‘Tis the season for a hot toddy by the fire, outdoor skating under twinkling lights and perusing the Christmas market with family and friends. For visitors and locals alike, there’s plenty to do, see and experience this holiday in Toronto — and in the spirit of the season, here are 12 of our favorites.
Have a festive treat at Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto
Sit back and relax in the beautiful lobby lounge at this stylish Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star stay with a sweet holiday treat. Inspired by ballet, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto’s Nutcracker High Tea offers up a beautiful tower of pastries, scones and sandwiches that would impress any sugar plum fairy.
The experience begins with your choice of 75 exquisite teas served with classic sandwiches and chocolate-ginger scones.
Then, indulge in an impressive dessert selection like a Baileys Irish Cream yule log with Arabic coffee; a beautiful Christmas tree fruitcake; or vanilla panna cotta complete with peppermint foam.
Be sure to call ahead to book your spot as this festive experience only takes place on weekends through December 31.
Take in a special holiday show
Once you’ve enjoyed the sweet and savory version, watch a live performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous holiday extravaganza, The Nutcracker, as presented by the National Ballet of Canada. With nightly performances through December 30, the Christmas-themed show takes place just across the street from the Shangri-La at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
Experience the Winter Garden at Bosk
Although the temperature is dropping, there’s no reason you shouldn’t still savor a cocktail (or two) on the patio at the Shangri-La’s signature eatery, Bosk. This winter, the restaurant has partnered with the renowned design team from House & Home magazine to transform the outdoor space into an inviting Winter Garden. Take in your stylish surroundings as you sip on housemade mulled wine around the fire on plush loungers draped in faux fur and encircled by sparkling pine trees (and heaters, of course).
Explore the Christmas Market
Stroll through the historic Distillery District during the annual Toronto Christmas Market for an old-world holiday activity. Browse the handicrafts for sale in rows of Swiss-inspired huts, take part in interactive installations, enjoy diverse entertainment, meet and greet with Santa and his elves, and take a photo in front of the massive trimmed tree.
Make spirits bright
Over at newly opened The Adelaide Hotel (soon to be Toronto’s first St. Regis property), Bar Adelaide serves themed cocktails to get you into the holiday spirit. Warm up with the Smoked Collingwood, a maple- and applewood-smoked Old Fashioned garnished with freeze-dried maple bacon; or a classic maple bourbon apple cider with Buffalo Trace and a touch of maple syrup.
All aboard the Ritz-Carlton Express
A life-sized Christmas treat has arrived at Five-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto’s lobby. The massive 12-foot-long locomotive was made using 700 pounds of chocolate and gold-leaf accents, taking 150 hours to construct. Kids of all ages can climb into the train and partake in the complimentary candy station, while parents are provided with the perfect holiday photo opportunity.
See a stylish seasonal scene
Stroll along Queen Street, just east of Yonge Street, to take in the beautiful winter-themed window displays at the city’s iconic Hudson’s Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue stores, an exciting tradition for many families.
This year’s display takes you on a whimsical winter journey through five enchanting “snow globes.” Each window portrays a unique holiday scene, including North Pole arctic adventures, Santa’s workshop and a Christmas-in-the-city set in Toronto.
Go for a sumptuous spa-liday
Melt away the stress of the season with a visit to Spa My Blend by Clarins at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto. The elegant Four-Star spa offers a special Holiday Glow package that includes a revitalizing scrub and festive orange-cinnamon body wrap. Or, go for the Snow Bunny, a red berry wrap followed by a signature My Blend express facial to keep you feeling merry and bright.
Shop till you drop
While parents can finish their holiday shopping at more than 250 retailers at the Toronto Eaton Centre, kids can visit with the big man himself (Santa, that is), play with the adorable, animated gift-giving Tufties or take in the incredible twinkling tree and decorations throughout the mall.
Celebrate the season with chocolate
Be sure to plan a stop at a Soma Chocolatemaker shop on King Street West or in the Distillery District to pick up a couple sweet treats from the store’s Xmas Collection. From gingerbread forest animals to a “box of plenty” (packed with seriously sumptuous bites) or an edible birch branch, these cheerful confections are perfect for a gift, or for enjoying all by your lonesome without any judgment whatsoever.
Indulge in a festive feast
The fantastic French-inspired Edulis restaurant crafts a special holiday luncheon and dinner on December 22, 23 and 31 to celebrate the season. Bask in the warm hospitality of owners and chefs Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo while tucking into a delicious meal in one of the coziest spaces in the city.
Savor Christmas brunch
Feast in true holiday style with a three-course prix fixe Christmas brunch at chef Daniel Boulud’s French bistro outpost, Café Boulud, within Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
The Four-Star restaurant’s special menu offers warm, homey flavors like a chestnut soup with brandy cream; seared foie gras with pear, licorice and gingerbread; or a classic holiday turkey with chipolata (sausage) stuffing, cranberry sauce and a sage gravy.
Dare to finish it all off with a salted caramel buche de noel (yule log cake) before you get on with the rest of the holiday.