Christmas is on our minds and I know that the kids are excited to attend the many Christmas events in Toronto. If you’re looking for a fun list of things to do in Toronto during the holidays, we’re sharing our favourite Christmas trees, holiday bars and Christmas markets with you. Christmas is slowly making its appearance in downtown Toronto as the underground PATH is getting their Christmas decorations up and the department stores have already unveiled their Christmas windows so things will be in full swing soon. If you’re looking for a list of our favourite things to do at Christmas in Toronto with kids, I got you!
Things to do During the 2023 Toronto Holiday Season with Kids
Perfectly Decorated Toronto Hotels During the Holidays
I am a huge fan of hotel lobby hangs and many Toronto hotels decorate their lobbies for the festive season. Some have special events and a resident Santa to greet hotel guests. Living in Toronto, planning a staycation during the festive season is definitely recommended but you can also pop in for afternoon tea, a drink or a meal at one of the hotel’s restaurants and taken in the festive atmosphere. Obviously all hotels welcome kids so this is an easy idea if you want to plan a holiday meal or catch up with friends.
This family friendly Toronto hotel not only decorates their lobby but their employees also decorate ginger bread houses and you can vote for your favourite one! They occasionally have hot chocolate and candy canes in their lobby for hotel guests but if you happen to be passing through or visiting one of their restaurants, you’re welcome to them as well. I am also a huge fan of the Santa here and our kids have dropped their Santa letters here since they were toddlers! More details will be announced here as they finalize their 2023 Toronto Christmas plans for families.
Fairmont Royal York
Each year this hotel lobby’s holiday decorations get bigger and bigger. Last year I enjoyed my walk through their life-sized gingerbread lane inside the hotel-it had over 8500 freshly baked gingerbread bricks, real icing and twelve kinds of candy!! The hotel also has a very pretty tree and the festivities will kick off on Nov 22, 2023. They also have a beautifully decorated Christmas bar called the Thirsty Elf but it’s only for those aged 19+. So if you have adult aged children, this is a great spot to toast the season! I will also mention that from November 29 until December 15, their REIGN restaurant will be offering a Holiday Lunch Buffet which I hope to enjoy with the kids this year.
Shangri La Toronto
One of our annual traditions is to take the kids to this Toronto hotel for a Nutcracker Afternoon tea (this year’s menu is a culinary tribute to the timeless elegance of The Nutcracker ballet). This is one of the most kid friendly afternoon tea offerings in Toronto (available all year long) and they do it so well. Kids 12 and under not only have their own menu but the hotel also donates $5 from each kids’ package to the Make a Wish Foundation. Parents should also take a peek at the festive cocktail menu and enjoy the Nutcracker Afternoon Tea and order the kids afternoon tea for the littles.
Toronto Christmas Bars and Restaurants
I am a sucker for a Christmas bar (I mean, I do a host an annual 12 pubs of Christmas for our friends each year after all) and there are some fabulous Toronto bars and restaurants that go all out for the holiday season. Quite a few are returning for the 2023 holiday season in Toronto and many of them allow kids to visit (they have modified family hours though). I’ve listed all the ones with family hours but keep in mind that many are walk-in only so you should go during non peak hours/days to keep the wait in line to a minimum.
Folly BrewPub : As with many of Toronto’s brewpubs, this one is extra family friendly and they go all out with the decor for the holidays. Last year we were there on a Saturday and Santa came by each table and even came with us to the photobooth. If you’re looking for a family friendly Christmas/festive themed brunch leading into the holiday season this is the best option I feel. They are still putting the finishing touches on the holiday programs but you’ll find more details here soon. You can make reservations here!
Miracle Bar Toronto : I’ve been visiting this Christmas bar annually since 2018 and now that they have a permanent pop up location on Bloor St, their decor and cocktail menu gets better and better each year. Wear your kitschiest holiday outfit and get ready to drink some fancy cocktails and mocktails. Please note that it’s 19+ after 9 p.m. so take the kids earlier in the day. This year there’s also a $5 cover charge per person. More details can be found here. Miracle operates as a walk-in pop up bar and no reservations are offered. $1 of every drink sold is donated to Nellie’s Shelter. Miracle is open from Nov. 17 to Dec. 30. (Mondays to Wednesdays 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursdays and Fridays 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. and on Sundays 2 p.m. to midnight).
Project Gigglewater : Giggly Christmas is the theme this year and the entire bar is plastered with wrapping paper and ornaments. They have themed drinks and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. until Dec. 31. This bar accepts walk-ins only and kids are allowed until 7 p.m. each day.
