Over the past couple of years Christmas in Toronto has really become more festive. This year is no different with new Toronto Christmas activities starting up for the first time.
While Toronto is an expensive city, especially around the holidays, there are a few free things to do in Toronto during the holidays and many worth spending money on that are the perfect addition to any Toronto itinerary.
You’ll easily be able to fill up your calendar for the month of December with all of the Toronto events happening (some are in November!).
Free Things to do in Toronto in December
While some events are still happening this year, others have yet to be confirmed or have been cancelled so please check up to date information on the official sites that I have linked for each event. Happy Holidays!
Toronto Christmas Market
One of the top Toronto attractions and the most famous thing to do in Toronto during the holiday season is to visit the Toronto Christmas market in the historic Distillery District.
You can see dance performances along with the vendors selling all things Christmas along with tasty holiday treats and street food.
Did I mention there’s a life-size gingerbread house? Sip on mulled wine while strolling through the charming streets that are lit up by Christmas sayings.
The Christmas market is open Tuesdays-Sundays but is only free Tuesdays-Thursdays all day and Fridays before 6PM. Find more details here and get weekend or evening tickets.
Cavalcade of Lights
Every year the Cavalcade of Lights is held at Nathan Phillips Square for the lighting of the official Christmas tree. Live musical performances, a fireworks show is put on and a dance party is held on the skating rink, all completely free!
This year’s event is on November 28th. See the events line up here.
Santa Claus Parade
Held every year since 1913, the Santa Claus Parade is a spectacular event will colourful festive costumes and giant floats for 2 and a half hours of entertainment from Bloor to St Lawrence Market.
This year the parade takes place on December 5th at 7PM. People are being encouraged to watch the parade on TV this year, it will air on CTV.
Find more information, donate, volunteer or join other events on the official Santa Claus Parade site.
The Festival of Cool Norden
At the Harbourfront Centre The Festival of Cool Norden runs from the end of November to the beginning of December. It’s an artisan market so you can get ahead on your Christmas shopping.
See the official site for more details on vendors and the exact location.
DJ Skate Nights
It hasn’t been announced if this event will continue for 2020. Check the official Harbourfront site for the latest information.
Now let’s talk about super fun things to do in Toronto: skate! Every Saturday from December 17th until February 18th get ready to get your groove on at this block party on ice.
From 8-11PM on the Natrel Rink at the Harbourfront Centre you can dance to sets from local and international DJ’s. The party is even on for NYE! I certainly wouldn’t miss one of these events in Toronto if I were you. You can get more info and check out the line-up here.
Holiday Fair in Nathan Philips Square
This event has been cancelled for 2020.
Forget heading to Europe for Christmas markets, one has finally come to us! Starting December 1st, running until the 23rd Nathans Philips Square will play host to this European-inspired Christmas market.
Not only will it include plenty of pop-up shops for your holiday shopping, but a winter carnival as well (yes, that means rides!). Don’t forget to grab some tasty food from one of their many vendors and check out the ice bar. You can also skate here all through winter!
The market will be open Tuesday-Thursdays 4-9pm and Friday-Sundays 12-1pm. Mondays the Christmas market will be closed. You can find more info and times regarding events on their website.
Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice
*It has not been announced if this event will happen in 2020, see up to date details here.
One of the great places to visit in Toronto is Kensington Market. It’s here that you can choose to participate or simply watch the parade of lights. You can help support the local merchants of the market by choosing to purchase a lantern and taking part in the celebration of the longest night of the year.
Find more details on where to meet and times here.
Browse Holiday Winter Displays
Yes it’s Canada and it’s cold out but the holiday winter displays are absolutely beautiful. The best in the city are the windows at Hudson’s Bay on Queen Street across from the Eaton Centre which rivals some of the displays you can find in New York City.
You can find more displays along Bloor Street showing off products that don’t fit into your holiday budget (sorry, I feel you) among the high-end stores that line the street.
Winter Lights Exhibition
It has not yet been announced if this event is taking place this year.
Not just for Christmas but throughout the winter season there will be displays of lights at Ontario Place starting in late November and running until March.
See all of the displays and artists here.
Toronto Christmas Events
Unfortunately, not everything is free (don’t I wish!), but I thought that these three Toronto activities were worth a mention because they will all be fun and beautiful to see. And just in case you run out of free stuff to do in Toronto!
Casa Loma Christmas Decorations
Casa Loma will be decked out this holiday season for their Magical Winter Nights where the castle will play host to a number of events. From December 7th until January 4th. Keep your eye on their events page for the latest news of sparkling events that you can attend.
While there you’ll get to see 10designer Christmas trees, the gardens decorated in lights, Santa’s workshop, circus performers and more all while you sip on mulled wine.
Aurora Winter Festival
Brand new for 2018, the Aurora Winter Festival will be held at Ontario Place where it’s being promised to be like a magical village in the North Pole.
Lights will, of course, be on display along with magical characters, amusement park rides, market stalls, food gardens, live entertainment, tubing, Santa’s workshop and more.
Find more details and get tickets here.
Ginger Bread Build
The holidays are all about giving. A great way to do so is to participate in Habitat For Humanity’s Ginger Bread Build at Toronto City Hall. All proceeds support homes being built in the GTA area.
Attend the event on December 1st, 2018 or order a gingerbread kit on their website.
There are plenty of free things to do in Toronto during the holidays and many more that require just a little bit of cash. So don’t be too stingy and remember to treat yourself this holiday season as well. I’d be heading to that ice bar or the life-size gingerbread house (I know there’s really good fudge around there) if I were you!
National Ballet of Canada’s Nutcracker
Performing the Nutcracker since 1995, the National Ballet of Canada puts on a wonderful Christmas time show for all ages for a spectacular evening at the Four Seasons Centre.