People taking a group photo beneath twinkling lights at the Toronto Christmas Market

5 Microadventures to Try in Toronto During the Holidays

This story was created in partnership with: Tourism Toronto 

If there’s one thing Toronto does well, it’s the holiday season. Even as a summer-loving local, I’ll be the first to admit: the city is all kinds of magical during the festive period.

There are extravagant decorations, glittering lights galore, and some of the best Christmas markets this side of the Atlantic. And when you need to warm up, you can duck into any number of cool shops and cosy restaurants for a bit of respite from the wintry weather.

Whether you’re visiting Toronto for the first time — or you know the city well but have yet to experience it during the holidays — grab your thermals and get ready for an absurdly enchanting time with these festive microadventures across the city.

Travel to: Canada

A Christmas tree and festive decor at the Toronto Christmas Market
Warm up with a cup of mulled wine at the Toronto Christmas Market | © Toronto Christmas Market

1. Get your yuletide fix

Toronto has everything we all love about the most wonderful time of the year. Mulled wine? Check. Holiday markets that look like they’ve been plucked from the pages of a storybook? You bet. 50-foot Christmas trees and over-the-top decorations? Of course. Basically, there are a hundred and one ways you can get your festive fix here. 

Kick things off with a visit to the Distillery District, home to the city’s most atmospheric European-style Christmas market. Complete with a glittering canopy of twinkling lights and a gargantuan Christmas tree, this is a fantastic spot to shop for local, handcrafted gifts, snack on sweet and savoury treats, or cosy up beside a fire pit with a cup of gluhwein in hand.

All that mulled wine will have you feeling warm and fuzzy in no time, so take to the ice and skate up a storm at one of the following rinks: Nathan Phillips Square (home to the iconic Toronto sign), Union Station’s Sir John A MacDonald Plaza (the newest rink in the city), or the Harbourfront Centre (which features live DJs every Saturday night starting December 15th).

People skating at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada
Skating at Nathan Phillips Square is quintessential wintertime activity in Toronto | © Tourism Toronto

2. Hang out in real-life winter wonderlands

This year, Canada’s Wonderland (a theme park located roughly 40km from the city centre) has transformed into a glowing dreamland that will impress even the most holiday-obsessed.

Picture whimsical themed areas covered with scores of twinkle lights (more than five million, to be precise), an ice skating rink, live entertainment, and spectacularly festive décor that’ll have you oohing and ahhing out loud.

Can’t stand the cold? Head to Glow instead. This massive indoor Christmas festival features everything from illuminated structures to seasonal eats, live music, and local vendors.

As you can probably imagine, the photo ops here are next level: you’ll find illuminated hanging picture frames, a dazzling light tunnel, and interactive hanging lights throughout the 80,000-square-foot space.

Even the drinks are Insta-worthy, served in food-safe plastic light bulbs with battery-powered LEDs that make it — you got it — glow.

People skating at Canada's Wonderland WinterFest in Toronto, Canada
Go skating in a real-life winter wonderland at WinterFest | © Ashley Nitransky

3. Sip on cocktails in Kris Kringle-approved bars

Want to warm up without putting the celebrations on pause? Lucky for you, the city is chock-full of quirky and delightfully unique places to keep you merry and bright well into the wee hours of the night.

Get all the igloo vibes without any of the snow at Proof, the cocktail bar at the InterContinental Yorkville. As part of their “IGLOOsive” experience, they’re serving dinner and drinks inside transparent igloo huts decked out with colourful lights and cosy blankets.

Of all the festive activities on this list, the igloo experience is one of my favourites; it’s just so — pardon the pun — cool, and I can’t think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit than savouring a glass of bubbly from the cosy confines of a life-size snow globe.

If Christmas kitsch is more your style, make your way to Miracle on Ossington, where you can sip on cocktails surrounded by gloriously gaudy decorations. And yes — it is the perfect place to don your ugliest holiday sweater.

People eating and drinking at the Toronto Christmas Market
There are plenty of festive places to grab a drink during the holiday season | © Toronto Christmas Market

4. Stave off the cold with drool-worthy comfort food

After wandering around Toronto all day, you’ll inevitably end up with a serious craving for something hearty and warm. When those hunger pangs hit, head to the city’s newest and buzziest Italian foodie destination: Eataly.

Combining the best attributes of a high-end supermarket with bars, grab-and-go eateries, and sit-down restaurants, you’ll find everything you could ever want to satisfy your cold-weather food cravings at this 50,000-square-foot food emporium.

Margherita pizza from La Pizza & La Pasta at Eataly Toronto
Satisfy your cold-weather food cravings at Eataly | © Ashley Nitransky

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Eataly since it opened in November, so my expectations for this Italian marketplace were sky-high — and, somehow, it managed to exceed them.

The food I ate was definitely a highlight, but more than anything, I love that Eataly is an experience; it’s the kind of place where you can shop for artisanal grocery items with a glass of prosecco in hand, or while away an afternoon eating, drinking, and chatting to experts on all things Italian food. 

If you manage to snag a reservation at La Pizza & La Pasta — one of Eataly’s four full-service restaurants — do yourself a favour and order the cacio e pepe (spaghetti with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper). This dish is simple but seriously decadent, and the first bite transported me straight back to Rome. 

A bowl of cacio e pepe past at Eataly Toronto
The cacio e pepe from Eataly is to die for | © Ashley Nitransky

Staying on the theme of hearty comfort food, Gusto 101 is another Toronto institution serving up Italian favourites — with a modern update.

You really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu (trust me on this one), but the mafalde ai funghi (pasta with truffle cream sauce and portobello, porcini, and oyster mushrooms) tastes even better during the chilly winter months.

Mushroom truffle pasta from Gusto 101 in Toronto, Canada
Head to Gusto 101 for hearty comfort food like this | © Ashley Nitransky

5. Get a head start on your holiday shopping (or treat yourself)

In between all the festive food, activities, and general merriment, why not get ahead of the curve when it comes to Christmas shopping?

Whether you’re in need of some major gift inspiration or you’re just out to find a little somethin’ somethin’ for yourself, Toronto’s shops, boutiques, and pop-ups will have you checking everyone off your list in no time.

For vintages stores, upscale boutiques, and everything in between head for the vibrant neighbourhood that is Queen West. This ultra-hip retail strip features an eclectic mix of shops, so you can find presents for your mom, your BFF, and that Secret Santa recipient you don’t really know all that well.

The holiday market at Evergreen Brick Works — a revitalised former industrial site — brings together a varied selection of local artisans under one roof, so it’s a great spot to go for locally-made gifts and one-of-a-kind finds. 

And if you’re on the lookout for your favourite tried-and-true brands or an exclusive luxury label, Yorkdale Shopping Centre has you covered. (Hot tip: ask about their Tourist Privileges if you’re visiting from out of town.)

Vendor selling candles at the holiday market at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, Canada
Shop for locally-made gifts at Evergreen Brickworks’ holiday market | © Tourism Toronto

I used to think this city was at its best in summer, but after getting stuck into these festive activities and events, I’m telling anyone who’ll listen: you have to visit Toronto during the holidays! 

If you’re ready to experience the magic that is Toronto in December, explore our range of Eastern Canada trips for itineraries that’ll show you the best of destinations like Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, and more!

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

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