• eat
  • shop
  • see
  • go
  • stay
  • daytrip
  • map
  • calendar
  • transport
  • weather
  • currency
  • tofrom

holidays

Hot Shopping: Meet the (One-of-a-Kind) Makers

NOVEMBER 25 to DECEMBER 5 The One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale kicks off the holiday shopping season as more than 800 artisans tout their artfully made wares ranging from sweet and savoury goods to jewellery and ceramics, such as vessels by Alisha Boyd Metal Works.

Holiday Happenings: Outdoor Attractions

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)

Northern Lights
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.

Luxe Cruise
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.

White Nights
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)

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.

December Hot Date: Holiday Concerts

Toronto’s top orchestral and vocal ensembles ignite the seasonal spirit with a trio of concerts.

Members of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale (photo by John Beebe)

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale sings for the season (photo by John Beebe)

DECEMBER 16 & 18 to 21 Hark! Hear the holiday spirit in George Frideric Handel’s timeless oratorio Messiah. Performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a special participatory concert invites the audience to sing along. Hallelujah! Roy Thomson Hall, December 16, 18, 19 and 21 at 8 p.m., December 20 at 3 p.m., $35 to $99; call 416-872-4255 or click here for tickets.

DECEMBER 16 & 19 Enjoy An Indigo Christmas, presented the world-famous Nathaniel Dett Chorale—among the performers at U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration—a Toronto-based, classically trained chorus with an Afrocentric focus. Glenn Gould Studio, 8 p.m., $39.50; call 416-205-5000 or follow this link for tickets.

DECEMBER 19 If it warms your heart to hear children—300 of them, aged 6 to 17—rejoice in song, don’t miss the Toronto Children’s Chorus belt out contemporary and traditional holiday music. Roy Thomson Hall, 2 p.m., $34.50 to $44.50, call 416-872-4255 or navigate here for tickets.

Holiday Happenings: Seasoned Performances

This season is bursting with festive, holiday-themed shows and concerts, from the classical and magical to the satirical.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Triple the Hallelujahs
Torontonians are spoiled for choice when it comes to enjoying one of the world’s cherished Christmas classics, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. One version of the oratorio will be performed by the esteemed Toronto Symphony Orchestra on December 16, 18, 19, 20 and 21. Dubbed “Toronto’s Favourite Messiah,” the uplifting concert is highlighted by the debut of three young talents: conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni, countertenor Matthew White and baritone Tyler Duncan. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., $35 to $99; call 416-872-4255 or visit here for tickets.

Ballet Creole’s Soulful Messiah promises to delight with a unique, movement-oriented take on Handel’s masterpiece. Its shows on December 11, 12 and 13 combine the company’s trademark African and Caribbean dance influences with tap, contemporary R&B and the voices of legendary black singers for a joyous and moving celebration. Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W., $20 to $45; call 416-973-4000 or click here for tickets.

A third—and beloved—interpretation of the Messiah, by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir on December 20, encourages audience participation. Conducted by a feisty, white-wigged “Maestro Handel,” the Sing-Along Messiah lets you lift your voice in song with 2,700 other audience members and guest soloists. A special offer lets groups of six save $10 per ticket off the regular price. It’s enough to make you shout “Hallelujah!” Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., $25 to $39; call 416-872-4255 or see Tafelmusik’s website for details and tickets.

Two Cheers for the Children
There’s nothing more angelic than children’s voices soaring in perfect harmony. On December 11 and 12, the St. Michael’s Choir School stages Sing We Noel, Noel We Sing, its annual Christmas concert. Featuring a special performance of Dancing Day for choir and harp composed by John Rutter, the show includes sacred music from the Catholic tradition and Christmas sing-along favourites. Massey Hall, $22.50 to $36.50; call 416-872-4255 or navigate here to purchase tickets.

The youthful yet very professional members of the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre present Wintersong: Dances for a Sacred Season on December 18 and 19. The tapestry of five dances comprising the show mixes mid-winter solstice dance influences from Native Canadian, Jewish, Christian and secular traditions. Live Celtic music adds to the enchanting atmosphere. Fleck Dance Theatre, $15 to $28; call 416-973-4000 or visit this link for information and tickets.

The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

Favourite Fairy Tale
Even heretofore hardened hearts hearts will melt at the National Ballet of Canada’s magical production of The Nutcracker on December 12, 16, 17 and 18. Featuring a full orchestra, a gorgeous set, a dancing horse, a lively battle and the participation of the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, this classical ballet takes audiences on an amazing adventure through a dreamscape where toys comes to life, snowflakes waltz and the Sugar Plum Fairy falls in love with the Nutcracker Prince to the heavenly sound of the celesta. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., $33 to $121; call 416-345-9595 or click here for tickets.

