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Hot Shopping: Navigate Toronto Malls During the Holiday Rush

Malls like the Toronto Eaton Centre go all out for the holiday season (photo by Rasheed Clarke)

Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? We know, finding gifts for everyone
on your list can be a daunting task. If you’re inclined to get all your shopping done in
one shot, the city’s premier malls and department stores offer multiple ways
to ease the experience.

Downtown’s largest shopping centre has cranked up its seasonal cheer with oversized snowflakes and giant silvery reindeer sculptures. The crowning gem is the Swarovski Christmas Wish Tree alight with more than 44,000 Swarovski crystal ornaments. In sight of this monolith, children can register to create their own holiday ornaments. Santa’s out in full force, too: bring your child to hear Saint Nick read a story, or schedule a 10-minute at-home Skype session with the jolly old man. Gift wrapping is available for a $5 donation benefitting the Children’s Wish Foundation. And when all your gifts are safely boxed and bagged, why not view the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity’s production of The Christmas Story? iPhone users can download the Toronto Eaton Centre’s mobile app to streamline their shopping experience.

Holiday stress often begins with packed mall parking lots. Yorkdale offers a remedy. The only shopping centre in the GTA to offer a mobile app for parking, which offers updates on your best parking bets every 15 minutes, plus streaming video of the mall’s upper deck lot. Yorkdale’s parking entrances are even equipped with electronic tabulators that note the number of spaces available, and valet parking is complimentary for MasterCard World cardholders. If you prefer public transit, visit with your TTC Family Day Pass and receive a $10 gift card when you spend $50 or more in the mall. Other bonuses include a complimentary coat check, Santa sightings, and a gift-wrap service.

This Yorkville stalwart filled with luxury and specialty retailers goes above and beyond when it come to convenience, thanks in part to its complimentary pet-sitting service. Head to the courtyard to take in the Christmas tree, and on Saturday enjoy a holiday musical performance from 1 to 4 p.m. All of your swank purchases can be expertly wrapped as well, with donations going to the Sick Kids Foundation. Parking is available with a $25 purchase Monday to Saturday (for 90 minutes) or any same-day purchase on Sundays (for 3 hours).

From arrival to departure, Sherway Gardens aims to make the holiday shopping season a breeze. Throughout December, Visa Infinite cardholders enjoy complimentary valet parking on arrival. Inside, the 30-foot-tall holiday tree sparkles with over 700 decorations and guests can visit the Gingerbread Cookie Factory for a sugary snack while shopping, with proceeds going to Trillium Health Centre. The gift-wrap service supports the Salvation Army.

Just west of Toronto, Mississauga’s major mall has decked its halls with a synchronized light and sound display that flashes in time to holiday classics. It’s the season of giving, so donate to the Peel Children’s Centre and receive a photo of your little one with Kris Kringle. The gift-wrap service benefits the local seniors centre, and of course there are also Salvation Army Kettles situated throughout the building.

The flagship location (at Queen and Yonge streets) of this Canadian retail institution features beautifully detailed mechanized window displays for the holidays. Inside it offers a wide assortment of Canadian and international brands in fashion, housewares, electronics and more spread across numerous floors. For gift-giving season The Bay also highlights a slew of holiday-specific products—from stylishly festive home decor to luxe chocolates to the iconic Hudson Bay point blanket, perfect for snuggling up on Christmas morning. The vast selection can be disorienting, so call ahead to book a complimentary personal shopping consultation.

From the year-round valet service (Thursday to Saturday) to wrapping your purchases in its signature magenta box and grey ribbon, Holt Renfrew answers the call of shoppers seeking indulgent items and a touch of class. The store’s expert personal shopping service continues throughout the holidays, and is accented by a rotating roster of holiday-weekend perks such as hot chocolate, peppermint ice cream and candy stations. As always, Holt’s window display is a destination in and of itself. This year’s theme is “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and shoppers are welcomed by a stretch of partridges in pear trees, milking maids and dancing soldiers.

—Alexandra Grigorescu

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