HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS Step back in time with a visit to some of Toronto’s charming historic manors to see how the holidays were celebrated in days of old. At High Park’s Colborne Lodge, nosh on gingerbread while viewing a festive spread and homemade Christmas decorations typical of the time. Colborne Lodge Drive, $3.50 to $5.50; call 416-392-6916 for more information. Relish the grandeur of the Gilded Age at Spadina Museum, an Edwardian mansion in the heart of midtown. See how the Austins, a prominent local family, enjoyed Christmastime. 285 Spadina Rd., $4.75 to $6.75; call for 416-392-6910 for details.
HERE COMES SANTA Saint Nick arrives early at North America’s largest Christmas production—The Santa Claus Parade. The century-old Toronto Yuletide staple marches through town on November 18. Join the crowd of more than half-a-million people who flock to Toronto to catch a glimpse of the plump philanthropist and his posse. Kids of all ages can enjoy Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, as well as a bubble gum-chewing dragon from Cadbury Adams. Free; call 416-249-7833 for the complete parade route.
CRAFTY COMMERCE Trying to figure out what to get for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list? The One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale, from November 22 to December 2, carries avant-garde fashions, innovative artwork, children’s toys and gourmet goodies. Direct Energy Centre, $6.50 to $12; call 416-960-3680 for hours.
PLUM PERFECT BALLET The National Ballet of Canada brings back its quintessential holiday ballet, The Nutcracker, from December 8 to 30. Re-envisioned by choreographer James Kudelka, in this age-old story, two children travel to a world of dancing snowflakes, duelling mice and The Sugar Plum Fairy’s palace. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $31 to $97; call 416-345-9686 for times and tickets.
MY FAVOURITE MUSICAL THINGS On December 11 and 12, the hall is alive with the sound of music! Join the great-grandchildren of the famous Captain Georg von Trapp and his wife Maria, who were portrayed in the timeless film The Sound of Music, for a melodious afternoon with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Christmas With the Von Trapp Children. In this charming show of endearing favourites and seasonal songs, the chorally gifted Austrian clan prove that good vocals really are in the genes. Roy Thomson Hall, Tuesday 8 p.m., Wednesday 2 p.m. and 8 p.m, $27 to $98; call 416-593-7769 for tickets.
SANTA’S PALATIAL WORKSHOP Casa Loma is a one-stop holiday destination in December with three events for kids of all ages. Elves in the Workshop allows youngsters to create their own miniature gingerbread house, while performance group Men in Tights presents a modern spin on the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. And of course, all good girls and boys should pay a visit to jolly old Saint Nick. Casa Loma, $8.75 to $16, additional charges apply for some events; call 416-923-1171 for times and more information.
ICY SPECTACLE Head back to the classroom from December 21 to 30 with Disney’s High School Musical: The Ice Tour. Based on the Emmy Award-winning titular Disney Channel movies, this energetic show of team-spirited fun is a fresh take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Sing along to the catchy chart-topping tunes as some of the world’s best skaters perform snazzy choreographed moves on the rink. Rogers Centre, $18 to $90; call 416-870-8000 for tickets.
FESTIVE STAGE Irving Berlin’s White Christmas migrates north this year after successful runs in San Francisco and Detroit. In this uplifting tale, on stage from November 20 to January 5, two friends find love in a picturesque Vermont inn. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, $37 to $150; call 416-393-7469 to buy tickets.
ANIMAL CRACKERS The animals of the Toronto Zoo get their holiday feast on December 26 with the annual Christmas Treats Walk. Feed the polar bears, reindeer, Siberian tigers and other friends of the zoo a special snack. Warm yourself with complimentary hot cocoa and enjoy performances by roaming carolers. Visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to support local food banks. Toronto Zoo, $12 to $20 (children 3 and under are free); call 416-392-5929 for more information.
DECK THE CITY Toronto lights up for the season as 20 neighbourhoods and two landmarks are brilliantly ablaze for Cavalcade of Lights, from November 24 to December 31. The heart of the brightness is the awe-inspiring CN Tower, with its new illumination system adorned in festive hues, setting a record as the world’s tallest architectural LED lighting installation. Nathan Phillips Square (at Queen and Bay streets) boasts a 300,000-light display produced by local designer Brian Gluckstein. Free, call 416-338-0338 for more information.