Season for Satire
In a month that can change from cheerful to stressful faster than you can say “Happy Holidays,”
The Second City gives us two reasons to laugh. What the Elf?!? is a family-friendly musical about a lost tin soldier trying to find Santa’s sleigh. An interactive improv show follows the musical on December 21, 22, and 23; parents and their young children to participate. For adults, Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue on December 19 pokes fun at holiday traditions, family reunions, Christmas carols—even the relationship between Joseph and Mary. 51 Mercer St. What the Elf?!? $12 per ticket or $40 for a family four-pack. Dysfunctional Holiday Revue $22; call 416-343-0011 for tickets.

Holiday Happenings: Heritage Traditions

Festive family fun abounds this month at the city’s heritage sites and historic museums. Step back in time and experience old-fashioned Toronto traditions that will delight both young and old. Events occur during daily museum hours except where noted.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma

Casa Loma
Experience holiday magic as classic storybook tales are brought to life at this enchanting hilltop castle. The attraction also offers a variety of registration-only special events: on December 13 and 20 families can feast on scrumptious pancakes at a breakfast with Santa Claus; or help your little elf decorate a miniature gingerbread house on December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. And on December 22 and 30, get physical with a holiday-themed family archery lesson and learn the history and techniques behind this ancient sport.

1 Austin Terrace. Admission and special event prices vary; call 416-923-1171 for more information and to register.


Mackenzie House

Eschew the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping for the charm of a traditional Christmas in the 1859 row-house of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie. Sample mulled cider and warm biscuits in an authentic 19th-century kitchen while little ones write letters to Santa Claus the old-fashioned way—using a pen and ink pot, plus stationery made with a circa-1845 printing press. And on December 13 and 20, gather in Mackenzie House’s cozy family room for an afternoon storytelling session featuring Christmas tales from the Victorian era.

82 Bond St. Adults $5.71, children $3.33; call 416-392-6915 for details.


Todmorden Mills Museum

Discover the simple pleasures of a Regency-era Christmas at Todmorden Mills—the site’s early 19th-century homes are adorned for the season with a lovely array of evergreen garlands and festive decorations. You can even create your own tree ornaments using a traditional felting technique. Register for the Cast Iron Chef cooking series on December 5 and prepare tasty holiday treats on an open hearth. On December 12, creative visitors can use wires, pliers and natural materials to make custom holiday decor at the wreath-making workshop.

67 Pottery Rd. Adults $5.24, children $2, workshop prices vary; call 416-396-2819 for details and to reserve.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village
Step back in time to a Victorian country Christmas and enjoy festive performances, hands-on activities and festive treats at this living history museum. On December 5, 12, and 19 the historic village is bathed in the flickering glow of candlelight and oil lamps for Christmas by Lamplight, an annual celebration with costumed carollers, games and storytellers. Then return December 6, 13, and 20 for a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings served in the Village’s historic brewery restaurant.

1000 Murray Ross Pkwy. Admission prices vary; to purchase tickets for Christmas by Lamplight, call 416-736-1733, ext. 5331. For Sunday Christmas Dinner reservations, call 416-667-6295.


Colborne Lodge

Celebrate the holidays in winter-wonderland surroundings in a restored 1837 regency villa. Tour the picturesque home of High Park’s founders, John and Jemima Howard, while nibbling on delectable holiday snacks and toast the season with mulled cider warmed by an authentic wood stove. Sign up to make a festive seasonal wreath to take home on December 5, 6 and 10; on December 12, 13, 16, 17 and 19, craft custom adornments for your dinner table at the two-hour Christmas centrepiece workshop.

Colborne Lodge Drive. Adults $5.71, children $3.33, workshop prices vary; call 416-392-6916 for details.


Gibson House

Holiday traditions of yore come to life at this north Toronto family farmhouse built in 1851. The Georgian-style exterior is resplendent with seasonal finery; costumed staff lead capture the spirit with tours of this historic rural landmark. On December 19 and 20 the museum hosts Mincemeat, Pomanders and Paperchains—a weekend event with festive crafting for kids in the Discovery Gallery and traditional holiday fare from the open-hearth kitchen.

5172 Yonge St. Adults $5.48, children $2.62; call 416-395-7432 for more information.


Montgomery’s Inn

Enjoy plentiful seasonal entertainment throughout the month at this early-1800s Etobicoke landmark. Ring in the holidays on December 4 by singing 19th-century carols while sipping period-relevant drinks in the tavern at this historic inn. On December 4 and 5 the Humber River Shakespeare Company performs an original production of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. Also on December 5, master baker Monika Paradis presents a delightfully decadent Gingerbread House workshop. And on December 12, cozy up by the fire and enjoy readings of The Ghost of Christmas Present and many more seasonal stories.

4709 Dundas St. W. Admission prices vary; call 416-394-8113 for registration information.

Weekend Roundup, December 4th to December 6th

December is finally here! ‘Tis the season to eat, drink, shop, skate and be merry at festive holiday performances.

Friday: Spend an evening at the Distillery Historic District

Friday: Spend some time at the Distillery Historic District

Friday December 4th
Pick out gifts for little loved-ones at the Distillery Historic District’s Children’s Trunk Show shopping event, then spend the evening walking the area’s cobblestone laneways and admiring its seasonal light display.

