As the temperature dips below zero and the snow begins to fall in Toronto (cue the Christmas music), there’s a magic that settles over the city. Almost overnight, store windows turn festive and bright lights go up all around town. With that first flicker, you know winter is here to stay. If you’re visiting the city within the next few months, here are five popular ways to celebrate the season.
Visit The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
The holiday season shines at this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star property, where special holiday offerings and activities abound. The featured Nutcracker Afternoon Tea takes place on weekends throughout December in the DEQ Lounge, and it includes an assortment of sandwiches, pastries and specialty pours by tea sommelier Hoda Paripoush. On Sundays, children can enjoy gingerbread house decorating, complete with hot chocolate, cookies and their own take-home gingerbread house. Last but not least, get pampered with the Winter Escape Spa Sampler (a facial, eye treatment, Energizing Leg Emulsion application, foot massage and hot cream hand mask) or Spa-liday Detox Package (sip a detox tea then get a body polish, wrap and express facial) at Four-Star Spa My Blend by Claris.
Go to the Market
Every year, the Toronto Christmas Market decks out the historic Distillery District into a 1940s-style holiday market with festive lights, candy cane carolers, cozy cabins with vendors selling one-of-a-kind gifts, a giant 52-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 14-foot, heart-shaped mistletoe and, of course, Santa and his elves. Enjoy mulled wine, hot toddies from Drambuie, poutine and schnitzel, or throw back a couple pints in the heated beer gardens.
Peek at the Holiday Windows
With a hot chocolate in hand, stroll Toronto’s Bloor Street West or the “Mink Mile” to be captivated by the city’s finest holiday window displays at Holt Renfrew, Williams-Sonoma and the boutiques in Yorkville, or head down to Queen Street West to get whisked off to some other winter wonderland thanks to Hudson Bay’s festive décor.
Lace Up a Pair of Skates
Toronto’s city hall, Nathan Phillips Square, lights up with its own massive 60-foot Christmas tree (with 12,500 feet of LED lights and 700 ornaments) and skating rink each night. Closer to the Harbourfront Centre, the Natrel Rink offers the most Facebook-worthy views, looking out onto Lake Ontario and the city skyline. For something just minutes from the downtown core, head to Evergreen Brickworks, where you can skate in and around the former factory and surrounding gardens.
See a Show
Not far from the Ritz and other downtown luxury hotel properties is a host of sugar-plum-scented cultural excitement. Don’t miss holiday mainstays like the annual production of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (through January 3) or Handel’s Messiah (December 17) from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. Maybe you can even join in on the fun at Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Christmas Day.