Get your family in the holiday spirit and cross a few names off your shopping list by visiting one of the Greater Toronto area’s many Christmas markets and festivals. Since the now legendary Toronto Christmas Market debuted down in the Distillery District back in 2009, our region has seen an explosion in these merry events, which are usually packed with scrumptious food and drink as well as adorable photo opportunities (including often with Santa Claus himself).
Here are a few of the biggest, brightest and most importantly, kid-friendly, local markets and festivals, including a couple of newcomers that will wow your family.
Toronto Christmas Market
Now until December 22 (closed Mondays)
The Distillery Historic District
Arguably Toronto’s best known—and busiest—holiday market is back to celebrate its tenth year. Set in the always stunning Distillery Historic District, this market offers shopping, live entertainment and so much delicious food and drink. Returning this year is Santa’s house, tons of gorgeous lights and of course a massive Christmas tree. Also back is the weekend cover charge. Starting at 6 pm on Fridays and running through Sundays, admittance to the Market starts at $8, if you buy an advance ticket. Note that same-day tickets aren’t always available and must be purchased with a credit or debit card. Weekday day visits are still free and are recommended, especially if you’re pushing a stroller.
November 22-December 31 (select nights)
Canada’s Wonderland, Vaughan
New this year is Wonderland’s WinterFest, which promises to immerse visitors, “…in the season’s spirit with spectacular holiday lights and décor, world-class live entertainment, savoury treats and fanciful Christmas activities.” Certain park rides will be open and there will also be additional attractions including skating, a winter-themed marionette puppet and the chance to visit Santa’s house. Ticket prices start at $22 when purchased in advance and online, and various add-ons, including a souvenir, reusable mug for hot chocolate, are also available.
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November 28-January 4
Toronto Congress Centre
Christmas might be a magical time but let’s be honest, December weather can be pretty brutal. One of the city’s newest holiday festivals copes with this issue by being completely indoors. As the name suggests, Christmas Glow is heavy on the visuals and will feature half-a-million lights. It also features a fun storyline—Santa’s crashed his sleigh and needs your family’s help to deliver all the presents—as well as a train ride, vendors’ markets and tons of memorable photo ops. Advance tickets start at $14.99, with a $65.99 family pack available, with discount codes and offers available online for certain dates and times.
Evergreen’s Winter Village
November 30-December 22 (weekends only)
One of the city’s prettiest holiday celebrations is back for another year. In addition to the usual craft and food vendors, the Brick Works also offers all kinds of green holiday décor for sale, including sustainably grown Christmas trees. There’s also a skating rink, fire pits and even the opportunity to do some winter hiking, if that’s your family’s thing.
Downtown Whitby Christmas Market
Celebration Square, Whitby
This fairly new event lets Durham region residents take part in the Christmas market fun without having to head into Toronto. The celebrations kick off on the Friday night with the town of Whitby’s Christmas tree lighting. After your family has checked out the many holiday lights, take a spin around the skating rink, listen to live music and enjoy the warmth of the market’s various bonfires. Access is free but tell the kids to bring their allowance since this event promises “the best holiday shopping in Durham region.”
Holiday Fair In The Square
December 7-23 (closed Mondays except for the 23rd)
Nathan Phillips Square
This fair aims to combine,“…the charm and elegance of a Christmas market with the excitement and allure of a thriving winter carnival.” While the large skating rink is arguably the star of the show, this event will also feature a midway complete with mechanical rides; a heated, outdoor bar and tons of shopping opportunities. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be on hand during weekend afternoons and evenings to pose for photos in exchange for a donation to Epilepsy Toronto. And while skate rentals will cost you, access to the fair is free, regardless of the day you’re visiting.
Swedish Christmas Fair
December 7 & 8
Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St E)
While this event has been running for an outstanding 39 years now, this is its first time in Regent Park’s sparkling Daniels Spectrum building. There your family will find an interactive children’s corner, a craft market and traditional performances, including folk dancing and singing. And of course, there will be loads of traditional Swedish holiday food. Meatballs anyone?
The Nutcracker Christmas At The Castle
December 1-January 5 (closed early at 1 pm Christmas Eve & Christmas Day)
Last year, Sugar Plum fairies and Russian Dolls took over Toronto’s very own castle. Now they’re back for another season of special programming aimed at the whole family. Expect to see live illusions, ice skating tricks, and tons of gorgeous holiday décor, including a 40-ft tall Christmas tree. A variety of holiday mascots, including Santa, will also be on-site for photos and other fun activities including arts and crafts. This is a ticketed event and more details around pricing and timing will be released soon.
Aurora Winter Festival
November 22-January 5
We visited this festival during its debut last year and were wowed by its spectacular light displays and its many fun and interactive stations. And let’s not forget about the tasty drinks. While the location is undeniably chilly (be sure to dress warm!), this festival is packed with winter magic including classic rides, a snow tube track and a whole area dedicated to magical creatures, including the Yeti. There will also be a marketplace and the opportunity to meet Santa, as well as hear a story from him. Tickets, which are timed, start at $14.99 with a $59.99 family pack available.