Toronto is pretty magical this time of year. As someone who isn’t usually too thrilled with the snow and cold, light displays, holiday windows and decorated trees slowly win me over.
It seems like the list of Christmas markets downtown gets bigger every year. I checked out four of them so you don’t have to …
Winter Green Festival
A market in benefit of Sick Kids Hospital had its inaugural year this year – It’s called The WinterGreen Festival and its right by Woodbine Beach (1691 Lakeshore Blvd E). It’s the perfect place to go for carolers, live music (we saw a great Newfoundlander group called A Piece of the Rock), small market (think fun socks and candles) and there are tons of heating lamps and seats. Need to pick up a Christmas tree? The Toronto Beaches Lion Club has you covered, you can purchase one from their make shift parking lot shop.
You can take Selfies with Santa, check out a giant gingerbread house and even partake in snow volleyball!
It was all very charming and I think it’s great for the kids. The festival runs from Nov 23- Dec 23, Monday to Thursday 3pm-9pm, Saturday from 11am to 10pm and Sunday from 11am to 9pm. (www.wintergreento.com) Plenty of parking and just far enough from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Fair in the Square
Second up was the Fair in the Square at Nathan Phillips Square. I have ignored this festival year after year, thinking it would be packed, filled with tourists and impossible to get to. I was won over almost immediately and realized my mistake while gliding over the outdoor skating rink under glowing and glittering hanging stars. Couples were skating hand in hand, families, new to the country, were holding onto chairs, learning how to get their balance as they skated for the first time, and little kids whipped by us with far more skill than we could ever obtain.
During the Zamboni break, you can grab a snack from one of the many vendors or food trucks (we tried vegan hot dogs and warm eggnog…and we may have grabbed some butter tarts before we left!) Want something a little stronger to keep you warm? Have a seat under a heating lamp at the Jacksons Triggs Polar Point for a glass of wine or seasonal beer. Outside of the designated alcohol area there are some bonfires available to sit around. We really enjoyed taking a load off our aching feet by the fire. They’ve surrounded this area with little pine trees and it was a really fun scene.
They also have rides for the kids and a midway. We didn’t try out any rides but it looked like the kids were having fun. If you wanted to get some last minute holiday shopping done there were tons of tents selling everything from blankets and toques to dog treat boxes to Himalayan salt lamps. Something for everyone. The crowds weren’t as bad as I thought they would be, but please keep in mind that we attended on a Wednesday night around 6:30pm. Katie had to park in the Eaton Centre parking lot and walk over.
Fair in the Square runs from Dec 1-23 (closed Monday’s) Tuesday –Friday 4pm-10pm and Saturday and Sunday 12pm-10pm. (www.fairinthesquare.ca)
The third market I visited was at Evergreen Brickworks. They have an outdoor skating rink which isn’t too big, but very cute with pine tree’s growing in the middle of it and tons of food truck options at the covered market. ( Think Arepa Republic, Magic Oven and Fully Loaded T.O) Something to note was that we went at lunch time and some of the food truck had started selling out of their most popular items.
Something new this year is the curling rinks they have in the market area. You can register for a spot (its free!) when you arrive as there was a bit of a line up with families wanting to all try it out. They also have a comfy games room where you can take a seat inside what looks like sort of a fort and grab one of the many board games they have on offer, it wasn’t busy and you could come and go at your leisure.
Three fire pits were set up and we indulged ourselves with a $4 artisanal smore’s kit (worth it) and a hot apple cider with spiced rum $8 (very worth it).
After taking a snack break we went into the main building to see what the Etsy market had in store. Great Christmas gifts like ornaments, handmade mugs, jewellery, jackets, and cards. I really had a fun time ‘window’ shopping. You can also pick up a tree or wreathe here at their tree market!
The only fault I have with this market is that the parking is so hard to come by and the lot is almost always full. We took an Uber over this year to skip the hassle, maybe you can do the same. It’s open every weekend in December and December 26-29. (www.evergreen.ca)
Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery
Last but definitely not least is the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery. This market is by far my favourite but heed my advice and GO ON A WEEKDAY. I live very close to this market and on weekends I can see literally hundreds of people in line trying to get in and they charge to get in as well on weekends to try (key word ‘try’) and keep the crowds down. ($6.00 admission fee on weekends and Fridays’ after 5pm)
I think this market is so romantic and they always have so many fun photo ops like mistletoes, neon snowmen, naughty or nice signs and oh yeah, that GIANT tree. Strings of lights hanging over the square, sparkling over top of the wooden pop up shops and cobblestone roads really give this the feeling of a European Christmas market and sets the scene for a great date.
Browse the store fronts for unique items like German music boxes, tree toppers, nutcrackers, European treats, Russian dolls, handmade mittens, and much more. Everything is super charming and fun to just peek at if you’re not looking to buy. Indoors there are art galleries to walk through and a sort of Etsy like market.
They have a stage for live musical acts and carolers and set times to come meet and take a picture with Santa.
You can grab a mulled wine, hot chocolate or local brew at Mill Street’s beer garden by the fireplaces after shopping or waiting in line to ride the ferris wheel . All the usual shops in the distillery are open for last minute gifts, and restaurants are open if you wanted something a little more filling than a warm pretzel or giant turkey leg. We saw tons of people braving the cold to sit on El Catrin’s outdoor heated patio enjoying some tacos.
If you were only going to visit one market this year, I would really encourage you to check out the Toronto Christmas Market – it was recently voted one of the best markets in North America, so that should say it all.
It’s open from November 16- December 23 (www.torontochristmasmarket.com)
From all of us here at We Choose Today, thanks for reading - we wish you a happy holiday and all the best in the New Year!
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.