25 Things to Do In Toronto With Your Family Over the Holidays

Festive fun for all ages—plus, plenty of Santa!

PHOTO: iStockphoto

The holiday season in Toronto is special. Whether your family loves light displays, being outdoors, stepping back in time or shopping at Christmas markets, there’s an event for everyone—from the tiniest Tim to the jolliest Claus. Read on below for 25 things to inspire your Christmas calendar.

PHOTO: Courtesy of The Santa Claus Parade

Toronto Santa Claus Parade

November 17, begins at 12:30 p.m. at Parliament and Bloor

Now in its 106th year, Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade is one of the best! Get there early and bring your own chairs to score the best viewing spot. Bundle up and bring warm drinks—the weather can be unpredictable and Santa takes approximately two and a half hours appear, but when he does…the crowd goes wild!

Free

Toronto Christmas Market

November 14 to December 22, The Distillery District, 373 Front Street East

This annual market draws locals and tourists alike. Arrive at opening hour on a weekday to best avoid the crowds, because it gets very busy. Located in the historic Distillery District, you’ll find charming stalls selling holiday wares and treats to tempt everyone. Ride the merry-go-round or Ferris wheel and gape at the giant Christmas tree.

Tickets: Free Monday to Friday until 6 p.m.; Advanced tickets, $8; Day-of tickets, $12; Premium Experience Pass, $30

PHOTO: Courtesy of Black Creek Pioneer Village

Christmas at Black Creek Pioneer Village

November 16 to December 23, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway

For history lovers and kids who love hands-on learning, Black Creek Pioneer Village takes you back in time to celebrate all the tastes and traditions of a Victorian Canadian Christmas. During their Family Christmas weekends, you can visit Santa’s quaint cottage, take a horse-drawn wagon ride (complete with jingle bells!), listen to live music and make crafts.

Tickets: Adults, $15; Children 4 to 14, $10

Christmas In the Valley – Todmorden Hills

November 20 to January 5, 67 Pottery Road

Two millers’ homes on the picturesque heritage site have been restored to reflect the Toronto working class circa the 1890s and 1940s. Holiday festivities include sugarplum and wreath-making workshops, candlelit tours and Victorian Father Christmas, who comes to town on December 8 to listen to wishes—and, because it’s 2019— take selfies.

Tickets: $10 per family (5 people)

Young People’s Theatre – The Adventures of Pinocchio

November 11 to January 5, 165 Front Street East

Known for imaginative, fun-filled productions for kids of all ages, the Young People’s Theatre holiday musical is a new show featuring Pinocchio, Geppetto, the Blue Fairy and all the rest. It’s a wonderful way to introduce children ages five and up to live theatre.

Tickets: From $10 for Super Saver to $54 for Premium Front Row Centre

Ross Petty Productions – Lil’ Red Robin Hood

November 29 to January 4, 189 Yonge Street

Now in its 24th year, the Ross Petty family pantomime is a Toronto holiday tradition you’ll never forget. Filled with slapstick comedy, catchy songs and over-the-top performances, this year’s show is a mash-up of fairy tales that promises to be just as uproarious as always.

Tickets: Adults, $27 to $99; Children 12 & under, $27 to $69; Family 4-pack, $256

Cavalcade of Lights

November 30, Nathan Philips Square, 100 Queen Street West

Always a popular event (go early!), the annual lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree and light display at City Hall is worth seeing live. This year marks the 53rd celebration and will include live performances, circus acts, a skating party and, the best part, the fireworks show.

Free

PHOTO: Courtesy of Fair in the Square

Nathan Phillips Fair in The Square

December 7 to 23, Nathan Philips Square, 100 Queen Street West

Tour this downtown artisan market, sample the food trucks, then sip hot beverages in the Jackson Triggs Polar Point licensed ice bar while the older kids skate. Test the rides at the Holly Jolly Midway, take in a live performance or visit with Santa.

Free; individual costs may vary

Outdoor Skating

November through December, check local listings

Toronto has some of the best outdoor skating venues around. Nathan Phillips Square offers skate and helmet rental, snacks and hot chocolate—definitely stop by when the Fair in the Square holiday market is on. Down at Harbourfront Centre, the Natrel Rink is just as festive with a view of Lake Ontario, a heated change room and rentals. The Bentway is an urban trail underneath the Gardiner Expressway with warming rooms—rentals are free Mondays. Or get back to nature on Grenadier Pond in High Park (don’t worry, the city tests the thickness of the ice).

Individual costs may vary

The National Ballet Of Canada Presents The Nutcracker

December 12 to January 4, The Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West

If you have a ballet-lover at home, then you must take them to see The Nutcracker. The National Ballet’s version is traditionally gorgeous and family-friendly; make sure to go for story time before the show. Set in 19th-century Russia, quarrelling siblings Misha and Marie travel to the land of the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy, all thanks to a magical nutcracker.

Tickets: Contact the box office for info

PHOTO: Courtesy of Tourism Toronto

Ontario Place Aurora Winter Festival

November 22 to January 5, Ontario Place West Island

Touted as Canada’s largest winter festival, the Canadian National Exhibition transforms the West Island on Ontario Place into a winter wonderland that truly has everything. The light displays alone are worth the entry fee, but families can also skate, go tubing, shop the Christmas market, watch performers and take in the food garden.