Papi Chulo’s – Mistletoe’s & Margaritas : If you’re dreaming of a Mexican Christmas but are stuck in Toronto, this is where you want to be! Holiday themed drinks and tacos? Yes please! This is another walk-in spot and no reservations are accepted. This Dundas West restaurant is open Mondays to Thursdays 5 p.m.-Midnight, Fridays and Saturdays Noon-2 a.m. and Sundays Noon-11 p.m. The holiday decor will be around until Jan 6th. Kids are only allowed until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays but can stay later during the week days.
Java Jingle : A great combo awaits you here! Mouth-watering Indonesian food and fabulous cocktails. This holiday bar will be available at both Little Sister locations-102 Portland St. and 2031 Yonge St.- and goes until Dec. 31. Both bars will be decked out in holiday gear and as with the other Toronto Christmas bars, there’s festive cocktails to be enjoyed. Java Jingle is open from 5 p.m. onwards and while their kitchen closes early (between 9:30 and 11 p.m.) the bar is open much later. Reservations can be made and while it’s 19+ they do allow kids before 9 p.m.! For more, click here.
The Best Toronto Christmas Trees – Places to Hang At in Toronto During Christmas
Some days you just want to roam around aimlessly, see a fancy Christmas tree and maybe buy a thing or two. Toronto is home to quite a few markets and malls that are all decked out for the holiday season. Some even have holiday programing and are indoors, making it an easy way to drag the kids away from screens.
Distillery Winter Village: The Distillery District in downtown Toronto gets transformed and this Christmas market in Toronto will have you thinking you’re in Europe! Complete with beer gardens, photo opps like Candy Cane Forest and a magnificent DIOR tree – there’s something for every age here. The space is stroller friendly but does get VERY busy on the weekends that I recommend baby wearing if you visit at night. This year the Distillery Winter Village goes on until January 7th (they are closed on Christmas day and New Year’s Day) and while entrance is free Mon-Thurs, you do need to buy tickets for those 10 and over on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4 p.m. If you enter before 4 p.m. you can hang as long as you want! Keep in mind that you need tickets every day between Dec 18 and 31 after 4 p.m. – not just on the weekends. They also have charitable partners they are supporting with the funds this year. You can meet Santa, elves and carolers here and for my family, a visit to a Toronto Christmas market with the grandparents is a holiday tradition! Hours are Sun to Thurs: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. | Fri to Sat: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. | Sun: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Oh and if you have reservations at any of the restaurants or theatre shows, then you don’t need tickets to enter.
CF Winterville at Eaton Centre : This year the Eaton Centre tree is absolutely lovely! They’ve stepped into the future with digital projections on the tallest indoor tree in North America! There’s a full light and snow show that takes place four times a day and I know kids of all ages will enjoy this when visiting this Toronto mall for those holiday shopping sprees. Show are free and take place daily until Dec 31- Mon Fri 12:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:00p.m., 8:00 p.m.. Sat 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m.. Sun 1:00 p.m., 3:00p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m.. Each time it snows, they’ll donate $500 to Covenant House for a total holiday gift of $100,000! Visits with Santa have to pre-booked and are $15 per visit with a max of 6 family members in each group to ensure everyone fits into the 5 digital photos that come with the Santa visit. I will mention that if you’re used to the lovely cabin experience from previous years, it’s very different and a much smaller backdrop this year.
Holiday Hills at Stackt Market : I am a huge fan of this container market because they truly do an amazing job at bringing fun into the city. If you want to finish your holiday shopping by visiting local makers (some of whom make fantastic items ranging from clothes to home decor) and get in the merry mood, Stackt can help. Their Holiday Hills feature photo opportunities like the disco tree and they have firepits to keep the kids happy with marshmallow kits. They also have outdoor curling, pop up events and various food booths to make it a fun afternoon that goes into the evening hours. Holiday Hills takes place until Dec 31st and all ages are free to enter the space. Hours – Shops: 12 -8p.m., Food + Bev: Weekdays 4-11 p.m., Weekends 12-11 p.m., Brewery: 12-11p.m.
Christmas at Castle Loma : You should definitely visit this Toronto Castle to see the indoor space decked out for the holidays with a 25 ft tree in the Great Hall and eight signature trees created by talented Canadian designers. As you roam around the Castle this December you will see live theatrical performances including a Knight Before Christmas performance of swordplay and archery, a Canadian Majinx illusion show, a live aerialist soaring through the Great Hall ceiling, roaming mime artists and mascots, a wandering and interactive magician, and more. Children are also invited to visit Mr. & Mrs. Claus and the elves in the castle workshop where they can write letters to the North Pole. Christmas at the Castle runs from 9:30am – 4 p.m. between Dec 1 and Jan 6th and performances run between 11 a.m. -3 p.m. One dollar from each adult admission during Christmas at the Castle will be donated to the CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish Foundation.
