It can be tempting to hibernate the holidays away. But if you bundle up and face the wintry winds outdoors, you’ll be rewarded with lights, treats and high spirits this season.
Walk the Trail of Lights at Downsview Park (photo by Bensonkua)
If you’ve never had a reason to head north to Downsview Park (at Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue), the “Trail of Lights” provides more than 400,000 radiant reasons to do so. Open from 6 to 11:00 p.m. every night until January 3, the three-kilometre trail winds through illuminated arches into 16 themed areas and the park’s Canada Forest, amazing visitors with energy-efficient LED lights in the form of blizzards, reindeer, Santa Claus and the country’s largest walk-through Holiday Tree. Whether you drive or walk the sparkling route, you’re sure to be spellbound. 1–35 Carl Hall Rd., $7 per person on Walk-Through Wednesdays, $20 to $50 per vehicle on other days; call 416-952-2222 or click here for tickets.
Maybe a night aboard one of the heated, beautifully decorated Mariposa Cruise Line ships doesn’t technically count as an outdoor activity, but with its breathtaking views of Toronto’s harbourfront and skyline, the four-hour Holiday Dinner Cruises on December 5, 12, 18 and 19 afford a unique, luxurious way of celebrating with loved ones as you enjoy the city’s beauty from afar. Feast on a sumptuous buffet-style dinner featuring prime rib, roast turkey and other holiday mains while listening to ambient music guests can dance to. Boards at Queen’s Quay Terminal, 207 Queens Quay W., $72.95; call 416-203-0178 or click here for tickets, as reservations are required.
Head outside on any night this December and be dazzled by the Cavalcade of Lights in diverse neighbourhoods across the city. See Chinatown’s dragons, Little Italy’s trumpeting angels, Koreatown’s tiger, Yorkville’s sparkly storefront displays and Yonge-Dundas Square’s polar bears. On Saturday nights, end up at Nathan Phillips Square, where Toronto’s official Christmas tree towers over revelers waiting for fireworks and free concerts. Live performances by State of Shock on December 12 and Faber Drive December 19 entertain music-lovers, followed by DJ’s spinning alternative music for the skating fanatics. Call 416-338-0338 or click here for more information.
The Natrel Rink (photo by Jennifer Hart)
Get Set, Skate!
You won’t wish for a river you can skate away on if you find your way to the Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink. The country’s largest artificially refrigerated outdoor rink boasts a good view of the waterfront and is a great venue for free DJ Skate Saturday Nights, when different DJ’s play house music, blues, jazz and even ambient electronica while skaters glide across the ice every Saturday from December 5 to February 13 (except December 26). For beginners, rink offers several learn-to-skate classes, drop-in clinics and private lessons. Afterwards, you can enjoy warming drinks by one of the controlled fireplaces overlooking Lake Ontario. 235 Queens Quay W., free ($7 for skate rental); call 416-973-4093 or click here for more information on skating classes.
Away in a Manger
Here’s a unique way to spend the morning after an indulgent holiday banquet: join fellow animal-lovers in pampering the creatures that delight Toronto Zoo patrons all year long. From 10 to 11 a.m. on December 26, the 34th annual Christmas Treats Walk lets visitors feed treats and seasonal goodies to the zoo’s resident reindeer, Siberian tigers, polar bears and other beasts. Participants will be treated to free hot chocolate at the new Tundra Trek and entertained by carol singers during the walk. On Meadowvale Rd., north of Hwy. 401, half-price admission all day; call 416-392-5929 or click here for further details.