Spend the holiday season in Toronto
The Distillery District hosts the Toronto Christmas Market recreating the old European tradition. (Barbara Fox/Special to QMI Agency)
As the weather cools, the action heats up in the big city, making Toronto an ideal getaway.
“From a booming food scene to top-notch shopping and premium entertainment – all with the back drop of a winter wonderland – Toronto is filled with outdoor skating rinks, festive window displays and sparkling lights,” said Vanessa Somarriba of Tourism Toronto.
Seasonal activities include the 48th annual Cavalcade of Lights where the centrepiece is the Christmas tree with 525,000 twinkling lights as skaters glide by on the rink at Nathan Phillips Square outside city hall.
Another great place to skate is Harbourfront Centre with a jam-packed winter season of arts, culture and recreational programs. The Natrel Rink has free skating along the Lake Ontario shoreline while there are Saturday night dance parties on ice.
Over at the Distillery District, the romance and magic of a traditional Christmas happens through Dec. 21 at the Christmas Market. Inspired by the Old World, this free annual event captures the tradition, heritage and charm of a European Christmas market. It showcases locally handcrafted products while family friendly entertainment includes musicians, carollers and children's choirs.
If you missed Santa’s big Toronto parade, he makes a repeat performance in the west-end Junction neighbourhood on Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. “Santa and Winter Market” includes a day of Christmas-themed activities and shopping, with indoor and outdoor markets, craft sales and original buying experiences. Santa and his elves are at the Junction train platform, Mrs. Claus reads holiday tales and the street-wide market spans Dundas Street West from Indian Grove to Quebec Avenue.
Casa Loma is marking 100 Years of Christmas and children can visit Santa in his workshop. There are theatrical performances of the Snow Queen, a giant scavenger hunt for holiday characters hidden throughout the castle, wintry arts and crafts, 10 designer-decorated Christmas trees and sing-alongs with carollers.
Pop-up shopping for clothing, jewelry, food, cards and gift-ready goods is under a heated tent at Yonge and Dundas streets and dubbed #localTOmrkt. This has local designers and artisans showcasing their wares until Dec. 24. Meanwhile, the One of a Kind Show & Sale continues through Dec. 7 at the Direct Energy Centre for shopping from makers, artisans and designers from across Canada.
Family passes at the sky-high CN Tower provide access to the LookOut Level, Glass Floor and outdoor SkyTerrace. There’s 360 The Restaurant for lunch or dinner with seasonal menus and a gently revolving view overlooking the city.
NEED TO KNOW
For more information about events, including live theatre, or to book a getaway: escapetotoronto.com.
The Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel has the Spirit of the Season special from $139 a night. Available through Dec. 30, $10 from each room night will be donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. The rate is good for up to four people staying in the same room.
The Sheraton and Westin Harbour Castle offer the “Take the Elevator Home” package from $139 a night for Friday and Saturday stays through Dec. 28. The Harbour Castle also has a Hockey Hall of Fame package and the Family Getaway with breakfast and valet parking.
For shoppers, there’s a special at the Aloft hotel by the Vaughan Mills shopping centre. The Holiday Shopping Spree available through Dec. 30 has rates from $130 a night and includes a $20 Vaughan Mills gift card, breakfast buffet, two cocktails and free parking.