Tickets: From $12.99 for children to $59.99 per family (4 people)

Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic

November 23, Village of Yorkville Park
Catch the official tree lighting in one of the city’s upscale midtown neighbourhoods, with live music, refreshments and a dazzling light display. This year, 138 trees will be lit up along Bloor Street, which hosts some of the world’s most recognizable—and fashionable—brands such as Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Free

One of a Kind Show

November 21 to December 1

Can you get all your Christmas shopping done in one day? It’s possible at the One of a Kind Show. Hundreds of vendors offer handmade products from all over the country—anything you can think of, someone has handcrafted it. Older kids will love looking for treasures.

Tickets: Adults, $15; Children 13 to 17, $8.50; Children 12 and under, free

Casa Loma’s A Nutcracker Christmas at the Castle

December, 1 Austin Terrace

Christmas is a special time at this “castle in the city,” as the entire mansion is decked out in stunning holiday decor. Visitors can explore the castle, visit Santa and gaze in wonder at the 40-foot tree in the Great Hall. Outside, the gardens will be illuminated by festive lights.

Tickets: Adults, $30; Children 4 to 13, $20; Youth 14 to 17, $25

CF Eaton Centre Tree Lighting

November 14, 220 Yonge Street

Watch as the 108-foot tree is officially lit at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, then kick off your Christmas shopping at one of Canada’s largest shopping malls. Once it’s lit, the massive tree is definitely a sight to see, so be sure to check it out while crossing names off your nice list all season long!

Free, 6:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Courtesy of CP Holiday Train

CP Holiday Train

November 28 at 8:15 p.m., 750 Runnymede Road

What’s more magical than a train covered in Christmas lights, carrying musicians playing holiday music across the country? The Toronto stop features a performance by Scott Helman and Madeline Merlo. Make sure to bring a non-perishable donation to support Canadian Food Banks. Get there early!

Free

Quest to Save Christmas Escape Room

November 6 to January 31, 322 Bloor Street West

Help save Christmas by finding the four ingredients needed for Magical Reindeer Dust in this fun, family-friendly escape room. Choose from beginner (best for families) to advanced (if you’ve got teens), and bond while solving problems, holiday style.

Tickets: Adults, $25; Children, $20

Toronto Symphony Orchestra – Home Alone in Concert

December 6 & 7, Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street

Experience Home Alone in a whole new way. Kids will be blown away by hearing the score to this Christmas classic played live by a full orchestra. Guaranteed to make them laugh (while you secretly tear up—anyone else get weepy at Kevin’s reunion with his mother?)

Tickets: $65 to $135

Fan Expo Holiday Market

December 7, Metro Convention Centre South Building, Hall F, 255 Front Street West

This one-day market specializes in all things comic book culture: They’re the self-proclaimed “geekiest holiday show.” Shop for comics and toys from vintage to new, as well as costumes, art and more, or snap a dream photo with your child’s hero!

Tickets: $10 at the door

Lower Ossington Theatre – A Christmas Story

November 8 to December 29, 100A Ossington Avenue

All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder® air rifle, and so the classic story begins. The musical, based on the beloved 1983 film, delivers all the laughs you remember, with a heart-warming family message at its core.

Tickets: $59.99

PHOTO: Courtesy of Charlie Brown Christmas Live

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage

November 24, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes’ Boulevard

Introduce your kids to a childhood classic! Here for one day only on a North American tour, this musical stars Charlie, Snoopy and the gang as they learn about the true meaning of Christmas. (And even if they don’t know Snoopy from Snoop Dogg, it’s sure to please.)

Tickets: $29.50 to $119.50

Toronto Marlies Hockey

Yes, you could see the Leafs play—but tickets get pricey when you shop in multiples. That’s why the Toronto Marlies—the reigning American Hockey League Calder Cup champs, by the way—are a fantastic option. They’re talented, games are packed and fans are dedicated.

Tickets: $15 to $61

Toronto Art Crawl Christmas Market

November 24, The Great Hall, 1000 Queen Street West

Shop small and local this season at the 5th annual Art Crawl market. Browse unique goods from 110 vendors selling handmade art, jewellery, ceramics, decor and more. Families can enjoy live DJs and face painting for kids—who get in for free under age 10.

Tickets: $8 online; $10 at the door

Ripley’s Aquarium Breakfast With Santa

December 7, 21, 22

Have breakfast with Santa under the sea! OK, not exactly, but pretty darn close. Guests enjoy a buffet breakfast while touring the aquarium and a photo with Santa (plus free coat check). Just remember to set the alarm: Doors open at 7 a.m.

Tickets: Adults: $50; Children 3 to 13, $35; Children 2 and under, $10

Toronto Botanical Garden Winter Wander

December 8, 777 Lawrence Avenue East

Get some fresh air in a beautiful setting. Kids ages four to nine are welcome to explore the grounds searching for wildlife, building and hanging birdfeeders and playing games related to Canadian winter wildlife. Then it’s inside for cocoa and stories.

Tickets: $15 per person; $45 per family

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