensington Market’s always-popular Pancho y Emiliano. If you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan meal, Planta is the place to go (at any of its four locations in Toronto) for everything plant-based, including sushi, burgers, pasta, pizza and more. Or stop by Parka Food Co. near Queen and Spadina, a plant-based fast-food joint that will fuel you up for a full day of shopping.
 
If you still haven’t had your fill of Christmas-inspired drinks, visit Project Gigglewater on Dundas West for a unique menu of holiday-themed cocktails and take-home cocktail kits.
 

 
NEIGHBOURHOODS
Get out of Yonge & Dundas Square and make the most of your time in the city.
 

The great thing about Toronto is you don’t have to go downtown to experience the holiday spirit of the city. A casual stroll through your own neighbourhood with loved ones can deliver plenty of festive lights and cheer.
 
If you’re in the west end, check out The Junction’s 2nd Annual Window Wonderland from November 26 to January 2. Toronto’s up-and-coming neighbourhood has been transformed into an outdoor gallery of interactive, engaging, magical artwork by 39 different local and international artists including Augmented Reality. Or maybe the Snowflake Walk at High Park Zoo is more your speed. Take your dog and bundle up the kids for a walk to admire the decorated trees throughout the park.
 
The Gay Village never misses a chance to spruce itself up for fun festivities. Enjoy an entertaining start to your day at the Holiday Drag Brunch at Constantine before visiting the HoliGay Market at Barbara Hall Park, where you can find one-of-a-kind gifts and support LGBTQ+-owned businesses. Later, venture away from Church and Wellesley for some Queer standup, drag and musical comedy at Comedy Bar’s annual tradition, the Gay AF Christmas Spectacular.
 
Kensington Market is a central one-stop-shop you could spend hours exploring. From second-hand stores with vintage treasures to shops you can’t find anywhere else, a holiday shopping trip isn’t complete without a visit to Kensington. Stop by the Kensington Brewing Co. to pick up a couple of their winter brews or Wanda’s Pie in the Sky for a sweet treat.
 
And, of course, you can’t let the holiday season pass by without a visit to the Distillery District’s famous Winter Village. One of Toronto’s most historic neighbourhoods is transformed into a festive holiday wonderland featuring dining, shopping, and interactive experiences. It’s so popular that you actually have to buy a ticket if you’re planning to go on weekends after 4 p.m. But it’s worth it: this visit is sure to get you in the holiday spirit!
 

 
Whether you’re holiday shopping for hidden gems off the beaten path, warming up with new-to-you flavours or enjoying a nostalgic romantic getaway at one of the city’s amazing hotels, you can do it all safely in Toronto. There’s something to spark your holiday spirit around every corner. Visit destinationtoronto.com for more information.
 
Sign up for the My Toronto Pass to save up to 20% on some of Toronto’s best attractions. Visit explore.destinationtoronto.com for more information.
 

 

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