‘Tis the season of gatherings with friends and family. It’s the festive time of year and while we’re busy scoping out the best gifts and eating all the holiday things, you may want a break. Here is the best of what’s happening in Toronto this holiday season for peace, love and joy.

SHOP LOCAL:

Holiday Markets at the Toronto Botanical Gardens: November 24-26 and December 15-17. With over 100 vendors, there will be a lot to explore and a gift for everyone on your list. Our very own Nathalie will be selling her woolen goods made from upcycled sweaters. Look for Woolgathering Nat from December 15-17 in the Garden Hall. Friday: 2 to 8 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 777 Lawrence Avenue East.

Distillery District Winter Village: Is it even the holidays without a visit to this historical part of the city? The massive indoor and outdoor village twinkles with all the festive lights and the massive Dior sponsored Christmas tree stands tall in the centre of all the activity. Shop local for all your holiday needs. Sip on hot cocoa and even enjoy a theatre break. Ticketed entry on busy nights (done online here). Meet Santa, enjoy the carollers! There’s even a pup photo booth.

Holiday Fair in the Square: December 1 to 23. Mel Lastman Square. Enjoy this magical and wonderful family-friendly outdoor winter fair with local artisans, food vendors, entertainment, Santa’s Village, a fireside lounge, photos opps (bring your pooch!), and more. Entry is free and donation online to Epilepsy Toronto is encouraged.

One of a Kind Show Winter Edition: November 23 to December 3. Enercare Centre. Exhibition Place. Explore and shop the most talented makers, artisans, and designers from across Canada. The popular show features art to apparel, food to furniture, get ready to discover awe-inspiring pieces—all made in Canada by gifted artisans.

OOAK - Christmas - One of a Kind - Toronto

ARTS & CULTURE:

The National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker: December 8 to December 30. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. A holiday season tradition for many! The National Ballet of Canada’s is considered one of the finest versions in the world. James Kudelka’s staging from 1995, which opens at a Christmas Eve party in rural 19th-century Russia. With non-stop dancing and magnificent sets and costumes this performance is nothing short of spectacular.

Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody: Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is the latest exhibition to land in the city. This massive space includes over 120 works and archival material by one of the most influential and recognizable artists of our time. Known for his vibrant and energetic style, Keith Haring continues to dissolve barriers. This exhibition dives deeper into the artist and who he is as a person.

KAWS: FAMILY: Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Brian Donnelly (1974), better known as KAWS, bridges the worlds of art, popular culture and commerce with sophisticated humour and insightful appropriation. Renowned for his larger-than-life sculptures of cartoon-inspired characters and exuberant hard-edge paintings that playfully emphasize line and colour, much like 1960s Pop artists, he blurs the boundaries between populist and elite art, bringing mass media imagery into traditional art spaces.  Originally scheduled to close on March 31, the exhibition will now run until August 5, 2024.

KAWS - AGO

That Choir Carols: St Anne’s Anglican Church (270 Gladstone Ave) on December 16 & 17.Pay-what-you-can (Recommended: $30). Take a break from the holiday frenzy and enjoy pure joyful sounds of the season. Traditional and modern beautiful songs of Christmas will help you get into that spirit of the season.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Festival of Carols: December 5 and 6. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. This popular annual concert is the ideal way to bring the warmth of the holiday season to your soul. Under the direction of Maestro Jean-Sébastien Vallée, this dazzling performance is bound to fill your heart and make your spirits soar as you sing along to classics like Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, and O Come, All Ye Faithful. A heartwarming experience for all ages from one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and most recognized choral ensembles.

EXPERIENCES:

Christmas at the Castle and Holiday Lights at Casa Loma: The magic of the holiday season comes to Toronto’s most famous castle. Kicking off December 1 and continues until January 6 (closed only on Christmas Day). This year’s events include both indoor, daytime offerings of family activities, as well as an evening experience featuring a dazzling light display. An outdoor adventure through the historic gardens, walkways and tunnels keeps the magic going.

Then, inside the Castle guests will feast their eyes on the stunning holiday decor including a 25 ft tree in the Great Hall, and eight signature trees created by Canadian designers. Live theatrical performances including magicians, artists, and mascots throughout. Children are also invited to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves at the castle workshop. (Admission separate from Holiday Lights)

Casa Loma - Christmas - Sonya

Arcadia Earth: at The Well. The 17,000 square-foot multi-sensory experience reimagines the way people address planet Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. In a stunning 10-room adventure, enhanced by interactive projection mapping, augmented reality and virtual reality, Arcadia Earth Toronto showcases the beauty of the planet while illustrating the devastating impact of human actions on biodiversity and climate change. Each visitor will leave the exhibit inspired and equipped with knowledge on how they can incorporate more sustainable practices into their daily lifestyle. After successful runs in New York, Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia, Arcadia Earth will make Toronto its first permanent home. 

WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland: through to January 6. Canada’s Wonderland transforms into a magical, winter wonderland for WinterFest – an immersive holiday experience for the whole family. Now in its fourth season, the theme park will continue to delight all ages with magical live shows, enchanting, themed areas, festive food and family entertainment. New this year, the immersive holiday event has been extended with select dates through January 6 and features interactive attractions like Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus, lively musical sing-a-longs, skating on Snow Flake Lake, more than 20 WinterFest rides and so much more.

May Flowers Wreath Making Workshop: Evergreen Brickworks. December 5. Create a festive holiday wreath at Toronto’s iconic Evergreen Brickworks, the perfect place to learn wreath making and get creative with your design. Annie Tran-Shuttin of May Flowers will be teaching and guiding the class. Get ready to deck the halls with your unique handmade masterpiece!

Holiday Family Fun at Hotel X: We are all about experiences and this one is pretty special. Spend the weekend and take the kiddies to Hotel X for a festive stay. Not only can you have Breakfast with Santa including story time and facepainting but this package also includes tickets the the Disney Lighthouse Immersive Experience. The hotel is located on Exhibition Grounds with an epic view of the city’s skyline and the Lake. And yes lots of beautiful photo opps. A great way to celebrate the best of the season.

Fleurs de Villes NOËL: Bloor-Yorkville. December 6 to 10. Explore over 30 stunning installations on this festive and fresh floral trail across the neighbourhood. Highlights include a Holiday Sleigh at The Colonade, a Skating Scene at the Yorkville Village Oval, a North Pole Sign with Reindeer in Yorkville Lane, and a Mrs. Claus Mannequin also in Yorkville Lane.

Share Joy with Gay Lea Holiday Pop Up: The Well. November 30 to December 31. Visit this very fun an instagrammable pop up with friends and family.  The immersive holiday experience where visitors can capture and share some of the little (and not-so-little) things that bring us JOY!  This interactive space invites people (and pups too) of all ages to explore the five thematic rooms that spark creativity and SHARING JOY! For every social media share using #gayleasharejoy or @gayleafoodscoop , $1 will be donated to the Food4Kids charity.

Gay Lea Share Joy Toronto - Sonya

THEATRE:

42 Street Musical: December 9 to January 21. Princess of Wales Theatre. It’s big and it’s bright… it’s a brand spanking-new production of ‘the original showbiz musical! Guaranteed to lift your spirits. Fresh off the bus from small-town America, young and beautiful Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City dreaming of her name in lights. She quickly catches the eye of a big-time director and lands a spot in the chorus line of Broadway’s newest show… and when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets her shot at stardom.

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations: December 7 to 17. CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre. An electrifying new smash-hit Broadway musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Chaos Menu Disorder Up! AND Holidazed and Confused at The Second City: 1 York Street. A night of sketch and improv comedy is exactly what we need right now. At this shiny new location get ready to laugh and maybe cry (laugh) with some of the most talented comedians in the city. Two fabulous shows are running now in this live show: Chaos Menu Disorder Up! and Holidazed and Confused. A really fun night with friends, coworkers, lovers, and OG Torontonians. You can even do improv workshops here!

Potted Potter: Bluma Appel Theatre. December 21 to January 14. Ideal gift idea for muggles, witches and wizards of all ages, this live production of the boy-who-lived’s story combines all seven books into 70 magnificently hilarious minutes.London’s West End hit Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff is flying back to Toronto! Seen by over a million muggles around the world including a residency at the Horseshoe Las Vegas the show.

Chris, Mrs: A New Holiday Musical: The Winter Garden Theatre. December 5 to 31. Ring in the holiday season with the Chris family, where the everyday collides with the enchanted. Full of mischief and mistletoe, twisted ankles and tangled heartstrings, Chris, Mrs. is a heart-warming story that will make you laugh and is bound to be your new holiday musical tradition! The cast of 17 talented Canadian actors includes Liam Tobin, Danielle Wade, and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane.

Slava SnowShow: Elgin Theatre. December 22 to 31. Returns to Toronto this holiday season. Literally a clown show but more. Since 1993 it has staged ver 12,000 performances in 225 cities across 40 countries. Slava Snowshoe is an international award winning show and really is the pinnacle of the art of clowning. This thrilling storm chasing show brings the magic of theatrics and fun to the holiday season.

101 Holiday Moments at the Comedy Bar Danforth: Featuring an impressive Toronto all-star cast. his one-act extravaganza reimagines the classic Hallmark Christmas Movie plot while hilariously attempting to pay homage to 101 beloved moments from your favourite holiday classics. From “Bah Humbug” to “Yippie-Ki-Yay,” this show promises an enchanting blend of nostalgia, laughter, audience interaction and festive cheer, making it a must-see holiday experience!