Holiday Events in Toronto
If you’re looking to get your “Ho!Ho!Ho!” on and get in a Ho-lly jolly mood, these kid friendly Christmas events in Toronto are what you need in your life! Many of these are pop up events only around for the holidays so catch them before they end!
Winter Wonderland at Illuminarium : Bring the kids and grandparents to Illuminarium where Winter Wonderland Spectacular takes place until January 7th 2024. We’ve been to the previous shows here and loved it so I’m excited to take the kids and my parents in a few weeks so we can be transported into an ever-changing winter dreamland and futuristic fantasyland of nutcrackers, swinging jingle bells, candy cane carousels and more. They promise whirling snowstorms and glowing Northern Lights, pictures with Santa and hot cocoa!
Holiday Lights at Casa Loma : For those who prefer to roam the Castle’s grounds at night, Holiday Lights enables your family to wander through a dazzling light display in the gardens and tunnels. Designed as a self-guided walk, guests stroll through the property’s grounds while enjoying the twinkly decorations, light displays and live performances. As always, kids are invited to visit Santa in his castle workshop. Children 3 years and under are free when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. Hours – December 1st, 2023 – January 8th, 2024 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (last admission at 9 p.m.).
Santa Claus Parade : Toronto’s Santa Claus parade takes place on November 26th and spots like the Hilton Hotel have an awesome view of the parade but standing at the street level with other families will give you a much needed Christmas vibe this year. The route starts at 12:30 p.m. at Christie Pitts and ends at Lawrence Market. Bundle up and get there early to secure a good spot.
Cavalcade of Lights : It’s always fun to witness the tree light up for the first time each season isn’t it? This year’s festivities will kickoff with a tree-lighting ceremony on Saturday November 25 and celebrations will go on until Sunday January 7, 2024. On opening night there are many dance performances and there will be Olympians on the ice – not to worry, you too can get your skate on later in the evening. A few years ago we took in the experience from the Sheraton hotel across the road and it was great not being pushed and shoved in the crowds below. Definitely worth checking into a room there, just mention you want to watch the fireworks from your room at the time of booking so you get a room facing the square.
One of a Kind Show : Attending this show is a holiday tradition and my mom and I love getting our shopping on here. You can meet with the makers and have a good story to share when you give your gifts to loved ones this year. Yes it’s family friendly with special on-site activities, with various fashion shows and one day there’s a Tswift Dance party with bracelet making session. This year’s 2023 One of a Kind Show takes place from Nov 22 to Dec 3 at Exhibition Place. This year your ticket provides free re-entry during the 11 days so you can visit every day if you want! Hours – Weekdays & Saturday: 10 a.m to 8 p.m. Sundays: 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Late Night Hours: Nov 30, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. They also have special days for Seniors (Nov 27th $10 tickets) and other specials so check their website for more details.
Holiday Fair in Mel Lastman Square : Take note that this free Toronto Christmas event is no longer in downtown Toronto-it has moved! You can eat, drink and shop here and the market will also include a midway with rides, food trucks, photo backdrops and a meeting with Santa. It’s a winter fair meets holiday wonderland. This event is pet friendly and while admission is free, a donation to Epilepsy Toronto is greatly appreciated.
Vendor Market at Yorkgate Mall : Last year we visited this Toronto mall during the holidays and loved our experience. Not only was Santa there but kids received a free activity book, a printed photo and a candy cane. This was such a wholesome and free experience with the crazy rush that downtown mall have. Santa is there every weekend and if you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with a holiday market so you can shop at the big stores and from local artisans as well. Some of the local artists had craft stations set up for kids and there were many free prizes as well.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train : This holiday train will be stopping in Toronto and all they ask in exchange for their 30 minute light show is that you bring food or a monetary donation for your local food bank. The 2023 CPKC Holiday Train tours Canada and the United States between Nov. 20 through Dec. 19, raising money, food and awareness for the important work that food banks do in their communities. This year the train will be in Toronto on November 28, 2023. Arrive at 8:15 p.m. for the 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. show. Location – 750 Runnymede Road, in front of Lambton Yard. Free entrance with non perishable food item donation.
Craft fair lovers will definitely want to check this site out for a full list of awesome spots to get your holiday shopping on at. If you’re looking for theatrical events this one has you covered! I’d also like to highlight that the Christmas season is a time for giving and so, if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities in Toronto be sure to check this site out!