Get into the festive spirit at the Friday After Five event hosted by the Gardiner Museum. This special holiday happy hour features Christmas cocktails and a tourtiere poutine created by celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy.

Partake in a 72-year-old seasonal tradition at the Church of the Holy Trinity—its Christmas Story performance brings the nativity to soul-stirring life.

Saturday: Tea at the Royal York

Saturday: Tea at the Royal York

Saturday, December 5th
Take time for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and nibble on finger sandwiches, mincemeat tarts and other holiday treats. Visitors can also take home decadent goodies from the on-site Festive Bakery.

Meet new friends while learning how to pry open shellfish at the singles oyster shucking, tasting & wine pairing night at Leslieville gastro-pub Prohibition.

Sing along with Weezer and other alternative-rock superstars—the Air Canada Centre hosts radio station 102.1 The Edge’s Jingle Bell Rock concert.

Sunday: Eva Avila portrays Maid Marian in Robin Hood

Sunday: Eva Avila portrays Maid Marian in Robin Hood

Sunday, December 6th
Enjoy a festive afternoon at Roy Thompson Hall as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Dickens’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol.

Strap on your blades for Harbourfront Centre’s HarbourKIDS: SK8 festival at Canada’s largest artificially cooled outdoor ice rink.

Follow Robin Hood as his merry men as they engage in eco-conscious hijinks in the Ross Petty production of Robin Hood: The Environ-Mental Family Musical.

Weekend Bonus: Ice, Wine and Dine Festival

Holiday Ornament MartiniNovember 20 & 21 Fire jugglers, stilt walkers and strolling songsters take over Elm Street this weekend, as the Ice, Wine and Dine Festival transforms the relatively quiet downtown strip into a festive holiday block party.

Organized by local businesses, the event also features live music, fortune tellers, magicians and ice-sculpture carvers, while restaurants and cafés serve up delectable food and drink specials under heated patio tents—recently opened pub The Queen & Beaver offers mulled cider and warm gingerbread, Commensal has organic hot chocolate and a tasty $5 vegetarian sampling platter. Even the Elmwood Spa participates in the festive fun by handing out free Lindt chocolate goodies. Those who seek heartier fare can stop by the Duke of Somerset and feast on pot roast sandwiches and the miniature deep-fried Mars bars, or pop into the Wolf and Firkin pub for spicy chili served with toasted garlic bread.

Culture vultures are encouraged to peek inside the Arts and Letters Club—a heritage building that, this weekend, hosts visual artists, poetry readings, music performances and more—while party enthusiasts will want to stop by the impressive Ice Martini Lounge, a chic outdoor space featuring a frozen ice bar. Here, revelers can pose for photos beside large-scale ice sculptures and sip on signature cocktails like the “Yongetini,” made with crème de menthe, chocolate liquor and vodka, and garnished with chocolate rosebuds. This downtown neighbourhood event has something for anyone looking to catch a bit of early holiday cheer.

Elm Street (two blocks north of Dundas Street) between Yonge and Bay streets. 4 to 9 p.m, free (excluding food samples); for further information, click here.

The Art of Holiday Giving

We scoured the city and found dozens of exceptional presents from home and abroad—
for family, friends and colleagues on your gifting list. Click on the images below for a peek at the products included in our holiday gift guide, and be sure to check out Where Toronto‘s November issue for the full feature.

Frugal Faves: T.O. Tix and Festive Winter Windows

There’s so much to see and do in this city, but after a while, admission fees, restaurant bills and shopping sprees start to add up. Where Toronto’s weekly tips on discounted tickets, exclusive sales, free events and more help you get the most out of your trip without burning a hole in your pocket.

<i>Jersey Boys</i> swings it '60s style (photo by Joan Marcus).

Snatch up discounted tickets to Jersey Boys and other hot shows from T.O. Tix (photo by Joan Marcus).

Box-Office Bargains
Want to take in the hottest shows in the city without paying the hefty price?  The T.O. TIX outlet is your one stop shop for exclusive deals on tickets for stage performances around the city. If you’ve got a flexible schedule (all tickets are for same-day shows) visit the booth at Yonge-Dundas Square to purchase half-price and discounted tickets to popular shows like Jersey Boys and Medieval Times. You can also purchase seats for select shows online.

T.O. TIX accepts Visa, Mastercard, debit and cash, and is located on the southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets. Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6:30 p.m; call 416-536-6468, ext. 40 or visit here for more details.

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Take a Walk in a Window Wonderland
Get in the holiday spirit early by embarking on a self-guided tour of the festive window displays in and around downtown Toronto. At The Bay’s flagship store, Christmas creatures come to life alongside a working train and an animatronic Santa Clause in a series of Toyland vignettes. Explore the tony Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and marvel at the dazzling high-fashion window decor at chic retailers like Holt Renfrew. And creative windows designed by retail management students at Ryerson University can be spotted at businesses throughout the Downtown Yonge area—you can even vote for your favourites online.

The Bay is located at 176 Yonge St., while Holt Renfrew resides at 50 Bloor St. W. To check out a map of Ryerson students’ holiday windows, click here.